Tag Archives: Preston North End

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

Mind UK and the English Football League team up to launch the EFL Virtual Football Manager Cup!

Missing the thrill of seeing live football? Well EFL, Mind UK and Football Manager have collaborated to come up with perhaps the next best thing.

Following the postponement of live action on the football pitch, alongside the English Football League and the Mental Health Charity, Mind UK, Football Manager has decided to launch the EFL Football Manager Cup, an online tournament that kicks-off this week.

So far fans have been able to see Nottingham Forest winger Joe Lolley lead his team to a 2-1 win against Leeds United fan, Rob Callery’s side.  While virtual boss James Moulding’s Preston North End enjoyed a remarkable 10-1 victory over Crawley Town!

Elsewhere there have so far been wins for Middlesbrough, Mansfield Town and Leyton Orient.

The tournament is due to take place over the next month and involves 54 clubs from across the English Football League, with each being represented by a virtual manager who is part of that club either as a player, backroom staff or a supporter.

Football players featuring in the competition include goalkeeper Lee Camp, who is in charge of his current club Birmingham City, Ollie Kensdale is the man calling the shots for Colchester United and Blackburn’s Adam Armstrong is making the key decisions for his club.

The tournament is a straight knockout competition with the final due to take place in mid-May.  After each round is completed there will be highlights uploaded onto the FM YouTube channel for you to catch up on.

Crucially throughout the tournament you can also show your support for Mind UK by donating on this JustGiving page, which is open throughout the tournament.

The first round is due to finish on Thursday with games being played throughout the next few days, so you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful game.

  • Round one match dates – Monday April 20th to Thursday April 23rd
  • Round two – Week commencing April 27th
  • Round of 16 – Week commencing May 4th
  • Quarter-finals – Monday May 11th to Thursday May 14th
  • Semi-finals – Saturday May 16th
  • Final – Sunday May 17th

Game on!

Why have Sheffield Wednesday turned their fortunes’ around?

Carlos had a dream is a chant sang week in week out by Sheffield Wednesday fans all over the country but the 2017-18 season started somewhat of a nightmare for the Owls picking up 7 points in August.

It is a well known fact the side from Hillsborough have forked out massive amounts of money on new players over the past year and a half bringing in the likes of Steven Fletcher and Sam Winnall who they have since loaned to Derby County.

After an opening day defeat away at Preston the Owls then failed to win against QPR, Sunderland at home and away at Burton Albion.

There was a time that looked like Carvahal’s reign as manager was coming to an abrupt end after failing in the playoffs in the previous two seasons against Huddersfield Town losing on penalties where Jordan Rhodes refused to take one and in the final against Hull City in 2015-16 1-0.

With many Wednesdayites happy with the improvement in recent seasons failure when it matters the most has become a frustration for them and also not giving U23 star George Hirst a crack in the team after his sensational goal scoring run in the Premier Development 2 league winning side last season.

What has turned the fortunes around then?

With a win away at Fulham in late August thanks to a goal from Fletcher this is where fortunes changed and bringing the Scotsman back into the starting line-up has helped to as he netted in Saturdays convincing 3-1 victory over Nottingham Forest.

Tuesday night also saw the Owls gain a crucial victory over Brentford that was influenced by the impressive Barry Bannan who has stepped up his game dramatically of late and he has dictated games.

Saturday is another big test as the Owls go to Cardiff before going into the Steel city derby a week on Sunday .

 

 

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…

 

 

Portsmouth should look to sign this free agent

Portsmouth have started the League One campaign in indifferent form, picking up 4 points in their opening 4 games. Following promotion from League Two last season manager Kenny Jackett has added no fewer than 12 players to the Pompey ranks.

With a lot of the players that are at the club and that have been bought in fairly young, Jackett made sure that he added some experience as he bought in striker Brett Pitman and appointed him captain of the club. One area though that is still relatively inexperienced is the goalkeeping position, the club bought in Luke McGee from Tottenham Hotspur this summer and their only other choice for a goalkeeper is youngster Alex Bass.

Even though the club have only conceded 5 goals this season prior to their fixture against Rotherham United today, last season the club’s solid foundations at the back were built on the experienced David Forde been in net and this could be an area that they need to add experience to this season if they are to be successful.

With that in mind the club should turn to free agent Anders Lindegaard.

Anders Lindegaard – The Danish shot stopper left Preston North End at the end of last season, and is yet to find a new club. Having had previous experience with Premier League sides Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion respectively, Lindegaard could prove to be a useful addition to the Portsmouth ranks.

Starting his career at his local side Odense Boldklup, Lindegaard stayed with the club for six years before making the move to Norwegian club Aalesund in 2009, where he won the Norwegian Football Cup, before being named Goalkeeper of the year in both Norway and Denmark the following year.

Following his stint in Scandinavia, Lindegaard then made the move to England where he joined Manchester United but having only made 19 appearances in 5 years he moved onto West Brom in 2015 for regular first team football, but survived only a year at the Hawthorns before making the switch to Preston North End.

Portsmouth fans do you think Lindegaard would be a good addition to your goalkeeping ranks? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…