Intersting ties in the 3rd of the FA Cup

The draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup is one of the most exciting days in the football calendar as it can throw up fixtures that nobody will have even imagined.

Clubs from the lower leagues want to draw a big Premier League side and this year hasn’t disappointed in that respect, with the winner of Lincoln City and Mansfield Town hosting Liverpool. This will add even more incentive to the replay and both teams will be hoping that the likes of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez will be visiting their stadiums in the very near future. Personally, this is what makes the FA Cup special and in recent years the competition has lost a little of its spark but a tie like this will get a lot of attention and possibly even a giant killing.

Two other teams that have to play again are Harrogate Town and Hastings Town and these will be equally looking to win their game after seeing the draw as they will get to travel to former Premier League side Middlesbrough. The team from Teeside may not be in the top league anymore but under Tony Mowbray they are certainly challenging for a place in the playoffs at least.

Looking at potential upsets in this round, you certainly don’t have to look further than Brighton as they have been drawn against Newcastle United, who they also beat in the competition last year and with the Europa League participants not having the best of times at the moment, I expect this game to be on television so more viewers can see if Brighton can win. Other similar to this are high flying Crystal Palace against Stoke City. The Championship side will be looking to test themselves against an experienced and consistent Premier League side and if they can get through the tie then their fans will be optimistic for the rest of the season and their challenge in the Premier League if they do get promoted at the end of the season.

Two more potential shocks in my mind are Crawley Town vs Reading because Reading may be distracted by their own league form and may discount the cup this season. Also, Luton Town vs Wolves could be a potential shock as going away to a non-league side is always difficult, no matter what position you are in.

Finally, the FA Cup also throws up a few interesting all Premier League ties and this year the biggest one is probably West Ham United and Manchester United who will both be looking for good cup runs this year. West Ham may have hoped for an easier tie but you cannot count them out and will be doing all they can to qualify for the fourth round. Swansea have been given an equally difficult draw at home to Arsenal, but their last performance against the Gunners will give them a lot of confidence but Arsene Wenger really needs a trophy this year and the FA Cup may be the last one they can realistically go for.

Who will be Crystal Palace’s next manager?

Crystal Palace are looking for a new manager after Dougie Freedman decided his future is away from the club and at Bolton Wanderers.

Freedman, has left the club in a lot better position than the one he took charge of and along with his playing career, he will always be seen as a legend by the fans and I’m sure a lot will want to wish him the best of luck at his new club. They, along with Freedman will have good memories over the last couple of years, including beating Manchester United in the quarter final of the Carling Cup and escaping relegation quite comfortably in the end. So, who will they get to replace him? Should they be looking for more experience this time to continue the good job the Scotsman had done or bring in someone that is young and exciting? However, one thing to take into consideration is still the financial side of the game, will they have to look at the unemployed list or can they tempt someone to leave their club? Obviously, they should get a compensation package from Bolton so they may just use this to get a new manager.

The favourite for the job currently is Steve Coppell. This is a very interesting one in my opinion because he left Bristol City after just two games and actually announced his retirement. However, a lot of fans will be in favour of this because he obviously has a lot of affection for the club and including caretaker spells has been in charge four times. His experience is not in question but he has been out of the managerial game for a number of years now so maybe he wouldn’t be the best choice right now. Also, he is currently the Director of Football at Crawley Town so they may have to pay compensation for him.

The next name is actually one that if they could get, would be a fantastic coup for the club as he will be linked with every job in the Championship until he decides to take a job. This man is Mick McCarthy and he would bring a lot to the club and could actually push them onto the next level and get Premier League football back to Selhurst Park. Gaining promotion with Wolves and Sunderland has made his CV even more impressive. Could Crystal Palace realistically get him though?

The final name that caught my attention is a former player, that actually has managerial experience, not only in the Championship but the Premier League and that is Gareth Southgate. Obviously, he started his career at the club and played over 150 league games so he knows exactly what the fans are about and even though things will have changed since he left, there is still the same passion about the club that was there back then. The only worry is that, he has also been out of the managerial game for a while and it might take him some time to adapt to the role again.

Other names that have been linked with the job are Andy Thorn, Lennie Lawrence and Karl Robinson. Would the Palace fans prefer one of these to get the job?

Who will be Bury’s next manager?

Bury are still without a manager after Richie Barker left them just days before the season started for Crawley Town and interviews are expected to take place this week.

The club are currently 23rd in League One with only two points from their opening five games and caretaker boss Peter Shirtliff is not expected to be the man to take the club forward and this is largely down to the start they have made. However, it is worth pointing out that he was put in a very difficult situation and he not being able to succeed is not really a surprise.

But, he may still be considered by the board so it is not a drastic change at the club over the next few months at least. They will want to stay in League One though so they will have to make a decision soon if they do not believe Shirtliff can keep them up, so who are the contenders? Current Wrexham player manager Andy Morrell seems to be the favourite at the moment and it is not surprise to see why as he has been performing brilliantly at Wrexham and has won 33 of his 53 games in charge, and only losing nine of them. The fact that he had two years at Bury will also work in his favour because he will know the area and be able to settle down easily and get on with his job as quickly as possible. He scored 18 times for Bury in his 79 appearances.

Another former Bury player to be linked with the job is David Flitcroft. Flitcroft, is currently assistant manager at Barnsley so it may be difficult to get him, especially if there is a compensation package to be agreed, but if they can get him then it could be very risky as he has never managed before and has always been a number two. He will have learned a lot from Keith Hill as he has been with him at both Barnsley and Rochdale so if he can replicate his success in the lower leagues then he will be a decent manager.

Surprisingly in my opinion, Chris Brass has been linked with the job and it is a slight surprise because he has actually had the job once before on a caretaker basis and managed to lose three out of his four games in charge and not even pick up a single win. Brass hasn’t managed since then but like the rest of the candidates he did play for the club and has been their assistant manager under Alan Knill. He is currently still with Knill at Scunthorpe United so yet again a worry over money could be a problem.

It seems like the board want someone that knows what the club is about and that can sometimes be a good thing as they will really understand what the fans want and I am sure right now all the fans want is safety in League One.

Who will win League 2?

Promotion from League 2 can be difficult as it is one of the more unpredictable leagues and the fact that a lot of teams that are promoted from the Blue Square Premier do really well makes it even more difficult but there are three spots automatically.

The teams that are relegated into League 2 are sometimes inconsistent too and can sometimes become a mid table team and not really make an impact. Experience is vital in this division and the way to win it is by signing players that know what it takes to win matches the hard way.

Rotherham United under former Crawley manager Steve Evans will be the favourites because of the persona of the manager who will do everything for his team to secure the title and obviously knows how to build a squad with his former club getting promoted. They have made some good signings in Ian Sharps who has returned to club and Daniel Nardiello who has at times in his career looked like the player that was good enough to play for Manchester United’s youth team.

Fleetwood Town will be looking to follow in Crawley Town’s footprints by getting two promotions in a row and even though they may be one of the favourites their team may be happy with just challenging for a place in the playoffs seen as though it is their first year in League 2. They have also lots Jamie Vardy who was prolific so they definitely need to find goals from elsewhere.

Chesterfield Town have been relegated back to League 2 and they will be hoping to return to League 1 at the first time of asking but they know this won’t be easy and they will be hoping that young striker Jordan Bowery continues his development and adds to his impressive 12 goals last season. Also they have two very good goalkeepers in Tommy Lee and Richard O’Donnell so if their defence remains tight I think they will get the most clean sheets.

Bristol Rovers didn’t quite perform as well as they would have hoped last season but this year they will be looking to push on and win the league. The loss of Carayol could be massive as he provided a lot to their team and was a constant threat to the opposition but manager Mark McGhee probably made the right decision to let him leave. Matt Harrold, Eliot Richards and Joe Anyinsah will need to play to at least the same level as last year especially Harrold who got 18 goals.

Oxford United should also be considered to be in the mix as they have a very hardworking team and they all seem to want to play for each other which is a very big thing in this division. They may not have that many standout players but they are a good team that have ability and with James Constable and Tom Craddock upfront I expect them to take a lot of their chances this season.

I think it is hard to look past Rotherham United but who knows maybe they won’t quite gel under Steve Evans and not agree with his methods, I can’t see this being the case but if it is then Chesterfield are the team to watch for me.

 

Who will be Crawley Town’s next manager?

Crawley Town are looking for a new manager after recently appointed Sean O’Driscoll decided to leave for Nottingham Forest.

Crawley Town start their league campaign against Scunthorpe United on the 18th August

O’Driscoll was given the job on the 16th May and left on 19th July without managing them in a competitive fixture which must have been frustrating for the board who had put a lot of faith in their new man and now their preseason could be in pieces. The new man that comes in won’t have a lot of time to stamp his authority on the side and maybe he won’t want some of the players that O’Driscoll thought were good enough. There will be a number of candidates that want the job but the newly promoted League 1 club will need to make a good choice to make sure they stay in the division, under O’Driscoll I thought they would challenge for the playoffs but now I am not so sure.

So who will be a good choice? At the minute the clear favourite is current Aldershot Town manager Dean Holdsworth. Holdsworth has been working his way up the leagues and has one very well wherever he has been but he doesn’t have the managerial experience in my opinion to lead Crawley next season because he hasn’t worked higher than League 2 and has only joined the Football League in January 2011. Another thing that will put Crawley off going for him is the fact that he signed a new contract in the summer and they will probably have to pay compensation.

Also in the frame for the job is former Aldershot manager Gary Waddock who unlike Holdsworth has managed in higher divisions, however he hasn’t always been so successful. In June 2006 he was appointed manager of QPR but after a poor start to the season and with the club bottom of the table he was replaced by John Gregory. Waddock, has managed in League 1 for two seasons but unfortunately for him they have both ended in relegation with Wycombe Wanderers. Obviously, this means he has gained a promotion with them and he has been relatively successful over the years with him also gaining promotion to League 2 with Aldershot gaining over 100 points.

Finally, Gareth Southgate is linked with the job and this would be an interesting decision because he had a very good career as a player but as a manager he hasn’t had it easy. His only job so far has been at Middlesbrough where he managed 150 games so he has quite a lot of experience and most of these games were in the Premier League. He won 44 of his games as manager but he, like Waddock also has a relegation on his CV but at a much higher level. It is good timing for Crawley as he has recently left his role in the FA as their Head of Elite Development and you would expect him to want to get back into football as soon as possible. He would be a good choice because he will have a lot of contacts in the game and will be able to bring in some good players either on loan or permanently and the board will surely back him in the transfer market.

Who will win the League 2 playoffs?

The League 2 playoffs will be contested by Southend United, Torquay United, Cheltenham Town and Crew Alexandra with all four teams hoping to end the season on a high.

Southend and Torquay narrowly missed out on the automatic promotion spots and this could have damaged morale within the squad as Crawley Town took the final spot but I am sure they would have already put that behind them and will be hoping for a chance to play in League 1 next season. Cheltenham Town were out of the automatic promotion race and were safely in the playoffs so they have had a lot of time to prepare for these games coming up and Crewe had to secure their place on the final day.

Southend under Paul Sturrock have been magnificent this season and their form towards the end of the season has been sensational with the amount of clean sheets they are keeping, which could be vital in these playoffs. If they keep three clean sheets they are guaranteed promotion in my eyes because they do have goals and enough experience to get them through. The key player for me has got to be Freddy Eastwood who has recently rejoined the club and has the ability to play at a higher level. Although it didn’t quite work out for him at Wolves or Coventry City, I think he has enough to cause teams problems in the playoffs and could just snatch a very important goal.

Torquay lost their last game of the season against Hereford United to end any hopes of finishing in the top three. But, they shouldn’t let this result affect them as they have had a good season under Martin Ling and he will have them well organised for the playoffs, with each individual player knowing exactly what they need to do. Their form going into the playoffs has not been great and there has been worries of fatigue in the squad but there is a big prize at the end of it so I am sure the players will be up for the challenge. Eunan O’Kane is a key player for me as the 21 year old has been playing magnificently all season and looks like a seasoned pro rather than just a youngster. He has remarkably already played 120 games for the club, adding another 49 to that tally this season and has been linked with a move away.

Cheltenham Town have surprised me this season as I did not expect them to be this high up the table but fair play to them as they deserve it and manager Mark Yates also deserves a lot of praise for what he has done at the club. Their win in the final league game of the season against Plymouth Argyle will have given the fans a little bit of optimism going into the playoffs as they had to work hard for their victory and it won’t be easy to get through to the final. Marlon Pack is someone who I think could be very influential in the possible three games as he is very good on the ball and for someone so young he looks like he could play at a much higher level than League 2. He has scored six times in his 50 games this season and could easily be the one that makes the difference.

Crewe just secured their place in the playoffs on the final day and will be hoping that their players will take confidence from that and use it to their advantage. They have a lot of young talent in their side and this could work out well for them as they will go out onto the pitch with no fear, however, they may not be used to playing in games that are so important and may freeze under the pressure. I don’t think manager Steve Davis will allow that to happen and will make sure they are focused on their football rather than the occasion. It is difficult to choose a key player for Crewe because they have so much talent in their squad but it will be a tough test for them and their inexperience may work against them but Nick Powell is a sensational footballer and will one day I am sure play in the Premier League and if he progresses the way he has so far, then he will surely be an international footballer too.

I think this is the hardest of the playoffs to call as each team has a good chance of winning it but I think Crewe will beat Southend just because Southend may not have got over the disappointment of not getting automatic promotion and if they concede the first goal their heads may drop. The other semi final I just think that Cheltenham will win as Torquay have had problems with fatigue and it seems like the stress will get to them the most. The final will be very interesting but I think Crewe may just take it although I do imagine all the games to be very close and only won by the odd goal.

Who will be Crawley Town’s next manager?

Crawley Town have had an interesting few days with their manager leaving and appointing Steve Coppell as their director of football.

This is Crawley Town's first season in League 2

Steve Evans has left for Rotherham which seems a strange decision seen as though Crawley are in 4th and pushing for an automatic promotion spot and Rotherham United are 10th and still have an outside chance of making the playoffs but will need results to go their way if they are to get there. So what are the chances that Rotherham and Crawley will meet each other in the playoffs?

Craig Brewster is the current caretaker manager and he guided the team to a 2-1 victory over Barnet which lets the board know that if he wants the job then he would be a very good candidate. Maybe they will just give him the job until the end of the season and if he gets them promoted, he will get the job permanently. But is Steve Coppell poised to takeover? He is a very experienced manager and throughout his career he has been successful but he had retired from management but he may be tempted into one last go at managing.

So who could Crawley appoint as their new manager if they decide to go in another direction? The current Dover Athletic manager Nicky Forster could be a good choice as he is performing quite well at his current club and did a decent job as caretaker manager of Brentford in 2011 losing only five of his 21 games and maybe should have been given the job permanently. He played most of his football in the lower leagues and therefore will have many contacts and will know a lot about it which will always give a young manager a slight advantage over someone who has been out of the game for a while.

Richard Money is also linked with the job and he has a lot of experience which maybe Forster lacks therefore he could be given the job. In his last job he was sacked by Luton Town which to me was very harsh seen as though his team were third in the league and he actually had the highest win ratio of any manager in Luton’s history. In his 83 games in charge, he won 45 but his downfall was that he couldn’t get the club promoted back to the Football League. However, he has got teams promoted from League 2 before when he was the manager of Walsall. Money, always gets his teams playing good attacking football and this would please the fans.

Finally, I would like to throw Mark Robins name in the mix as he has been out of work for a little while now but always had the potential to be a good manager and with a little guidance he could succeed at a much higher level. With Steve Coppell at the club already it could be a perfect partnership and he has a good record in League 2.

The board have a big decision to make, do they leave it until the end of the season and hope that Brewster is good enough to get them promoted or do they give the job to someone else and hope that they come in and give the squad a little boost. However, it is a very good position to come into a club, the team are near the top of the league and the players should be very confident

Who will be the next Rotherham United manager?

Rotherham United sacked their manager Andy Scott after less than a year in charge and placed Darren Patterson in temporary control.

Rotherham United are currently 10th in League 2

Patterson got off to a great start with a 4-2 victory over Macclesfield Town leaving the club in 10th place, eight points outside of the playoffs and in the process has done himself no harm in getting the job permanently. He has managed before at Oxford United but looking back on his career he seems to want to be an assistant more than the main man at a club but he could be tempted to take the job as Rotherham are very ambitious and want to be playing in a higher division. He currently has a 38.8% win record which isn’t terrible and he could possibly do a good job for the club.

However, there are many other candidates and one they should surely be looking at is Mark Robins, as he is currently available and has worked at the club before and therefore knows a bit about the place. In his first spell in charge he was quite successful and he almost got the club promoted from League 2 even though they started the season with a 17 point deduction. He may be a good choice but some people believe you should never go back to your old club no matter what as it could ruin your reputation there so maybe the board should be looking at a different person to take them forward rather than looking back into the past.

Brian Laws is also in the running for the job and he already has links to Yorkshire with him being the manager of Sheffield Wednesday for three years. This could be a good thing or a bad thing as he will know the area and it won’t take him long to settle in the area and people always perform better when they are settled. However, it could go the other way and because of his time with Wednesday the Millers fans may not take to him very well and if results aren’t going his way they may turn on him very quickly. He has secured promotion twice from this division with Scunthorpe United and this is exactly what the club wants so he has a good chance of getting the job.

If they don’t mind paying compensation for their next manager then maybe they could look at Steve Evans at Crawley Town because he has done very well there and they are currently 5th in the table and are hoping to be at least in the playoff positions come the end of the season. Evans is an ambitious manager and will be hoping for automatic promotion but if he thinks that Rotherham have a better chance of getting promoted it wouldn’t surprise me if he left Crawley. He isn’t the most liked person in football and can annoy people at times.

Rotherham have a lot of potential and have been knocking on the door of promotion for a number of years and eventually they will achieve what they want but they have to give the new manager some time to get his own ideas across to the players and also the opportunity to bring in his own players.

Shrewsbury Town heading for promotion

To win the league or gain promotion a team has to keep winning games when they don’t play at their best and this is exactly what Shrewsbury Town did against Crawley Town.

They were under severe pressure for most of the game especially in the first half and even in the second when they were more in the game, they only had 40% of the possession. They scored two goals from only three shots on target which shows that they have the quality upfront to punish teams even when they are underperforming.

Graham Turner proved yet again that he is one of the best managers in the division as his half time substitutes were exactly what his team needed and Marvin Morgan scored the winner after some battling work from Jermaine Grandison. Grandison won the ball and played through Morgan who cooly slotted it past the advancing keeper. Turner, realised he had to change things as his team were under a lot of pressure however his team had just equalised through Mark Wright before halftime and this may have made some managers change their team talk and give the players on the pitch another 15 minutes to change their performance. But, he stuck to his guns and this proved decisive as they went on to win the game.

I was really impressed with Shrewsbury and they had some standout performances all over the pitch. Goalkeeper Chris Neal pulled off some brilliant saves including a fantastic reaction stop from Sanchez Watt. He did keep them in the game at times and couldn’t really do much about the goal as it was a very good finish from John Akinde but he definitely deserves a lot of praise for his performance. Ian Sharps, at the back also impressed me and his experience could prove vital if the team are to get promoted this season. He led the defence well and was rarely beaten in the air and although he may not be the quickest his positioning was usually perfect which gave him a few yards so he did not get outrun by the fast forward line of Crawley.

I really like Mark Wright on the wing for Shrewsbury as well because he has the pace and directness to frighten defenders and isn’t afraid to try a trick. Also his goal scoring rate is really impressive for a winger and he must contribute to a lot of goals with assists too. It is quite rare to find a winger that will add a substantial amount of goals but in Wright they definitely have a constant threat. Matt Richards caught my eye too and I am surprised he is playing in League 2 as he looked like he had a lot of potential when he was a youngster at Ipswich Town. He plays the game simple and keeps the ball very well for his team. When the team were under pressure he used his experience to slow the tempo down and dictate the game.

Now the strikers is where Shrewsbury really show their quality as in my opinion they have three strikers that will score goals in this division. James Collins looks like a goal scorer who will get a lot from inside the box and quite a few of them with his head. Terry Gornell who did not have the best of games in fairness is usually a very clever striker and will perform better than this and will score a lot more goals for the club. Finally, they have Marvin Morgan who is very tall but this isn’t why he is a good striker, it is his ability with the ball at his feet and his turn of pace. He also showed that he can finish when the opportunity comes along.

Shrewsbury are a good bet for promotion and I for one will not be backing against them because they have quality all over the pitch and a manager that deserves some more success in his long career.

Who will be the next Notts County manager?

Martin Allen has been sacked as manager of Notts County after a 3-0 away defeat against Hartlepool. This result however, was quite surprising and makes the sacking seem a little too hasty as the team had won their previous two games before their trip to the North East and was their first in five League 1 games. The defeat left them in 11th place which in my opinion is not a bad position for a club that have had so many recent financial problems and have been through quite a few managers in a short space of time. In his 10 months at the club he won 38% of his games and may have been looking for a playoff place next season. But, obviously this was not quick enough or good enough for the board so they gave him the chop.

Keith Curle is the clear favourite to take over but his past does not seem to suggest that he will do a better job than Allen as he has mostly managed in League 2 with only moderate success. Also suffering relegation out of the Football League with Torquay United and losing 11 out of 12 games at Chester City, makes his CV look even worse. However, he has done a good job as Neil Warnock’s assistant manager and if he doesn’t follow him to Leeds United then he may be able to use this experience to make him a better manager as well as loan a few players from his former mentors club.

Another character of the game, Steve Evans, is linked with the job because of his fantastic work at Crawley Town. But he has had money to achieve his and the board’s ambitions which he probably won’t have at Notts County and therefore it would be interesting to see how he did both at League 1 level and under these different circumstances. Crawley are looking for a second consecutive promotion and he will probably want to stay with the club and get them into League 1 because he will feel as though they have enough ability to gain a third promotion on the bounce. So, it would be difficult for County to persuade him to leave but if they do then he will certainly add a bit of fight and passion into their club, however, it could be argued that Martin Allen had already given them that. He isn’t the most likeable of people which may work against him but he probably doesn’t care as long as his team are getting results and isn’t this the most important thing?

Lee Clark is available at the moment and he might want to jump straight back into football and with him being sacked by a fellow League 1 club, he probably won’t be offered any jobs higher up and will have to try and build a side again at this level. If he was given the opportunity at Notts County he will have to be given time which other recent managers have not and this may put him off the role. He may enjoy the challenge and simply just want to get one over Huddersfield Town by getting another team promoted.

I am unsure about who they should give the job to but they surely have to give them more time than they gave Allen because he was slowly and surely taking the club in the right direction and in my opinion when some of the bigger teams in the division such as the two Sheffield clubs and Charlton Athletic disappear they would have had a genuine chance of promotion. The next manager needs a quick start or they could be in the same position again 10 months down the line.