Boro Take Control: Cotterill Sacked By Bristol City

After the last midweek programme until the end of next month we’ve learned the following:

* Middlesbrough are going to take some stopping, although I’m going to keep banging on about the fact that losing playoff finalists don’t have a good record when it comes to automatic promotion at the end of the following season. Hull are a better team now than they were in 2012/13, when they were promoted to the Premier League.

* Sheffield Wednesday could be automatic promotion contenders next season if they continue to improve at the rate they have done in 2015/16: although Brighton are still better than they were last season, this weekend could see these two clubs switch positions. The Seagulls have now lost four of their five games.

* Of the newly promoted teams,  I clearly underestimated Preston as much as I overestimated Bristol City.

However, the most baffling story of the week was the reappointment of Jose Riga as manager of Charlton on Wednesday. Riga last appeared on this blog in October 2014 when he was sacked by Blackpool: he replaced Chris Powell at Charlton in March 2014 but was binned at the end of the season. Since leaving Blackpool, Riga has managed two teams (Standard Liege and Metz) for a total of 38 games: he hasn’t managed a full season at a team for three seasons. I know the Charlton owner is idiosyncratic (to put it mildly) but this situation reminds me of the musical chairs that went on amongst the top banks at the time of the financial crisis.

The other story that will happen over the next few days will be if Bolton will go into administration on Monday or not. There’s been a fire sale of sorts at the Macron to keep the wolves (not ‘the’ Wolves) from the door, it remains to be seen if that’s too little too late. If Bolton go into administration, there’s a good chance they’ll become the first club to relegated from the Championship having suffered a points deduction since Portsmouth in 2012.

This weekend there are a couple of games where the strugglers face the leaders and both look spectacularly one sided.

Bristol City v Middlesbrough

Bizarrely, the Steve Cotterill era at Ashton Gate ended three years to the day after Sean O’Driscoll was appointed. Nobody expected the Robins to perform as well as they did in League One last season, but not many people would have thought last season’s League One title winners would have been this bad either – at almost exactly the same level as the team that finished dead last in 2012/13. Two home wins this season – the last at the start of November – a porous defence and a habit of conceding late goals is why City are in the bottom three and Cotterill is out of a job. With seven of their remaining ten home games coming against clubs in the current top ten, the chances of them remaining in the Championship are bleak.

On the other hand, Middlesbrough arrive at Ashton Gate with an astonishing record: nine consecutive clean sheets in the Championship and no away defeats since the start of November. With seven of their last eleven away games against teams currently in the bottom half of the table, Aitor Karanka’s side are almost a mirror image of Bristol City. Boro have only won three of their last trips to Ashton Gate in the league, but all of those wins have come in five games from September 1994 onwards, so I think it’s fair to say that City have their work cut out for them.

Hull v Charlton

The Tigers are on a roll at the moment: one home defeat this season (against Derby) which was the only time they’ve let in more than one goal at the KC Stadium in all competitions in 2015/16. It’s far too early to start this type of analysis, but based on their remaining home fixtures it looks like Hull could have an easy run in as well as having a disproportionate influence on promotion and relegation issues.

In contrast, Charlton have only won on the road once this season, have been shut out in just over half of their away games and have only scored more than once in one game – which they lost by the odd goal in five at Brighton at the start of December. Talking of fives, the straw that broke the camel’s back and signalled the departure of Karel Fraeye (no, me neither) was a 5-0 defeat at Huddersfield on Tuesday, the first time the Addicks have conceded that many on the road since January, when Watford battered them by the same score at Vicarage Road.

Update: MK Dons, Bolton and Reading all won their FA Cup replays; Bristol City, Huddersfield and Ipswich are out.

Televised Games For August And September Announced

The first couple of months of the season will feature at least one televised nPower Championship game a week – a direct result of the entry of BT into the Premier League market. Most of the games on Sky Sports will be competing directly against the lunchtime Premier League games on BT, but with an obvious emphasis on Championship derbies, it won’t come as a big surprise that I think the games below look like decent selections.

The times in brackets are the kick off times – coverage usually begins between half an hour to fifteen minutes earlier – but unless specifically stated, all games kick off at 12:15pm and will be shown on Sky Sports 1.

Saturday 3rd August

Burnley v Bolton

Sunday 4th August:

Derby v Blackburn (4:00pm, Sky Sports 1)

Sunday 11th August:

Leicester v Leeds (4:30pm, Sky Sports 1)

Saturday 17th August:

Leeds v Sheffield Wednesday

Saturday 24th August:

Bolton v QPR

Saturday 31st August:

Leeds v QPR

Saturday 14th September

Burnley v Blackburn

Saturday 21st September

Charlton v Millwall

Saturday 28th September

Nottingham Forest v Derby

Additionally, the First Round Capital One Cup game between Preston and Blackpool will be shown on Sky Sports 1 on Monday 5th August – kick off is 7:30pm.

Gus Poyet Sacked

Breaking news this afternoon: after just over three and a half years in the role, Gus Poyet has been sacked as manager of Brighton & Hove Albion.

It’s unclear if this decision has anything to do with the internal enquiry that was being held at the Amex following the playoff defeat against Crystal Palace, which seems to have been triggered by the perception that Poyet had either decided to leave/had possibly been approached by another club. I’m also not sure whether to classify this as the last managerial change of 2012/13 or the first of 2013/14.

More when there’s more information available.

Update: Poyet – who was apparently dismissed while working as a pundit for the BBC coverage of the Confederations Cup – has been replaced by former Barcelona midfielder Oscar Garcia. Garcia has no managerial experience in the nPower Championship.

First Day Fixtures

All games scheduled for the first weekend in August, although given the precedent of the last couple of seasons I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of these games gets moved to a Friday night TV slot.

Barnsley v Wigan

Birmingham v Watford

Bournemouth v Charlton

Burnley v Bolton

Derby v Blackburn

Doncaster v Blackpool

Leeds v Brighton

Middlesbrough v Leicester

Millwall v Yeovil

Nottingham Forest v Huddersfield

QPR v Sheffield Wednesday

Reading v Ipswich



Crystal Palace Promoted To The Premier League

Congratulations to Crystal Palace – the Eagles were promoted back to the top flight for the first time in almost a decade thanks to an extra time penalty from ancient striker Kevin Phillips. Crystal Palace became the first fifth placed club to be promoted via the playoffs since Burnley beat Sheffield United four years ago and only the second fifth placed finishers to be promoted in the last decade.

Since the Premier League was formed in 1992, Palace have never played more than one season in that competition, but we’ll see how they get on in August. As I pointed out last week, I’d expect that Watford might struggle at the start of next season but for now it’s time to have a couple of weeks off. Unless or until something dramatic happens, the next scheduled post will be in the middle of next month, when next season’s fixtures will be released.