Ahead of another busy night of international football, now is a good time to assess how the new season has started as far as the Sky Bet Championship is concerned.
Five games in and Blackpool & QPR (both on 13 points) lead the way as the only two unbeaten sides in the Championship. Both have drop points with four wins and a draw a piece, with Blackpool sitting at the top of the pile by a single goal difference.
It’s a great start for Blackpool under the guidance of Paul Ince and his goal scoring son, Tom Ince. Blackpool done well to keep hold of their top scoring England Under-21 midfielder as there was allegedly interest from several Premier League teams including Liverpool & Everton.
QPR were tipped by many critics as favourites to bounce straight back to the Premier League though I wasn’t so sure. Firstly, manager Harry Redknapp had to address the ill-discipline and lack of commitment from some players, which appeared to be causing rifts behind the scenes; and thought Redknapp is known for his man-management, he isn’t overly qualified at getting teams promoted from the Championship. That is one of the reasons why I still consider Reading to be in with a shout for automatic promotion. Manager Nigel Adkins gained promotion with Southampton before being sacked during the season, along with former Reading manager Brian McDermott (now managing Leeds United) after both managers had achieved promotion in the 2011/12 season.
Furthermore, Reading have kept the majority of their squad together from their previous season in the Championship whereas QPR can still boast several ‘big star’ names that hitherto were household Premier League players. The likes of Shaun Wright-Philips, Niko Kranjcar, Jermaine Jenas, Bobby Zamora, Richard Dunne, Joey Barton and current England squad goalkeeper Robert Green. That is a lot of egos to massage, and Harry Redknapp may find that if QPR begin to slip a few points that some of his overpaid stars may go missing or not play as a team.
Below the two automatic promotion positions, currently occupying the play-off places (3rd – 6th) are Burnley, Nottm Forest, Leicester (10 points) followed by Bournemouth (9 points). The top 10 places are made up by Watford, Wigan, Reading & Leeds United all currently on 8 points.
This campaign will be no different to any other Championship season and the three teams to eventually get promoted to the Premier League next May could realistically be any of the aforementioned current top 10 teams, something I could have predicted before the start of the season with, if I’m being honest, the exception of Bournemouth who have had a positive start to the season. So if you’re feeling lucky, click here to bet on football.
There’s a return to normal service after the international break next Saturday with no 11 ties including mouth-watering ties Burnley v Blackburn, Bolton v Leeds, Leicester v Wigan, QPR v Birmingham and Bournemouth v Blackpool. I predict QPR will be clear leaders after the weekend but the season is going to be a very hard, long battle between several teams, all hungry for the bigger prize.