Five things we learned from week three of the Championship
Game by game, the Championship and race to be in the Premier League ahead of next season’s TV bonanza is slowly taking shape. What have we learned from the latest round of matches? Coral football experts look at five things…
Who among us saw Sean Dyche smashing the Turf Moor transfer record for Brentford striker Andre Gray? Previously paying a top-price £3m for Scottish duo Steven Fletcher (2009, now with Sunderland via a spell at Wolves) and George Boyd last summer, the latest Clarets capture cost a cool £9m.
Previous interest in Gray from Bristol City and Hull City makes Burnley, 5/1 to be promoted, something of a left-field destination for him, especially considering the strict financial prudence that governs the east Lancashire outfit.
Splashes on other personnel, including right back Matt Lowton and Belgian striker Jelle Vossen, added to their Gray gambit puts Clarets summer spending at around £15m.
Such sums are a definite departure from the previously frugal, almost thrifty, fashion in which Burnley have balanced their books. Will Dyche’s decisions pay off?
In the last edition of this increasingly regular feature, we touched upon how teams cannot buy the Championship title in the ways that recent Premier League champions Chelsea and Manchester City have been accused.
Derby County, the pre-season promotion (now 11/4) and outright winner favourites (out to 9/1), spent heavily to back new head coach Paul Clement, but have drawn all four of their league outings to date. A third successive 1-1 draw at Midlands rivals Birmingham City saw three Rams summer signings (Darren Bent, Tom Ince an Andreas Weimann) all hit the post.
Whether you believe in footballing gods or see soccer as a false idol, everyone admits that is desperately unlucky. County’s play-off final pain in 2014 and the way they ran out of steam under Steve McClaren last season were also evidence of how the players are all soldiers of fortune.
West Ham United co-chairman David Sullivan was rather outspoken this week when describing QPR striker and rumoured Hammers target Charlie Austin on a fans podcast.
“Firstly, we haven’t got £15m to spend under the fair play rules. Secondly, he failed a medical at Hull a couple of years ago,” said Sullivan of Austin.
“They say he has no ligaments in his knee, who knows? To sign a £15m player is a big risk. He could go on for years, but knowing our luck his knee will go in his first game and that’s the end of it.”
Outraged by these controversial comments, Austin hit back in a statement: “I feel I have no option but to address the inaccurate, misleading and uninformed innuendo. It is one of a number of inaccurate reports about my so-called injury problems made over the summer.
“For the record, there is nothing wrong with my ‘ligaments’, as has been suggested. I am fit, strong and looking forward to Saturday’s home game against Rotherham.”
Austin duly bagged a brace, taking his seasonal tally to four and making him Championship top scorer from as many matches, at Loftus Road against the Millers. QPR are 5/1 to go up.
Scourge is an overused term to describe players that develop scoring habits against certain clubs, but journeyman striker Stephen Dobbie (not to be confused with former City Ground flop Scott Dobie) cost Nottingham Forest a win at Bolton Wanderers.
Previously punishing the East Midlands outfit in two play-off campaigns with Blackpool and Swansea City, his late leveller denied Dougie Freedman victory over his former side. QPR’s 4-2 victory over Rotherham, couple with a last-gasp draw courtesy of Tricky Trees menace Dobbie, moved the Trotters off the bottom, but they’re still 2/1 for the drop.
Unlikely table toppers Tractor Boys and Brighton meet next
In previous editions and Championship features, we’ve touched on the shoestring nature of Ipswich Town boss Mick McCarthy’s budget and how Brighton and Hove Albion have emerged as the early season surprise package.
Tied together atop the Championship table on 10 points apiece and two ahead of Charlton Athletic, these two overachieving sides meet in Suffolk on August Bank Holiday weekend.
For the hosts, it presents the perfect opportunity for last term’s Tractor Boys top scorer and leading Championship marksman Daryl Murphy to open his account for the new campaign, as he has a fantastic record against the Seagulls.
While the Republic of Ireland international is getting his sharpness back, McCarthy’s men are sharing the goal burden with Bournemouth loanee Ryan Fraser their match winner at Preston North End. Ipswich are now 6/1 to be champions.
Kazenga LuaLua, meanwhile, is leading Brighton’s bid to better a survival scrap this season, and these two in-form wingers will be vital in determining the destiny of the points when Chris Hughton’s Seagulls, 3/1 for promotion, visit Portman Road.