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 be the Championship’s top scorer?

A lot of the time when a player finishes top scorer in the Championship their team finish within the top six.

That is why it is so important to have players that will put the ball in the back of the bet regularly and Championship teams are now starting to pay quite a bit of money for them.

An example of this is Jordan Rhodes who almost by himself kept Blackburn Rovers in the division last year will be hoping that he can just keep doing what he has been year after year. He is an exceptional goal scorer, give him a chance in the box and he will put it away. Personally I think if Blackburn don’t go up then he will still be in the Premier League next season because he deserves to have a chance in the top league.

Charlie Austin has just moved to QPR and this will give him even more chances to put the ball in the back of the net, he is playing with better players and will be involved in a promotion battle rather than a relegation battle. Yet again he is someone that I rate really highly and am surprised that a Premier League team has not signed him. He could be the difference between QPR going straight back up and spending another season in the Championship.

Reading striker Adam Le Fondre will be hoping that he gets more time on the pitch last season because even though he had a phenomenal goals to minutes ratio in the Premier League he still wasn’t given the opportunity to start many games and was used more as a super sub. I hope Adkins does use him better now and he will prove to everyone that he deserves another chance in the Premier League and fires Reading to the Championship title.

Chris Wood had a great start to his career at Leicester City but he didn’t quite keep his good run going and when the team were struggling so was he. That is not to blame him personally but it is slightly worrying that if the team aren’t performing neither is one of your main strikers. But he is still only a young player and will continually get better and maybe this is his season to shine. 7 goals in 17 games is still an impressive return and if he gets something similar next year he could be near the top of the goal scoring charts.

The final pick is Grant Holt. Not much needs to be said about this man, he has fired teams to promotion on several occasions and scored goals at every level including the Premier League so I expect him to lead the line for Wigan and score a lot of crucial goals. He may not have had the greatest year last year but it was not that long ago when some people were wanting him to be called up to Roy Hodgson’s England team.

Who will win the Championship playoffs?

The Championship had one of the best ever endings to a season with nobody knowing who will be in the playoffs until the last whistle.

Watford, Brighton, Crystal Palace and Leicester City will be hoping to win the playoffs and gain a place in the Premier League alongside Cardiff City and Hull City. Bolton Wanderers missed out on the playoffs by goal difference and Nottingham Forest only missed out on the last day after losing to Leicester. For me this is one of the most difficult to predict simply because of how close it all was at the end of the season.

Watford finished third and have been one of the most entertaining teams this season but they had such a disappointing end to the final game. They lost 2-1 to Leeds United but in their defence they conceded a late goal from a counter attack. If only they had managed to score a goal they would have actually finished second and gained automatic promotion. Troy Deeney got a red card in that game and so that means there will be more pressure on top goal scorer Matej Vydra. But, he isn’t in the greatest of form himself. Watford have been criticised this season because of all their loan signings but Gianfranco Zola deserves more credit for getting them to perform.

Brighton finished fourth and are going into the playoffs in the best form and with their experience they may be the team to go up. Wayne Bridge and Matthew Upson at the back shows they have a lot of quality and experience and they have been a large part of their rise to towards the top of the league. In midfield they have a lot of young and talented players like Liam Bridcutt , Will Buckley and Kazenga Lua Lua that probably deserve a chance to show their talents in the Premier League. Even though their top scorer only has 11 goals they still have good strikers with the efforts and determination of Craig Mackail-Smith and Jose Ulloa who has had an impressive start to his Brighton career, scoring 9 in 17 league games.

Crystal Palace under Ian Holloway have been very hit and miss and they need to find some form and quickly. Their win over Peterborough on the last day of the season could be crucial as it showed that they can come from behind to win games and still have a lot of quality in their team. Glenn Murray, the top scorer in the Championship scored one of the goals and Kevin Phillips got another so they have players that can score at anytime in a game. Their defence is a little bit of a worry but in midfield they have a lot of talented players like Wilifried Zaha and Jonathan Williams.

Leicester were the last team to qualify for the playoffs and I was really surprised that they got in there because they had to beat Nottingham Forest away and hope Bolton didn’t win. So this could push the team on because they will be very confident and maybe seen as outsiders. They have a lot of talent in their team and this could be Nigel Pearson’s last chance to get promotion with Leicester so there could be extra motivation for the players.

However, I do think Watford will beat Leicester and Brighton will beat Crystal Palace in the semi finals and then it will be a very exciting final. Then I am going to go for Brighton to win the playoffs and compete in the Premier League next season.

Who will be Huddersfield Town’s next manager?

Huddersfield are looking for a new manager after Simon Grayson was sacked and the board are hoping that the new man will secure Championship football again.

Huddersfield Town
Grayson may feel this decision was a little harsh but they have been struggling lately and a 4-0 defeat against Watford was the last straw. It may be a good time to look for a new manager as it is FA Cup weekend and they have no realistic chance of winning the competition so the result against Leicester City does not really matter and I am sure any Huddersfield fan would rather go out at this stage and stay in the Championship than go through and end up getting relegated. Huddersfield are seven points out of relegation but with those teams at the bottom picking up points now and themselves not winning for 12 games they definitely need a change somewhere, maybe the board should have kept faith with the man that got them promoted but 12 games without a win is a very long time, especially in the Championship. Grayson was in charge for 49 games, winning 17 of those and losing 17 so it is fair to say that he did a decent enough job and personally I think he would have turned it around and kept the club up.

But looking at the candidates for the job and the board clearly feel that another manager can do a better job and give them more of a chance of staying up. The current favourite is recently sacked Nigel Adkins who was harshly replaced at Southampton and may want to get back into football as soon as possible. His record speaks for itself and he has been a success everywhere he has been. He got promoted with Southampton last season and was doing an ok job in the Premier League and this would be a great appointment for Huddersfield, if he doesn’t want to take a break from football.

Nigel Adkins

Maybe a more realistic appointment would be Owen Coyle, who has also been sacked this season by Bolton Wanderers. He largely underachieved at the Reebok after such a promising start where he took them to an FA Cup semi final. Would he be a good choice for Huddersfield though? In my opinion, yes he would be a good choice because there would be less pressure and maybe the problem at Bolton in the Championship was the fact that they were favourites for practically every game. He tries to play football in the right way and I would like to see him get another chance in the Championship to prove some of his doubters wrong.

Owen Coyle

Finally, a little bit more of a wildcard option would be Paolo Di Canio who has done a good job in charge of Swindon Town and won promotion from League 2 last season with them. With a 58.24% win record he is proving that he can get results on the pitch, however he has been criticised a few times and some of his antics on the touchline has been controversial to say the least. But, he does have a lot of passion and maybe this is exactly what Huddersfield need.

Paolo Di Canio

Others in the frame are Aidy Boothroyd, Billy Davies and Gareth Southgate.

Who will be Blackburn Rovers next manager?

Blackburn Rovers are searching for their second manager of the season after sacking Henning Berg after just 10 games in charge.

Berg, was only given 57 days but the board have decided that he is not the right man to take the club forward. Firstly, I would just say that I did not think this was a good appointment in the first place and although a lot of Blackburn fans will disagree with me, I thought Steve Kean was actually doing quite well for them this season. He had got a good squad together and they were picking up points and would have challenged for at least the playoffs. But, he was sacked and now Berg has joined him in the unemployed managers list. After playing 159 league games for Blackburn and being part of their title winning side, it was expected he was going to be given more time as the fans would surely have good memories of him as a player and believe he would want to be the man to get them back into the division that he once won with them. However, in his 10 games he only managed one win and the club has slipped down the table at an alarming rate. So, who can stop the slump and turn the club around?

Kevin MacDonald is currently the favourite to get the job and I do not think this appointment will excite the fans and this is not being disrespectful to MacDonald but the only experience of being a manager is two spells as a caretaker at Aston Villa and Leicester City. He has been a good assistant over the years but only 12 games as manager and only three wins is not what the club should be looking at right now. In his 12 games he also suffered a 6-0 defeat to Newcastle United.
But, even more remarkably Judan Ali has also been linked with the job and this would be ridiculous, so if this is MacDonald’s only genuine competition then he will surely get the job. Not a lot is known about Ali and this would certainly end in disaster. I am not saying Blackburn players are egotistical but they will not respond well to this unknown person coming into the club and telling them what to do. Apparently, Ali is a Bollywood star but if he does get the job this would be his biggest challenge yet.

Finally, Mark Hughes is also linked with the job, but to be honest I cannot see this happening , simply because I don’t think he will talk to the owners after seeing what they have done in the last few years. He would be a great choice and he would certainly bring a bit more respectability to the role but unfortunately for Rovers fans they may be the laughing stock of football once again when the new manager is announced. An interesting side point though is if Mark Hughes wants to get back into management, will he have to drop into the Championship?

Who will win the Championship?

Bolton Wanderers are one of the favourites to be promoted straight back to the Premier League and it is clear to see why. They have kept the majority of the squad from last year and in my opinion it should have been good enough to survive in the Premier League. At the back they have Zat Knight who is a capable defender and David Wheater and new signing Matt Mills so they are covered there. In midfield they have the returning pair of Lee Chung Yong and Stuart Holden combined with the quality of Mark Davies and Chris Eagles they should be able to control most games with these players. The only position they are struggling with slightly is in attack as they seem to lack a consistent goal scorer but I have high hopes for both Marvin Sordell and Benik Afobe this season.

Last year many people believed that Leicester City would walk the title and would be preparing for a season in the Premier League right now but unfortunately for them it didn’t quite work out and a lot of their bigger names didn’t perform their best. Now, with Nigel Pearson back in charge they look set to be contenders once again. Both David Nugent and Jermaine Beckford can score goals in this division and Wes Morgan marshalling the defence I expect a much better showing from them this year.

Neil Warnock has got QPR and Sheffield United promoted to the Premier League in the past and will now be hoping to work his magic at Leeds United. The only problem I see with backing Leeds is the fact that they keep losing their best players and the ones that can produce a bit of magic like Robert Snodgrass but nevertheless they do still have payers like Ross McCormack (who is actually linked with a move away) and Luciano Becchio who can score all types of goals so they will be challengers.

Wolves were just awful towards the end of last season and that will have hurt their players and they will be hoping to bounce back to their best this season and give the fans something to cheer about. They could be losing three of their better players though before the transfer window with Michael Kightly already leaving and both Steven Fetcher and Matt Jarvis being linked with Premier League clubs it may not be so easy. Also the team will have to get to grips with what Stale Solbakken or it will be another season of disappointment and they may get stuck in the Championship for a number of years.

Finally, the third team that were relegated from the Premier League, Blackburn Rovers also make my shortlist and it was a difficult decision on whether to include them because they have someone in charge that seems to be a very poor manager but in his defence he has brought in some good signings and that’s what is making me think they could win the title. Danny Murphy could prove to be the signing of the season in the Championship and lead them back to the Premier League.

Haven’t we seen you before… David Nugent

David Nugent now at Leicester City was one of the hottest prospects in the Championship when he was at Preston but for some reason maybe poor decision making on his part his career fell away but now under Nigel Pearson he might just be getting his career back on track.

In March 2007 he must have been in dreamland when he made his debut and scored in the last minute for England against Andorra but since then this dream has turned into a nightmare. He left Preston that summer for Portsmouth for £6 million and was finally realising his ambition of playing in the Premier League. But his move to the south coast was a complete disaster and in the same transfer window he was already linked with a move away from the club which shows that something wasn’t right and he didn’t exactly fit in at Pompey for one reason or another. It took him 18 months to score his first goal in the league for the club and ironically it was against the man that signed him Harry Redknapp, he then followed this up with two more goals towards the end of the season but it still didn’t change the fact that he was a poor signing and was a failure. However, in his defence he is a striker and does all of his good work up top chasing the ball down and latching onto through balls but for Portsmouth he was played on the right wing and therefore his opportunities to score were clearly limited.

He then left the club on loan to join Burnley and enjoyed moderate success with six goals in his 30 Premier League games but under Brian Laws the team were relegated and left Nugent in limbo as to whether he would be joining permanently or staying at Portsmouth. In the end he stayed at Portsmouth and had his best season for a long time ending the campaign as their top scorer but he decided to leave the club that summer for Leicester City where he has again had a decent season and looks like he is getting back to the levels he was at when he was called up to the national squad.

In his role as the pantomime villain away to Southampton, he produced arguably his best performance for many years, constantly terrorising the Saints defence by running at them and linking up well with strike partner Jermaine Beckford. He showed tremendous pace throughout the game and scored the opening goal with a clinical finish from just outside the box. There is no doubt in his mind what he was going to do when he picked up the ball on the left wing and cut inside, he expertly curled the ball into the corner leaving goalkeeper Kelvin Davis with no chance.

He is never going to get back into the England squad but it is nice to see players that have struggled for a while get back to their best and he can always be proud of his one cap one goal record for England.