Places Eighteen to Twenty Four in the Championship
The bundle for the Premiership at the top of league has captured the imagination this season, but the current state of affairs at the league’s nadir has been no less stirring. While three recent top-flight interlopers try to avoid a repeat of last season, the side propping up the rest of us has ditched the most successful manager in its history after a personal dispute with the Chairman. With a clutch of teams looking susceptible above them, what is the outlook for those that occupy places Eighteen to Twenty Four in the Championship?
So, on the back of a successful two and a half years at Kettering, Mark Cooper, who we should all know by now is the son of Terry, has been assigned the task of steering Posh clear of the drop. This headline probably sums his lot up, but with some plucky talent at his disposal, Posh may only need a good shot in the arm. It’ll be tight, but two recent defensive signings bode well: Grimsby centre-half Ryan Bennett was much sought-after and Scott Griffiths, the flaxen-haired left back, was picked out by Lanterne Rouge as Dagenham’s best player in Reading’s League Cup win at Victoria Road last season. Chances of pulling away from danger: 10%
While Darren Ferguson was, almost to a fault, determined to cherry-pick from the further down the pyramid, Ipswich’s Carlos Edwards thinks that his manager needs to look up a level for the solution to the Tractor Boys’ draw problem. Having already brought in the Trinidadian and his former Sunderland teammate, Grant Leadbitter, to little effect, one wonders whether borrowing a moneyed Premiership striker with nothing to prove is really the answer. Much ink has been spilled on Ipswich’s plight this season, so I won’t waste any more. Chances of pulling away from danger: 20%
A dreadful start in which the Pilgrims collected just two points from their first 9 games saw coaches Kevin Summerfield and John Blackley depart. 70s club legend Paul Mariner has come in to revitalize the team’s waning spirits, and his initial impact has been good. Confusion lingers over his specific role, though, and while it’s an improvement, it all feels a little ad hoc. A settled back four and a return to winning ways at home in deepest Devon could hold the key. Chances of pulling away from danger: 20%
Are the Iron the Championship’s equivalent of Wigan? They’ve beaten Newcastle, and comprehensive victories against Palace, Preston and Sheffield United suggest that this lot possess the pedigree, but yet they lie just 2 points clear of Plymouth after a torrid 4-game losing streak. Commentators cite attacking prowess as their best hope for survival, but one worries about the back four. Having already leaked 35 goals, fans will be wondering whether they have the means to tighten up. Chances of pulling away from danger: 20%
Manager Brendan Rodgers may have soiled his one time immaculate reputation after a weak start to his Royals reign, but the signs are that his charges are capable of pushing on and dragging others into the League One pyre. The home hoodoo has finally been cast off and a more consistent team selection has added much-needed stability. The next four fixtures could well see the Biscuitmen extend their unbeaten run into mid-December. Question marks persist over the ungainly size of the squad and the role of the £2m singing, Matt Mills, but things are brighter than they were. Chances of pulling away from danger: 30%
The seemingly omnipresent Robbie Savage may be making a decent living from ceaselessly reminding us that ‘anybody can beat anybody’, but it’s clear that this rule doesn’t much apply to his own team. Only one win has been recorded against sides from the top half and just two points have been mustered away from Pride Park, making the Rams the worst away side in the division. The fans remain ever loyal, but recent results have been poor and Nigel Clough is probably at his lowest ebb since jumping three divisions. An easing injury ‘crisis’ might help him straighten County’s form, though. Chances of pulling away from danger: 20%
The current bottom six aside, Coventry, who haven’t won since September, look the most vulnerable. Crowds are down, confidence is low and their talisman is Clinton Morrison. They’ve taken fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday’s former captain, but I’d venture to say that they are in for a long, hard struggle. Wednesday will hope to replace Wood adequately and move on and up, but progress continues to be hampered by a lack of cash flow. They should be unspectacularly safe, though. Doncaster fans may have lost a little sleep over the last international hiatus after losing at Plymouth, but in truth Rovers look a little too good to go down. Donny, however, will always struggle to field 11 players that are able to play Sean O’Driscoll’s style of football to its letter, so they shouldn’t get too complacent. The softly-spoken Mark Robins seems to have turned the tide at Barnsley, which will give Mark Cooper at London Road a bit of hope: the Tykes were, after all, rock bottom themselves when Robins replaced Simon Davey after five games.