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.