A few weeks ago, one poster on these pages said that the only surprise of the season so far was that there hadn’t been any, but the last three games have turned that over to an extent.
The three relegated teams still head the table, but a collective sticky patch has opened things up a little. Just 10 points have been garnered from a possible 27 between them in the last three games, which roughly equates to Reading’s form this season, so there’s hope for the rest of us yet. Of the trio’s two more vulnerable sides, Middlesboro’s Smogblogger has already aired his personal anxieties about where the club are headed, and West Brom blogger Frank Heaven has questioned whether the Baggies can reproduce the form of their well oiled attacking force of two years ago. At least one of the three will have to miss out on automatic promotion, and with Cardiff and Sheffield United in particular capable of going on a run, this is no time to get complacent.
Three of those 10 points were comfortably accrued by Newcastle in a 4-0 win at Ipswich, the BBC’s second live game of year. With every passing week we’re all thinking that Keane will turn it around, and that must worry the Tractor Boys because that’s exactly what we said about Charlton, Norwich, Forest, Leeds and Man City in seasons gone by. Notwithstanding an air of malaise about the place, Keane has undoubtedly brought some quality but fallouts with Jonathan Stead, Pablo Counago and Owen Garvan and a long term injury to David Norris have posed problems that could prove insurmountable. The next 5 games read: Swansea (H), Watford (H), Plymouth (A), Derby (H) and Reading (A), though, so they could well be up the table by the next international hiatus. If they’re not, then it’s time to start asking questions.
The Beeb are showing a further two games in that same period. First up is the rather odd choice of QPR’s trip to Derby a fortnight Saturday, but if the people want Championship football then that is what they shall get: I cannot think of a more characteristically second tier game than that. One Derby fan has, quite hilariously, had a right 606 moment and written to Steve Claridge to air his discontent with Nigel Clough, which looks even more ridiculous in print. The last time I went to Derby, the Rams were reeling on the back of an eleven point season and the upheaval that the criminal behaviour of their former directors caused. Tim Richards from England needs to get real. Coverage of Cardiff’s home game with Forest on 1st November should appeal a bit more to most, including this writer. Cue goals galore at Pride Park and a Forest shut out in Wales.