2014/15: Sky Bet Championship – January 2015
‘Another year over and a new one just begun’, sang Mr Lennon, John not Neil and ‘let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear’. The countdown has started towards May – glory misery and relief are assured, but the recipients are as yet unknown. Those of us of a nervous disposition are already scouring the fixture lists for crunch games, potential wins and a points total to satisfy the ultimate goal – survival.
The recent fog of disappointment I have typed previous reviews through, has momentarily being replaced by a shaft of light as rare consecutive wins, last minute winners and a quiet transfer window befalls the mighty White gods. Then again, the owner has been a naughty boy and banished to his yacht to muse over his next move.
Eighteen games and fifty four points are available for collection, so nobody is up, nobody is down but plenty are half way up or down! Bournemouth end January topping the pile and offering £5 million pounds for a teenager with a handful of games to his name, proof, if it were needed that football has gone mad. However, it displayed a clear statement of intent from the Dorset club who show no signs of disappearing despite the persistence of Derby and ever improving Middlesbrough.
The Boro’ buoyed by Cup victory at Manchester City, look the real deal with quality throughout the squad, and deadline day additions at the Ipro have stiffened the promotion challenge of their East Midlands rivals The Rams. A small gap has opened to Ipswich, Brentford and Watford, resolutely hanging in there in search of the big prize. A glut of fixtures in February will examine their playing squads and credentials to last the course. I expect Norwich to split the pack, still cash rich and surely will find the consistency to break the top six probably at the expense of their East Anglian rivals.
I have previously suggested Blackburn will make the play-offs and I’m not changing my mind at this point. However, the sentimentalists might like to see Wolves return to the top flight following the passing of Sir Jack Hayward recently. I’m not and believe a mid-table finish is more likely as two thirds of the league scrap for survival.
Sheffield Wednesday sits tenth, but are only eleven points from Millwall – currently occupying the final relegation spot. I expect the bottom three teams to change place regularly like a giant game of pass the parcel and when the music stops on 02 May three will bid the Championship a fond farewell. Blackpool are three wins from safety but as yet have not thrown in the towel. Wigan have moved players in and out and surely have too much quality to stay there permanently – so who will go down?
I am going to make a bold prediction that as many five teams will not know there fate until after the final fixture. My stomach is churning at that thought already, but the competitive nature of this division makes that prophecy an unfortunate possibility. Will a Psycho free Forest halt their alarming run as Hughton resurrects Brighton post-Hypia and will Cardiff return to playing in Red?
This and many other answers will become clearer as the final dozen fixtures begin in March.