This past week has all been about managerial changes: two that happened and one that didn’t. I’ll deal with one that didn’t and one that did in the appropriate match previews, but my thoughts on Nottingham Forest are as follows.
Since I started writing for Buzzin’ Championship Football about six years ago, Forest have had eight full time managers and their average finishing position at the end of each season has been tenth. This is currently their longest continuous spell in the second tier since between 1926/27 to 1948/49. They have been in League One more recently than the Premier League and haven’t won anything of note since 1998. In other words, a typical mid table Championship team that’s going nowhere.
Good luck to the next incumbent at the City Ground. Moving swiftly onwards, here are the four big games this weekend.
Middlesbrough v Hull (tonight, 7:45pm, Sky Sports 1)
It’s rather confusing when a club issues a statement that the manager is staying with the club, but that’s exactly what Middlesbrough did when they confirmed Aitor Karanka was going to remain on Teeside despite rumours that he was leaving after some kind of training ground argument. It’s not hard to see why Karanka almost walked away – Boro are hopeless away from home at the moment – but tomorrow’s game is at the Stadium of Light, where they’ve only lost twice in the league this season. That being said, they’ve failed to keep a home clean sheet in 2016.
Hull are almost a mirror image of Boro. The Tigers are finding home wins hard to come by at the moment but have won four of their six aways in the league in 2016; they have a reasonable looking run in and only have one remaining road trip to another team in the top six this season – if Derby are still in the top six, which is apparently going to be down to Harry Redknapp’s role as Dumbledore to Darren Wassall’s Harry Potter. They’ve already lost at Brighton and Burnley this season, but both of those defeats were by a single goal, but Middlesbrough away has been a very unsuccessful fixture for Hull over the years. They’ve not won a league game there since March 1986 and have lost eight out of their last ten visits.
Fun fact: only one team has scored in seven of the previous ten meetings in the league on Teeside.
Bristol City v Bolton
Since arriving in the Championship in August 2012, Bolton have only employed three managers: Owen Coyle (now managing Houston Dynamo in the OAPs home called MLS), Dougie Freedman (sacked by Forest last weekend) and Neil Lennon, sacked earlier this week because of a combination of the new owners wanting to go in a new direction, poor form and presumably three consecutive Scottish managers resulting in some kind of obscure curse. They’re bottom of the form table, they’re eleven points from safety with nine games left, several bookies have already taken them off the board for relegation and they haven’t played in the third tier since 1992/93. I might not mention Bolton again this season until I can confirm that they’re down.
City’s home form has been extremely unpredictable this season. They’ve only won four times at Ashton Gate and only Rotherham and Fulham have conceded more goals at home this season, but three of those wins have come against teams in the top half of the table. One of the reasons for this bizarre form is the redevelopment of Ashton Gate is far more noticeable this season: home fans now occupy two and a half stands while the new West Stand is under construction and it’s fair to say the atmosphere – or lack of it at some matches – is a bit like moving into a new house when you’re a kid: it’s home, but it doesn’t quite feel like it. City have won six of the last ten league meetings at Ashton Gate but only half of the last four and they’ve not beaten any of the teams around them at home this season: after this one, the next home game is against Rotherham. If the Robins avoid defeat in both of those games, they should be appearing in these posts next season.
MK Dons v Brighton
I don’t remember who it was, but someone tweeted that Karl Robinson is the only manager at a team in the bottom half of the table who hasn’t been sacked this season. There’s a reason for that: he’s the most successful manager the Dons have ever had and if he steers them away from relegation he’ll be there for a while longer. However, it’s a big if: although MK have only lost three of their last ten games, they’ve only won twice over the same period and have struggled against the teams who may be in the Premier League next season. If the Dons are in the Championship next season then Robinson will have done well, but unless he recruits a striker before August the Dons could be up against it from the word go next season.
In the period between mid December and mid January, Brighton looked as if they were about to drop out of the top six altogether, but due to a combination of one defeat in their last eleven and their immediate rivals slipping up, the Seagulls are back in the automatic promotion places. Tomorrow’s game is a good indicator of whether they’ll stay there: they’ve been inconsistent recently but are one of the best defensive units in the Championship and that should hold them in good stead against one of the most anaemic attacks in the competition; Sam Baldock also almost always seems to find the net against his former teams.
Fun fact: Brighton have never won at Milton Keynes in any competition.
Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton
Just when it was all going so well, Wednesday had a wake up call a fortnight ago when they lost at home to Rotherham for the first time since August 2002. That defeat was also only the second time they’ve lost at Hillsborough this season. They’ve earned four points and kept two clean sheets in a pair of away games since then, but if they fail to win promotion then one of the reasons is their away form against the top half of the division (one win in nine) and their inexplicably poor form against the current bottom four (three defeats in six games). I’ve got them in a five way tie with Derby, Ipswich, Cardiff and Birmingham for the last two playoff spots and this situation will be the one to watch over the next few weeks.
Charlton – who beat Middlesbrough at the Valley on Sunday afternoon – have only lost twice in seven league games at Hillsborough since the turn of the century, but are still five points from safety and have only beaten one club in the top half of the table this season. The current three game unbeaten run is the best stretch of form since the first few games of the season, but this feels like too little too late and it’s worth remembering that the Addicks haven’t won consecutive home games in the Championship since this time last season, when they were a far better side than they are now. Any team that’s already used 31 different players in a season will always struggle.
There won’t be a post next weekend (even if someone is sacked) as it’s both the international break and Easter. So have fun and I’ll see you in a fortnight.