Championship Playoffs: West Ham United Gets Closer to Premier League Return

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMay 3, 2012

CARDIFF, WALES - MAY 03:  Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble of West Ham acknowledge the fans after the Npower Championship Playoff Semi Final 1st leg match between Cardiff City and West Ham United at the Cardiff City Stadium on May 3, 2012 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

At this time last season, fans of West Ham United were preparing themselves for relegation from the Premier League and life in the Championship.

Most fans—the club as well—are hoping that the stint in the Championship will only last a few more weeks.

The Hammers came short of finishing in the automatic promotion spots and entered the playoffs as the top seed.

The first game on Thursday was a 2-0 win over Cardiff at Cardiff City Stadium.

West Ham's Welsh talent, Jack Collison, scored the two goals for the Hammers, one in the ninth minute and the other in the 41st minute.

Under the leadership of manager Sam Allardyce and captain Kevin Nolan, the club have kept most of last season's roster intact. An exception is Scott Parker—now thriving at Tottenham—who has returned to help the London club back into the top flight.

Now, the East London club have only two more wins to earn to advance back to the promised land.  One is on Monday at Upton Park in the second leg of the semifinal against Cardiff, and the other is in the playoff final at Wembley on May 19th.

Ironically enough, West Ham will face another club that is looking to just spend a season in the Championship. The winner of Birmingham and Blackpool—the two other relegated clubs last season—would face the Hammers.

Although the semifinal with Cardiff is not locked up yet, West Ham are the favorites to win at home on Monday and will be favored again going into the clash at Wembley to earn the final promotion spot.