When former player Jonathan Woodgate was named as Middlesbrough's new manager in the summer, the decision was met with some skepticism from Boro fans. On one hand, Woodgate is one of their own. The defender grew up supporting his local side and spent three years in his boyhood club's academy before being snapped up by Leeds United. Woodgate went onto carve out a positive reputation in England, playing a huge part in Leeds’ European success before spells with Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur, eventually returning to Boro in the later stages of his career.
Now in charge of the side he supported and played for, Woodgate is struggling to cope with the pressures in his first managerial role. Many expected the side from the North East to be challenging the play-off places, yet Boro sit 21st in the league with just two wins to their name and there’s very little excitement surrounding the club.
On Saturday, an attendance of just over 20,000 piled into the Riverside Stadium and watched Boro suffer a 1-0 defeat at the hands of league leaders West Bromwich Albion. Despite an improved performance from Woodgate’s men the obvious problem still looms over his side. Boro’s attack have managed just 11 goals this season, a record better than only than only Barnsley and Wigan Athletic.
Fans seem to be willing to give Woodgate time. His history with the club of course helps, but fans are more keen to vent their anger at the club’s hierarchy rather than the gaffer. However, results have to improve if Woodgate is to last the season.
Charlton continue to defy the odds
Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic surprised everyone with their superb start to the season. The Addicks found themselves unbeaten after the first six games despite being the pre-season favourites for relegation. Their good start was stalled however as they lost the next two games. Subsequently, many expected them to fade off and live up to pre-season expectations. However, since then they have recorded victories over Leeds United and a draw against Fulham before this weekend thumping Derby County 3-0.
An early goal for Macauly Bonne gave Charlton a 1-0 lead going into half time and the victory was complete with second-half goals from Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr and Conor Gallagher. Phillip Cocu’s Derby were limited to just two shots on target all game, despite having 62% possession.
The home side now sit seventh in the table, just four points of the top spot. Whilst fans and teams alike keep continue to discount Charlton, Lee Bowyer’s side look stronger and stronger in the face of opposition sides with higher wage bills and stronger squad on paper. How far can the Addicks go this season and can they continue to defy the odds?
Derby County and Phillip Cocu continue to struggle
On the other side of the result at The Valley, Derby suffered just their third loss of the season, a record which you’d expect should see them in the play-offs. However, Phillip Cocu’s side sit 15th in the table and can point to just three wins as the reason for that.
Troubles off the field have recently masked performances on the pitch, yet Saturday’s result is sure to catch the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Whilst they dominated the possession stats, Derby failed to cause any real problems for Charlton and thus remain lingering in the bottom half. Cocu has a squad built for a play-off challenge but have so far been underwhelming. With captain Richard Keogh out for the season, it’s hard to tell if Derby will be able to overturn their poor start to the season.
Are Stoke’s fortunes beginning to turn?
Nathan Jones' Stoke City have been one of the main stories so far this Championship season. Until the last week before the international break, the Potters sat rock bottom of the league without a win in the opening ten games. The found their first victory of the season against Swansea City and thus entered the week interlude with newfound hope that things could turnaround.
On Saturday the bet365 Stadium welcomed a tough test in Scott Parker's Fulham side who were looking to bounce back from a disappointing draw against Charlton. However, it was the home side who left with a smile on their face. Academy product Tyrese Campbell gave Stoke the lead before Lee Gregory converted from the spot late on to seal three points.
Post-match scenes saw a jubilant Jones clench his fists and punch the air in front of the Stoke City faithful. The expression on the Welshman’s face released the stresses of the previous unrewarding weeks as he passionately accepted the praise from the joyous home fans.
Two wins from two for Stoke may suggest their fortunes are beginning to turn, however, it’s a long way to go if Stoke are to make anything of this season.
The championship remains as unpredictable As ever
Before this weekend’s fixtures began, it looked to be a fairly predictable week in the Championship.
Wrong. Yet again the second tier threw up results no one expected. Currently bottom of the league Barnsley managed to find a point against third in the league Swansea City, Charlton battered Derby, Luton Town smashed Bristol City 3-0, an unimpressive Reading got all three points against play-off hopefuls Preston North End, Stoke overturned Fulham, Brentford came from two down to beat Millwall 3-2, and Nottingham Forest found themselves on the wrong end of the result away at Wigan Athletic
The teams in and around the top six failed to beat their lower league opponents, once again proving just how difficult it is to predict the Championship. Just nine points separate top of the table and 12th, meaning once again this season will be impossible to call.