Wassall is doing it the Derby way
When I reviewed the Championship on Monday last week, I was just about to publish the article when news came through that Rotherham had dispensed with the services of manager Neil Redfearn. I don’t think we could have guessed at the time that they would replace him with another former Leeds manager called Neil or that soon after we’d see the dismissal of Paul Clement at Derby.
That other Neil is, of course, Warnock. He’s gone into the New York Stadium for the rest of the season with Rotherham becoming the eleventh different Football League club that he’s managed. He kicked off his latest job with a 0-0 home draw against Birmingham and he’ll be at the Turf this Saturday. They are struggling though and are now five points from safety, but more of that relegation scrap later.
I have to admit to being flummoxed later last Monday. I’ve been watching football now for over 55 years and I learned something over a week ago that I’d never previously worked out, that winning promotion isn’t a priority.
I’d always believed that your target had to be the best you could be in terms of league placing. That means trying to win the top division or, if below, aiming for promotion. So what a surprise when Derby owner Mel Morris confirmed that promotion is not a priority for Derby despite the fact that they are outspending most clubs, if not all, in the Championship.
Apparently it’s all about playing the Derby way. Is that the negative approach they had for years under Nigel Clough or blowing up under Steve McClaren?
Derby reported they were saddened to announce the departure of Clement (I bet they were). Morris said: “We are grateful for the contribution Paul has made to the football club but the time is right to make a change.
“When Paul joined us last year we worked with him to develop a plan for the club which we asked him to embrace. It was clear in this plan, which was briefed to supporters, players, sponsors and all our stakeholders last summer that promotion this season was not a primary target.”
I’m hoping very much now that Derby will stand aside and allow those for whom promotion is a target to move upwards. They certainly got off to a good start with that plan. Darren Wassall has been given the job until the end of the season and he kicked off the plan by losing at home 1-0 against MK. They are still sixth, but one more defeat could see Birmingham, Ipswich or even Cardiff knocking on the door to get into the play-off positions.
I think most people know I don’t have too much of a soft spot for the franchise in Milton Keynes but they were close to doing us a massive favour last Tuesday when they faced Middlesbrough. Had the referee been playing fair, according to the ranting Karl Robinson after the game, they’d have beaten Boro but had to settle for a point.
Middlesbrough, surprisingly I think, are having a struggle right now in trying to win games. Having won five successive games up to a 1-0 win at Brentford on 12th January, they’ve now gone five without a win including last night’s 0-0 draw at Leeds that saw Ben Gibson sent off to add to their woes.
To be fair, a draw at Leeds has to be a good result because Leeds are a very big club, or so their fans try to tell everyone. They were protesting again last night against owner Massimo Cellino. I think he’s doing a cracking job.
Middlesbrough are now second in the table; Hull are top and have won five of their last six games, the one defeat coming at Burnley a week last Saturday. They won 2-0 at Blackburn last Saturday and that takes us nicely back to that relegation battle.
Joining Rotherham in the bottom three are Charlton and Bolton who have one and two points less than Rotherham respectively. There is then a five point jump to the next clubs. Bristol City and MK, both winners on Saturday, have moved up to 31 points, joining Blackburn who are currently on a slide that should be thoroughly enjoyed by Clarets.
They haven’t won since two weeks before Christmas with the natives getting a bit restless at the style of play and the results under Paul Lambert. It’s nine games now without a win that has seen them win just four points. I’m not getting too excited for now, but it is good fun.
Sheffield Wednesday are certainly ones to watch. They had the biggest win of the weekend when they hit four past Brentford. These two teams are at opposite ends of the table on current form. Wednesday have won 17 points since the start of 2016, the best in the division (and we are next with 15 along with Hull). Brentford’s return of four points is better only than the three points won by Blackburn and Derby.
It’s all stats based at Brentford. What they do is get rid of the best manager they’ve had in years and sell their best players. It’s working a treat. They’ve just conceded seven goals in their last two games; I saw the previous 3-0 defeat at Brighton and they looked a shocking side.
Last weekend saw the closest Football League derby of the season. Loftus Road and Craven Cottage are just under three miles apart and no league fixture will be played this season between two clubs so close together.
I bet QPR wish the games weren’t being played at all. They lost 4-0 at Fulham back in September when both Jamie Mackie and Charlie Austin suffered hamstring injuries. They even had disciplinary problems when Tjaronn Chery was substituted and walked away and cleared off. I’m not sure whether he left the ground but he was disciplined for his actions by then manager Chris Ramsey.
This time, in the return fixture at Loftus Road, Chery scored in the first minute of stoppage time. The only problem was that it was their only goal of the afternoon whilst Fulham scored three times in the last ten minutes of the first half. It’s just two wins so far for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at QPR whilst this was just a second win in charge of Fulham for Slavisa Jokanovic, the former Watford boss.
Fulham are back in action tonight against Blackburn and there’s a big game at the top of the league when Hull face Brighton. The weekend fixtures are disrupted because of the FA Cup. All those fixtures are below, coming after the list of leading goalscorers.
Andre Gray (Burnley) – including 2 for Brentford
Abel Hernandez (Hull)
Ross McCormack (Fulham)
Fernando Forestieri (Sheffield Wednesday)
Alan Judge (Brentford)
Nick Blackman (Derby) – all 11 for Reading
Jordan Rhodes (Middlesbrough) – including 10 for Blackburn
Nahki Wells (Huddersfield)
Moussa Dembele (Fulham)
Gary Hooper (Sheffield Wednesday)
Benik Afobe (Wolves) – now in Premier League with Bournemouth
Charlie Austin (QPR) – now in Premier League with Southampton
Jonathan Kodjia (Bristol City)
Chris Martin (Derby)
Brett Pitman (Ipswich)
Tuesday 16th February
Blackburn v Fulham
Hull v Brighton
Saturday 20th February
Bolton v QPR
Brentford v Derby
Burnley v Rotherham
Cardiff v Brighton (12:30 kick off)
Fulham v Charlton
Huddersfield v Wolves
MK v Bristol City
Preston v Sheffield Wednesday