2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – August 2014

The season is barely a month old and The Championship along with the Premier League has been halted by the obligatory and ludicrous ‘International Break’…

…And my credentials for voicing an opinion on such matters? For the record I have watched in excess of 1,500 games over thirty five years, the vast majority of this millennium at Championship level (or Division Two in old money), but also a brief sojourn in the third tier of English Football. My name is David Goodwill and I’m a Leeds United fan.

So to business.  As a rule, The Championship includes a host of teams fallen from the promised land of the Premier League, others trampling over each other to acquire the financial fruits promotion delivers, more happy to prevent the bigger and arrogant clubs from doing so and finally those desperate to avoid the apparent oblivion of League One.

The current season is three weeks and five games old and Messrs Robins, Hockaday and Sannino have departed and nobody is particularly surprised. Managers or Coaches are the equivalent of Mobile Phones, signed up on a two year contract but after six months you want an upgrade or replacement. The service provider or board usually succumb frightened of losing their patrons custom.

They say the table never lies; I disagree and will wager not one single club will be in the same position come May 2015. The Championship season is brutal, relentless, exhausting and for the vast majority disappointing to a greater and lesser degree. I would lose at least two clubs, four fixtures to reduce the volume of midweek games and the financial burden on the pocket of the watching spectator.

The returning messiah, Stuart Pearce has Forest aptly top of the tree despite pre-season disagreements with the hierarchy. The acquisition of multi-million pound players to an already heavily bank rolled side should see The Reds last the course and distance but possibly require a photo finish to make the winning enclosure. I will endeavour to mention each and every team on this early review and whilst not a fan of WWF I can’t deny that Wolves, Watford and Forest are the top three!

The Black Country side are proving that momentum is a huge force in any sport and one has to credit Kenny Jackett with waking, if not a sleeping giant, then a weary tall person. Sarf London is represented twice in the top six, both Millwall and Charlton under relatively new Management are putting the Blackwall Tunnel on the map for matters other than traffic delays – will it last? I don’t think so. Norwich make up the early play off positions and I doubt will leave them for the remainder of the campaign, the shrewd signing of Lewis Grabban finally providing the goals for a very talented squad.

Trying to remain objective and considered about other clubs is quite a challenge; I don’t really care for any team other than my own. On that note, I despise half scarves, applauding the opposition scoring and appreciating the referee has a “difficult” job to do. Football is meant to be one eyed, partisan, painful and ultimately end in misery and dejection for all but a few. Rant over and back to the task in hand.

The remainder of the top half reminds me of the geographical diversity of this League with Bournemouth, Wigan, Brentford and Cardiff representing the South, North, London and a foreign country respectively. All will have aspirations to remain there or thereabouts and the deeper pockets of Wigan and Cardiff should see they do well, but Burnley bucked the trend last season, so why not Bournemouth or Brentford? Imagine that Premier League fixture in 2015 – no neither can I, but they will take scalps up and down the country for sure. Derby and Sheffield Wednesday represent the plethora of sides in this division where history weighs heavy and success is craved to the point of desperation. McLaren has The Rams in the fast lane and few would begrudge The Owls to soar to the higher echelons – although once again I would.

Twelve down, twelve to go. Teams resting in the bottom half have proved before to be in a false position, Reading was one such case achieving promotion from a dire start in previous years and Brighton, Blackburn and Middlesbrough have all recruited well in my view and I expect to see them mount serious challenges as the season progresses. The ability to use the loan market is essential for these sides unable to compete financially with the parachute payments for clubs rewarded for failure.

The Yorkshire duo of Leeds and Rotherham hover above the bottom six, both with colourful characters at the helm. Who can forget the touch line dash of Steve Evans at Wembley? I for one have had nightmares ever since. His methods might be controversial, but his results are there for all to see and I expect The Millers to retain their Championship status. The last six weeks at Elland Road has seen players depart and arrive at a phenomenal rate and nobody knows where the journey will end, but most likely in disappointment, acrimony, tears and financial ruin…again.

The bottom six will have a fortnight to ruminate about their position, point fingers at colleagues and coaches reminding themselves it’s a marathon and not a sprint and use the next two weeks to reinvigorate themselves and their supporters for ‘act two’ of the long running Championship saga. Bolton, Fulham and Blackpool currently sit below the dreaded dotted line having drawn two and scored ten goals between them in fifteen games. The Tangerines require the football version of speed dating for players to introduce themselves to each other, chances are they are no match and early form supports that. Bolton look a million miles away from the side that slugged it out year on year with the big boys in the Premier League and Fulham have placed all their eggs in one Scottish basket, and who has yet to hatch.

Ipswich, Huddersfield and Birmingham have made inconsistent starts but come the end of September might all be singing the Blues! The reality of Championship life is most teams are capable of beating each other, winning when least expected and losing to relegation fodder for no apparent reason. I will enjoy my fortnight of inactivity, pretend that new acquisitions will catapult my team up the division and then bemoan the loss of former idols not fit to wear the shirt a matter of weeks ago.


David Goodwill

2010/11: The England Job – runners and riders

When new football season kicks off in August 2012, England will have hosted the Olympic Games and the European Championships in Poland/Ukraine will be a distant memory. What we also know is that England will have a new International Manager. Now assuming that England qualify for the tournament and Capello isn’t sacked before then, the highest paid International Manager will step down from the job in 2012. In all likelihood and without wishing to be defeatist, that will be without England taking the European crown in 2012.

Already we have seen “candidates” throw their hat into the ring and there seems an inevitability that the next incumbent will be English. My concern about anybody declaring their hand this early is with regard to their focus on their current role. If a manager is thinking about another job elsewhere, even in two years time, it must act as a distraction. As a Chairman or a fan, I would be worried that any uncertainty would spread through the club and translate to the players. Would this for instance affect players signing for a club, if they thought the manager would be leaving? Some may argue that the possibility of the England job would spur on the manager to achieve even more at the club they are currently with. Unfortunately, as I’ve said I see it as a point of distraction.

So what of those English managers in the frame? Can somebody explain the role of Stuart Pearce? Is he genuinely being groomed as the next England manager? Pearce holds the position of Under 21 Manager and has had some success with the team. However, the images of Pearce beside Capello in South Africa and the inane “explanation” of the antics by Pearce, leave me with the impression that he is no more than a jester in Capello’s Commedia dell’Arte, and that the ex-Forest man will be gone once the Italian departs the stage.

Then we have Henry James Redknapp, who has managed Bournemnouth, West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton and Tottenham. “Harry” has had some success along the way at these clubs, with the FA Cup win at Portsmouth his major prize and  taking Spurs into the Champions League this season. Is it coincidence that the clubs Redknapp has managed have gone on to suffer serious financial problems?   Add in the corruption allegations that have dogged him since the Panorama investigation of 2006 to the point of him being charged in January 2010 with two counts of cheating the public revenue and his suitability for the England job starts to look a little tatty around the edges. Although it never stopped El Tel……

Then we have Samuel Allardyce, who in his time has managed at Limerick, Blackpool, Notts County, Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United, with his current posting at Blackburn Rovers. His darling of the media reputation as all things good about English mangers was built at Bolton. However, he has never won any of the major domestic honours as a manager and the style of football was and still is direct to say the least. Some will argue he did well with limited resources for the Trotters, but is that a major criteria for a future England Manager? Then like Mr Redknapp, “Big Sam” was featured in the football bribery expose by Panorama in 2006 and so a whiff of corruption also lingers around Mr Allardyce.

Roy Hodgson has not put his name forward, and that is the mark of this modest and respected football figure. He has International and European experience, although his detractors may argue he has got teams to Finals, but ultimately his teams haven’t  gone on to take the trophy. If he manages to work his magic at Anfield, how likely would Liverpool be to release him after the barren years on Merseyside?

That’s part of the joy of football – the speculation. Memo to all: gentleman, concentrate on the job in hand and see what you can achieve.

2012 what an interesting year it could be……