Who will be relegated from the Championship?

Last season the battle at the bottom of the Championship involved a lot of teams and went right down to the wire.

The teams that did go stay up will take confidence in that and will want to push on this season and not be involved at the wrong end of the table again.

The clear favourites to go down are Yeovil Town and unfortunately for them it will be a very tough ask simply because they were not expected to get promoted to the Championship in the first place so they do not really have the team in place to compete. I do like Gary Johnson though as a manager and his teams always seem to be very committed and want to win for him. They will be underdogs in every game so they have nothing to lose and that could work in their advantage.

Doncaster Rovers also gained promotion last season and this time I think they will go straight back down because I do not think they made the greatest of managerial choices in Paul Dickov but maybe he will prove me wrong. They have brought in Ross Turnbull in goal and this is a risky choice because he hasn’t played first team football for a very long time and even though he is getting older he does not have a lot of experience. I do though like the signings of Dean Furman and Harry Forrester and hope they do well in the Championship.

Barnsley finished last season superbly but it could be another year of struggle. David Flitcroft has had an exceptional start to his managerial career but it will be a real test for him when the going gets tough and his team get on a losing run. The signings he has made have been ok and will add something to the side and getting Chris O’Grady back is vital to the way they play. Also Dale Jennings will be looking to restart his career after an unsuccessful spell at Bayern Munich but hopefully he has taken some positives from that experience and will be brilliant in the Championship.

Paul Ince may have been able to keep his son Tom at Blackpool for the time being but that might not be enough for them to stay away from the relegation battle. Ince has not been a great manager over recent years and it will be a difficult job at Blackpool but he did end last season with very few defeats and if he can turn a few of the draws into victories then they will have nothing to worry about. They have brought in three decent strikers in Bobby Grant, Michael Chopra and Steve Davies so they at least have competition in the striking department and goals may not be a problem.

Burnley have lost their best player and most consistent goal scorer in Charlie Austin so it is no surprise at all that they are seen as one of the weaker teams in the division. They will need other players to step up or it will be a very long year for Sean Dyche if he gets to keep his job for that long. The only striker they have brought in so far is Ryan Noble from Sunderland and that cannot be convincing the fans that they are going to be successful.

Sheffield Wednesday sack Gary Megson

The Sheffield Wednesday fans must be distraught after hearing the news that manager Gary Megson has been sacked, especially when they beat city rivals Sheffield United in their previous game.

He was a fans favourite because of his history with the club and you could see his passion and determination to succeed with Wednesday, he even admitted himself that he is a better manager than League 1 and this was the only job he would drop down to do. His style of football wasn’t the most expansive but the fans didn’t care and the long ball game was sending the club in the right direction. Yes, chairman Milan Mandaric probably did want automatic promotion this season but you have to take other things into consideration, when he took over he inherited a team with a lot of players that did not really care for the club and only wanted to pick up their pay cheque. But he has instilled a sense of belief and willingness to perform in front of thousands of Wednesday fans every week.

The goal celebration from Chris O’Grady against the Blades shows that the players were right behind him and wanted him to continue. Player power is a big thing in football now and over the years that has been a lot of discontent but this team all seemed to be pulling in the same direction and Megson was spearheading this and the squad was following his lead. This filtered down to the fans who affectionately called him the Ginger Mourinho and everything seemed right at Hillsborough but this sacking may have a detrimental effect on their season if they choose the wrong man to replace him.

Milan Mandaric will not be the most liked person in Sheffield today and there will be people that call for him to sell up and leave but he did save the club and if he thinks that the club aren’t performing how they should be, then he has the right to sack the manager. One thing you do need as a chairman is the fans on your side and communication with the supporters has improved dramatically since he took charge. However, this is not saying a lot as it has been very poor for a number of years now. His decision to put a Wednesdayite in charge was seen as a master stoke as he kept on pleasing the fans but it is a disgrace that Megson wasn’t even allowed a full season in charge, the team are in the playoffs and could possibly finish in the automatic places. I hope he know what he is doing or it could be another year in League 1 and yet more money out of his own pocket.

Megson deserves a lot of praise as he always conducted himself properly no matter if the team won, lost or drew and it is a great credit to him for that. But looking at the other side he did so much for Wednesday, he reduced a massive wage bill and got rid of a lot of deadwood and brought in a squad that was capable of promotion which it clearly wasn’t when he arrived. Finances are crucial in football and I thought of all people Mandaric would have understood this but obviously third isn’t good enough for him.

I hope Megson gets back into football and does a good job somewhere else because he is a very capable manager. In my opinion, you do not sack a manger that has his team in the playoffs no matter what but if Wednesday end up getting promoted then the new manager will be praised and will be a fans favourite himself which just shows how quickly football progresses.

A round of applause for Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United

Chris O’Grady scored the winner for Sheffield Wednesday in the Steel City Derby but the real winner today was football in general.

I know this doesn’t make sense but every single person in Sheffield should be proud because their two teams were supported fantastically and even though they hate each other, there seemed to be a mutual respect. Both sets of fans were passionate right up until the final whistle and to fill out the stadium is yet another amazing achievement seen as though they are in the third tier of English football, a position neither team should be in at all as they are both far too big for this division.

I was at the game and could see how much the victory meant to every single Wednesday fan as they all sung their heart out for most, if not all of the match, this was not just another game and even the Blades fans that claimed it was knew that they were lying. The derby is the most important game in the season and just the fact you can get one over your rivals means you have to win the game at all costs. Like I said, both sets of fans were amazing and it will be hard to match the passion of them anywhere around the country.

To the game itself and the first half was very even with neither side being able to dominate fully and create many clear cut chances. United had a free kick that hit the bar and bounced down which some people in the Kop were unsure whether it went in. The giveaway to them that it didn’t was the lack of appeal from the players. Other than that there wasn’t much action in the goalmouths but in the middle of the park there was certainly a battle which neither team wanted to lose. Jose Semedo and Chris Lines seemed to be in control but I’m sure that from the other stand, they would say Nick Montgomery and Michael Doyle were controlling the game, this just shows how even it was.

The second half wasn’t much different in the way that there weren’t many clear cut chances but Wednesday were in control and had stepped it up. Or possibly United were happy with a point and sat back? Or maybe Wednesday were so in control that it forced United to play a different way and they couldn’t so a point was the best they could have hoped for. I think this is the most likely as the Blades have played some good football this season but they were just launching hopeless long balls in the second half with most drifting out of play. So, Megson won the tactical battle against Wilson.

Megson’s decision to play Antonio worked out very well as his ball to Buxton was inch perfect and freed the fullback to cross for O’Grady to score the only goal of the game. Hopefully this result will lift Wednesday and make the end of the season enjoyable for the fans as they definitely deserve success.

My final thought is that television companies missed a trick not putting this game on as I don’t think they will ever have the chance again to show the whole country how good League 1 can be and how much the true supporters love their clubs. There are too many glory supporters these days and a game like this may have made them realise who a real football fan is. So both Sheffield clubs deserve a lot of praise for this.

Do Sheffield Wednesday have the bottle to get promoted from League 1

Sheffield Wednesday are in danger of throwing away all of their good work throughout the season after suffering three defeats in a row against Exeter, Stevenage and now Chesterfield.

The game against Chesterfield was supposed to be a warm up to the big derby game against Sheffield United next week but with their recent results this could possibly be the worst upcoming fixture which is surprising as a few weeks ago the fans were all hoping the game would come quicker, this just shows how quickly football changes.

So, it’s down to the players and Gary Megson to prove they have the bottle in one of the biggest ever games to be played in the third tier of English football. This will not be easy but it could galvanise the team and a win could catapult them up the table and on a long unbeaten run so the fans need to get behind the team even though I can imagine a few of them are wishing they never purchased tickets for the game now. Another worry for Wednesday is that Jermaine Johnson had to go off in the first half against Chesterfield and he looks to be the only player that can produce a moment of magic.

Why have the Owls struggled recently, is it because of the manager and the way he wants to play? Or is it because Megson doesn’t know his strongest team?  Is it because of the players?

It’s obvious Megson doesn’t know his strongest team with him changing his line up regularly in recent weeks, most notably at centre back with him being unsure whether to partner Danny Baath next to Rob Jones or Miguel Llera and with this uncertainty in a very key area of the pitch it is no surprise that the team have started looking more shaky than usual at the back. Another position he is unsure of is equally important and that is upfront. Gary Madine looks out of sorts since coming back from injury, Ryan Lowe has not hit the heights expected and looks like he is lacking a bit of confidence. Then you have Chris O’Grady who will work hard but the goals have never flowed for him and Clinton Morrison who still on his day can produce some magic but this has been far too infrequent for the fans.

He has problems in all departments, even goalkeeper where he has to choose between Stephen Bywater and Nicky Weaver and I know competition is good but sometimes you just need to have a number one so the keeper knows the manager has 100% confidence in him. The midfield is a real worry, David Prutton has been put on the right wing and will not influence the game from that position and will not add any threat from the wing. Mike Jones signed from Bury in January but he has hardly had a kick and it seems that if Megson wanted him then he would have been well down the list he gave to the chairman to replace Ben Marshall.

So do Wednesday have the bottle to get out of this division this season. We will certainly find out against United in front of a packed stadium.

What Sheffield Wednesday need for the Championship

If Sheffield Wednesday get promoted to the Championship they were shown against Blackpool that Milan Mandaric will have to invest if they are to survive. They were comprehensively beaten and although they did make seven changes from their game against Yeovil, they clearly do not have the squad depth to succeed in their ambitions.

They do have some quality in the squad with Gary Madine a good goal scorer in League 1 but a question he has to answer is will he score enough goals to keep them in the Championship? Jose Semedo is a very good holding midfielder that loves to break up the play and is difficult to get past. And in Lewis Buxton they have the best right back in the division and should do a decent job in the Championship. Last time they were in League 1 they also had the best right back in the division in Frankie Simek who unfortunately suffered with injuries after they got promoted and the Owls will be hoping Buxton does not suffer the same fate.  Also, in goal they have experience in Nicky Weaver and Stephen Bywater, as well as the promising Richard O’Donnell so they will probably not have to invest in this area of the team.

But they will struggle at the back with Reda Johnson currently doing a good job at left back but may not be seen as a long term solution. In the centre of the defence is where I see the main problem as Rob Jones is very good in the air but on the floor he is slow and was very suspect against the pace of the Blackpool forwards, although he is a very good leader and could be very important in the dressing room. Danny Baath his partner is only on loan from Wolves and if they can’t get him back they will need another as Mark Beevers has been out of sorts for the club, however, he was very highly rated and given a confidence boost he could become a solid defender in the Championship.

Midfield maybe the biggest worry for Megson as he is currently struggling with a lack of wingers, playing players out of position to fill the gap on the right. Wednesday do have Jermaine Johnson who has looked impressive in recent weeks but this could be because he is fighting for a new contract or at least looking to impress scouts from other clubs. But Johnson does provide pace and skill which no other player in the squad possesses and if this isn’t addressed in the summer then he has to stay. Chris Sedgwick is well past his best and shouldn’t be playing in the Championship next season. In the centre of midfield they have David Prutton and Chris Lines who will be good squad players but they should be looking to bring someone in to play alongside Semedo next season. Liam Palmer is well thought of but he does not have enough experience yet.

In the striker department they look like they will struggle for goals in the Championship with Clinton Morrison another one past his best and has struggled even in League 1. Ryan Lowe is untested and is not getting any younger and has not really hit the heights he and his manager were expecting. Chris O’Grady does a lot of work upfront but isn’t a goal scorer and although he will be a useful addition he should not be a permanent in the starting 11.

At the moment this is all ifs and buts because the team has not been promoted yet and still have work to do but they have enough in League 1 to get promoted and I hope they do achieve their goal because they are too big to be playing in this division and their fans deserve some joy for once.

The sleeping giants- Sheffield Wednesday

A fascinating battle is developing in League 1 this season as to who is going to get promoted, but the more intriguing battle in League 1 is who is going to finish highest out of the two Sheffield clubs

Both Wednesday and United are battling it out at the top of the table and after United’s 4-0 win tonight over Yeovil they have overtaken the Owls by a single point but have now played a game more. This is Wednesday’s second season in League 1 and after a disappointing season last year under Alan Irvine, Gary Megson came in and has made the team into a title challenging side, although most Owls fans would have been happy with a playoff challenge given the fact that the majority of players from last year underperformed. Quite well known players were at Hillsborough last season such as Gary Teale and Tommy Miller but both largely failed to secure promotion for Wednesday and eventually finished in a less than satisfactory mid table. The club faced many problems over the season off the pitch and were saved by Milan Mandaric who quickly brought in former Wednesday player Megson who has shipped out players that he felt were not good enough for the club and didn’t have the heart to perform for the team.

They do still have experience in their squad with Clinton Morrison, Rob Jones and Nicky Weaver but it has been the performances of some of the less experienced players that have really caught the eye of the fans and on looking scouts, such as Gary Madine. Megson has used his contacts in the game to bring in young players that are hungry and have a lot of potential. With Ben Marshall on loan from Stoke City, they have a winger that is most certainly a class above League 1 and they will need to keep hold of him if they are going to succeed this season and gain promotion. Danny Batth also deserves credit because he is only a young centre back but he is playing like he is a seasoned professional, getting better and better with each game and produced one of his best performances in the recent FA Cup victory over West Ham.

Possibly the signing of the season in League 1 has to be Jose Semedo who’s work can sometimes go unnoticed as he is a holding midfielder but he has been in sensational form this season and even though Charlton are top of the league, they must be regretting letting him go. He has been a player Wednesday have missed for many years, someone that does the hard work in the middle of the park and brings a lot of energy and desire every time he steps on the pitch.

Wednesday should be looking for promotion this year as they have two solid goalkeepers for this level in Nicky Weaver and Stephen Bywater, probably the best right back in the division when fit Lewis Buxton and a tough tackling left back in Reda Johnson who can also chip in with a goal. In the midfield they have the unpredictability of Jermaine Johnson who delights fans with his mazy runs but also infuriates them at the same time with his sometimes poor final ball, add this to Semedo and Marshall and you have a good midfield even though Johnson has struggled to get in the side consistently this season, they also have Chris Lines who is experienced in the lower leagues and David Prutton who has played in the Premier League. Up front they have many options with the fantastic finishing ability of Gary Madine, the strength and power of Chris O’Grady, the clever and crafty Ryan Lowe and Clinton Morrison, if he can get back to his best, he will score goals in this division.

So their biggest challenge is to get out of the division but first they have to topple the Blades and the way the season is shaping up, it may not be the easiest thing to do but they are still unbeaten at home and this stands them in good stead for the rest of the season. They are one of the biggest clubs in England and it is time for the sleeping giant to wake up.