Mike Roberts - Tuesday 30.09.14, 16:12pm
First of all, best wishes to Oscar Garcia, who has stepped down as Watford boss with immediate effect due to health issues. We didn’t get a proper chance to see how the Hornets would have performed with him at the helm, but it’s interesting to read that Garcia played a part in selecting Billy McKinlay as his successor. McKinlay doesn’t have much of a track record in club management, but the powers that be at Vicarage Road clearly think they have the right man.
Another murky managerial issue has become slightly clearer over the past few days: Russell Slade left Leyton Orient and is currently working as a managerial consultant at Cardiff City. There now follows a shameless plug for our companion site Buzzin’ League One Football.
On the field, Norwich took over at the top after coming from behind to beat Blackpool 3-1; Nottingham Forest could only manage a goalless draw against Brighton. In the other games I mentioned last week, Fulham won a league game for the first time this season: a 2-1 win at St Andrews cut the gap between them and Birmingham City to three points. Wolves almost won at Reading on Sunday but a very late Glenn Murray equaliser ensured the points were shared at the Mad House.
There’s a full programme over the next couple of days but just a couple of games worth following:
Wolves v Huddersfield Town
Kenny Jackett’s team could overtake Norwich at the top if they win and the Canaries fail to beat Charlton, but consider this: since December 1971, despite having entertained Huddersfield at Molineux in ten league games, Wolves have beaten The Terriers twice, the last time in November 1988. Over the last calendar year the hosts have only lost once at home which indicates another reverse is due soon, but are Huddersfield the team to do it? Town won at Reading in mid August, but have lost half of their last ten road trips in the competition and a point may be the best they can hope for.
Fulham v Bolton Wanderers (Wednesday)
Until comparatively recently this was one of those ho-hum Premier League games that no-one really cared about unless you were a fan of either team. However, this season it’s a Championship fixture featuring two of the bottom three sides, which automatically makes it far more interesting than usual. Wanderers haven’t won at Craven Cottage since November 1992 and haven’t scored an away goal since Matt Mills opened the score against Brighton on August 23rd and with Felix Magath and his bizarre cheese and alcohol rememdies having now departed West London, things look as if they could be on the up in West London.
I’ll be back on Friday with a look at the correlation between the tables at the end of September and the end of the season.
Mike Roberts - Friday 26.09.14, 19:56pm
The Capital One Cup was the usual mixed blessing; Bournemouth, Brighton, Derby and Fulham are the only teams left in the competition and the gulf between the top of the Premier League and the middle of the Championship was exposed when Manchester City battered Sheffield Wednesday 7-0. Much was made of all the goals coming in the second half, but five of them were scored after Kamil Zayatte had been sent off. There’s one all Championship game in the next round when Derby travel to Fulham (week commencing 27th October) but I think it’s fair to say that whoever wins that match will probably be the last Championship side left in the competition.
This weekend Nottingham Forest may not have a better chance to extend their lead at the top of the table: they’re the only club in the top six at home this weekend but any those teams could occupy top spot on Saturday evening.
The games of interest this weekend are those featuring sides at the bottom. So far there’s only been one game between the current bottom six teams (Bolton beat Rotherham 3-2 two weeks ago), but only ten of the 30 games between the clubs that finished in those positions in 2013/14 ended in home wins, which may be good news for Fulham.
Birmingham City v Fulham
First meeting between these two at this level since August 2000. Fulham have only won three of their last ten trips to St Andrews, but the hosts have only won TWICE at home in the Championship at home since October 1st 2013. As Fulham’s away defence is the worst in the competition so far (they’ve conceded at least once in the first half of all four of their road trips this season) I can honestly say I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen. Even if the visitors win – which is a distinct possibility considering they had a lead at Forest after 66 minutes – they can’t climb out of the bottom three.
Blackpool v Norwich City
Bit of a rarity as this is only the fourth time the clubs have met at Bloomfield Road in a league game in the last four decades. The hosts have something of an incentive here: if they win, there’s a reasonable chance that they might not be in the relegation zone by the start of next week. The Tangerines also have a far better home record than Birmingham (two wins in their last ten games is almost Real Madrid compared to Birmingham’s dire performance at St. Andrews) but the hosts have not scored more than once in front of their own fans since the end of November. Cameron Jerome has been a prolific goalscorer for the Canaries recently and has already scored more goals this season than he has in the last two campaigns put together, so he’s the obvious threat to Blackpool.
Reading v Wolves is the only televised game this weekend (Sunday 1:15pm, Sky Sports 1); the home team in this series have only won three of the last ten games and Reading haven’t won more than two consecutive home games since this time last year.
I’ll be back on Tuesday (I promise) for another midweek installment.
Mike Roberts - Thursday 18.09.14, 18:52pm
If it wasn’t so obvious, it would be funny.
Over the last four years I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve written that – with the occasional rare exception – clubs that have been relegated from the Premier League generally have no idea what to expect or how to prepare for the Championship. Cardiff (who should have probably known better) and Fulham have provided another couple of examples of this.
The best thing about this is that it fits the formula exactly:
* A change of ownership – in Fulham’s case, it’s basically jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
* An appointment that doesn’t make sense (neither Solskjaer or Magath had any experience of managing in English football and were vanity appointments)
* A perception that the Championship is somehow ‘easier’ than the Premier League.
It’s very familiar isn’t it? I’m thinking Blackburn, Nottingham Forest and Leeds, but at least the penny seems to have dropped with Venky’s and the Hasawi family. I feel some sympathy for Solskjaer – who probably should have waited to try his luck at management in England and is young enough to have learned a valuable lesson about owners – but Magath clearly didn’t have a clue.
As I’ve exceeded my ‘two posts maximum per week’ rule, I’ll be back on Monday with a look at how the weekend turned out.
Mike Roberts - Monday 15.09.14, 18:52pm
Nottingham Forest stayed on top after a 1-1 draw with Derby yesterday (Rams defender Jake Buxton got the obligatory red card), but Norwich and Wolves kept up with the pace and remain one point behind the Tricky Trees. Norwich were generous enough to give Cardiff a two goal start in South Wales on Saturday before scoring four without reply, whilst Wolves must be kicking themselves for not winning at Bloomfield Road: if they had, they’d have gone to the top of the pile.
At the bottom, Blackpool and Fulham swapped places but neither side can escape the bottom three. After a goalless draw against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday Bolton are three points from safety, but they’re already four points behind Birmingham and there’s a chance that the bottom four could be marooned by Saturday evening.
Some good games in prospect this midweek: tomorrow there are two matches that will have a direct impact at the top of the table.
Brentford v Norwich
Unbeaten at home, this is nosebleed time for the Bees: this is their highest league position since September 1952 and Saturday’s home win against Brighton was their first victory in the second tier at Griffin Park since May 1993, when they beat Barnsley 3-1. Buying Moses Odubajo and Andre Grey from Leyton Orient and Luton respectively looks like an incredibly shrewd piece of business by Mark Warburton.
As I mentioned above, Norwich came from behind at Cardiff on Saturday but they’ve not lost on their travels since August and they’re also currently reaping the benefits of a decent transfer policy. As he’s moved up the Football League, Lewis Grabban has scored goals at every level and his 22 for Bournemouth last season clearly didn’t go unnoticed at Carrow Road.
Last meeting in London: August 2009 in League One, which Brentford won 2-1. Before that, you’ve got to go back to September 1959, when Norwich won by the odd goal in seven. The Canaries had reached the semi finals of the FA Cup at the end of the previous season and went on to win promotion from the old Third Division in May 1960.
Charlton v Wolves
Four consecutive home wins is Charlton’s best streak at the Valley since the end of the 2012/13 season: since then, they’d struggled to win consecutive home games, let alone do this well. An early penalty from Yoni Buyens was enough to see off Watford on Saturday.
One thing that immediately jumps off the page about Wolves’ recent away form is how few goals there have been in their games since promotion. Apart from the recent goal fest against Blackburn at the end of last month, six of Wolves’ seven games since they arrived back in the Championship have featured one goal or less. They’ve failed to score in two of their three aways so far this season, but Charlton’s clean sheet last weekend was only their second at home since March. It looks like something has got to give.
On Wednesday it’s possible that one side could go into the weekend at the top and their opponents might be rooted to the bottom.
Nottingham Forest v Fulham
Forest were at it again at the weekend: they took the lead against Derby but had to settle for a draw. That happened eight times last season and was probably the main reason why they ended up outside the playoffs. Leon Best’s equaliser at the City Ground was the first time the opposition had scored against Forest this season.
I’ve no idea where to start with Fulham, other than suggesting that the outrageous fee spent on Ross McCormack has been a complete waste of money so far and could have been spent on a reasonably competent back four at this level. They’re probably due a win soon, but I doubt if it’ll happen on Wednesday: their last win at the City Ground – in fact, their last league game at Forest – was in September 2000.
I’ll be back at the weekend.
Mike Roberts - Friday 12.09.14, 11:11am
Before I continue, Chris Powell has returned to Championship management, being named as new gaffer at Huddersfield Town nine days ago. I thought Powell’s dismissal from Charlton earlier this year was rather harsh so I’d like to wish him all the best with the Terriers.
Watford replaced Beppe Sannino with Oscar Garcia, who was last seen around these parts after Brighton lost to Derby in last season’s playoffs. Having decided that Tel Aviv was too dangerous, Garcia returns to management in the more peaceful surroundings of south west Hertfordshire.
Looks like the bottom of the table will be where the movement is this weekend: five of the bottom six are at home (the exceptions are Fulham travel to Reading) and as I’ve decided to make Charlton v Watford the game of the week let’s look at the pair of games that almost made it…
Blackpool v Wolves
How to tell if the season is going to be a potential disaster: it’s the first game of September and even if Blackpool win they won’t be able to climb out of the bottom three. As well as six consecutive home defeats and no home win since March, the Tangerines haven’t scored more than once in a league game at Bloomfield Road since last November and have recorded only one victory in eight home games against Wolves from February 1971 onwards. There are plenty of rumours about Owen Coyle replacing Jose Riga, but you’d have to be pretty desperate for a job to consider the Blackpool job.
Wolves defensive prowess has continued from last season, but the defeat at Rotherham is still worth remembering before anyone gets carried away about back to back promotions. I think we’ll have a far better idea of how Kenny Jackett’s team are going to do by the end of this month, but they shouldn’t lose this one.
Ipswich v Millwall
I don’t think there’s any real reason for fans of the Tractor Boys to worry about their home form contributing to their slightly ropey start: the defeat against Norwich in the recent East Anglian derby was only their second league defeat at Portman Road since February. They’ve also beaten Millwall in four of their last six Championship encounters in Suffolk
As I wrote last week, Millwall have probably won games they’ve been expected to win so far, which means this one is probably their first reasonable challenge at home. That being said, the Lions are currently on a six game unbeaten away run, something they’ve not done for a couple of seasons: they looked like playoff contenders at that point until their league form collapsed whilst they enjoyed their run to the FA Cup semi finals. If they pick up all three points on Saturday then it’ll making Doubting Thomases like me take them more seriously as promotion contenders.
Game of the week: Charlton v Watford
This is the first in a sequence of three games this month that should determine whether the Addicks are long term promotion contenders. Charlton’s revival is an interesting one: they’ve won half of their last ten games at The Valley with two of their four losses in the period coming against teams no longer playing in the Championship – the other pair of defeats were against teams challenging (unsuccessfully as it turned out) for playoff places.
The revelation this season is Angolan striker Igor Vetokele, who arrived from Danish club Kobenhavn in the summer. The Championship player of the month for August has already scored as many goals as last season’s leading scorer (Marvin Sordell) managed in 2013/14, but Bob Peeters’ recruitment drive has seen experienced defenders Andre Bikey-Amougou and Tal Ben-Haim return from Greece and Belgium respectively whilst journeyman ‘keeper Stephen Henderson has also been added to the squad.
This is Watford’s second away game this season against a top six side and they lost 3-0 at Carrow Road last month, which is consistent with their performance in 2013/14. Last season the Hornets failed to beat any of the sides that finished above them on the road (compared to four wins in five games during the season they lost in the playoff final) and as I wrote last week I wonder if Beppe Sannino had seen the writing on the wall.
The Hornets are still more or less recognisable from the team that almost won promotion to the Premier League in 2013. Eight of the 19 players that have so far made at least one appearance in the Championship this season were at Vicarage Road during 2012/13. That group includes Troy Deeney and Fernando Forestieri as well as the returning Matej Vydra, who clearly isn’t good enough for either the Premier League or Serie A but is too expensive for Watford to sign permanently.
The fact that this is a playoff calibre squad makes Sannino’s decision to leave even more baffling. Perhaps he genuinely didn’t know what to do next.
Since the turn of the century, Charlton have only won one of the five games the clubs have played in the league in South London, which was the 3-1 win in April. Before that you’ve got to go back to August 1995 for the last Addicks home win.
A couple of televised games this weekend: Birmingham v Leeds (Sky Sports 1. 12:15pm) probably won’t be of any interest unless you support either team. The same could be said for Forest v Derby (Sunday, Sky Sports 1, 1:15pm) but this game has been a firecracker recently with at least one red card in four of the last five meetings and an excuse to sack the losing manager in both matches last season. The teams play each other at Derby in mid January and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s game of the week.
I’ll be back on Monday with a look at the first Tuesday night programme of the season.