Tag Archives: Middlesborough

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

Monk To Potentially Replace Lampard…

As the speculation, grows over whether or not, Frank Lampard will leave Derby to Join his beloved Chelsea as a replacement for Maurizzio Sarri, it was further added to yesterday, when Gary Monk, was sacked by Birmingham, due to differences with the chairman at City.

Almost Immediately, he was linked with Derby County, who themselves were putting out a statement, stating their desire and intent to keep Frank Lampard.

Though Monk, does have history, with leaving football clubs due to disputes with owners over various aspects of the clubs policy combined with transfer budgets, it does open an intriguing possibility should he take over at Pride Park.

The reason for that is this…

Monk has openly stated his desire to both manage a club in the Premiership, but currently finds himself becoming tagged as an EFL high rated coach, with a passion for developing young players, by helping them to break through the ranks and progress to first of all first team football and then moving on to a bigger stage.

Which is why, should Frank Lampard leave Derby, then it might just be, that Derby and Monk, could be an equally good fit. Derby are aiming to return to the premiership and have a very talented young squad, with ‘lots of potential’ which were ironically the words used by Lampard at a press conference, when asked about the Chelsea Job.

At this stage, Both Derby and Chelsea are very quiet on the progress in respects of whether Lampard does make the move.

As for Monk, what is clear is that he has a good track record in management, since taking the Swansea job initially and doing a brilliant job with them, in his first season, before, leaving them, allegedly because of his man management style.

Succesful spells have followed at Leeds, Middlesborough and finally Birmingham.

So watch this space on whether Monk will replace Lampard

Middlesbrough should look to sign these two players to obtain a playoff​ spot

Middlesbrough have managed to turn their season around under manager Tony Pulis and currently sit 8th in the Championship table, just two points outside the playoff places.

The North-East outfit have won 3 of their last 5 league games scoring 8 goals in the process, but with only Britt Assombalonga hitting double figures so far this season, it could well be an area that Pulis looks to strengthen this month.

Other strikers at the club such as Ashley Fletcher and Patrick Bamford have had little game time under the Welsh manager, with target man Rudy Gestede featuring heavily. If Boro are to have a successful campaign and go back up to the Premier League they are going to become more of an attacking force as they currently have scored 38 goals as a squad in the Championship this season, which is the lowest of the top 10 clubs.

With that in mind, Tony Pulis is going to have to look to add some firepower to his strike force and should look to bring in Bradford City striker Charlie Wyke and Walsall attacking midfielder Erhun Oztumer.

Charlie Wyke – The Bradford City striker has 12 goals to his name already this season in League One, continuing his terrific form in front goal. Prior to his move to Valley Parade Wyke, was with Carlisle United where in his final season for the club he scored 15 goals in all competitions.

If Boro were to sign Wyke they would be getting a striker that knows where the back of the net is which would help take the burden off Assombalonga and could be the man to fire Middlesbrough back to the Premier League.

Erhun Oztumer – The attacking midfielder has been superb for Walsall this season as he leads the clubs goalscoring charts with 11 goals, and shows he has natural goalscoring ability, backing up his 15 league goals from last season.

Oztumer who is out of contract at the end of the current season, will be on the radar of many clubs due to his terrific form so if Boro did want to land the attacking midfielder they would have to move quickly.

Middlesbrough fans would you take Charlie Wyke and Erhun Oztumer at the Riverside Stadium? Let us know in the comments section…

Is this manager about to switch Championship clubs and take a former striker with him?

One of the most talked about managers in the Championship right now is Barnsley’s Paul Heckingbottom, one because of his success with the Yorkshire outfit but also as he is linked with the vacant Nottingham Forest job and has according to the Nottingham Post he has refused to rule himself out of the running also.

Barnsley are currently 19th in the Championship and are just two points above the drop zone following a run of just one win in five games, but following last seasons 14th place finish, many expect Heckingbottom to turn the clubs fortunes around if he remains with the Yorkshire outfit.

If he does make the move from Yorkshire to Nottingham, many expect former Barnsley striker Ashley Fletcher to join him at the City Ground after the striker has fallen out of favour at Middlesborough. Having worked under Heckingbottom during his time at Barnsley, Fletcher knows exactly how he works and could make the switch to try and re-find his goalscoring form.

Nottingham Forest fans would you like to see Paul Heckingbottom as your new manager and do you want him to bring Ashley Fletcher with him? Let us know in the comments section…

2017/2018 Best Championship XI?

With the summer transfer window officially closed, we now know all the official squads in the Championship, before the clubs go through it all again in January. With that in mind we take a look at what we think is the best Championship XI on current form.

John Ruddy – Goalkeeper

The Wolves shot stopper made the switch to Molineux this summer after being released by Norwich City at the end of last season. Having kept 3 clean sheets in the opening 5 games of the Championship season, it is clear to see that Wolves have a safe pair of hands to call upon.

Sol Bamba – Centre Half

Having recently signed a new contract with the ‘Bluebirds’, Bamba and Cardiff have a terrific start to the season. Keeping 3 clean sheets and having chipped in with a goal Bamba has to take his place in this team.

Pontus Jansson – Centre Half

The Leeds man was pivotal to the club finishing just outside the play-offs last season, and has helped the club to the second best defensive record in the Championship so far this campaign. The Swedish centre half is proving to become a fans favourite at Elland Road and has been capped for his national team.

Paul Huntington – Centre Half 

The ever present centre half for Preston North End has helped the club to the best defensive record in the league so far this season and also to 7th place in the league table. At the age of 29 Huntington brings much needed experience to the back line and if Preston continue in this fine form of not conceding goals, they could sneak a play-off!

Ruben Neves – Defensive Midfielder

Perhaps the most bizarre transfer of the summer, as Neves completed his move to Wolves for a fee in the region of £15m. The 20 year has made decent start to life in England as he has scored his first goal for Wolves and helped the club to 4th place in the Championship table.

Bobby Reid – Central Midfielder

The Bristol City central midfielder is joint top scorer in the Championship with 4 goals and has 1 assist to his name which gets him a place in the side. Despite ‘The Robins’ drawing 3 successive games and falling to 14th in the league table, I fully expect them to have a good season and be in the promotion picture come May.

Jota – Right Wing

Making the move to St Andrews on deadline day could prove to be an astute piece of business for Harry Redknapp. Jota became the clubs record signing as he completed his move to the Midlands for fee in excess of £6m, and if he can capture the form he found last season at Brentford where he scored 12 goals and provided 5 assists for his team mates he will prove to a top quality signing for Birmingham.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing – Left Wing

The Cardiff winger has certainly found his feet in the Championship as he has opened the season by scoring 4 goals. Making the switch from Rochdale in the summer, the versatile player who can play on either flank, has been in impressive form and has helped the ‘Bluebirds’ to top the Championship table.

Britt Assombalonga – Centre Forward

Guaranteed goals by this man! A Proven striker at Championship level, Assombalonga made the switch to the Riverside Stadium in the summer for £14m, showing that Boro certainly see him as a key figure in the push for an immediate Premier League return. Having started the season scoring. 2 goals in 5 games the Congolese international will be hoping to start firing on all cylinders after the international break.

Billy Sharp – Centre Forward (C)

The experienced striker has scored goals at every level and has proved his worth so far for Sheffield United in the Championship as he has found the net on 4 occasions so far. With the ‘Blades’ sitting in a play-off spot currently, they could certainly be dark horses this season, with Sharp guaranteed to score more goals.

Martyn Waghorn – Centre Forward

What a signing he has proved to be so far this season for Ipswich Town finding the net on 4 occasions also, and also having the best goal to minutes ratio in the Championship as he averages a goal every 62 minutes!

Manager – Neil Warnock

Having turned Cardiff around from a team that was struggling last season to table toppers there was no other manager I could have chose!

Do you agree this is the best Championship XI right now? Let us know in the comments section below…