Mike Roberts - Thursday 28.08.14, 19:12pm
Quite a bit to get through this week, so we’ll start with the Capital One Cup.
After this week’s games, just under half of the clubs in the Championship are still in with a chance and we’ll come to them in a moment: Huddersfield, Rotherham, Watford, Millwall, Brentford, Charlton, Birmingham and Leeds will all be concentrating on the league until January and with five of those sides currently in the bottom half of the table I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that is probably for the best. The Millers, Lions and Birmingham all lost to Premier League opposition whilst Watford and Leeds capitulated to League One sides – the latter made a real mess of it against Bradford.
The third round draw means two guaranteed places in the fourth round, but it’s not been particularly kind for those clubs drawn against Premier League teams.
Premier League Opposition: Bolton (at Chelsea), Middlesbrough (at Liverpool), Sheffield Wednesday (at Manchester City), Nottingham Forest (at Spurs)
All Championship: Cardiff v Bournemouth and Derby v Reading
League One Opposition: Fulham v Doncaster (who beat Watford), Norwich (at Shrewsbury)
League Two Opposition: Brighton (at Burton Albion)
Returning to the bread and butter, only Forest, Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday are undefeated so far and in one of those rare moments where all the planets align, game of the week features two of those sides and – even more remarkably – is televised.
Sheffield Wednesday v Nottingham Forest (Sky Sports 1, 12:00pm)
I’d imagine that Wednesday fans would be pleased with their start this season, but will probably remember that they were in exactly the same position two years ago but were in the bottom four by the end of September. The club’s current position is very deceptive: they’ve not won at home since the end of March (three draws and three defeats since) and although a goalless draw with Derby isn’t a bad result, Wednesday should have beaten Millwall a couple of weeks ago but a very late Magueye Gaye equaliser meant they only earned a point.
Since September 2000 Forest have won four of their last seven trips to Hillsborough but they’ve not won consecutive away games in the same season since March 2013 and have already had to come from behind at Bournemouth and Bolton so far. They’ve also been very inconsistent on the road over the last year: six wins in 23 games in the competition doesn’t really indicate that Forest are the type of team to win automatic promotion, especially as they’ve lost half of their last ten league games away from the City Ground.
Ir should be an interesting game, but I’d not be too shocked if it ended all square.
There are two other matches to keep an eye on:
Leeds United v Bolton Wanderers
Leeds beat Bolton at Elland Road on New Year’s Day 2013 but have lost half of the last six meetings between them in Yorkshire in the league and have only been victorious in three Championship games in front of their own fans since March. Given the nonsense with Brian McDermott last season, it should have come as no surprise that Dave Hockaday was apparently sacked and reinstated after last weekend’s thumping at Vicarage Road; I’ll be surprised if he makes it to Christmas (update: Hockaday lasted until Thursday evening)
Bolton got their act together away from home after Valentine’s Day, but although three defeats in their first four games has seen them drop into the bottom three, poor starts have been a speciality since Wanderers were relegated from the Premier League. They’re not the best team in the Championship and although they’re less dysfunctional than Leeds right now, anything could happen in this one.
Watford v Huddersfield Town
One home defeat in their last dozen home games bodes well for the Hornets this weekend, but since the turn of the century their record against Huddersfield at Vicarage Road is poor and includes a 4-1 defeat the last time these sides met back in May. The Terriers have improved since Mark Robbins left, but have only kept four away clean sheets in the Championship in the past year and will be hard pressed to add a fifth on Saturday.
It’s the first of the international weekends next week so there’ll more than likely be a recap next week with an overview of how the competition might develop.
Mike Roberts - Tuesday 19.08.14, 11:55am
Two games in and first Tuesday night programme of the season. Long term readers already know that I don’t like midweek games and with a spectacularly pointless international friendly taking place in a couple of weeks there’s even more reason to find them annoying.
Considering all sides have only played three hours of competitive Championship football so far it’s way to early to make any conclusions, but there are some situations worth keeping an eye on: Millwall and Charlton are currently doing better than expected, Fulham clearly haven’t sussed out what the competition is about yet but Brighton’s playoff hangover shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
There are a couple of games worth following tonight:
Bournemouth v Nottingham Forest
I wondered if Bournemouth might surprise a few people before the season began. Chuck in a very good record against Forest at home in the league (they’ve only lost once in six meetings – in November 1949!) and only three home defeats against sides that finished above them last season and you begin to wonder if tonight we’re more likely to find out how Stuart Pierce’s side will compete over the rest of the season.
Blackpool v Brentford
Always a possibility to be a bottom of the table clash regardless of when they played each other, Blackpool have now lost seven of their last ten Championship games at Bloomfield Road following their defeat in the Lancashire derby at the weekend. The Tangerines have only beaten The Bees twice in seven attempts at home since the turn of the century but it’s worth mentioning that both clubs have already played opponents currently in the top six. If either side loses, they could be in a lot of trouble over the next few months.
I’ll be back with an update later, but there won’t be a post this weekend due to a weekend long birthday party
Mike Roberts - Friday 15.08.14, 16:34pm
Considering some of the disasters in the early rounds of the League Cup in years gone by, Championship clubs did pretty well this week.
Derby, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Rotherham, Brighton, Brentford, Charlton, Bournemouth, Watford, Millwall, Reading and Cardiff.
Additionally, Huddersfield, Birmingham and Bolton all needed extra time to win their ties (the latter pair struggled to overcome League Two opponents), whilst Brentford were 3-1 up at Dagenham after just over half an hour…only for the game to finish 4-4 after normal time and 6-6 after extra time. Fortunately the Bees managed to score two of their four penalties, but Fulham may not be as unforgiving as Dagenham were in the next round.
Blackpool, Blackburn, Wigan, Ipswich and Wolves. So that’s three clubs who I thought might do well this season and one that still seems to be doomed to relegation.
The second round draw means there are three guaranteed places in the third round for Championship clubs and even though four of the sides in the competition have been drawn against Premier League opposition there should still be a healthy representation of Championship clubs at the next stage but one. The second round ties are due to played during the week of 28th August.
On to this weekend and although only one game has been played, there are two ‘top six against bottom six’ games. Middlesbrough travel to Leeds (12:15pm Sky Sports 1) and Bolton entertain Forest at the <Insert Name Of Sportwear Brand Here> Stadium at 3:00pm. The game at Elland Road should be the more interesting one: Boro have lost their last two visits there but haven’t lost three consecutive league games at Leeds since suffering a hat-trick of losses between 1987 and 1993.
Forest and Bolton were amongst the draw specialists last season so it won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that three of their last four league meetings in Lancashire have finished all square. A bigger surprise is that Forest haven’t won at Bolton in the league since November 1978.
All being well I should be back some time before next Tuesday’s games, so enjoy the weekend and I hope your team wins.
Mike Roberts - Tuesday 12.08.14, 16:53pm
The final part of the pre-season preview. Sorry for the delay, but it was my wedding anniversary on Friday and so the timing went out of the window.
Manager: Nigel Adkins (since March 2013)
Last Ten Games:4-3-3
Flattered to deceive a bit last season and may be sussed out in 2014/15. Although the Royals were the only side to record ten or more away wins that didn’t reach the playoffs and also had the best goal difference of the clubs that didn’t finish in the top six, they only beat one other side that finished in the top ten at home last season and somehow managed to concede a total of seven goals to Sheffield Wednesday. They haven’t finished outside the top ten at this level since 1998 and although automatic promotion is a possibility, but I’m not sure if this is a title winning team and the playoffs may be the Berkshire side’s best bet to return to the Premier League.
Manager: Steve Evans (since April 2012)
Last Ten Games (in League One, excluding playoffs): 6-2-2
Back at this level for the first time for ten seasons, the Merry Millers haven’t finished in the top half of the second tier for over three decades. Only lost three times at the New York Stadium last season but it’s worth noting that they lost five away games to sides that finished in the top ten in League One in 2013/14 and were outside the top six until the end of November after an inconsistent start. Momentum after consecutive promotions could see them off to a great start, but I’d expect a slump at some point that will probably mean a bottom half finish rather than relegation. On their day they can beat anyone, so don’t be surprised if they do.
Manager: Stuart Gray (since January 2014)
Last Ten Games:2-2-6
Third season. A poor start – they drew eight of their first twelve and were in the bottom three until Christmas – meant the order of the boot for the increasingly unpopular Dave Jones, but although Wednesday improved after his dismissal, they were neither convincing or consistant during the rest of the campaign. Have spent seven of the last nine seasons at this level, but have only finished in the top ten once and casual observers may find it difficult to tell the difference between Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield this season.
Manager: Beppe Sannino (since December 2013)
Last Ten Games: 3-3-4
On 2nd July 2012, Sean Dyche was dismissed as manager at Vicarage Road after the Hornets finished 11th in the Championship. Just over two years later, Dyche won promotion to the Premier League with Burnley whilst Watford had a season long playoff hangover and finished in their lowest position in the competition since before Dyche took over. I didn’t need the benefit of hindsight at the time to see sacking Dyche was a stupid decision, but it’s unclear what the next step in Hertfordshire might be. More of the same looks likely, but in this case ‘the same’ is ‘below average’ and I’ll be surprised if I find myself posting a lot about the Hornets this season.
Manager: Uwe Roesler (since December 2013)
Last Ten Games:3-2-5
Should be in the mix for the playoffs at the very least: reached that stage last season despite a distinctly unimpressive start (in mid December they were fourteenth) but Dave Whelan’s decision to replace Paul Jewell with Uwe Roesler almost paid off spectacularly. There were some weaknesses though – the Latics were occasionally goalshy on the road after Roesler’s appointment, the distraction of the FA Cup clearly affected them over the last six weeks of the season and they were poor against the other sides in the top six. It’s highly unlikely they’ll do as well in the cup again (look out for a weakened side in the third round) and with games against Cardiff and Reading in the first ten days of the season we should be able to make a very quick assessment of their chances.
Manager: Kenny Jackett (since June 2013)
Last Ten Games:8-2-0 (in League One)
Shouldn’t be too worried about being relegated immediately after winning League One in such emphatic style: Doncaster Rovers were the first team to win League One and then get relegated since Scunthorpe in 2008 but the average finishing position for the third tier winners in their first season back in the Championship is thirteenth, which would probably suit Kenny Jackett right now. Could even perform better than that and should definitely finish higher than Birmingham City.
Mike Roberts - Monday 11.08.14, 11:08am
Some of you might remember that some of last season’s posts were blighted by unfortunate timing, when there seemed to be a run of managerial changes over a couple of weeks. Well it’s happened again: I’ve not even posted the last part of the club by club previews and we’ve already had the first managerial casualty.
Huddersfield were demolished 4-0 at home by Bournemouth on Saturday and following an emergency board meeting Robins left by mutual consent.
Town are one of a number of clubs that could be drawn into a relegation battle at some point and that could be more rather than less likely following Robins’ departure. The Terriers face Chesterfield in the Carling Cup tomorrow and travel to Cardiff in the Championship on Saturday.
With any luck, the last part of the previews will be posted in the next 24 hours.