It’s amazing how quickly time can pass us by. Summer is now a distant memory, football is very much a part of our lives and routines again.
Up and down the country, the same conversations are making their way around the terraces: “This will be our year” , “We won’t win anything with him in charge.” Do these sound familiar? It’s because the same things are said year in, year out all across the country and this season is no different.
So with the season now over 3 months old, the League tables are starting to take shape and supporters and club officials will be able to outline their realistic expectations for the rest of the season. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the winners and losers of the season so far. Which clubs are exceeding expectations, punching above their weight so to speak? Conversely, which clubs promised great things during pre-season and thus far have not delivered? Now of course this is all a matter of opinion, but here are some options:
Newcastle United: With the farcical off the field goings on in the North-East, any assault on the top of the Championship has to be seen as a success. Of course, not all teams manage to bounce back to the Premiership at the first attempt and there is still a lot of hard work ahead for the Magpies, but they have rarely looked under pressure on the pitch this season and so there is every reason to expect that they will still sit atop the table come May.
Leicester City: Not long ago the Foxes were entertaining the big boys in the Premier League regularly. They have taken a mighty fall since then, but now appear to be well on their way to changing that with Nigel Pearson at the helm. The former assistant manager at Newcastle led City back into the Championship by winning the League One title last season. Many would agree that Leicester is too big a side to be playing below the Championship, but regardless of club size, any side should first be aiming for survival following a promotion. Barring a collapse of absolutely catastrophic proportions, Pearson’s men have already achieved this and as they currently occupy a play-off position, don’t rule out a second successive promotion.
Dagenham and Redbridge: A club many tipped for a swift return to the Conference when they arrived in the Football League, the Daggers continue to surprise us and deserve all the praise they get. John Still’s side narrowly missed out on the play-offs last season and after losing key players over the summer, few expected they would have another high-flying season in them. As the table stands however, the East London side hold the top spot, above the money of Notts County and the strength of teams such as Bournemouth. Long may their good form continue.
Reading: Steve Coppell left somewhat of a legacy with the Royals and so far Brendan Rogers has been unable to fill his shoes. The Berkshire club haven’t made a swift return to the top flight, and this season look more likely to make an exit from the Championship in the wrong direction. Reading are a side with a big fan base and will want improvements rapidly. If they continue to struggle however, they could easily become the latest former Premiership side to take a tumble down the leagues.
Peterborough United: Undoubtedly one of the success stories of recent seasons, Posh have come a long way in a very short space of time under Darren Ferguson. Their slow start to the season however, has seen the Scot leave London Road, with the club currently propping up the table in the Championship. It would of course be harsh to say it’s all doom and gloom for the side from Cambridgeshire however. The reality is that they are still a much smaller club than most in the second tier: a small fish in a big ocean so to speak. Perhaps they have achieved too quickly, and last season was a promotion too soon. A new manager brings new ideas however, and Peterborough’s season may be about to turn.
Ultimately, we could evaluate every club and assess how happy they will be thus far, but in truth it matters little. What really counts is where each club will finish the season in May. For many, expectations will have been met. Others will have to write off the year as one of failure and no progress, whilst many fans will be toasting their heroes for their efforts. The mystery of it all however, keeps us interested and will always bring us back for more.