Ipswich sack Roy Keane

After just 20 months as manager at Ipswich Town, Roy Keane has been sacked following a run of nine games in which his team have lost seven.

The final straw for Keane appears to have been Monday’s 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest which has left the Suffolk club in 19th position in the Championship table.

This season had started in promising fashion for Ipswich who scaled the Championship losing only one game in their first eight despite an horrendous injury list at the club.

Their luck turned for the worse and the club have slid back down the table over the last couple of months despite securing a semi final place in the Carling Cup where they will face Arsenal over two legs, the first of which takes place next week.

Ipswich are also in the FA Cup third round where they will play Chelsea this Sunday, a game that Keane would have relished for sure.

Paul Jewell is among the favourites to take over from Keane although it has to be said expectations at the club may have to be reassessed if they really feel they are good enough to reach the promotion play off places in the near future.

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30 Years Of Hurt: Can A Championship Team Win The FA Cup?

One game left in the Championship programme this weekend: Barcelona v Real Madrid will be overshadowed by the East Midlands’ version of El Clasico when Nottingham Forest travel to Leicester (Sky Sports 2, 7:45pm). Both clubs got off to sluggish starts following the trauma of failing in the playoffs last season, but they are more or less performing at similar levels as they were last season and this could be an entertaining – if low scoring – game.  A Forest win would put them back in the play off positions but the Foxes are unbeaten in their last five home games in the Championship and have the upper hand in recent league meetings in Leicestershire – they’ve only lost one of the last five games.

The slim chance of a club from outside the top tier of English football winning the FA Cup for the first time since 1980 were reduced even further following the draw for the 3rd Round on Sunday evening. Twelve Championship sides were drawn against Premiership opposition; two ties are between Championship sides, leaving only seven clubs with games against opposition from the lower divisions.

Arguably the best chance of a third round upset from a Championship point of view is QPR’s trip to Blackburn – if Rangers can maintain their Championship form then at the very least they should be able to force a replay, although presumably Neil Warnock’s priority will be promotion rather than cup glory. West Ham may not be looking forward to a visit from Barnsley: the Tykes don’t have a particularly good away record in the league but knocked Chelsea out of the competition a couple of seasons ago. At the other end of the scale, although there’ll be plenty of media attention at the Walker’s Stadium for Leicester’s game against Manchester City, Sven-Goran Eriksson will probably realise that his new side may have to concentrate on the league rather than look forward to the fourth round. Although Scunthorpe will enjoy a big crowd when Everton visit, the Iron’s home form in the Championship has been very poor so far.

The all Championship games could provide a distraction for two of the current bottom three. Crystal Palace have a good record at Coventry and have already beaten the Sky Blues this season: despite being three points adrift at the bottom of the table after this weekend’s games, Preston host Nottingham Forest at Deepdale.

On paper Swansea, Watford, Burnley and Norwich look as if they may have the best chances of progressing to the fourth round: Colchester United are currently just outside the playoff positions in League 1 but at time of writing have only lost once away from home and might fancy their chances at the Liberty Stadium. The Hornets will have to wait for a replay between Hartlepool and Yeovil before knowing their opponents but Burnley will need to be at their best when Port Vale come to Turf Moor – the Valiants are currently top of League 2 and have a very impressive away record. Norwich also need to wait for a replay, but should be able to get past either Droylsden or Leyton Orient.

If you’re looking for a possible shock involving a Championship team, Middlesbrough’s trip to Burton Albion might be the tie worth looking at, but if Brighton beat FC United of Manchester, they would ensure a tasty looking South Coast Derby with Portsmouth that – given Brighton’s position in League 1 – could be a Championship game next season.

Ipswich – away at Chelsea – probably won’t be able to repeat their performance in the Carling Cup. Wednesday night’s quarter final against West Bromwich Albion is the first time the Tractor Boys have played top tier opposition in this season’s competition – and having lost 4-1 at Norwich the day after the Baggies won 4-1 at Everton, it looks as if the semi finalists will all come from the Premiership.

Is it my imagination – or is that Noel Gallagher?

Unusually for the Championship, this weekend’s games are spread over four days and culminate with the draw for the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon.

QPR took advantage of an increasingly embattled looking Preston side and another Cardiff home defeat to reclaim top spot. Fortunately for Rangers, Cardiff’s loss of form seems to have come at completely the wrong time – on Friday Swansea would have to beat Portsmouth by six clear goals to take over second spot, but greater (and possibly longer term) damage might occur if the Bluebirds lose this week’s game of the week: their trip to QPR.

There hasn’t been a draw between QPR and Cardiff in West London since April 1952; Cardiff away draws in the Championship have been rare over the last year (only four in 26 games) but Rangers seem to have put their recent drawing streak behind them and their stingy defensive record at Loftus Road plus victories in six of the last ten games against Cardiff in London means the Hoops are the bookies favourites for the win.

Cardiff’s 0-2 reverse at home to Nottingham Forest may herald the start of Forest’s promotion push. Although Billy Davies’ side are still unbeaten at home, they need to start turning draws into wins and with a decent run could be in the reckoning for the automatic promotion spots after Christmas. The win over Cardiff featured another good performance from a player who is receiving some recognition from the mainstream media as a possible England candidate: despite his name, Lewis McGugan is an English midfielder who scores goals (nine this season, currently joint third in the list with Burnley’s Chris Iwelumo).

There are three televised games in the Championship this weekend: two of them are derbies and one of them features Derby. The Rams trip to Burnley is the first (Sky Sports 2, 5:20pm); the hosts seem to have gone off the boil a little recently and Nigel Clough’s side have only lost four of their last ten games at Turf Moor. Having said that, The Clarets have only lost once at home this season and Derby’s away record is average to say the least: this looks like it could be an entertaining game.

The East Anglian derby takes place on Sunday lunchtime when Ipswich travel the comparatively short distance to their Norfolk rivals (BBC1, 1:15pm). As you might expect, Norwich have had the better of the recent encounters between the two sides (only two defeats in the last ten) but both sides have been inconsistent recently. Norwich have drawn four consecutive games and haven’t won at home for a month, while Ipswich have lost four of their last five away games.

At the bottom of the table, Preston’s 3-1 defeat at QPR last week meant that they are now three points adrift: they won’t be looking forward to a visit from Millwall, who had gone four games without a win until their 1-0 win at Middlesbrough last week. That defeat – combined with Leicester’s loss at Bristol City – meant that Boro remain in the bottom three with Crystal Palace, who went down to the odd goal in five in an action packed game at Sheffield United, which featured three penalties and two red cards. Game of the week at the bottom of the table is Hull’s visit to the Riverside and there are some grounds for cautious optimism for Boro fans as Hull’s record on Teeside is appalling – the Tigers have lost twelve of their last thirteen visits and the last time they earned a point was 82 years ago!

The last televised game of the weekend – or perhaps it’s the first of next week’s games – is Forest’s trip to Leicester, but as the draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup takes place at 6pm on Sunday evening, there’ll be a separate post reacting to the draw and previewing both the Monday night game and assessing Ipswich’s chances in the Carling Cup quarter finals. The FA has asked Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and Serge Pizzorno from Kasabian to remove the balls from the bingo machine: an early night tucked up with a good book and a mug of cocoa might be advisable for the rock legends.

Chris Coleman requests personal hearing from FA

Coventry boss Chris Coleman has requested a personal tribunal from the FA after being charged with improper conduct and / or bringing the game into disrepute, after comments about FA Cup referees.

Chris Coleman’s complaints concern the 2-0 FA Cup loss to Chelsea on the 7th March in which the Welshman claimed match official Steve Bennett was ‘smug’ and ‘very friendly’ towardsChelsea players.

“I was disappointed with him, as were my players – his attitude towards us and towards them,” Coleman claimed in post-match interviews.

This isn’t the first time this season that managers of Championship and smaller Premier League clubs have spoken out against referee favouritism towards bigger, more renowned teams.

West Bromwich Albion gaffer Tony Mowbray labelled referees ‘pally’ with big-name players and managers after defeat by Manchester United on 29 January in the league. And, after seeing Stoke defeated by Sunderland on 7 February, Potters manager Tony Pulis claimed some referees punish smaller clubs more harshly than their larger counterparts.

Of course, it can never be right to openly berate a referee, whether it be from the sidelines or in a post-match rant. Match officials deserve respect, as is the buzz-word around the FA at the moment.

Yet the trend to award crucial decisions in favour of the big four is one that should not be ignored. Up until a fortnight ago, how many penalties were awarded to the opposing team at Old Trafford? I can think of just one: the FA cup tie with Portsmouth last season, a game which ultimately cost Man United a treble.

A referee has one of the toughest jobs in the world and will never be perfect, we accept that. All we ask for in return for our support of the FA system is consistency from officials, whatever shape that may take.

FA Cup 3rd Round 2008/09

The draw for the 3rd round of this season’s FA Cup took place earlier this afternoon after.  The games will be played over the weekend of 3-4 January 2009.

Last season’s FA Cup runners up, Cardiff City have been drawn at home against fellow Championship side Reading.

Other all Coca-Championship ties include Charlton v Norwich, and the midlands derby between Birmingham v Wolves which proves to be a feisty exciting game; especially after the top two teams in the Championship played out a 1-1 draw at Molineux, yesterday.

A few Championship teams will be looking to cause a shock as they take on  Premiership opponents.  I would guess Preston v Liverpool or Southampton v Man Utd will be chosen as the televised game.

Speaking of Preston, they are one of the favourites in terms of playoff betting, so hopefully the Liverpool game won’t act as a distraction!

FA Cup 3rd Round 2008/09:

Portsmouth v Bristol City
Sheffield Wed v Fulham
Preston v Liverpool
Birmingham v Wolves
West Ham v Barnsley
Middlesbrough v Barrow
Hull City v Newcastle
Hartlepool v Stoke
Chelsea v Southend
Manchester City v Nottingham Forest
Cardiff v Reading
Ipswich v Chesterfield or Droylsden
Charlton v Norwich
West Brom v Peterborough or Tranmere
Torquay v Blackpool
Leyton Orient v Sheffield United
Southampton v Manchester United
Millwall v Carlisle or Crewe
Histon v Swansea
Forest Green Rovers v Derby
QPR v Burnley
Leicester v Crystal Palace
Tottenham v Wigan
Morecambe or Cheltenham v Doncaster
Arsenal v Plymouth
Notts County or Kettering v Eastwood Town
Bournemouth or Blyth Spartans v Blackburn
Macclesfield v Everton
Watford v Scunthorpe
Sunderland v Bolton
Coventry v Kidderminster
Gillingham or Stockport v Aston Villa