Five things we learned from the Championship’s opening weekend
The new football season got off to a flyer, and the race to get into the Premier League is already underway. It’s what every Championship club dreams of, and already there have been setbacks and a sacking.
Coral experts reflect on a memorable opening weekend with five things we’ve learned about one of the world’s toughest divisions to get out of.
Relegated teams have it tough
None of Cardiff City, Fulham or Norwich City, the three sides that came down from the top-flight last term, managed to record opening weekend victories. Whilst you cannot win the Championship on matchday one, you can certainly contribute towards losing it, or failing in the ultimate aim of promotion back.
Cardiff, under Manchester United super-sub legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, kicked things off with a 1-1 draw away to Blackburn Rovers. Kenwyne Jones headed the Bluebirds, who were pre-season title favourites, in front, only for Tom Cairney to rifle in a worthy equaliser. As a result of dropping two points, Coral have lengthened Cardiff’s odds of taking the title to 10/1.
Fulham manager Felix Magath has brought about sweeping changes at Craven Cottage this summer, but the new broom hardly helped them away to Ipswich Town. Mick McCarthy’s men survived a nervy finish to win 2-1 but, until a lucky deflection took a Tim Hoogland shot past Dean Gerken, the hosts had looked in firm command through goals from front two Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick.
Magath spent £11m on proven Championship marksman Ross McCormack, but the Scotland star looked way off the pace after struggling with injury in pre-season. Replacement Patrick Roberts and fellow sub Thomas Eisfeld, a cross-capital recruit from Arsenal, showed glimpses of potential for the Londoners, though. Fulham are now 4/1 to be promoted.
Neil Adams still waiting for a win
Norwich managerial novice Neil Adams is still waiting to taste victory after six competitive matches in charge of the Canaries. The East Anglia outfit went down 1-0 at Wolves thanks to Dave Edwards’ header, and their problems in front of goal from last season continued. Mustering just one shot on target in the whole match, left travelling Norwich supporters scratching their heads at Adams’ tactical set-up.
Operating with a midfield diamond, despite the inclusion of genuine wide players Elliott Bennett and Nathan Redmond in unfamiliar roles made little sense. Neither did leaving summer signing Kyle Lafferty on the bench, but he did get a late cameo following Martin Olsson’s sending off. Norwich remain at 3/1 to be promoted, though Adams must start winning soon if that ambition is to be realised.
Bournemouth and Watford lay down markers
Comprehensive victories on the opening day can be misleading; just look at the way Arsenal responded by losing at home to Aston Villa in last season’s Premier League. That being said, however, Championship also rans from 2013/14, Bournemouth and Watford, crushed Huddersfield Town and Bolton Wanderers respectively.
The Hornets are 10/3 to go up, and that looks a real possibility if they can keep prolific strike partnership Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra together again. Cherries coach Eddie Howe, meanwhile, is 11/2 to bring top-flight football to Dean Court, and is already getting the best out of summer signing Callum Wilson.
Mark Robins axed by Huddersfield Town
On the other hand, that 4-0 Bournemouth victory cost Terriers boss Mark Robins his job. Sacking a manager after just one game seems excessive, but Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle was just as ruthless with predecessors Simon Grayson, firing him after promotion from League One, and Lee Clark, who failed to get Town out of the third tier.
Terriers academy boss Mark Lillis is once again in caretaker charge then, but assistant manager Steve Thompson is the 6/4 favourite to land his first full-time position after joining Huddersfield from Blackpool’s back-room this summer. Coventry City coach Steven Pressley (11/2) and former Leeds United boss Brian McDermott (6/1) are also linked to the vacancy.
Dave Hockaday losses league management bow
Controversially appointed Leeds head coach Dave Hockaday claims he “belongs in the Championship” despite losing his first ever game in charge of a Football League side. The former Forest Green Rovers boss presided over a 2-0 Whites away defeat at Millwall. Odds on Leeds being relegated have now been shortened to 13/5.