News and views from the Football League – Pantomime season is over

The start of another year is upon us which means that the football season has reached its half way point. The tradition at the start of the New Year is of course to make a new years resolution, a change for the better for the future. Resolutions may be hard to come by in football, but it certainly seems as though some figures are going to get a new start in 2010.

A new start is perhaps what was needed at Preston. Alan Irvine had seen his side make steady progress and it looked as if the Lilywhites would be well set for another crack at the charge for promotion this season. However, a steady if unspectacular start to the season, coupled with a run up to Christmas which has seen them drop to as low as 16th in the table meant that the board saw imperative action as a necessity. With this in mind, Irvine will start 2010 afresh, looking for new employers. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and just as one door has closed for Irvine, another has opened for highly rated Darren Ferguson. The son of Sir Alex has been out of work since his departure from Peterborough in November. This decision was announced as one of ‘mutual consent’ however it didn’t appear that everybody was entirely happy with the parting of ways.

It was even suggested that Ferguson already had another club lined up to take charge of. This came to nothing in the end but the Scot has still been linked with many clubs yet it is Preston where he has finally been tempted to put pen to paper on a three-and-a-half-year deal. Ferguson’s record at Peterborough speaks for itself. He has earned his opportunity with a bigger club and it wouldn’t have surprised many if he’d ended up with a Premiership club. Many managers have achieved less but still been rewarded with such an opportunity. Successive promotions and a win percentage of over fifty per cent with Posh has shown that Ferguson junior may well be laying the foundations to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Of course January is the season for transfers as clubs are allowed to do business in order to improve their squads whilst perhaps also getting rid of some deadwood. One player to watch out for is Jermaine Beckford. The highly rated Leeds striker added another gold star to his record with the winning goal as the League One side dumped Manchester United out of the F.A. Cup in the third round. The match itself was very much a victory for the team as a whole, but the undoubted hero of the day was Beckford, and with a number of clubs rumoured to be after his signature, including Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Bolton, don’t be surprised to see Leeds cash in this month.

Another player to keep an eye on is Sheffield United defender Matthew Kilgallon. Highly rated by the Blades, the defender has long been monitored by potential suitors and his club have already refused one approach for his services. Interestingly in Kilgallon’s case, both player and agent have moved to quash transfer speculation regarding a January transfer, citing that United could find them themselves back in the Premiership next season, and that circumstances would be reassessed in the summer. However, we all know that nothing is guaranteed in football and that whatever is said is not necessarily gospel. With Kilgallon regarded as one of the hottest properties outside of the English top flight, watch this space.

Now pantomime season may be over but it seems as if some interesting stories are still circulating in the English game. None more so funny is the rumour that Neil Warnock could be appointed as the new manager of Sheffield Wednesday. Now at first glance this story is completely ludicrous. Warnock is presently doing a fine job under tight financial constraints with Crystal Palace. Wednesday on the other hand currently occupy a place in the Championship drop zone. Why would Warnock want to move clubs given the clubs respective league positions? There is also the simple fact that Warnock is not only a former Sheffield United manager, he is also a life-long supporter of the Blades. Surely he could never come to the rescue of the enemy?

A closer look at the situation might show a different picture however. Warnock has little to work with at Palace, with the Eagles struggling financially, potentially forcing the sale of their better players this month. Wednesday need a new face to inject the necessary fighting spirit to avoid the drop into League One. Would there be many better candidates than Warnock in this instance? The simple truth however, is that Warnock will not be moving to take charge of the Hillsborough side. A man of strong convictions and one who holds the utmost respect for the traditions of football, there is no way that he could betray his loyalty to the Blades. Warnock has also implied that his employment with Palace would see him through to retirement. Of course there have been some great surprises in football, but it seems unlikely that Warnock is about to add to the list.

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