Entirely in keeping with this season’s trend in big stories breaking when I’ve been unable to cover them, a lot has happened over the last ten days. However, having seen a few games while I was in France, I’m happy to say that there’s not much difference between the bottom half of Ligue 1 and the top of the nPower Championship.
In case you missed them, here’s a quick recap of the recent managerial changes:
Blackburn Rovers: Henning Berg takes over at Ewood Park – although a novice in terms of managing in English football, Berg is an experienced manager in Norway’s Eliteserien although his last job (at Lillestrom) was far from successful. Seems to have been appointed on the basis that he knows the club and has some experience, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, the Championship isn’t kind to managers that don’t have experience in the competition.
Blackpool: vacant, although there are indications that an appointment is imminent.
Crystal Palace: in one of the more surprising managerial moves this season, Ian Holloway left Blackpool last week to take over at Selhurst Park. This is a clear indication that Palace want to be taken seriously as promotion candidates this season and I think it’s worth keeping an eye on them in the run in to Christmas. Holloway’s record at this level speaks for itself.
Ipswich Town: Mick McCarthy takes over at Portman Road. Although no stranger to management in the Championship, the former Wolves manager has got his work cut out for him at the bottom of the table. Got off to a good start at the weekend with a win at Birmingham, but how many times have we seen a short term improvement from a poor team just after a new manager has been appointed?
In one of those twists of fate, Holloway and McCarthy will face each other tonight in a game that is significant at both ends of the table. If Ipswich can earn at least a point at Selhurst Park they may be able to climb off the bottom of the table for the first time in four games, while a win for Palace could be rewarded by reaching first place if other results go their way. Although the hosts are favourites to pick up all three points, there’s enough evidence to indicate that Ollie’s new team won’t have it their own way: despite having not lost at home since the first day of the season, they’ve only beaten Ipswich twice in South London in the last ten league meetings. The win at St. Andrew’s last weekend was Ipswich’s first away success since August and featured only their fourth clean sheet in the league away from home since last Christmas.
Whether or not Palace reach the top of the table tomorrow will be determined by what happens at the Valley and the City Ground. One of the reasons Charlton are only just outside the bottom three is their appalling home form, but Cardiff City – tonight’s visitors to SE7 – are vulnerable on the road, having lost at Bolton and Nottingham Forest in their last two away games. They’ve also only won three of the last 20 league games against the Addicks since November 1962 so this game also looks anything but straightforward and could be one where expectations could be turned on their heads.
However, if history is anything to go by it won’t be plain sailing for Middlesbrough at Nottingham Forest either. The last time Boro won there in the league was in March 1999 – the only victory they’ve managed on the banks of the Trent in their last sixteen visits – but having not lost on their travels since September, Tony Mowbray’s side look likely to earn at least a point against the hosts, who have only won one of their last five home games and were thumped by Millwall on Saturday. Forest have improved since last season, but are at more or less the level they were two seasons ago.
It’s a short week this week, with Boro and Sheffield Wednesday meeting on Friday night (Sky Sports 1, 7:45pm) and games on both Saturday and Sunday. Time permitting I’ll be back on either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.