And so our beloved Football League is back with us, and how we have missed it. With the financial constraints at Portsmouth and Hull City, only Burnley are really fancied for an immediate return to the top flight from the Championship, suggesting that we may see a more even playing field in the race for promotion. Indeed, with so many clubs being tipped to make the push this campaign, it was perhaps surprising to see some of the lesser fancied sides grabbing the headlines on the opening day.
Although not necessarily expected to be fighting relegation, Millwall hit the headlines by smashing three unanswered goals past David James and his new Bristol City team mates. Few would have predicted such a score line but it certainly didn’t flatter the Lions, who were good value for their three points. Similarly, Derby County are not yet being tipped for a return to the Premier League, and yet a highly polished performance at Elland Road saw them spoil the party atmosphere in Leeds. Although consecutive promotions will probably be beyond Simon Grayson’s men, Leeds United are expected to perform well this term but they were put to the sword by the Rams, with standout performances coming from Kris Commons the experienced Robbie Savage
Possibly the biggest surprise of the day came at Selhurst Park, where a reborn Crystal Palace side humbled Paulo Sousa’s highly fancied Leicester City with a stunning first-half display. Having finished last season on such an uncertain note, it is fantastic to see Palace just competing in the Championship. Results like this are a bonus, but could also be a sign of more to come from the Eagles. In George Burley they have a vastly experienced manager and having kept hold of Darren Ambrose, if he can repeat his form of last season, Palace may have more reasons to smile over the next nine months.
Plaudits must also go to Roy Keane’s Ipswich Town who upset the odds to record an away victory over title favourites Middlesbrough. The Tractor Boys are being tipped by some to mount a serious promotion challenge this campaign but few would have predicted such an emphatic victory on the opening day. Perhaps this shows us more about Boro, who have invested heavily over the summer with some high profile arrivals from the SPL. The boos rang around the Riverside Stadium at the final whistle and fans on Teeside will no doubt be hoping that this was just a blip.
Of course it would be foolish to draw too many conclusions from the opening day of a season – look at Norwich City last year. Humiliated in front of their home support, they stormed back to be crowned League One champions. It will be fascinating to see how the season develops however. Can Queens Park Rangers retain their table topping position? How quickly will the inevitable Middlesbrough backlash come about? Only time will tell but it certainly seems we are in for an enthralling season in the Championship.