Category Archives: Championship

Rovers and Wanderers: Who Will Likely Leave the Relegated Clubs

European football’s silly season began on Sunday, when the transfer window opened and the leagues finally recognized long-negotiated deals.  But there is still a lot of jockeying to come.  Rumours will fly, agents will promise that their clients are going to the biggest clubs, while the clubs deny everything.

It’s also the time when the newly-relegated sides struggle to keep their lineups together.  They all make the same noises about not letting players leave.  But money talks… and clubs don’t relish the reduced revenues that come with their lowered status.

Here then is a look at who could be on the market from the three clubs who fell through the Prem’s trapdoor.

Hoilett hasn’t said which club — or country — he will play for…

Blackburn Rovers
Let’s face it: it only took Venky’s 18 months to sink the Good Ship Blackburn.  Buying a team and then watching it do the drop is bad enough.  But doing it while watching your litigious ex-manager go the other way has got to, well, burn.   Meanwhile the owners are sticking with the guy who some say pushed the other guy out the door.

Meanwhile, the exodus has started as several players have left on a Bosman.  The two most prominent players are Yakubu and Junior Hoilett.  The Nigerian overcame everyone’s expectations (including mine) to score 18 goals for Rovers.  Meanwhile, Hoilett has yet to find a home, but that should be rectified shortly.  Other players that could get scooped up by top clubs include defenders Martin Olsson, Stephen N’Zonzi and Gaël Givet, as well as midfielder Mauro Formica.  But sub-par performances from Scott Dann and Paul Robinson mean they shouldn’t expect to get picked up by a top-flight club.

Bolton reluctant to let go of Davies

Bolton Wanderers
Bolton was another team where their management change wasn’t necessarily for the better.   Owen Coyle left newly-promoted Burnley in January 2010 to take the reins at Bolton.  He’ll now have to face the fans he left behind… likely with a different squad than the one that dropped in May.  Long-time keeper Jussi Jääskeläinen will fill in the gap left by Robert Green at West Ham.  Mark Davies was Bolton’s best player last season… and there are rumours that Liverpool have been sniffing him out.  Martin Petrov could get picked up by a Premier League minnow, and Stuart Holden may feel he needs a bigger stage to figure in Jürgen Klinsmann’s Team USA plans.

Tyrone Mears is too good for the Championship, but after spending last season mending a broken leg, he may feel the need to repay the club.  Both he and Chris Eagles may be reluctant to leave the man that plucked them from Burnley,  especially with former teammate Joe McKee set to play alongside Eagles.

“Now a show of hands please. Who wants to leave the club?…”

Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves have been quiet so far this summer, but don’t expect that to last long.   Steven Fletcher scored 30% of the club’s league goals last season, and the word is that Sunderland is tracking him, especially since no one exactly lit up the scoreboard for the Black Cats last season.  Fletcher would be a great target man for Stéphane Sessègnon and Sebastian Larsson at the Stadium of Light.

After spending five years as a loyal servant, Matt Jarvis deserves a chance to jump back into the Premier League.  Ditto Kevin Doyle… although his performance for Ireland at the Euros may not help.  That may also apply to another Irishman (there are seven in the Wolverhampton side), Stephen Hunt. But the left-winger always seems to show up in a lower-table side mere weeks after his former team suffers relegation (Reading to Hull to Wolves).

Brent Lanthier

Leave a comment

Filed under Championship, English Football, Premier League

Lambs to the Slaughter

Preston fans watch Saturday's match against Portsmouth...

If football is religion, then it is a faith — like so many faiths — that loves its miracles.  For those who want to believe, even the smallest scrap of conjecture can turn into hard evidence, like being born again after seeing Jesus in a tortilla.  So you can forgive me if I got a little over-excited about Preston North End’s recent run.

After an extended run of bad results left them at the foot of the Championship table for most of the season, their new-found winning ways had a whiff of near-impossible.  They beat struggling Coventry City and Scunthorpe United, and then put a dent in Swansea City’s promotion hopes.  Was it the sign that Lilywhite fans were hoping for?  Could they overcome a massive deficit and pull themselves out of the relegation zone?  Might they find redemption that would wash away the sins of this season?

Old Nick, er, Phil...

Sadly, the answer looks a likely “No”.   A 2-1 loss to Reading, followed by a draw to Portsmouth has them seven points from safety with only six games left.  If you take Lanthier’s Law (sort of like Coughlin’s Law, only without Elisabeth Shue and the cool boat) that any club seven points or more above the relegation zone is safe, the only team that PNE could hope to catch is Crystal Palace.   But the Lancashire side is not known for having divine intervention on their side. 

Preston is not a clutch club.   They’ve made the promotion playoffs four times in the last ten seasons, but each time they have been denied entry. They remain in second-tier Purgatory… and now they may pay for their transgressions by being cast down into the depths below.  Yet still, Preston fans seek salvation, looking for someone to answer their prayers.

Brent P. Lanthier

Leave a comment

Filed under Championship

Sing when you’re… well, just sing.

That's right, lads. Put on a brave face...

Derby fans are a bit special, you have to admit it. I know a couple of kids from the East Midlands who might not agree, but the Derby supporters stick with their team through thick and thin. Lately though, it’s been as thin as gruel.

County’s 1-0 victory over Sheffield United on Saturday was its first in 10 matches. That includes their humiliating away defeat to non-league Crawley Town in the FA Cup. But even gaffer Nigel Clough admitted that it was not an inspiring perfomance for the 2,300 fans who made the trip to Yorkshire. Cloughie told a post-game press conference that it was the worst passing he had seen from his team all year.

What’s worse is that the Rams have not won at home since their  3-0 victory over lowly Scunthorpe United on November 20th… the last of six straight victories at Pride Park. 

It’s a bitter pill to swallow for fans who pack the place week in, week out.  Derby averages just over 26,000 fans per game, good enough for 2nd in the Championship… and better than about 40 percent of clubs in the Premier League.  Remember too that these fans were voted the best in English football after an infamous season, when the Rams were relegated with the worst-ever record in the Premier League: just one win and only 11 points.

What has two thumbs and got the hell out of Derby? This guy...

The Rams’ main problem seems to be finding the back of the net, having failed to score in six of their last 10 games.  Perhaps they are rueing the sale of local hero Kris Commons to Celtic last month.  But they boast a solid backline of John Brayford, vice-captain Shaun Barker, Liverpool import Daniel Ayala, and even central midfielder-cum-emergency right-back Paul Green.

Derby County are in that nebulous area of the Championship table, where they are probably safely above the relegation zone — unless their string of bad runs continues.  Their goal difference suggests they are a mid-table team that could go either way. 

That makes Derby not so different from Ipswich, Portsmouth, Coventry City, Bristol City or Barnsley.  It’s great if you are a die-hard supporter of one of these clubs, but really, where’s the fun in it?

Brent Lanthier

2 Comments

Filed under Championship, Uncategorized

Swings and Roundabouts

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Back in my university days, when I was a virile young rapscallion looking to meet as many women as possible, my friends and I would watch each crop of First-Year students as they arrived on campus, assessing the young ladies for — let’s say — possibilities.

Invariably, there would be one or two gorgeous creatures who would pique our interest.  But word travelled fast in my small school and we were usually disappointed that most of our targets had boyfriends back home, or at another centre for higher learning.

“Not to worry”, someone would say, “she’ll be single by Christmas.”  And lo and behold, the freshman (freshwoman?!?) would return for second semester, sans ami.

So after this last month, I can only assume most owners of English football clubs are like me at 19 years old: horny and stupid.  Why else would they be dumping old managers by Christmas, only to chase new ones, in a never-ending parade of pink slips?

Here are the stats:

– Since Christmas, 14 of the 92 Premier and Football league teams — 15 percent — have hired new managers.

– Since the end of the World Cup, 27 clubs have fired and hired their gaffers.  That’s 30 percent of teams, including five in the Premier League.

– Forty-three managers have been on the job less than a calendar year.  That’s means almost 50 percent of English teams have changed their bosses since last January.

– More than 70 percent of managers have been at their jobs for less than two years.  How many of them will be in the same job come May?

McCarthy can't understand how he's kept his job so long

– Only 10 managers have been in place since the World Cup in Germany.  They include Premier League managers Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, David Moyes, Tony Pulis and surprisingly, Mick McCarthy.  Interesting note: that list would have included the much-maligned Rafa Benitez, before his departure from Liverpool.

I can’t understand why clubs will fire a manager they consider sub-standard, only to bring another with a record of mediocre results.  Example: the sad revolving door at Preston North End.

Last week,  the Lancashire side appointed ex-Hull manager Phil Brown to replace Darren Ferguson.  Ferguson — the scion of Sir Alex — started his managerial career while still a player at Peterborough United.  Joining Posh in January 2007, Ferguson helped the League Two club to a top-ten finish.  The next two seasons saw two straight promotions, and Peterborough were in the Championship.  But Ferguson would only see four months of that league; by November 2009, he was gone.

Six weeks later, he was at the helm of Preston.  Less than one year later, he was gone again.  The firing drew headlines because after his departure, Darren’s famous father withdrew three Manchester United players who were at Preston on loan.  Not to worry, Darren’s back on the touchline… at Peterborough United again! The team that thought he wasn’t good enough to manage have hired him back!!!

Bizarre methods got Brown the ax at Hull City

Meanwhile, his replacement has own history of highs and lows. Phil Brown famously pulled Hull City from the Championship’s relegation zone in 2007, and got them promoted into the Premier League the following season.  It was the first time in the club’s 100+ year history that they’d reached the top flight.  Not only did they go up, they stayed up… for a year.  But Brown’s bizarre coaching methods and questionable purchases did him in.  Hull dropped leagues… and dropped Brown in the process.  Yet Preston must have thought, if he can get Hull promoted, he can save us as well.

It must be frustrating days for the Lilywhites.  The first-ever English champions and double winners have made the Championship play-offs three times in the past six seasons, yet in the second tier they remain.  They sit at the foot of the table while they watch local rivals Blackpool make a respectable go of it in the Prem.

But Preston is just one example of the “now, now, now” mentality of clubs. Owners want results, not willing to let a manager’s methods settle in — or bring in new players to work with.  It’s either win now… or else it’s the Dear John letter.

Without sounding like an afterschool special, football clubs have become like horny college students: always on the hunt for the next big score, instead trying to weather bad times and build a relationship that could pay off in the end.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a beautiful woman who just walked into the pub.  I wonder if that’s her boyfriend…

Brent Lanthier

Leave a comment

Filed under Championship, English Football, Premier League

From Watford to the Whitecaps

Exciting news out of Vancouver, where the Whitecaps have made American defender Jay Demerit their first MLS signing.

Demerit, if you don’t know his incredible story, is the guy who went undrafted by the MLS out of college, went over the England to find a place to team, played with a non-league outfit on Saturdays and in a pub league on Sundays before landing a trial with Watford FC, then scoring the goal that clinched their promotion to the Premier League.

Demerit played in every US game at the World Cup but was out of contract with Watford when Vancouver came calling with a contract offer. He will not be a designated player.

Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi euphemistically said DeMerit is the type of “aggressive defender” his nascent squad needs to compete. That strategy might have worked well in Toronto, where it took far too long to come up with the capable pairing of Nana Attakora and Adrian Cann (although naming Cann team MVP over Dwayne DeRosario is still indefensible).

Ian Harrison

Leave a comment

Filed under Championship, MLS, Premier League

Milwall roar back into Championship

So, Milwall beat Swindon 1-0 at Wem-ber-lee today to win promotion back to the Championship after five failed attempts to escape League 1. Should we read anything into the fact that one of English football’s most maligned teams has taken a step up the ladder on the 25th anniversary of the Heysel tragedy, one of the game’s darkest moments? Let’s hope it’s just a coincidence.

Leave a comment

Filed under Championship