Summer Turns to Autumn in the Championship
September 21 officially signals the end of the UK summer and we move into that leaf-peeping season curiously referred to by our Transatlantic cousins as the Fall. The term is apt if you’re a Royal, a Bluebird, a Pilgrim or a Tractor Boy, but as the weather resolutely refused to turn on another blisteringly Indian Summer of a weekend, which conclusions did we make?:
- West Bromwich Albion’s devastating defeat of Middlesbrough snatched our collective breaths away. Two seasons back, a late autumnal thumping of closest rivals Watford laid down a marker that would lead to eventual promotion; this term, the message has been dispatched even earlier. Roberto Di Matteo has replaced the sometimes over elaborate style of the Mowbray years with a more hybrid method and a clear sighted ruthlessness. Chris Brunt can be a peripheral figure, but his left foot is a sweet one. That arching effort may have caught the headlines but Youssuf Mulumbu has been the revelation of the Baggies progress thus far.
- Neil Warnock has mutated into Arsà¨ne Wenger suddenly. In any top 5 of the Championship’s most one-eyed managers, the opinionated one would be a distant victor. Years of railing against refs put to one side as he pats young Nigel on the head with a “never mind son”. Only Robbie Savage’s bleating about Speroni’s handball on the Football League show makes you sympathize with the ex-Notts County boss.
- “Pulsating” is an over-used word in football but Friday’s Sheffield summit was quite ridiculously entertaining. The sheer mindless ecstasy shown by Wednesday fans as Etienne Esajas rifled in the second was a vision to behold — and where else would a lone reply to a savage 3-0 deficit be met with the level of over-celebration displayed by Marcus Tudgay? — ripping off the nylon and displaying a messaged vest as if his goal had signalled promotion to the Premier League itself. You were still 3-1 down Marcus! Such blind, unadulterated strutting will be hard to match this year.
- Preston North End, despite winning the best ever double in English soccer, remain almost a byword for the term “unfashionable” — a situation summed up by their shipping off of Sean St. Ledger to Teesside on loan last week. But, they quietly continue to make progress under the modest but crafted management of Alan Irvine. Only a fool would dismiss them as incapable of matching neighbours Burnley and elevating themselves come May.