All posts by jacktowers96

Analysis of the Championship Run-in

Championship fans up and down the country were today (June 8) given a huge boost of excitement with the EFL announcing the restart schedule released – along with confirmed TV selections.

The journey will continue for Sky Bet Championship clubs with the action kicking off again on Saturday 20 June. They couldn’t have gone for a juicier opening fixture with promotion contenders Fulham & Brentford clashing in front of the Sky cameras for a West London derby.

So with just nine games remaining, who is in the running for promotion and relegation? Let’s break it down and give a final prediction of what could go down starting with the relegation candidates.

We all know what gruelling and outright horrible season the Championship can be for clubs. It is 46 games of tough, physical games of football and we would usually be talking of these remaining nine games as the last hurdle, but truthfully, with the break, everyone has now had, anything could happen. Even more, than it usually does. Seriously, the Championship has become even more unpredictable – let the party begin.

Last term, 44 points renewed Millwall’s Championship status and the year before that, 43 points kept Bolton up. Yet with 27 points still up for grabs, Hull City sit one place out the drop zone on 41 points which makes you realise we could be in for a much higher points total to guarantee safety.

So who are all the teams in the relegation run-in? I suppose this is almost impossible to pinpoint with the dramatic changes this league can produce but all the way up to seventeenth spot we have Stoke City who are just three points adrift. Below them are Huddersfield, Middlesbrough Wigan and Hull. The drop zone meanwhile contains Charlton, Luton, and Barnsley.

Given the number of ridiculous results that the Championship can produce I almost feel it a pointless exercise to start analysing the run-ins that the teams have but some crucial relegation clashes are coming up – one of them being Hull vs Middlesbrough.

The Yorkshire derby (I’m sorry) has been selected for Sky coverage on Thursday 2 July and could play a pivotal part. The Tigers made a terrible gamble in January by selling their dynamic duo of Jared Bowen and Kamil Grosicki to West Ham and West Brom respectively and it’s fair to say it couldn’t have gone worse for them.

At one stage it looked like Hull might be in for a fairly stable season but since Christmas, they have picked up just eleven points from a possible forty-two, including heavy defeats in the last two outings to Leeds and Stoke.

Elsewhere, the pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for Wigan Athletic who were in the form of their lives and picked up huge wins over the current top two, Leeds and West Brom. It’s a huge fight meanwhile for Barnsley, who, despite some half-decent form themselves, are still bottom of the pile and seven points adrift. Gerhard Struber has not done a bad job with the Yorkshire club but the sheer awfulness of their start to the season before he took charge in November means that it still hasn’t been enough.

Charlton Athletic have been hit with a huge blow, which has been a big talking point ahead of the restart with several players including top scorer Lyle Taylor, refusing to continue. Taylor (30) is out of contract and states his physical health as reasons for not agreeing to a temporary extension as he doesn’t want an injury to prevent him from a move next season.

Even with Taylor’s goals, Charlton are two points deep in the relegation zone and without them, you do wonder where the results are going to come from. Below the Addicks, we have Luton Town who for most of the season have just looked a little bit out of their depth. It would be a shame for Luton to go down as their epic rise, fall and rise again has been a great story. Do they, however, have enough to stay up?

Huddersfield and Stoke may be living life dangerously sitting just three points clear, but the misfortunes of Charlton and Hull I think will keep them safe enough and out of the equation. Huddersfield will, however, have crucial games against Wigan and Luton, meanwhile Stoke will have to fight off tough opposition with three of the top six still to play.

Final Prediction
21: Charlton Athletic (Survived)
22: Hull City (Relegated)
23: Barnsley (Relegated)
24: Luton Town (Relegated)

So on we go to the epic prize that is the Premier League. Once again this is going to be a tough one to predict and it really wouldn’t shock me if a team I mention in this somehow ends up in a relegation scrap. This division is mental, it really is.

With just six points separating sixth and thirteenth – don’t shoot me if I end up getting this horrifically wrong.

I reiterate that form could completely go out the window with the big break that we have had and the run-ins could make no difference whatsoever but nonetheless, we’ll start with the current top two.

Leeds and West Brom have looked the best bets for promotion for a lot of this season and six points currently separates West Brom from Fulham in third with Leeds one point ahead of Albion in first. Both have had their bad spells this season and at one point it seriously looked like both Fulham and Brentford could take up the top two spots.

Before the pandemic, however, Leeds were in tantalising form winning their last five games and conceding no goals in the process. For West Brom, it was a little more up and down drawing away to Swansea and losing at home to Wigan but the Baggies did register big wins over Preston and Bristol City before that.

With Brentford ten points behind West Brom, we have to suggest at this stage that Fulham are the main contenders to challenge the top two.

However, a reminder that Fulham do host Brentford in the first game back and an away win for the Bees could give them a very good argument that they are still in the mix. Thomas Frank’s side will then have to face West Brom immediately afterwards at home so those two games perhaps could give us a good idea?

In that same game week, Leeds will host Fulham in what could also prove to be huge. My word I have missed this barnstormer of a league!

We must also not forget Nottingham Forest who sit level with Brentford in fifth, however, since their big home win over Leeds back in February, the form for Sabri Lamouchi’s men has been very up and down. They were shocked at home to Charlton and since been well beaten in their last game at the hands of Millwall. Forest have been crying out for Premier League football even longer than Leeds but still strike me as a team that is developing under Lamouchi.

There is no doubt that Lamouchi has transformed Forest into a much better side than we have seen over the years and for that reason, in my opinion, it puts him in the running for manager of the year. Should they, however, fall short this season they’d have to be big favourites next year.

Four points behind Forest in sixth we have Preston where thankfully we can now just be talking about who is going to take that spot come July. Not that I should completely disregard Preston ploughing through everyone in nine games and go up as champions but let’s just pretend that isn’t possible. Alex Neil is another manager who has done a tremendous job this season, turning Preston from a mid-table team to a side that is mounting a promotion challenge.

They do, however, face stiff competition from Bristol City, who are just a point behind The Lilywhites, while Millwall and Cardiff are just two points adrift. Oh, but then we have Blackburn, Swansea and Derby who are also very much in contention…I give in, please no one shoot me for this prediction.

To make matters more difficult these are all teams who’s form has been very inconsistent, I mean that’s probably why they are where they are. I do make a strong case for Gary Rowett’s Millwall though, who, since Rowett’s appointment I’ve identified as dark horses for promotion.

Rowett has had a lot of talk about him since his shock departure from Birmingham as to how good a coach he is and it did not go well for him at Stoke. At the time it looked a risky decision to take the managerial role at The Den, given that the previous season Millwall had very narrowly escaped relegation and were sat in seventeenth spot at the time of his appointment.

The Lions though have lost just five league games in his 23 game tenure and with just two points separating them and Preston they do look a good bet. Bristol City meanwhile were in very bad form before lockdown and despite that potentially making no difference anymore, they aren’t a team that has struck me as one that would maintain a spot in the playoffs. I would also say similarly with Guy Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers, who have been in and around the mix for a while now and for a long time topped the form table, but ultimately I see them coming short.

Swansea and Derby are interesting ones because the Swans were at the top end of the table for a while before Christmas but a bad run of form led to their slip down the table. They are a young footballing side that given time under Steve Cooper, they could be well in the mix next season.

Derby, on the other hand, have had a very eventful season.  The signing of Wayne Rooney in January to the sacking of captain Richard Keogh. Focusing on the football, they’re a team that has tried to play out from the back under Phillip Cocu but just haven’t done it that well. Their fortunes have however recently changed and the results have started to come, which has led to them being back in the mix but I think it will be too little too late for them.

Final Prediction
1: Leeds (Promoted)
2: West Brom (Promoted)
3: Fulham
4: Brentford (Promoted via Playoffs)
5: Nottingham Forest
6: Millwall

National League clubs vote to end regular season

Following The FA’s decision to conclude the 2019/20 season for Grassroots football, The National League Clubs (Steps 1 & 2) have voted to end their current season as it stands.

A National League statement added:

“In the knowledge that the ordinary resolution has passed, the League’s board has chosen to communicate the decision now and before the last few responses are received, which will not change the outcome, to enable clubs to make business decisions with greater clarity as soon as possible.

“The options concerning the sporting outcomes of the 2019-20 season remain under careful and timely consideration, and further updates will be given in due course.”

The promotion and relegation outcomes are now under “careful consideration” after the league’s board had urged clubs in its three divisions to vote in favour of ending the regular season without further games because of coronavirus.

The National League board will now meet on Friday (24/04/20) to discuss the next steps and whether it will be plausible to continue with the playoffs or not.

The idea of ending the current season as it is, as opposed to voiding it, leaves some clubs in a promising position and Barrow AFC boss Ian Evatt has said cancelling the league ‘is the right thing to for football’, and Barrow should rightfully be promoted to the Football League.

Barrow took a huge gamble being one of the clubs to vote for the league to be ended. For some in non-league though it is more than the standings they have to think about.

Evatt told talkSPORT:

“We understand that contracts are 44 weeks and we’re getting to that stage where players are out of contract at the end of April and clubs need to save that money, it’s that simple.”

With The Northern Premier League abandoned as a result of Grassroots football being concluded, some will be having a watchful eye on the National League developments, one being league leaders South Shields.

The Mariners were runaway leaders in the competition before it was considered null and void but should the National League find a way of deciding promotion and relegation it could see a way for South Shields gaining entry to the National League North (NLN) next season.

One way that is said to have been considered is by a points-per-game basis. If that was to be the case then York, who top the NLN, would miss out to Kings Lynn who, despite being second, are only two points behind playing two less games hence, a higher points-per-game ratio.

On the contrary, a club disappointed with this outcome is Notts County, who are playing in the National League for the first time in their 158-year history.

“We would like to place on record our disappointment that the season has been brought to a premature end,” said a statement from the Magpies’ board of directors.

“While we appreciate the views of other clubs and respect the overall outcome of this vote as a representation of opinion across the three divisions, our stance has always been that the National League should operate in tandem with the EFL due to the intrinsic link between the two leagues.” The full statement is on their website.

The National League will have to work with the English Football League (EFL) on the principle of two teams getting promoted. What’s more, there is still the task of balancing the books after Bury’s expulsion left League One with 23 teams.

Football in England is suspended indefinitely, with the Premier League and EFL still hoping to play seasons to a conclusion.

Every mind matters – How Harry maguire and Jesse Lingard are coping in lockdown

England and Manchester United duo Harry Maguire and Jesse Lingard have announced their support of the Every Mind Matters campaign to support everyone in lockdown.

Data shows that there are as many as four in five people suffering much higher levels of anxiety as a result of the virus and the campaign offers advice for people to help with their mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 lockdown,

Due to many people feeling worried, anxious or isolated during these challenging times, Public Health England’s Every Mind Matters shows that there’s plenty of things we can all do to look after our mental wellbeing and help others prevent these concerns from becoming more serious.

Both Lingard and Maguire have revealed the ways in which they’ve been able to try and keep their mind, and bodies, active during the current lockdown.

“Speaking regularly to my friends and family is so important during this time,” revealed Maguire.

“It doesn’t matter how – whether it’s via Skype, FaceTime or just a simple call, it’s good to speak about how you’re feeling with others which supports everyone’s mental wellbeing.

“The conversations give me a lot of encouragement and positivity, which is exactly what everyone needs during self-isolation.”

Lingard added: “I’m doing yoga twice a week at home to help look after my mental health.

“Speaking to my family on a regular basis is also really helpful as they give me support and make me feel connected.

“All of our lives have obviously changed a lot in recent weeks which can be confusing and make you feel anxious.

“Even during isolation I am trying to stay focused and set goals which has helped me maintain a routine and positive attitude.”

Furthermore, the campaign has been backed by FA President The Duke of Cambridge and the Duchess, who have been part of a powerful new film in support of it which was broadcast across national TV channels on Monday 20 April.

The Every Mind Matters website includes new NHS expert tips and advice on looking after mental wellbeing and supporting your family and loved ones during this time.

There is new advice, centered around taking care of individuals’ mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic with loads of new assets that are intended to help deal with our psychological prosperity during coronavirus.

It incorporates a custom fitted COVID-19 mind plan with content for people and their friends and family and backing for explicit mental wellbeing issues, for example, anxiety, stress, low mood and trouble sleeping. The site signs individuals to exercises, for example, careful breathing activities, help reframing unhelpful contemplations, and muscle unwinding.

As well as the new COVID-19 mental health support, Every Mind Matters urges individuals to finish a ‘MindPlan’, a snappy and free initiative that offers custom-made mental wellbeing guidance. More than 1.9m ‘Mind Plans’ have been finished since the dispatch in October.

The NHS-embraced content has been created in organization with clinicians, academics and driving psychological well-being noble cause and social endeavors including Mind, Mental Health Foundation, Samaritans, Rethink, Mental Health First Aid England, and offers definitive, proof based and functional help to the overall population, just as individuals with explicit emotional well-being concerns.

Scholes: “We’re not writing this season off”

Oldham manager, Paul Scholes has insisted that they are still in this league to compete for the rest of the season and can climb the table.

Speaking at today’s press conference, Scholes was reluctant to talk about plans for next season but admits ‘there is one eye on it’.

“We’re not writing this season off. It’s still important we get some wins on the board and get up that league.

“There is one eye on next season but we need to focus on getting the players playing well and then looking to next season.

“We’re not focusing totally on next season because we’ve got 12 games, there’s still a lot of points to play for.

“We don’t want anybody slacking off and just thinking about next season.”

Talking of implementing his methods and style on the Oldham players, Paul joked:

“It is probably going to take two or three weeks, maybe two or three months! I’m excited by what I’ve seen this week and if we can transfer that to Saturday afternoon I think we will be okay.”

With just one win the four games of his tenure, Scholes calmly brushed aside the last two defeats:

“It’s always important to win games. They’re (last two games) disappointments, we probably didn’t deserve to lose the Morecambe game but we did.

“First half at Bury I thought we played quite well, played some good stuff and just tired a bit in the second half with the amount of games we’ve had.

“Bury are a good team. They’re the second best team in the league as the table says at the minute but watching them play they look the best team in the league to me.”

Oldham are back at home on Saturday as they welcome Stevenage to Boundary Park who, like the Latics, are still fighting to put pressure on the playoffs.

Looking ahead to the match, Scholes talked of the importance of not ‘over-analysing’ opposition teams:

“Of course you do your homework on teams, you try not over-analyse and concentrate on them too much, it is about us.

“They’re a good team, they’ve had some really good results of late. Very direct team and it is something we will have to handle.

“But like I said, I try and concentrate on us more than we do them. We’ve got players that are capable of winning games and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Finishing off the interview, Scholes speaks of identifying with the fans on their lack of patience to achieve success:

“Fans don’t have patience, do they? I know I don’t have the patience, to be honest with you, I want it now, as quick as the results come, the better.

“We just want to win as many games as we can and I know we’ve only won one out of four but I think this team is capable of winning a lot of games in this league.

“It’s okay me saying that and the players doing that but we have to go out there and do it.”

Speaking after was Saturday’s goalscorer Callum Lang who commented on his desire to play at the top level, but ultimately focusing on his personal development:

“Obviously, every young player wants to play at the highest level.

“I’ve played on the wing a lot this season and he’s (Scholes) given me the opportunity to play more up front.

“Every game I’m trying to improve I want to try and improve aspects of me game and I think the way we’re trying to play is definitely helping me a lot more.

“When I first went to Morecambe last year, I didn’t really get the opportunity to play up front, where I wanted to play, because I wasn’t strong enough but over the two years (in League Two) that has definitely improved.”

EFL- Football’s gift that keeps on giving

Leeds United and the English Football League really is a special kind of relationship. From deducting us a total of 25 points in a matter of months to appointing beloved, ex Leeds, CEO Shaun Harvey to its board of directors to which he is now CEO. 

Fans of other clubs will laugh off—but secretly love—the agenda that the EFL has against Leeds, as a club.

A lot of Leeds fans put this down to the poor officiating that we see week in, week out, but it has become apparent to me that this season, poor officiating is now the norm in this league. But we will get onto that.

I hardly think I need to give much explanation on the well-documented, ‘Spy gate’ incident last week.

Firstly I will give my quick, personal thoughts on the matter. I mean it is the same as most, in that it was morally wrong and could have done without it happening.

The fact of the matter is, however, whatever your moral thoughts are on it, the man was stood on a public road, on the pavement, with a clear view of Lampard’s training through a fence. Whilst I reiterate that the idea of this is ethically questionable, on what grounds could see this face serious punishment?

Well the EFL has now announced that they are investigating the matter properly. Of course, they are.

I have mentioned those two words morals and ethics; one of the reasons being the EFL absolutely love them. I mean why else would they be investigating this ethically challenging matter.

Well, it is a good job that the EFL are extremely consistent with investigating morally and ethically challenging matters isn’t it. Oh wait, they aren’t!

It is also a good job that to back up how ethically correct they are, by not allowing formerly convicted rapists to run football clubs in their organisation. Ah, they allowed that too. I’m sensing a pattern here.

In Owen Oyston’s 31-year tenure as owner of Blackpool, he has seen five promotions including reaching the Premier League. This is swiftly forgotten about due to the sour nature between him and the fans due to his off-field irregularities including a rape conviction in the 90s.

When his son, Karl, took over as chairman, the pair started suing fans for comments about the two on forums.

Owen remains owner, with no objection from the EFL and Blackpool fans continue to be run into the gutter whilst the EFL watch on and allow a convicted rapist destroy another one of England’s great clubs.

Of course, it would be better if I had more than just one example if I am really going to suggest any inconsistencies. Step up, Ken Anderson.

Ken Anderson, chairman of Bolton Wanderers, is a fine example of how the EFL’s ownership rules may as well not exist.

Where to start with this ludicrous man who has numerously not paid players and staff and most recently, still owe Norwich a six-figure fee for unpaid wages and loan fees.

His actions have forced transfer embargo’s and all sorts of other sanctions, but who does this affect? The football club and the fans. Not him.

His destructive regime has ruined Bolton’s reputation and caused PR disaster after PR disaster.

In 2005 he was disqualified from owning a company and seven other of his companies went bust.

So EFL, where is the investigation as to whether he is still ‘fit and proper’ to own a club.

We know, however, that the EFL do not listen to the fans. Furthermore, we know that they are yet to intervene when one of its historic clubs go into turmoil.

It can’t reflect well on them, from an ethical standpoint to see clubs in such detrimental states as Blackpool and Bolton.

Marcelo Bielsa came out and admitted his wrongdoing and put it down to cultural differences that he needs to adapt to. Leeds United backed this up saying they want to remind the Argentine of this.

The fact of the matter is, how can the EFL put Leeds United’s moral standpoint into question whilst they allow such detrimental issues within its organisation continue to play out. What’s more, I have not even got onto to the continuous lack of consistency from the EFL officials that are underperforming every, single week.

I might add that I am not just talking about Leeds as a bias. Every team in this league I am witnessing the same and there is no investigation or will to improve something that is becoming more blatantly obvious.

Perhaps we are overreacting to this ‘investigation’ that may well amount to absolutely nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

What I will say is that I see no ground how this could even possibly amount to a points deduction.

The point is that there is far, far too many inconsistencies that the EFL fail to investigate and never will. Whether people genuinely believe there is an agenda against Leeds or not, Leeds getting promoted would be a financial disaster for them.

It is Leeds against the rest and always has been. But you know what, sanction Leeds all you want, we will see the back of the EFL one way or another.