Tag Archive: Football League Championship


 

By Tony Alvarez

At the beginning of the season the bookies favourites and many fans and pundits favourites to win the Championship was Leicester City. They had spent massively improving their squad in the summer and had a manager who was well regarded worldwide in Sven Goran Erikkson.

A look at the table shows just how wrong everyone was far from running away with the title the club are currently in 9th place with 62 points from their 42 fixtures, the former England manager has long since departed and been replaced with a much smaller name in Nigel Pearson.

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By Tony Alvarez
Last night Coventry City grabbed an injury time equaliser to get a draw away against play off chasing and recent Carling Cup finalists Cardiff City.
The point leaves the Sky Blues 22nd in the table occupying the final relegation place but now only 3 points off a struggling Bristol City side.

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By Laurie Fitzgerald

Bristol City managed to secure a goalless draw against fellow relegation candidates Portsmouth as the battle to stay in the Championship hots up.

Despite that point, it has been a difficult period at Ashton Gate, with a run of just one win in their last ten league matches leaving the Robins in a race to beat the drop to League One.

After sacking manager Keith Millen after a disappointing start to the campaign left them rooted to the bottom of the division, Derek McInnes came in and helped revive the club’s fortunes.

City went on a run of four wins and two draws in six matches which propelled them out of the relegation zone and left many praising the man-management skills of the 40 year-old Scot.

However, their recent downturn has left City fourth from bottom, and just four points clear of Coventry and Doncaster, with Rovers still with a game in hand over their rivals.     Continue reading

Can Portsmouth be saved?

By Tony Alvarez

For the second time in the last few years Portsmouth FC find themselves in dire financial problems which has led to them yet again being placed into administration, losing many of their players for nothing, not being able to pay wages and more seriously than before look like they wont be able to fulfil their fixtures until the end of the season.

It is widely thought that if the club is not brought in the next six weeks or the debts are not taken on by someone thenPortsmouthcould cease to exist something that has rarely happened in the Football Leagues.

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By Tony Alvarez

Oh what a difference a year makes in our beloved game, just over 12 months ago December the 8th 2010 to be exact I wrote an article asking the question could Coventry maintain their excellent form and the promotion push they were on at the time.

The club were flying high in the Championship and were only 3 points behindCardiffCitywho at the time occupied the second automatic promotion spot.

As I type this article just 1 year and 11 days laterCoventrysit rock bottom of the Coca Cola Championship with just 13 points from 22 fixtures.

Of course a lot has changed since that article a year ago and not only the clubs fortunes, at the time of the previous article Aidy Boothroyd was the manager of the Sky Blue side, he has of course moved on to pastures new, another change is that of Marlon King who impressed in a sky blue shirt and has since moved on to rivals Birmingham.

This article is not to look back at what could have been for Coventry but to the future and if they can keep their status as a Championship side beyond this season and what they will need to do to get back to winning ways and keep their place in England’s second tier.

Shockingly for the club and its fans the clubs last victory was on October the 15th when they beatNottinghamForest 1-0 at home, since that victory the club have a record of 8 losses and 3 draws means three points from a possible 33.

Of course when a club is on a run as dismal asCoventryare there are many things that can be blamed, the squad are not good enough, the managers not good enough, we can’t defend etc looking from the outside the main problem is the sides lack of goals.

Beside striker Lukas Jutkiewicz who has a respectable 8 goals not one other member of the squad has more than 2 goals to their name.

The league table shows a story on its own with the club only winning two games all season and have only found the net 17 times.

Things don’t get much easier for Coventry, over the busy Christmas and New year period they club face a rejuvenated Bristol City, a tricky Brighton side as well as promotion contenders West Ham United and Southampton.

I am also interested to know just what has happened with Freddy Eastwood the lad clearly has talent and could clearly help dig the club out of its current hole, however he has made just one substitute appearance all season and manager Andy Thorn has told him to find a new club, it appears the two have had a personal issue over Eastwood’s attitude however now is the time to put personal issues aside.

It’s a shame to say it as Coventry are a big club but its hard to see the club getting out of this rut and personally I think relegation looks inevitable, the only glimmer of hope I see is that the club are not losing heavily usually by just the odd goal meaning that there is still some optimism that the club can turn some of them results around and put up a fight for their place in the Championship.

I have always had good responses fromCoventryfans whenever I have wrote about them and would be interested to know what the fans thought on my current views.

Is Andy Thorn the right man for the job? Can you get out of the rut and maintain your Championship status? Where are the goals going to come from? What is the problem with Freddy Eastwood? In all honest do you think the squad is strong enough to stay in the Championship?

Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts, if you are on Twitter please follow us @sfts1

By Laurie Fitzgerald

After months of speculation and interest, Adam Le Fondre has finally got his move up the Football League.

The 24 year-old signed for Championship side Reading after they agreed a fee with Rotherham United for the striker’s services – believed to be in the region of £350,000.

The Royals were a number of clubs that had shown a real interest in the striker but it’s the Berkshire side that have won the race ahead of the likes of Coventry City, Sheffield Wednesday and also West Ham United.

If you’re wondering why Le Fondre is in such demand, then a quick glance at his goalscoring record gives a justified reason.

Since coming through the ranks at his hometown club Stockport County, the lad from Offerton has scored 110 goals in 256 games in League Two, a record that has got better with each club he has played for.

He left County to join Rochdale on a permanent deal in 2007 following a successful loan spell at Spotland, and went on to net 38 league goals in 98 matches.

This form alerted Rotherham, and in his two full seasons at the Don Valley stadium, Le Fondre scored a stunning 50 goals and had already bagged four goals in just five matches this campaign for the Millers.

So his eye for goal is clear for all to see. However, the big question now is whether or not Le Fondre can make the step-up and acquire a similar goalscoring ratio in the second tier of English football.

While he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, there are question marks in regards to what else Le Fondre brings to a team.

When considering the man he is replacing at the Madjeski, Le Fondre’s work-rate needs to step up a level to fill the void of the hugely-influential Shane Long, who has made a step-up of his own to the Premier League with West Brom.

Long was the best striker in the Championship last season, not just because of his 24 goals but also because of the continuous pressure that he would put on opposition defences, never giving them a moment’s rest.

Thankfully, the man that has moulded Long into the player he is today over the past few seasons is still at the helm for Reading, and can have a similar impact with Le Fondre.

Brian McDermott is an excellent man-manager that can get the best out of players, and he knows that he will have enough raw talent in Le Fondre to work with and make him a Championship striker.

McDermott will also know that he has the creativity in his squad to craft the chances for Le Fondre to finish in the likes of Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff.

Time will need to be given to Le Fondre as the step-up will not happen overnight, but the Royals may have purchased a rough diamond that can help fire the goals lost in Long to maintain another promotion push.

So what do you think? Will Le Fondre make the step-up from League Two to the Championship? Or should Reading have spent their money elsewhere to replace Shane Long? Leave a comment and let us know your views.

By Laurie Fitzgerald

As with any start to a new Premier League campaign, many eyes are fixed upon the three teams that reached the promised land last May.

Queen’s Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City were the lucky trio to have got out of the Npower Championship and gain the opportunity to take on the country’s elite.

All three had differing fortunes when the season got underway last weekend. QPR suffered a 4-0 defeat at home to Bolton Wanderers.

Meanwhile, Swansea were thumped by a similar scoreline at Manchester City, while Norwich earned a respectable 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic.

This start followed a summer where the top-flight’s new-boys have been busy assembling a squad capable of coping with the demands of the Premier League.

QPR manager Neil Warnock has been able to draft in experience such as West Ham duo Danny Gabbidon and Keiron Dyer, as well as a new strikeforce in Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell.

The former Sheffield United boss created the foundations for promotion with a solid defensive unit coupled with attacking flair provided by the likes of the mercurial Adel Taarabt.

Now with the new takeover by Tony Fernandes complete, Warnock may get the chance to build a squad that will have a great opportunity of maintaining their top-flight status.

Last year’s Championship runners-up in Norwich have focussed on building on an already burgeoning attacking line-up.

The likes of Steve Morrison and James Vaughan will support the likes of Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan in firing Paul Lambert’s side to safety.

The Scot instilled a wonderful ethos within the squad last campaign, picking up more points in the dying minutes of a match than any other side in English football.

That positive frame of mind could secure survival at Carrow Road – but for me the dark horses of the three are the outfit from South Wales.

Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers has created a solid structure within the side, and a gameplan that the players thrive upon.

The Swans created a platform for promotion by being difficult to break down and devastating on the counter-attack.

In particular, the attacking duo of Nathan Dyer, Scott Sinclair and new strikers Leroy Lita and Danny Graham can prosper from the fast-paced nature of the division.

Their game seems more suited to the league than QPR and Norwich, and if they make the Liberty stadium a fortress then safety is a dream that can be realised.

Of course, this doesn’t stop the three clubs from being amongst the favourites for the drop.

However, QPR, Norwich and Swansea will all believe they have the qualities to defy the odds in nine months time.

So what do you think? Will any of the trio survive, or will they make an immediate return to the Championship? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.

By Tony Alvarez

Former England manager Steve McClaren has come in for constant criticism since his appointment asNottingham Forest manager in June.

 So far the club have played three competitive fixtures under McClaren, drawing 0-0 on the opening day of the season at home to Barnsley, a victory on penalties at home to rivals Notts County and a disappointing 2-0 defeat away at Millwall.

 I say disappointing because it is always disappointing to lose a game of Football but I don’t think this is a bad loss Millwall are not a bad side and will always cause teams problems, they were 2-0 up with two minutes to go against play off finalists Reading just 7 days before they beat Forest.

Putting his three results at the moment to the side as three games is clearly not enough time for a new manager to get his side playing the way he wants, McClaren has made some good signings, George Boatang will bring experience to the side having played Football at a higher level than almost every other member of the squad.

Andy Reid despite his match fitness and work rate issues still has the quality to punish many sides I am sure a lot of sides would of attempted to sign the former Tottenham man.

 For me McClaren’s most impressive signing was Jonathon Greening who is no doubt still very capable of playing in the Premier League, I was somewhat surprised Fulham let him go and I think that is a big capture for Forest.

 McClaren also added Ishmael Miller to his squad yesterday; although he has had his injury problems at his best he is more than good enough for the Premier League and could be a major asset in the Championship.

 Despite this being a defence don’t think I am a huge McClaren fan as I am certainly am not. I just think he deserves time to mould the side the way he wants to. McClaren is responsible for one of the worst nights of my Footballing life, I was at Wembley the night we lost toCroatiadue to “the wolly with the brolly” so a fan I certainly am not.

If results continue to be as bad after 10 games then yes there is cause for concern and criticism of his managerial skills can then be justified, but as the saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and I think once McClaren has got the squad accustomed to his way of playing Nottingham Forest will be serious contenders for promotion.

What are your thoughts? Is McClaren right for the job? Are you worried about the results so far? What do you make of his signings? How far do you think he can take Forest? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts

By Tony Alvarez & Laurie Fitzgerald

It’s been a summer of restlessness for many football fans, with no World Cup or European Championships to fill the void, and many of us having to spend more time with our loved ones!

But fear not, because on Saturday the football season is officially back underway as the three divisions of the Football League kick-off.

You may of seen yesterdays article previewing the Npower Championship, today is the turn of League One. League Two will follow tomorrow.

Which signings have impressed you this summer?

Laurie: It may only be a loan deal, but Clarke Carlisle could prove to be an excellent addition at this level, and will be a big boost forPreston after a string of departures following their relegation. Jonathan Douglas is another shrewd purchase, he could help push Brentford up another level despite a disappointing campaign last year forSwindon. Special mention also for the hugely-talented Danny Green, who joined Charlton from Dagenham & Redbridge this summer.

Tony: ClarkeCarlisle whilst not being the greatest player has a huge amount of experience in tougher leagues, this could provide vital throughout the season. Similarly the loan signing of Graham Alexander legs may not be all there but when he is out on the pitch he provides experience that many players in the division cant.

I also have to agree with Laurie Danny Green could prove to be a big signing for Charlton although he could struggle to have the same impact he did at Dagenham and Redbridge as he is now in a “bigger pond”

 Who will be the favourites for automatic promotion?

Laurie: I think it all depends on howHuddersfield bounce back from their play-off disappointment at Old Trafford in May. They have the strongest squad in the division despite the loss of Anthony Pilkington, and if they avoid a hangover from their defeat toPeterborough then they’re the team to beat. The twoSheffield sides should also be in contention, especially with experienced managers at the helm in Gary Megson and Danny Wilson.

Tony: I can’t see passedHuddersfield, they have been unlucky for a few years in a now and I think this is there year to shine. I feel as a whole League One is weaker this year, ifHuddersfield can re produce last seasons form they will be promoted.

I wrote an article last week stating that I fancy Sheffield United to bounce straight back, this was met with disbelief from their fans who cant see them performing at all, I put this down to the fans still being disappointed from last terms performances however I still see them being there or there abouts.

Who could be this season’s dark horses?

Laurie: Charlton could prove to be a force, but it’s a case of wait and see as they’ve had a major overhaul to their squad this summer. Don’t underestimate the power of confidence; althoughStevenage probably won’t be in the shake-up for promotion, they could ruffle a few feathers if they build on their back-to-back promotions.

Tony: Laurie hit the nail on the head with Charlton its hard to predict anything for them as they will be a bit of an unknown quantity.

I personally think Wycombe could hurt a few sides they have a nice blend of ability and experience and have a side capable of goals; they also have a good manager in Gary Waddock. They won’t win the title I predict a mid table finish but they could hurt some teams.

 SimilarlyColchesterwont win anything but they could cause teams trouble because everyone hates to play them they play an awkward style of Football which will catch sides out.

Who could struggle?

Laurie: Walsall pulled off a minor miracle in staying up after seemingly being cut adrift last season. But their limited resources means it could be another difficult campaign for Dean Smith’s men.Hartlepool and Yeovil could also find themselves at the wrong end of the table.

Tony: I don’t want to be boring and predictable but I’m going to have to agree with Laurie, the bookmakers agree with us too, I think the 4th relegation spot will be taken by Tranmere they seem to have a wobble every year and this time round it could cost them dearly.

 Who could be the player of the season?

Laurie: When you look at the best players in the division, then one player that can really stand out isPreston’s Iain Hume. He’s a very good striker, and can open up teams with his vision. If he gets back to his best form then he could be a real inspiration for the Lilywhites.

Tony:  Despite there relegation I was very impressed withPreston’s Adam Barton last term and I think he could set the division alight and earn himself a big move.

There talk of him leaving but should he hang around Ched Evans will have a huge impact on the whole division, in stages he can do everything, given the slightly lower level of ability of the players he will be facing this term he could be on the perfect stage to display his talents.

Which young player should we look out for?

Laurie: It’s a shame that there have been a few bright prospects depart League One either one way or the other this summer in the likes of Dale Jennings, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Carl Jenkinson. ButHuddersfield striker Jordan Rhodes has shown a real eye for goal despite only being 21. He could play a major part in their promotion push.

Tony: Rochdale have recently signed goalkeeper Jake Kean on loan from Blackburn, many have commented that he has anEngland future, this could be the year for him to display his talents.

Of course Jordan Rhodes is a prospect and could impress but he isn’t an unknown quantity and that could count against him.

At the start of last season I had a bet with a friend, before a ball was kicked we both wrote down how we thought the League table would finish we put £1 a place on, despite priding myself on my Football knowledge I only got one correct, lets see if I fare better this term.

Laurie’s Predicted final League One table

1.HuddersfieldTown

2.SheffieldWednesday

3.SheffieldUnited

4. Charlton Athletic

5.PrestonNorth End

6. MK Dons

7.Scunthorpe

8. Brentford

9.Bournemouth

10. Leyton Orient

11.ColchesterUnited

12.Carlisle

13.Rochdale

14.NottsCounty

15.Exeter

16.Chesterfield

17.Stevenage

18. Tranmere

19. Bury

20.Oldham

21.Walsall

22. Wycombe

23.Hartlepool

24. Yeovil

Tony’s predicted final League One table:

  1. HuddersfieldTown
  2. SheffieldUnited
  3. Preston
  4. SheffieldWednesday
  5. Charlton
  6. MK Dons
  7. Bournemouth
  8. Scunthorpe
  9. Brentford
  10. Leyton Orient
  11. Colchester
  12. Rochdale
  13. Carlisle
  14. Chesterfield
  15. Wycombe
  16. Exeter
  17. NottsCounty
  18. Bury
  19. Oldham
  20. Stevenage
  21. Tranmere
  22. Hartlepool
  23. Walsall
  24. Yeovil

By Tony Alvarez & Laurie Fitzgerald

It’s been a summer of restlessness for many football fans, with no World Cup or European Championships to fill the void, and many of us having to spend more time with our loved ones!

But fear not, because on Saturday the football season is officially back underway as the three divisions of the Football League kick-off.

Over the next few days, the SFTS lads are going to be previewing the Npower Championship, League One & League Two. Today, we focus on the Championship:

Which signings have impressed you this summer?

Tony: Matthew Mills has been the stand out signing for me, I saw quite a bit of him at Reading last year and am shocked he is not a Premier League player. Kevin Nolan is obviously an impressive signing and has always worked well under Allardyce, while Craig Mackail Smith was a great buy for Poyet I’m shocked he’s not plying his trade in an already established side with genuine promotion ambitions ( no disrespect to Brighton).

Laurie: I think Mills could be the crucial piece of a heavily-invested jigsaw for Leicester, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better centre-half outside the Premier League. Mackail-Smith is definitely the coup of the summer, while Paul Jewell may have found a cracking strikeforce in Michael Chopra and Nathan Ellington.

Who will be the favourites for automatic promotion?

Tony: It is clear from the above statement that Leicester are without a doubt in my mind the CLEAR favourites for the title and it will be a travesty if they don’t come up. According to the bookies, West Ham have the same odds as Leicester for coming up but i think Leicester have a better chance because they will not have the culture shock of coming down a division. I think West Ham will come second but they won’t have things all their own way as some fans and pundits seem to think.

Laurie: Leicester would only be able to justify automatic promotion come May with their outlay this summer. The test for Sven Goran Eriksson is making sure the new arrivals gel, but with his experience in management there shouldn’t be any worries regarding this. West Ham are the other standout team, but the only thing that may work against them is that they haven’t strengthened a defence that was poor last season, with both Upson and Gabbidon going. But they have a shrewd operator in Sam Allardyce.

Who could be this season’s dark horses?

Tony: Southampton could cause some shocks if people think “they have just come up they will just be looking to survive” then surprises will be in store. They won’t challenge for the title, but they are easily capable of a mid-placed finish if not better. I’m tipping them to do the best out of the promoted sides – Peterborough still leak goals and have lost their 2 main goal threats from the last time they were in this division and Brighton for me have moved to a nw ground at the wrong time, it always takes time to settle in at a new ground and with them being new to the division they will have to settle in to that too which could prove tricky.

Laurie: Brighton are definite dark horses. A new stadium, an ambitious owner and manager, and a vibrant attacking outfit that is only strengthened by the additions of Mackail-Smith and Will Buckley. Securing the loan deal of Tresor Lua Lua is another big boost.

Who could struggle?

Tony: Doncaster are favourites for relegation every year, they are written off and every year they surprise us. I don’t think they have the quality and would tip them to go down but who knows their spirit could see them through.

Laurie: I worry about Watford, who have lost key players in Buckley and Danny Graham as well as their manager Sean Dyche, although bringing in Chris Iwelumo could be a smart deal. Coventry also struggled at the back-end of last season, and could face a difficult campaign this time around.

Who could be the player of the season?

Tony: Signing of the season is always tough to call it generally goes to a player who can find the net. If a team surprises and they have a regular scorer they will get it. If Carlton Cole adjusts to life in the Championship and doesn’t sulk my moneys on him. However, if Ipswich have a good season then I can see someone like Chopra getting it.

Laurie: Kevin Nolan got Championship Player of the Year for Newcastle 12 months ago, and if he has a similar effect with the Hammers, then his leadership abilities and goal-scoring exploits from midfield should make him a serious contender once again.

Which young player should we look out for?

Tony: I am not sure if he comes under a Young player but i think Jack Collison is an outstanding player and if injuries are kept to a minimum he could be the standout player in the whole division, I don’t think he would win player of the year because that goes to goal scorers usually but he could be a big driving force in the division.

Laurie: Last year Scott Sinclair was outstanding for Swansea as he finally began to realise his potential. This year I think Jack Cork could have a similar effect for Southampton. Already an England U-21 international, Cork will play a pivotal role for the Saints in their first season back in the Championship.

Tony’s predicted final table:

1. Leicester
2. West Ham
3. Birmingham
4. Forest
5. Cardiff
6. Hull
7. Reading
8. Ipswich
9. Leeds
10. Burnley
11. Bristol City
12. Middlesboro’
13. Blackpool
14. Southampton
15. Pompy
16. Millwall
17. Brighton
18. Derby
19. Watford
20. Coventry
21. Crystal Palace
22. Peterborough
23. Doncaster
24. Barnsley

 

Laurie’s predicted final table

1. Leicester
2. West Ham
3. Reading
4. Ipswich
5. Nottingham Forest
6. Leeds
7. Millwall
8. Brighton
9. Cardiff
10. Blackpool
11. Bristol City
12. Middlesboro’
13. Birmingham
14. Southampton
15. Portsmouth
16. Burnley
17. Hull
18. Doncaster
19. Barnsley
20. Derby
21. Watford
22. Coventry 
23. Crystal Palace
24. Peterbrough

So what do you think? Will your team fare well this season? Let us know your thoughts.

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