The English Championship is usually a tight league but the early signs of this season show it to be the closest one yet with two points separating first to eighth place in the table. The early season table toppers are Norwich City managed by former player Neil Adams. In recent weeks, they have drawn a few games and seem to concede goals before they are fired into action. However, with striker Cameron Jerome in the side, they have a real goal threat with six goals in six games for the Canaries.
Nottingham Forest are one of only two sides after the first 11 games with an unbeaten record. Financial backing was given to new boss Stuart Pearce in the summer, where acquisitions such as the league’s top goalscorer Britt Assombalonga was brought in from Peterborough for £5million. Forest have already scored 12 goals at home this season and have turned the City Ground into a fortress. However a run of four straight draws against sides they should be beating has people doubting their title winning ambitions.
Two of the biggest shocks so far come in the bottom three of the table with Bolton Wanderers and Fulham floundering in 24th and 22nd position respectively. Fulham, who spent £11 million on striker Ross McCormack in the summer, didn’t register a win until eight games in. Felix Magath has now been replaced by Kit Simmons on a temporary basis at the club and they are playing a lot better under him and look to be slowly pulling themselves away from trouble. With the likes of McCormack, Hugo Rodallega and Bryan Ruiz in the squad, they should have the quality to at least finish mid-table this year and start afresh next season.
Bolton on the other hand are on a run of four straight losses and confidence is at rock bottom after sacking manager Dougie Freedman last week. With Jermaine Beckford up front and an experienced back line, they really shouldn’t be bottom of the table and it remains to be seen whether they will be able to improve on past results.
The three sides promoted from League One last season are all fitting in well to life in the second tier of English football and none of these teams seem to be really struggling. Wolverhampton Wanderers have been inspired by the forward duo of Dicko and Sako and sit only two points off top spot and out of the play-offs on goal difference. It is a current trend that sides come up from one division and go straight up again the next and it wouldn’t be surprising if the men from the Black Country did the same this year and returned to the Premier League after a three-year absence.
Brentford and Rotherham have small budgets compared to the bigger sides in the league, but their team spirit and good home form is keeping them safe in mid-table. Add to that the fact their players are now fully accustomed to the sides in the Championship, and there’s no reason why they can’t continue to pick up points and stay in the league.
The two surprise packages of the season this year have been Ipswich Town at the right end of the table and Wigan Athletic at the wrong end. Ipswich under Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor are the definition of a team and every player on the pitch gives their all for each other, having won five games already this year the Tractor Boys are in the top six and will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. Last season’s play-off semi-finalists Wigan on the other hand really should be doing better. Perched just above the relegation zone in 21st position, Wigan Athletic under Uwe Rosler are without a win in six games and seem to be missing the spark that they had last year in attack. It is yet to be seen whether last season’s heroics in Europe and in the league took their toll on Wigan. If things don’t start picking up soon German manager Rosler’s job will come under scrutiny.
There are many more twists and turns to come in the most exciting and unpredictable league in the world. Who knows if Forest or Norwich will win the league or whether Ipswich or Middlesbrough can secure promotion via the play-offs because at the moment it really is too early to tell and there is always that one team who comes from nowhere and snatches the prize come May.
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