Nigel Clough Sacked By Derby County; Steve McLaren Is New Boss

II seem to remember that at one point last season I was unable to post about managerial casualties as they happened – and once again I was unable on Saturday night when Nigel Clough was dismissed from Pride Park. More tomorrow, but I don’t think it was just losing to local rivals Nottingham Forest that caused the Derby board to rethink their strategy. As I implied before the season began, the Rams have been a bit like the Grand Old Duke Of York over the past few seasons and so I’m putting the move in the ‘change of direction needed’ category. Tony Mowbray is now the longest serving manager in the Sky Bet Championship although you’ve got to wonder how long he’ll hold that accolate – Middlesbrough lost 2-0 at QPR yesterday.

Update: well that didn’t take long. Steve McLaren has just been appointed Head Coach at Derby. He’d been an assistant coach at QPR since getting sacked from Twente Enschede in February. Before that? Manager of Nottingham Forest. For ten games.

Only 4 games in the Championship this weekend

It’s a bit of an odd weekend in the nPower Championship: there are only four league games, six clubs are involved in cup ties and ten sides have the weekend off, which might be an advantage considering there’s a full programme next Tuesday.

Three of the four games will affect both ends of the table – QPR’s lead is back to five points after they beat Coventry City for the second time in a month, but as Norwich are the only other side in top six to have a game this weekend, the Canaries have an opportunity to close that gap. Possibly the most significant results in the last week were Nottingham Forest’s wins over Derby and Bristol City – they’re now in fifth place with at least one game in hand over the other sides in the top six – and Cardiff’s entertaining 4-2 win over Watford.

The weekend fixtures start on Friday night when Barnsley travel to Millwall for the first time in nearly a decade. The Tykes picked up their first away win since November when a brace by new signing Danny Haynes enabled them to win at Doncaster for the third consecutive season; the Lions have won their last four league games at the New Den and will be looking to continue that record in order to keep up with teams ahead of them.

Hull host QPR on Saturday afternoon and although the Tigers haven’t lost at home to Queens Park Rangers since 1970, this game has low scoring draw written all over it. Norwich’s trip to Crystal Palace may not be as straightforward as it looks: the hosts have won seven of the last ten league games at Selhurst Park, but the Canaries have won three of their four away games at the current bottom six and the incentive of an automatic promotion spot could tip the balance in their favour.

Game of the week is Scunthorpe v Preston. Both teams earned a valuable point last weekend: the Iron drew at home to Burnley and kept a clean sheet at Glanford Park for the first time since September and yet another late equaliser – this time from Billy Jones – helped Preston nick at a point at the Riverside. However the form book doesn’t favour Preston: the Lillywhites haven’t won at Scunthorpe since Feb 96 and the hosts have only lost once in their five games against the bottom six this season.

It’s a shame to relegate the FA Cup to a footnote, but apart from the once in a lifetime opportunity to see Leyton Orient play in a game with Welsh commentary (S4C’s ‘Sgorio’ show is showing their game against Swansea at 12:50pm on Saturday) the only real interest in this season’s competition is guessing which team will get the furthest.

On paper, Burnley, Reading and Swansea look as if they have the best chance but they’re all playing teams from lower divisions who were supposed to have been cannon fodder in the third round. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of team Alex McLeish selects for Coventry’s visit to Birmingham: having reached the Carling Cup final on Wednesday evening, the Blues might decide that Premiership survival is a priority. The most competitive tie looks as if it’s Brighton’s trip to Watford, but I think the best chance of an upset could be if Nottm Forest can stop West Ham winning on Sunday afternoon as the Hammers won’t relish a replay at the City Ground.

The only big move in the transfer market so far this week is Kris Commons’ move from Derby to Celtic – the striker was out of contract at the end and was joint third in the goal scoring table before his departure with 13 goals, nine goals more than Tomasz Cywka. Presumably Nigel Clough will be signing a striker to replace Commons, but if he can find another player who can score exactly one third of Derby’s goals he’ll be doing well!

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Championship football news round up

Newcastle United midfielder Kevin Nolan has been voted the Championship Fans Player of the Month in November, hanging on to the award for the second month in succession.

The former Bolton player has been in impressive form for the Magpies scoring nine goals so far this season. While the 29 year old is chuffed with the award he says his main goal is returning to the Premier League with Newcastle at first time of trying.

He said he would be happier for Newcastle to win every remaining game without scoring himself, to get back to the Premiership.

Stern John, who joined Ipswich from Crystal Palace on loan until the end of the year, says he would be up for making the deal permanent if he is wanted by the Suffolk club.

John made his debut for the Tractor Boys in last weekends 2-1 win over Cardiff and said he is keen to leave Selhurst Park and will see what happens in January.

He is contracted with Palace until next summer, with a possible one year extension, but admits that the chances of remaining with Palace are slim with the current financial difficulties at the club.

Derby County are keen to terminate the contract of Australian midfielder Ruben Zadkovich, who was brought to the club by previous manager Paul Jewell, but has spent 10 months out injured and has yet to feature in the first team under current boss Nigel Clough.

Zadkovich has been offered a termination agreement to cover the remaining six months of his contract at Derby and Clough said they are waiting for a response from the player’s agent. The Australian has made seven appearances for Derby since joining the club in April 2008.

Nigel Clough says he is keen to re-sign Everton striker James Vaughan on loan in January. The 21 year old was injured soon after arriving at Pride Park on a previous loan agreement in September.

Vaughan has recovered from surgery on the injured knee and is back in training with Everton and Clough said he is hoping to get him down to the midlands to train with Derby in an effort to re-sign the player on loan in the January window.

The Rams face losing the services of Paul Dickov and DJ Campbell in the New Year, both players are on loan from Leicester City until the end of the year.

Championship round up

200px-football_league_championshipBarnsley sprung the surprise of the last night’s Championship games by beating West Bromwich Albion 3-1 and denying Roberto di Matteo’s team the chance to go back to the top of the table.

It is the second defeat on the trot in the Championship and third in a week including the Carling Cup loss at Arsenal for the Baggies and has put a temporary dent in their attempt at marching straight back to the Premiership.

Barnsley, who are at the other end of the Championship table, were much the better team and deserved the win with a performance that belies their position in the league.

Michael Chopra scored four in Cardiff’s mauling of Derby County as the Welsh team found their early season form and thrashed Nigel Clough’s side 6-1.

Promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough and Preston were both beaten, the latter by lowly strugglers Reading who won away 1-2 and lifted themselves up the table but will need to build on this result to avoid a relegation battle later in the season.

Gareth Southgate was booed by the home crowd following the 0-1 defeat by Leicester who are now just one point behind Middlesbrough after an indifferent start to the campaign.

Roy Keane’s Ipswich were robbed yet again as Sheffield United scored an equalising goal in injury time to make the score 3-3. Ipswich had led 3-1 and will be disappointed at letting the game slip away, although one point is better than none.

Ipswich Town’s Simon Clegg was quick to dispel any rumours that Keane’s time at the club was coming to an end by issuing a statement to say there is no pressure on the Irishman.

Coventry staged a late comeback to take all the points from their visit to Watford, trailing 2-1 the Sky Blues scored twice in the last ten minutes or so to seal the win 2-3.

Bristol City beat Blackpool 2-0 who are now both on 16 points just outside the play off places which is becoming very congested with five teams on the same points.

Crystal Palace were held to a 0-0 against visitors Sheffield Wednesday, the same result as at Doncaster who entertained Swansea. The bottom of the table clash between Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough and Plymouth was won by the south west team 1-2, their first win of the season.

Newcastle have the chance to stretch their lead to five points at the top of the league when they take on QPR tonight, while Nottingham Forest will host Scunthorpe in the other game.

Football Fans all over the UK hoping for success this season

At this time of year football fans all over the UK are not only full of the excitement and possibilities a new season brings – will their team gain promotion, avoid relegation or have a decent cup run this year, but many are enthused enough to join fantasy football leagues where they can show friends how simple it is to be a ‘virtual’ football manager.

Football betting tends to peak at this time of year too, as football fans attempt to forecast what is going to happen over the next 9 months.

As far as this season’s Championship goes, I really can’t see there being clear favourites for promotion to the Premier League.

Bookmakers have made Newcastle United favourites to bounce straight back to the Premiership but even with a convincing display against Reading at the weekend, I still don’t fancy them for automatic promotion all the time there is board room and ownership turmoil at St James Park.

I believe Sheffield United and Cardiff City will kick on from last season.  But what effect will Roy Keane have on Ipswich Town’s chances to return to the top league in English football nad likewise, Nigel Clough at Derby County?

Of the three teams relegated from the Premier League last season, I can only really see West Bromich Albion as possible champions, even with new manager Roberto Di Matteo.  Until Mike Ashley sells Newcastle I think they will be destined to lose their best players and remain a Championship side.  While at Middlesbrough, I’d like to see Gareth Southgate do well but I really don’t think they will be equipped for life in the Championship this season, and will have to accommodate a different style of play.

As previously mentioned on this blog, I think Leicester City had such a good season winning promotion from League One that they could quite easily win two promotions on the bounce.

The internet is full of good quality websites offering football news services to keep fans buzzing throughout the season.  But as football fans, we all know only too well that there can only be one winner at the end of the season.