Top 10 January 2016 Transfer Window Signings

10 – Anthony Knockaert (Standard Liege to Brighton)

Brighton had a fantastic start to the season but recently they have lost their form and are in a real battle to stay in the playoffs. They needed a spark and Knockaert could just make the difference come the end of the season.

Anthony Knockaert

9 – Steven Caulker (QPR to Liverpool)

This might seem a strange one but Caulker has a lot of potential and at the age of 24 he could go on to become one of England’s leading centre backs. He is better than what Liverpool have, if Klopp stops playing him upfront.

Steven Caulker

8 – Leroy Fer (QPR – Swansea)

Yet another QPR departure and with them getting relegated from the Premier League last year it would seem like they don’t have the quality but in Fer they had a midfielder that can really grab hold of a game which Swansea are in need of.

Leroy Fer

7 – Gianelli Imbula (Porto to Stoke City)

When he joined Stoke eyebrows were raised, especially when they broke their transfer record to bring him in. £18.3 million is a lot of money but Mark Hughes feels he needs more power in central midfield and is the replacement for Steven N’Zonzi.

Gianelli Imbula.jpg

6 – Steven Naismith (Everton to Norwich City)

He was not prolific for Everton but he can score goals when given the chance. He has got off to a decent start at Norwich and they certainly need more goals in their team if they want to stay in the top flight.

Steven Naismith

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Who will win the League 1 playoffs?

League 1 had a very exciting finish to it with Doncaster Rovers winning the league and Bournemouth also going up automatically.

Now it is time to turn to the playoffs and with Brentford, Yeovil Town, Sheffield United and Swindon Town looking to secure a place in the Championship it will certainly be nail biting for all the fans involved. All of the teams were guaranteed a place in the playoffs before the final game so they didn’t have to worry about that too much and could concentrate on trying to get promotion.

Brentford may be coming into the playoffs in the worse position because they were a penalty kick away from gaining automatic promotion and that might have damaged the confidence of all the players, particularly Marcello Trotta who missed the chance to be a hero. However, this may drive the team on and with them finishing third they should be favourites to go up. A worry I do have about them in the playoffs is simply the fact that manager Uwe Rosler has criticised the whole team for missing the penalty. I don’t think he should have blamed anyone, especially when there is still possibly another three huge games before the end of the season.

Yeovil Town are the surprise team in the playoffs in my opinion because they cannot have a big budget and there are some big teams in the division this year. But under Gary Johnson, who I do think is a good manager, they have been brilliant and even if they don’t manage to go up this year, the fans and the club should be proud of what they have accomplished. Striker Paddy Madden has probably been the signing of the season not only in League 1 but possibly the whole of the Football League and he will be crucial in these playoffs.

Sheffield United will probably be most people’s picks to win promotion through the playoffs this season but they are out of form and certainly need a lift, they haven’t scored for three games and lost two of those. Chris Morgan has recently took over from Danny Wilson as manager and that to me was a very poor decision, Wilson was really unlucky to have missed out on promotion last season and I felt that he would have got them up this year. The problem for them is they are missing a regular goal scorer so will be relying on good defensive displays to win the playoffs.

Swindon Town are also another team that have had to appoint a new manager recently and this could prove to be a problem because they haven’t quite been as good under Kevin MacDonald. Swindon have an amazing goal difference with plus 33 and this is better than both Doncaster and Bournemouth. They lost their last league game to relegated Scunthorpe United 3-1 and this will not have put the team in the best of moods. It was very different under departed Paolo Di Canio and maybe the players just haven’t responded to MacDonald’s training methods.

I think Brentford will beat Swindon and Sheffield United will beat Yeovil in the semi finals and then the final is very difficult to call but I will go for Brentford as they have had a very good season and hopefully they can pick themselves up.

Who will be Swindon Town’s next manager?

Swindon Town may be top of League 1 after beating Tranmere Rovers but they are in search of a new manager.
Paolo Di Canio left the club after new owners were not in place before a deadline. It is such a strange time for him to leave as the club are doing well under him and could have secured back to back promotions however Di Canio had not been happy for quite a while and the sale of Matt Ritchie to Bournemouth was hard to take. It was surprising when he decided to join the club as manager as I thought he would have been able to get a job higher up the football pyramid simply because he is well known. I respect the fact that he wanted to make his name down the leagues and be known as a good manager but his decision to leave does still seem to suggest that his ego is quite big and wants everyone to know that he is the boss and is getting things his way. With a record of 54 wins in 94 games you could argue that he has proved himself and I am sure a few Championship clubs will be interested in him. But onto Swindon and who will be the next manager?

The current favourite for the job is Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. I think this would be a strange decision, it may have worked for them last time going for a big name with no experience as a manager but can it work twice in a row? The former Chelsea striker has had a spell as a coach at Nottingham Forest so he will have learned something from manager Sean O’Driscoll but maybe not enough to lead a club battling for promotion. However, there would be slightly less pressure on him and he would get time.

Second favourite and yet again a little surprising is Paul Buckle. He has managed in the Football League before but he has been a little hit and miss. At Torquay United he was very highly rated but when he went to Bristol Rovers, a team that should have been challenging for promotion he wasn’t so successful. He has just recently left Luton Town because of personal reasons that haven’t been disclosed yet and maybe he could become the new Swindon manager and be a success but I don’t think it would be a great appointment.

Finally, Kevin Blackwell has been linked with the job and this at least seems like someone that has experience and could be a good appointment. But yet again, he is currently at Bury and has only won 6 of his 29 games in charge there. Obviously he would have a better squad at Swindon and in the past he has done quite well at both Leeds United and Sheffield United. I am not sure what the fans would make of this because he certainly won’t be as passionate as Paolo Di Canio but maybe he will bring a cooler head to their promotion charge.

Others that have been linked with the job are Mike Newell, Chris Wilder and Dave Hockaday.

Who will be Burnley’s next manager?

Burnley may not have had the greatest starts to the season but they probably didn’t think they would need a new manager at this stage.

Eddie Howe, left the club for a team in a lower division and this may be quite hard for some fans to take, as surely there is more potential in a Championship side than there is in a League 1 side. But, if the reports are correct, then he left for personal reasons and nobody can really stand in his way if these are true because he wouldn’t have been able to perform to the best of his abilities if he wasn’t happy. So, they have to now look to the future and if they can keep hold of Charlie Austin then they have a good chance of getting in the playoffs this season, if they appoint the right man because someone that has already scored 15 goals should be in a team competing near the top of the table. It wasn’t too long ago that they were in the Premier League and they will have hoped that Eddie Howe was building towards taking them back there, but, in my opinion, it never looked likely under him. The big question is who will they appoint?

The favourite for the job is, Michael Appleton. I do understand why they would be looking at him, but the fans may not be overly enthusiastic about this appointment because he does have limited experience and even though he is performing fantastically at Portsmouth, is he really a promotion manager? Or, is he just overachieving because of the adversity he is facing at his current club? I think he will stay at Fratton Park a while longer but who knows maybe he will want a secure future and he is more likely to get that at Burnley.

Former player, Graham Alexander, is also heavily linked with the job, but yet again he does lack managerial experience and is this really the right option in the Championship? It worked out for Chris Hughton at Newcastle United, but was this a one-off? One thing that Alexander does have is the fact that his playing career was phenomenal, with him playing over 1000 games and so should get the respect of the players straight from the off. It hasn’t bothered the fans before that he has such an affiliation with rivals Preston North End, so I don’t see it being a problem if they bring him in as manager.

Finally, and the one most likely in my opinion, is Mick McCarthy. Yes, he has been linked with every Championship job available since he got sacked as manager of Wolves but Burnley are the first team in public that have confirmed their interest in the former Republic of Ireland manager. He has a good record in the Championship and has got teams promoted in the past, so even though he may not play the best football, it is effective and he has proven methods that work in the Championship and that is exactly what Burnley need right now.

Who will be League 1’s top scorer?

League 1’s race for top scorer could be a very contest as there are some very good strikers in the league this year who can score a lot of different types of goals.

The first player that could do the business this season is a striker that has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders this year and will be vital if the team want to achieve their targets. Chris Porter of Sheffield United has a really big season in front of him. He agreed a new two year deal in the summer so he now knows he has a bit of security and can go out and not worry about his future. He only scored 5 goals last season but one of those was in the playoff semi final against Stevenage so when the pressure is on he can score.

Andy Williams had a fantastic year last year and will be hoping he can perform to the same level for his new club Swindon Town and will be hoping that playing under Paolo Di Canio he can learn a thing or two in the process. He scored a lot of goals for former club Yeovil Town and now playing for a team that has realistic promotion ambitions he will surely get more.

Matt Tubbs had a good start to his career at Bournemouth by scoring on his debut but that was his only goal for the club last year as he struggled with injuries for the remainder of the campaign but there is no doubting his abilities and I am sure he will put away the chances in the coming season. He has proved his worth at every level he has played at so he will be hoping that League 1 is not a step too far and he can carry on his phenomenal goal scoring record.

New MK Dons signing Ryan Lowe will be hoping that he can get a good start to his time at the club and score the goals that finally get them promoted to the Championship. Lowe has been one of the best finishers in the lower leagues for a number of years now and even though he didn’t play as much as he would have liked for Sheffield Wednesday he still managed to get eight league goals. He will get more chances to start at MK Dons so I expect him to at least double that tally.

Dean Bowditch, yet another MK Dons player could also be a contender and that is down to the way they play football. They will create chances and it is down to the strikers to put them away and Bowditch has shown that he can score goals by getting into double figures for the last three consecutive seasons. He got 10 goals last season and you have to believe now he is 26 and more experienced he will be starting to hit his peak and will start getting more and more goals. However, he has played on the wing for them at times and this will lower his chances of scoring on a regular basis.

Who will win League 1?

Sheffield United unfortunately lost the playoff final last year on penalties against Huddersfield Town and are now facing a second season in League 1. But the team from Yorkshire are the favourites to win promotion and this is a very real possibility as they should really have gone up automatically last year but were just beaten to second place by neighbours Sheffield Wednesday. However, they were beaten yet again on penalties by Burton Albion in the Capital One Cup which will have surely damaged a bit of confidence in the camp. So far they have largely kept the same team as last year so will be very competitive and are rightly the favourites.

 

The nearly men of the division MK Dons will be hoping that this is their year and definitely won’t want to go through playoff heartache again. The play the best football in the league and love to pass the ball and Karl Robinson has to be given a lot of credit for that but at times they do seem to lack another option which cost them at times. The signing of Ryan Lowe could be crucial as he is a very good finisher and even though things didn’t quite go right for him at Sheffield Wednesday, I think he will suit his new clubs style of play.

Newly promoted Swindon Town are also considered one of the leading clubs in the division this year and with Paolo Di Canio in charge anything can happen there as he always demands the best from his players and his methods even though they can be slightly unorthodox seem to be doing the trick. The signing of James Collins and Andy Williams could prove to be a stroke of genius as they were brilliant defensively last year but didn’t have that striker to get 20 goals which they will need to get promoted from this league.

Bournemouth under Paul Groves could be considered contenders because they have a decent squad but I am still slightly surprised that so many teams are backing them because they don’t have a striker that has really scored a lot of goals in League 1 and their top scorer last year was Marc Pugh who got 12 goals. The team maybe didn’t quite live up to their chairman’s expectations last year so he will be wanting to see an improvement this time around.

Relegated Coventry City seem to have the best chance of all the teams that came down from the Championship last year to return at the first time of asking and this is definitely a make or break season for manager Andy Thorn who had to work with a lot of young players last year. Maybe they were always doomed because of this but Thorn definitely needs to put up a challenge if he wants to keep his job. They have signed a few decent players this summer, some with experience in Kevin Kilbane and others that had been tipped for big things like John Fleck so if they can get the right blend then the good times could return.

Would Jason Pearce be a good signing for Leeds United?

Jason Pearce is close to signing for Leeds United from Portsmouth as they look to rebuild their squad under new manager Neil Warnock.

Pearce as captain of Bournemouth

Leeds will be hoping to take advantage of Portsmouth who are resigned to losing their best players in the summer with them in financial problems and looking like they are going to be relegated to League 1. Pearce has been linked with a number of clubs already with Ipswich Town also looking to take the centre back but Leeds seems to be his next destination. But will he be good enough to help Leeds get promoted and who will leave Leeds to give him his chance in the squad?

Darren O’Dea has already been released from his loan spell early and has returned to Celtic. He had played 38 games for the club this season but Warnock obviously wasn’t a fan and believed he could get in better. Other players that I think should leave if Leeds do want to get promoted next season are Leigh Bromby who had a lot of potential when he was young player at Sheffield Wednesday but has never really lived up to his early career promise. Alex Bruce is another player that I think they should get rid of they want to progress, however he is quite a consistent player when he does play.

At home Leeds have conceded 39 goals which is a lot and it is no surprise that Warnock feels that he must improve this statistic at least and losing 10 games at Elland Road it must have been hard for the fans to take this year and it has probably cost them a place in the playoffs.

So will Jason Pearce have a positive impact on the team and would he be good enough for the Premier League if they do get promoted in the near future? He actually started his career at Portsmouth when they were in the Premier League but was unable to break into their first team however at the time they were an established Premier League side and would not have risked putting in a youngster. Pearce left the club to get some first team football and he went to Bournemouth where he was eventually made first team captain. He played 183 games for the club and scored eight goals. He was at the club during all of their financial difficulties and was vital in keeping them up and then eventually getting them promoted to League 1.

This season he has proved that he is a very good centre back at Championship level playing 41 games and scoring 2 goals. He will be vital for Leeds next season if he definitely signs for them which is looking extremely likely at the moment. It would not surprise me if he became club captain either because he is a very good leader and when his team really need him he will stand up and be counted which may have been missing at times this season for Leeds.

Who will be Bournemouth’s next manager?

Bournemouth have sacked their manager Lee Bradbury only a week after club chairman Eddie Mitchell said they were making progress and was happy with the club’s current position in League 1.

Bournemouth are currently 12th in League 1

However a run of six defeats in eight games was enough for Mitchell and he has placed Paul Groves and Shaun Brooks in charge until the end of the season which will at least give them a chance to impress. With the club being in no danger of relegation this season, the players can relax and maybe these two will motivate them and get them to play good football again. This could lead to them getting the job permanently.

However, there are other managers in the frame for the job and the first that comes to my mind is Sean O’Driscoll because he is a very good manager and has been out of work for quite a while now after leaving Doncaster. He has already had a spell as manager of Bournemouth so he knows the place and should settle down pretty quickly into the role. He managed them for 326 games, winning 118 of them and he also got them promoted to League 1 in the 2002-03 season through the playoffs. After leaving Bournemouth he achieved even more success at Doncaster and was constantly praised by pundits and fans alike for the way his team played. He got them promoted to the Championship and also won the Football League Trophy. He should be a fans favourite because he has spent a large part of his life involved with the club as he spent a large part of his playing career at the club too, pulling on the shirt 423 times. The only problem is that he is currently working as a coach at Nottingham Forest who may not be prepared to let him go on a free and Bournemouth probably do still need a cheap option.

So if they are looking for a cheap option maybe Brian Laws will be in with a shout because he like O’Driscoll has won promotions throughout his managerial career and this is what Bournemouth will be aiming for next season. The former Sheffield Wednesday manager has been without a club since leaving Burnley and will probably be looking for a way back into football and Bournemouth could be something that interests him. He has a lot of experience and has a win record of 36.35% in his career which is not bad and maybe good enough for League 1.

Lee Clark is another name I will mention because in my opinion he was harshly treated by Huddersfield and will come back a better manager because of it. He has a lot of potential and could be a very good manager in the future and possibly manage right at the highest level. However, he needs to make sure his next job is the right one or it could cripple him. This job could be perfect as it would be similar to the job he was doing at Huddersfield and if they don’t get promoted this year, I am sure he will want to get one over on his former employers and at Bournemouth he will have the opportunity to do that.

I thought Bradbury was harshly sacked but the club have to move on and there are quite a lot of good managers out of work at the moment and if they make the right decision then next season could be very successful for them and with all of the recent financial problems it would be remarkable to see them playing in the Championship.

Brian McDermott rejects Wolves by signing a new contract at Reading

Brian McDermott has signed a new contract at Reading which puts an end to the speculation that he will be leaving the club.

Wolves were rumoured to be interested in McDermott to take charge of the team after sacking Mick McCarthy but this now must show the Royals fans that he is determined to succeed at the club and would rather have a go in the Premier League with his own team rather than trying to keep up a team that are one of the favourites for relegation now with players that he does not know very well.

Some people may criticise his decision as football can change very quickly and if Reading fail to get promoted this season and have a bad start to next season he could be shown the door and then will have missed his opportunity to manage in the Premier League anyway. But, I have a lot of respect for him because of this decision because he is trying to build something and managers are too quick to leave jobs in the lower leagues just to have the chance to manage at a higher level. Eddie Howe at Burnley is an example of this as I thought he should have stayed at Bournemouth and basically learnt more about the role there but he decided to move on and he didn’t have a great season last year and had a bad start to this one and there were rumours he was going to be sacked. Thankfully the board stuck with the young manager and that is now paying off because the team are now challenging for the playoffs.

Back to McDermott, he has had some great games as manager of Reading and probably none more so than his first victory which was against Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup thanks to an extra time goal from Shane Long and this victory was also the first time that Reading had won at Anfield so he the gaffer was always going to be in the record books no matter what. He has had more good days than bad days with a win percentage of 47% but unfortunately one of his defeats was against Swansea in the playoff final and this seemed to damage moral at the club, leading to them having a poor start to the next campaign but obviously McDermott raised the spirits of his young players and brought in some experience and has guided the club to fourth place, only six points behind table toppers West Ham.

The players seem to love playing for him because he gives them a blueprint of what he expects and makes sure everyone knows their job defensively. But when his team have the ball it is a joy to watch as he takes the shackles off the attacking players and lets them express themselves however they want which is paying dividends at the minute. It’s not surprising to see his name linked with arguably bigger jobs but he knows success will come in time at Reading and he wants to be there when they are back in the Premier League.