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Birmingham. Leeds. Blackpool.

Mike Roberts - Tuesday 28.10.14, 17:31pm

Originally this was going to be a preview for this week’s Capital One Cup ties but after last weekend I feel it’s necessary to discuss the surprising – even by Championship standards – events at St Andrews and Elland Road.

Birmingham City - who in case you needed reminding, lost 8-0 at home to Bournemouth at the weekend - should have sacked Lee Clark a year ago at the earliest. I appreciate that the situation with their former owner meant that there were some issues with who had responsibility for executive decisions at boardroom level but nonetheless this club is in a mess and I think they’re a very credible candidate for relegation. Last Saturday was the first time the Blues had conceded five goals or more at home in the league since September 2012 (Barnsley) and the first time they’d conceded six or more at home in the league since April 1993 (Swindon). Gary Rowett of Burton Albion is next man up: good luck with that.

As for Leeds, the sooner the clown in charge of the current regime at Elland Road leaves, the better. Both the appointment and sacking of some random Eastern European no-one had ever heard of as manager was beyond a joke. Unless they’re in the top or bottom six or get past the fifth round of the FA Cup, I’m not wasting my time writing about them again this season.

Blackpool sacked Jose Riga yesterday but I don’t think that was much of a surprise was it?

For the record, I feel sorry for all three sets of fans, all of whom deserve better.

So on to the Capital One Cup, where there’ll be one guaranteed place in the next round. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the clubs playing Premier League opposition takes their game to extra time, but as you’ll see below there are compelling reasons to think that Bournemouth and Brighton might not get any further.

Bournemouth v WBA

Last meeting: FA Cup 3rd Round, January 1999, Cherries won 1-0 but have lost both previous meetings in this competition, last game was a 4-1 defeat at Dean Court in August 2011. Bournemouth have never gone beyond this stage of the League Cup.

Fulham v Derby

The Cottagers have won both previous meetings in the competition; half of the last games between them in the league in West London have ended in draws. It’s been ten years since Fulham reached the fifth round; Derby reached the semis six seasons ago.

Tomorrow:

Spurs v Brighton

Haven’t met in any competition for over 30 years and Brighton’s only win at Spurs come in October 1981. The Seagulls haven’t reached the fifth round since 1978-79.

All being well, I’ll be back at the weekend. Unless anyone else gets the chop and/or there’s a major upset this evening…



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Tags: AFC Bournemouth · Birmingham · Blackpool · Brighton · Capital One Cup · Derby · Leeds United

Game Of The Day: Derby v Wigan

Mike Roberts - Friday 24.10.14, 14:10pm

The Watford/Nottingham Forest clash went the way I thought it might, which meant the major beneficiaries on Tuesday night were Derby -who took over at the top after a single goal win courtesy of a late Chris Martin penalty at Blackpool - and Wolves, who shut out Middlesbrough at Molineux.

Despite losing at Charlton, Bolton moved off the bottom of the table but are unlikely to move out of the bottom three this weekend unless they beat Brentford by four clear goals (something they’ve never done) and hope other results go their way. Fulham came from behind three times at Rotherham to put even more pressure on managerless Birmingham City, who lost at Blackburn and had Neal Eardley sent off.

Without further ado, let’s move on to the game of the day at the iPro Stadium, where Wigan are the visitors.

I’m not going to beat around the bush, I thought Derby were unlucky not to win promotion last season. Steve McClaren has kept faith with most of the players who lost at Wembley in May but has made some interesting moves. Stoke ‘keeper and England international Jack Butland, Sheffield Wednesday striker Leon Best and Liverpool midfielder Jordon Ibe have all joined the Rams on loan, all of whom are valuable upgrades.

Although Derby haven’t lost at home since March, the season got off to a slowish start and it’s appropriate to point out that County have only won half of their six homes since start of the season. Having written that, the current leaders have only dropped two points from 21 available in seven games against bottom half teams this season and should continue that trend against Wigan; the club record for consecutive clean sheets was broken at Blackpool during the week and that’s always a good indicator of decent team.

Wigan’s last home and away wins were both against Birmingham, which probably only indicates that the Latics are better than the Blues rather than anything else; last season’s playoff semi finalists appear to be suffering from the customary hangover this season and have only beaten teams that are currently below them this season. As usual, there’s an alternative hypothesis: Wigan were 14th at the end of December 2013, only cracked the top ten for good in mid February and they may just be slow starters, but there’s also been quite a big turnover in playing staff. Only three of the team that lost at Loftus Road in extra time in May started against Millwall this week and with Jordi Gomez and Nick Powell plying their trades elsewhere, last season’s need for a proven goalscorer has become a little more desperate.

The head to head stats are very interesting. The Rams have only won one of their half dozen games against Wigan at home in the league since the mid 1980s with the sole win coming in December 1985! Wigan only won one of their eight games against the teams that eventually finished above them last season…see if you can guess who they beat.

Have a good weekend :-)



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Tags: Birmingham · Blackburn Rovers · Blackpool · Bolton · Brentford · Charlton · Derby · Fulham · Middlesbrough · Millwall · Nottm Forest · Rotherham · Sheffield Wednesday · Watford · Wigan · Wolves

Game Of The Evening: Watford v Nottingham Forest

Mike Roberts - Tuesday 21.10.14, 15:45pm

Well, after giving Watford such a comprehensive slating last week you’d be wrong for thinking I’m going to apologise just because the Hornets are top of the Championship after winning 3-0 at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. They’re being chased by two very good teams: Derby and Middlesbrough both won at the weekend and the current leaders still haven’t proven themselves against their rivals, but I’ll return to that issue later.

At the bottom Fulham and Bolton both won, which means there’s only a five point gap between the 18th and 23rd placed teams, which means tonight’s games are probably more interesting that usual and should provide a decent alternative to the Champions League. However, Bolton’s win at St. Andrews was the end of the Lee Clark era at Birmingham City, which was hardly a surprise. It’ll be interesting to see who takes the job on though.

Anyway, I’ve got to be brief and so let’s look at Watford v Nottingham Forest.

Five of Watford’s seven wins this season have come against teams in the bottom half of the Championship: it may or may not be significant that both of their defeats so far in 2014/15 have been in away games against better sides (with ten men against Norwich and a single goal defeat at the much improved Charlton Athletic) but it is significant that they only won two of their twelve games against the teams that finished in the playoff positions last season. To put it another way, Forest should test Watford’s promotion credentials, but it’s also true vice versa.

Forest’s defeat at Cardiff at the weekend was their first pointless effort this season, but Stuart Pearce’s team has not won away from the City Ground since the end of August and Brett Assombalonga’s consolation goal in the Welsh capital was the first time the Tricky Trees had scored away from home in over 270 minutes. That’s not really what I’d call promotion form and fits in with Forest’s indifferent away performances going back to last season. Since Christmas 2014 they’ve won four games in eighteen attempts: they’ve only lost six times over the same period but as I mentioned in the pre-season previews, they need to convert wins into draws and that’s currently not happening.

Then there’s the head to head record between them in the league. Half of the last ten games between them when Watford have been hosts have been drawn, with the Hornets having only won twice in that period. I’m looking at this and thinking: ‘it’s going to be another draw isn’t it.’

If the game at Vicarage Road finishes all square, Derby probably have the best chance of exploiting the stalemate if they can pick up all three points at Blackpool. The Rams are on a nine game unbeaten streak and have only lost two of their five visits to Bloomfield Road since the turn of the century. The recent televised win against Cardiff was The Tangerines’ first home triumph since March but consecutive home wins have been in short supply by the seaside recently and despite a spirited comeback attempt at Huddersfield on Saturday, Blackpool were three goals down with less than 20 minutes gone. If the same thing happens tomorrow night, it’s hard to see Derby not winning.

I’ll be back at the weekend.



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Tags: Birmingham · Blackpool · Bolton · Charlton · Derby · Fulham · Huddersfield Town · Middlesbrough · Norwich · Nottm Forest · Sheffield Wednesday · Watford

First Malky McKay, Then Sean Dyche, Now Billy McKinlay…

Mike Roberts - Friday 17.10.14, 12:44pm

Having lost precisely no games in his eight day period as manager of the Hornets, the Pozzo family decided that Billy McKinlay didn’t fit in with their long term plans for Watford – whatever the hell those might be – in the same way that Sean Dyche didn’t fit in with their long term plans either. Presumably ‘long term’ in this case means Halloween although you’d assume that some sort of ‘Europa League by 2020′ nonsense is behind this, in which case appointing a manager with no experience of managing in England who hasn’t completed a full season as a manager anywhere for two seasons is a really, really, good idea if you want to win promotion from the Championship.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been over this territory over the last four years and it’s getting to the point where these decisions are as predictable as they are laughable. Albert Einstein defined insanity as ‘…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’, which can be applied to quite a few clubs in the Championship, some of which were dealt with in this post from February. The post that began it all is here and I wrote that four years ago when Malky McKay was in charge at Vicarage Road; although McKay left to take over at Cardiff, the facts are that in the last five years Watford have employed two managers who went on to win promotion to the Premier League with other clubs.

All I’m going to say is that if you look at the current Premier League table, Leicester City are twelfth and although they made some familiar mistakes along the way, at least they learned from them.

Anyway, it’s supposedly ‘Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday’ from now until the end of the season.

Only it isn’t. Including next week, there are only two midweek programmes left until the festive season and there’s another international break in mid November. Only four Championship teams are left in the Capital One cup, which puts a slightly different perspective on proceedings doesn’t it? So the next time you hear a BBC pundit (usually Ebenezer Claridge) drop that into his ‘analysis’ or a teenage millionaire going on about how tired he his, you’ll know better.

Still, with the top eight teams only separated by two points there’s plenty to look forward to before the middle of next month. In one of those odd scheduling situations that come up now and again, only one of the top half dozen is at home this weekend (Ipswich) and there’s a relegation six pointer at St. Andrew’s, where Bolton will have their first outing with Neil Lennon in charge.

Lennon’s appointment is an interesting one to say the least. Although he played over 300 games in England, his only previous managerial experience has been in the SPL, which has been a one horse race since Rangers were demoted four seasons ago. However, the expectations in Lancashire are different to those in Glasgow: avoiding relegation to the third tier for the first time in two decades is the immediate priority for Lennon. In order to do that, breaking a five game away losing streak is necessary: Matt Mills’ goal at Brighton in August was the last time the Trotters scored on the road in the Championship.

The good news for Bolton is that they’ve scored in seven of their last ten visits to Birmingham City in league matches: the bad news is that Wanderers have only won three of those games. Given the Blues’ terrible home form – one home win and two clean sheets in the last calendar year – it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if Lennon gets off to a good start, but even a win wouldn’t drag Bolton out of the bottom three this weekend.

The other games with implications at both ends of the table are at Brighton and Fulham, who take on Middlesbrough and Norwich respectively. The Seagulls haven’t lost at home since August but haven’t won at any venue since Bolton at the Amex in the same month: four consecutive draws have seen them slide down the table and into the bottom six again. Boro have only lost two of their last ten away games (and only once this season) and have only lost once in their last six trips to Sussex, which doesn’t bode well for the hosts. Norwich travel to Fulham for their first league clash outside the Premier League for almost 14 years; furthermore the Canaries are on currently on a four game away winning streak in the Championship which is their best run in the league for years. With recent victories over Birmingham and Bolton, Fulham looked as if they’d turned the corner recently but having already shipped five goals at both Derby and Nottingham Forest already this season, there’s a possibility that this game might be another damage limitation exercise for the West Londoners.

I’ll be back on either Monday or Tuesday with a quick look at the next episode of ‘Who’s Going To Be Relegated From The Premier League in May 2016′.



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Tags: Birmingham · Bolton · Brighton · Fulham · Ipswich · Middlesbrough · Norwich · Watford

I’ve Got No Idea What’s Happening At Watford

Mike Roberts - Tuesday 07.10.14, 13:36pm

I’ll try to find out before the next post, but here’s all you need to know right now.



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Tags: Watford

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