Championship progress: Multiple managers working for Watford
Conventional wisdom will tell you having four different men in charge of a football club just a couple of months into the season is a clear sign of crisis. Not so at Watford, who moved top of the Championship, coming from behind at home to Millwall to win 3-1, and are now 13/8 promotion chances with Coral.
Beppe Sannino felt he had taken the Hornets as far as he could, Oscar Garcia fell ill, Billy McKinlay barely got his feet under the desk at Vicarage Road, and now Slavisa Jokanovic has the Hertfordshire side as front runners. The men in the dugout may have changed, but a winning mentality, bankrolled by a squad assembled with the Pozzo family millions from Italy, remains constant.
It almost defies common sense to see Watford top of the pile a third of the way through this 46-game slog with Premier League football an automatic prize for the division winners and runners-up. They are 5/1 chances for the Championship title, with only last term’s beat play-off finalists Derby County and relegated team Norwich City more fancied in the outright and promotion markets.
Hot on the Hornets’ heels are a clutch of five sides within three points of them. This includes second-tier favourites Derby (7/2 for the title and even-money to go up) and Neil Adams’ Norwich (9/2 and 13/10 in those respective markets), who opened this weekend with a much-needed home win over Bolton Wanderers.
Cameron Jerome bagged a brace at Carrow Road, profiting from poor Trotters defending which Neil Lennon must address if he is to meet his new challenge of keeping the Lancashire outfit up.
Bolton are 5/2 for the drop and, like their fellow bottom three sides Birmingham City (6/5) and Blackpool (massive odds-on 1/12 favourites), the worth of changing managers remains to be seen ahead of the festive fixtures congestion coming up.
Gary Rowett got his new job off to a steady start by holding high-flying Wolves (10/3 for promotion) to a goalless West Midlands derby draw at Molineux. This result for Birmingham is a marked improvement on the 8-0 home capitulation that came when they were rudderless following Lee Clark’s dismissal.
Bournemouth (12/5 to go up) handed out that hiding, and followed it up with a double defeat for teams called Albion in the Capital One Cup during midweek and the league. West Brom rang changes and were dumped out of that domestic cup competition 2-0, before Eddie Howe celebrated a hard-fought 3-2 victory over south coast rivals Brighton.
Twice pegged back by Sami Hyypia’s Seagulls, who seem temptingly long at 7/1 for relegation, a stonewall penalty delighted the Dean Court faithful as Cherries fans celebrated climbing into an automatic promotion place.
With an attacking line-up at Howe’s disposal that includes Callum Wilson, Matt Richie, Marc Pugh and Yann Kermorgant (the latter two scoring against Brighton), there is enough in Bournemouth ranks to challenge Watford’s proven Championship strike partnership Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra.
Middlesbrough (15/8) are also in the promotion mix under Jose Mourinho protege Aitor Karanka, while wins for Blackburn Rovers (9/2) and Ipswich Town (8/1) have kept them in touching distance of the top six.
Only early division leaders Nottingham Forest have lost real ground, following dismal recent form. Stuart Pearce’s side are still 6/1 shots to go up but, as much of a coup landing Tom Ince on loan from Hull City was, his defence really needs to tighten up.
Cardiff City’s change of coach has kept controversial owner Vincent Tan quiet, with the Bluebirds taking nine points from a possible dozen under new boss Russell Slade. The Welsh capital club are now 11/2 chances to make an immediate return to the Premier League.
London clubs Brentford (6/1) and Charlton Athletic (11/1) can hold ambitions of top six finishes yet, although there’s no runaway leaders of the Championship this term, the aforementioned 10 teams look most likely to be there at the business end.
A completed takeover at Reading (20/1 to go up) may see them exercise financial muscle mid-winter, while Fulham (10/1) will back new boss Kit Symons with funds for the January sales, so we can expect the promotion picture to be unpredictable.