Football League Championship
Watford v Stoke
Second play third in the big match of this weekend as Stoke travel to Watford. Both have been in a mixed run of form with the Potters managing a defeat, draw and a victory in their last three matches while the Hornets haven’t lost in five but also haven’t won.
Bristol v Plymouth
If results go right for them Fellow automatic promotion hopefuls Bristol City could move four points clear at the top as they host Plymouth, with the Robins looking for their first to turn their recent run of three draws into a victory and the Pilgrims looking for a goalie.
Burnley v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Burnley and Wolverhampton Wanderers meet at Turf Moor knowing that a win for the Clarets would push them into the play-off places and a victory for Wolves would take them within touching distance.
With only eight games left ’til the end of the season, defender Richard Stearman has called on his team-mates and Leicester fans to stick together as the Foxes battle relegation. Stearman’s cry comes on the back of Leicester’s 1 v 0 defeat at Southampton which saw them drop into the relegation zone. So will City stay up?
It’s still tight down there. Only six points separate Leicester from Blackpool in thirteenth.
Leicester still have to play most of the teams around them. The Foxes have matches at home against Colchester, Scunthorpe and Sheffield Wednesday.
They can’t get much worse. With Colchester all but relegated, Leicester are battling to avoid two rather than three relegation spots.
If it comes down to it, Leicester also have a vastly superior goal difference to most of the other teams around them.
Leicester have not scored in five games. The goal in the 1 v 0 win against Cardiff was an own goal. Out of their fourteen games in 2008, City have only scored more than one goal on two occasions.
The Foxes are not even getting draws: since the beginning of February, Leicester have won two, drawn one and lost six.
Of the eight teams left for Leicester to play, the Foxes have only beaten two of them this season.
Picture taken from Official Leicester FC site.
Saints fans Jonathon Fulthorpe and John Cousins are leading a consortium aiming to take over Southampton FC. BBC Online state that a deal for the club is ‘imminent’ and ‘It is believed they have held several meetings with Saints club officials and have significant funds to aid the club.’
Meanwhile Cardiff face the threat of bankruptcy after Langston Corporation demanded £24 million, which they loaned to Cardiff in 2004, paid back immediately. The case has gone to court and, if the Bluebirds lose, could spell disaster for the club.
There have been some pretty bad transfers in recent history within the CCC and English football in general. Names like Ali Dia of Southampton stick out, among others, but what about bad loan spells for the players themselves, rather than the clubs?
I think Calum Davenport can lay claim to quite possibly the worst loan spell EVER this past week, by turning out for Watford for a grand total of 40 minutes before breaking his neck.
Yes, you read correctly, BREAKING HIS NECK. The West Ham defender was drafted in to provide cover for Danny Shittu, currently on duty with Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations. After Hornets teammate Darius Henderson fell on top of him 40 minutes into the first half of Saturday’s match with Charlton, he went off with a fractured neck bone.
Watford skipped Aidy Boothroyd had this to say: “Calum heard a crack in his neck and he lost the sensation in his fingers.” YIKES.
From the BBC: “The injury has triggered an immediate end to the 25 year old’s loan spell and he will return to the Hammers.”
Which pretty much seals the worst-loan-spell-ever Award for Mr. Davenport.
Let’s hope he has a speedy recovery.
As you all know by now, due to the magnificent coverage so far on this site, the African Cup of Nations is in full swing in Ghana.
So far the host nation was saved by a Sulley Muntari thunderbolt in the opener, Morocco hammered Namibia 5-1, and the Ivory Coast ran out 1-0 winners over a less than impressive Nigeria side.
Much has been made of the exodus of African players plying their trade in England, but most of this attention has been focused on Africa heavy EPL squads like Chelsea and Portsmouth. There are, however, a fair amount of players in the lower leagues of old blighty who made the journey to Ghana to wear their nations colors proudly. Here they are:
Sefi Olofinjana, Wolves
The tall midfielder has made 25 starts so far this season for the Molineaux club, and went the distance for the Super Eagles in the 1-0 loss to the Ivory Coast.
Danny Shittu, Watford
The massive defender also went a full 90 in the loss to Ivory Coast, and will be expected to up his performance if the Super Eagles want to escape the group stages.
Youssef Safri, Southampton
The ex-Coventry and Norwich midfielder adds depth and European experience to the Atlas Lions lineup, and went 90 minutes in their 5-1 romp over Namibia.
The massive Watford defender also went a full 90 in the loss to Ivory Coast, and will be expected to up his performance if the Super Eagles want to escape the group stages.
In addition to the three players from the CCC, a number of players also can be found on pitches in the lower leagues:
Angola: Rui Marques, Leeds United
Benin: Romauld Boco, Accrington Stanley
Ghana: Junior Agogo, Nottingham Forest
In terms of the play itself I was impressed by Ghana in the opening match, despite the fact that the pitch had longer grass then the Serengeti, the Black Stars were still able to ping the ball around with relative ease and hit the woodwork three times before breaking through.
Morocco also did well to pound minnows Namibia, and it could have been much worse than 5-1.
Egypt has also just finished up a 4-2 rout of tourney favorites Cameroon, which was certainly unexpected.
Personally, I am going with Senegal to sneak a tournament victory, the golden generation that took out France and went to the quarterfinals in the 2002 WC mixing with the new blood just in time to take the cup!
Senegal stuns France in Match 1 of 2002 Copa Mundial
1. Kevin Phillips, WBA-16
2. Michael Mifsud, Coventry-15
3. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Plymouth/Wolves- 13
4. James Beattie, Sheffield Utd- 13
5. Andy Gray, Burnley- 13
6. Clinton Morrison, Crystal Palace- 12
7. Ricardo Fuller, Stoke- 12
8. Martin Paterson, Scunthorpe- 11
9. Marlon King, Watford- 11
10. Pablo Counago, Ipswich- 10
For me the most impressive name on the list is Ricardo Fuller of Stoke City; the fact that he is banging them is basically why the Potters are currently laughing in 4th position.
Kevin Phillips isn’t too much of a surprise, although he is certainly on the wrong side of his prime, so that he leads the list is a bit of a nice surprise for Baggies fans.
The other names are more or less usual suspects, but Michael Mifsud’s legendary performances in the Sky Blues cup run certainly deserve special mention. Enjoy these crackers from the Maltese marauder as the Sky Blues demolished Man Utd:
The pick of the bunch in terms of results surely has to be Colchester’s shock 2-1 result over Charlton. The U’s currently lie in the relegation places and a win over 5th placed Charlton will certainly boost spirits around Layer Road.
Tuesday’s Other Results:
Blackpool 3 Burnley 0
Bristol City 2 Coventry 1
Cardiff 1 Plymouth 0
Palace 1 Norwich 1
Ipsqich 2 West Brom 0
QPR 3 Leicester 1
Scunthorpe 2 Barnsley 2
Wednesday 2 PNE 1
Watford 3 Southampton 0
Hull 1 Stoke 1
Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
Also- as many of you know at this point, Motherwell skipper and former Wednesday player Phil O’Donnell passed away during their match with Dundee United on December 29th. A model professional and a wonderful family man, he will be sorely missed by the footballing world.
Rest in Peace Phil
(O’Donnell scoring in the 1991 Scottish Cup Final for Motherwell)
Hopefully you all got just what you wanted for Christmas, which was without doubt this fine effort from Norwich City circa 1994. And I hope everyone will also enjoy the annual Boxing Day bash when just about every football team in England suits up and takes to the pitch.
No huge surprises in the table at Christmas time, although Bristol City has maintained their playoff form, and a resurgent Stoke side now sits pretty in 4th spot.
At the other end of the table, Leicester manager Ian Holloway will be enjoying the coal he has gotten in his stocking as the Foxes occupy 22nd position, the last of the relegation spots. Former club Plymouth may be in bit more festive mood as they sit in 8th spot.
Quite an entertaining fixture list in the CCC on the 26th, some highlights include:
West Brom v Bristol City
Hull v Wolves
Sheff Utd v Blackpool
Plymouth v QPR
As discussed previously, and quite unfortunately, the British Home Office had ordered Watford winger Al Bangura to return to his native Sierra Leone.
The case received much publicity in the UK and abroad, as it has been rare that a person of such profile as a Championship footballer was faced with deportation. Especially considering the fact that Bangura has an English wife, a newborn child, and is generally in good standing as a citizen, this was quite a shock to many.
The one thing I have seemed to miss in all of this (and excuse my ignorance if it has been reported), but exactly why has the Home Office ordered his deportation? Was it simply a case of a permit expiring? Surely then this could have been brought to Watford’s attention earlier that this could potentially happen, and they could have taken steps to renew the permit.
Watford supporters let it be known exactly how they felt on Saturday, December 15th when they held aloft placards of Bangura’s face with the words ‘He’s Family’ printed on them, during a half time protest.
All in all, it was a ludicrous decision on the part of the Home Office, and perhaps best framed by Hornets manager Aidy Boothroyd: “We thought we could put our faith in British justice but obviously not. We have to keep trying everything we can to make sure he stays”.
It seems that the common sense Boothroyd was looking for may prevail in due time. The H.O. has agreed to allow Bangura to remain in the UK while they review his case, which is a drastic improvement on last week, when a return to his stricken west-African nation seemed imminent. Let’s hope that all works out and he can continue on in the Coca Cola Championship, and more importantly, with his life as a father and husband in the UK.
Holloway to Foxes:
Ian Holloway made the move up to Leicester City, leaving behind a Plymouth squad currently in solid position at 8th place in the table (ahem, 12 places ahead of the Foxes). Not sure how I feel about this one. Holloway is quite hilarious, and Plymouth seemed like a good fit, away from the pressure and media glare of any of the big clubs. Can’t argue with the fact that he is probably in a much better place financially.
Coventry in Financial Woes
Ian Dowie led CCFC has hit some rough times in terms of finances, and talks to insolvency have haunted the corridors of the Ricoh Arena. They now have a ten day deadline for a takeover to go through before they go into administration and are docked 10 points, dropping them into the relegation zone.
I think what surprises me the most about the table is not Bristol City hanging on in the playoff places, but the decline of QPR. Coping with Ray Jones’ death surely must be a tremendous burden, but with new ownership and managment, as well as the signing of Scott Sinclair, some sunshine did come to Loftus Road. Their slip to last in the table has darkened the sky however, but I will be rooting for the super hoops to lift themselves out.