Talking point: Premier League rocking the boat at QPR and Cardiff
In a typically tight division, Queen’s Park Rangers and Cardiff City have been the front-runners so far. QPR led from the front, their unbeaten run stretching deep into the season before Watford stole all three points from Loftus Road, whereas Cardiff have struggled in recent weeks. But now their goal, the Premier League, has interfered.
Both clubs may have to cope without their most effective centre-forwards for the rest of the campaign, with Jamie Mackie a long-term absentee for the leaders and Jay Bothroyd being heavily linked with a move to the reigning second tier champions Newcastle United.
Newcastle utilised the last January transfer window to add Leon Best as an extra resource in attack, but this season’s most impressive Championship striker may be competing with Best for his place in a Premier League squad after Bothroyd was reported to be talks with Alan Pardew’s side.
There are so many variables to these two stories.
Cardiff have already added Preston forward Jon Parkin to their squad, but a seemingly imminent deal for Everton’s James Vaughan has remained undone for weeks and Leicester City’s loan capture of Yakubu from the Merseyside club looks to have diminished the opportunity of attracting Vaughan.
It has also been reported that West Ham United striker Benni McCarthy is on the verge of signing a loan deal with QPR, a switch that may not have happened without Mackie’s injury – sustained in an FA Cup clash with Premier League outfit Blackburn Rovers.
To what extent is the depth of quality at the top of the Championship a factor in what QPR and Cardiff do next in the transfer market? There are many vultures circling, waiting to pick off any further slip-ups from the current top two, particularly given the recent moving and shaking done by many clubs. So many have either kept key men or added staff that may turn out to be important protagonists in the promotion race.
Norwich City appear to have retained Paul Lambert as manager and the same can be said for Watford’s Malky McKay, while Burnley are close to bringing in Eddie Howe as their new man at the helm.
Swansea City have signed Luke Moore, impressive on loan at Derby County, to add to their options up front and Nottingham Forest will almost certainly be making moves very soon in the market. Leeds United have snapped up Andy O’Brien on a permanent basis after an excellent loan period, and then, of course, there is Yakubu’s arrival in the East Midlands. There is much cause for optimism across the whole top half of the division.
Only three will win promotion, and two of those have long been marked out by many as QPR and Cardiff.
The signs for the pacemakers are ominous, however. McCarthy would be no suitable replacement for Mackie at Loftus Road, while Parkin is no Bothroyd. What happens in the transfer market over the next two weeks will be absolutely crucial in terms of the final promotion shake-up.
So, given the gigantic assumption that Bothroyd departs South Wales for the North East next week, who should Dave Jones be chasing to maintain Cardiff’s push for the Premier League?
And what do QPR need to do to stay at the top?
All opinions welcome.