Wednesday 14th October
Hello, and welcome to my Championship blog!
Kicking things off, there is one big surprise from the season so far that stands out and that is seeing my old club Ipswich Town propping up the Championship table. It's strange seeing them down there. No one would have predicted it, especially with Roy Keane in charge.
The large summer turnover of personnel has been problematic. Roy has understandably offloaded a lot of players and brought in a sizeable amount of new buys to replace them and it's taking a while for the new-look side to gel. That's pretty normal I'd say although they will need to get going soon if they are to have any hope of enjoying a decent campaign.
Bad luck has conspired against Keane's team big time too. Several last minute goals have been conceded and the rub of the green has generally been against them from day one. It's a false position they find themselves in though, and in a month's time after three home games and one on their travels I expect to see a lot more points on the board.
Can Ipswich still get promoted? It may sound crazy but I think they can.
In my first season at Portman Road we were in the bottom three after 14 matches but then embarked on a spectacular run which saw us lose just one game in the next 22! A fifth place play-off finish was ours and I can see that happening for the Blues this season too if they get things sorted. Roy has done it before as Sunderland manager remember. He took them from bottom spot to become champions and he could achieve something similar in Suffolk.
The top three are looking in good shape it has to be said and full credit to Newcastle, West Brom and Middlesbrough for adapting so quickly to life in the Championship. It's a different type of football to that which you see in the Premier League and it doesn't suit everyone. Players close you down quicker, teams play a little more direct, and some of the stadiums are far less salubrious than those in the top flight!
As a player you actually run further in the Championship - it's a proven statistic. You clock up more miles in that division than in the Premier League but to counter that, you do less high intensity runs which is also crucial. It's hard to explain but it just feels different.
Squad depth is the key strength that all three relegated sides can boast and there is some excellent quality within their ranks too. They won't be going away in a hurry that's for sure.
However…I don't think that the 'big 3' will dominate the Championship all season long, far from it. It's apparent to me that none of those clubs has what I would describe as a naturally prolific goalscorer. They have excellent forwards no question but nobody who is likely to top the scoring charts - and that could be crucial.
Most successful teams have a natural predator and don't have to rely on a spread of goalscorers as Newcastle, Boro and West Brom seem to be doing so far. It's very rare to see title-winning teams have midfielders as their top goalscorers.
I've lost count of the times managers have told me that any team is 'only as good as their front two' - and for the most part I subscribe to that theory too. That's why I think Cardiff City are in a strong position, as Michael Chopra and Ross McCormack are a particularly potent duo.
One things for sure, it will be yet another exciting Championship season. It's traditionally bunched up and tightly contested and I can't see it being any different this time around.
Watching it all unfold should be a lot of fun.
>>Send in your comments on Matt's blog by clicking here
1. From Ali, Felixstowe:
"Great first blog Matt - looking forward to the next one!"
2. From James:
"I admire your loyalty, not to mention bravery, predicting Ipswich to make the play offs, Matt! We may have turned it around from a similar situation when you were in the team but I think it's asking a lot this time around...Some of Keane's managerial decisions have got to be questioned, none more so than letting the likes of Jordan Rhodes go: it just rubs salt into the wound seeing him going from strength to strength at Huddersfield. Who do you see dropping out of the Championship, if not Ipswich?"