It is hard to believe that we are already approaching the half way point of the season. With this in mind, it seems an apt time to take stock of the season thus far.
November’s Manager of the Month awards have been dished out this week and in truth it is hard to disagree with those who have been honoured. Beginning with the Championship, there could really only be one winner. Newcastle United are expected to make an immediate return to the Premier League. With their much publicised off-field problems, it would not have been a complete surprise to see them struggle for a second successive season. With this in mind, can anybody really argue that Chris Hughton does not deserve this award?
This is in fact the third time this season that Hughton has picked up this accolade, after his efforts were rightly recognised in August and September. November has seen the Magpies go from strength to strength, picking up four victories in their four league fixtures. Such a record is of course not unheard of in football, but it is certainly a run of form worthy of recognition. As has been mentioned across the entire footballing media, life at Newcastle United hardly seems stable from an outsider’s perspective, and so their continued improvement takes on a greater significance. Hughton appears to be working in a very uncertain environment. He simply cannot have enough praise heaped upon him.
The award for League One has gone to Huddersfield boss Lee Clark and despite a defeat last week away to Swindon, it seems hard to dispute the decision. Clark has led the Yorkshire side to three league and two cup victories, scoring 17 goals in the process. Not a bad return for a months work it would seem.
Clark spent much of his playing career with Newcastle and it seems no coincidence that he has injected a similar playing style into the Terriers. This writer had the pleasure to be at the Galpharm Stadium this month to see Clark’s men demolish Wycombe by an unanswered six goals. Of course, the opposition are struggling this term and they certainly were not on their game on this occasion. However, Huddersfield put on a footballing master class, tearing the Chairboys apart with crisp passing and some lightning quick counter attacking play. Put simply, they were a delight to watch, an example of how every fan would like to see their side play. More of the same form Clark’s men and they would seem a safe bet to be in the promotion shake up come May.
League Two’s award has been given to Ronnie Moore of Rotherham United. Moore was a great success during his previous spell in charge of the Millers and he was an incredibly popular successor to Mark Robins, following his departure to Barnsley. With Moore’s men remaining in the hunt for automatic promotion, it seems as if he is picking up from where he left off before.
November saw Moore’s side pick up three league victories whilst also overcoming a potential banana skin in the FA Cup as they saw off non-league Wealdstone. Presently, they find themselves occupying an automatic promotion spot. The Yorkshire men look set to mount a serious challenge for the title this season, as they seek to put their recent problems behind them. Last season saw the Millers crippled by a points deduction, rendering any thoughts of a promotion challenge as merely wishful thinking. This time around, Moore has continued the good work started by Robins. With players such as Adam Le Fondre finding the back of the net with welcome regularity, Rotherham can look forward to the rest of the season with great optimism.
There is of course the threat of a dip in form following these awards. The so-called “curse” of the Manager of the Month award has had its way with many a manger in seasons gone by. Seemingly riding the crest of a wave, teams will often find their efforts rightly rewarded, only for their fine run of form to come crashing to a halt. Of course it is merely a coincidence. It would be foolish to suggest that there is some form of witchcraft at play in the Football League. That said, do not be surprised to see fans of Newcastle, Huddersfield and Rotherham clinging to their four leaf clovers in the coming days.