Friday, December 19, 2008

Colaship Review - Half Time Report.

Yeah...I was slack last week. There was no review. Sorry folks. But this week its a bumper edition to satisfy your aching desire for knowledge of what lies beyond the Premier League's cellar door. Besides, if anyone suffered from a lack of a Colaship review last week, it was Bigus. I missed a wonderful opportunity to gloat with many pictures and kind words (finally) about my beloved Norwich City. What's that? I can back-date that boastful gloating? Really? Yay! Norwich 2 Ipswich 0. Who's the pride of Anglia? Norwich..Norwich. Who's the pride of Anglia? Norwich is our name... All together now...

OK, that's enough. Let's get to it. Follow me after the jump for a look at the runners, riders, and crocked one-legged donkeys of the Coca Cola Championship as we reach the half-way point of the season.

Oh dear... How did that get in there? Sorry folks. That was weird.

Right. Onwards we shall go...

The Wolverhampton Wanderers express train to the Premier League is showing no signs of slowing down. At the half-way mark, Wolves have 53 points and they are well on course to bust 100 points and 100 goals. A real rarity. They have lost just one of their last 11 games, the 1-0 defeat to QPR at Loftus Road. Wolves have been nearly men, in and around the playoffs, for the last few years but this year it has all just clicked. Fair play to Mick McCarthy, he has done a super job and the Wolves scouting system has allowed him to nab some real bargains in players who are now coveted by Premier League teams.

But can he hold onto them come January? Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, Andy Keogh and the young keeper Hennessey have many top-flight admirers. If they can keep this pace up after Christmas they will be up by the start of April.

Birmingham City are chugging along nicely. They lost at Preston last weekend and are currently 6 points behind neighbors Wolves, but there is no need to panic. McLeish is no great manager and highly over rated in my opinion but he has a very experienced and talented squad. Before Preston they had lost just one in nine. QPR again! The West Londoners certainly have an eye for beating the top sides. Bongo FC may not gain automatic promotion, I believe that Reading will occupy the second spot come May, but they will be in the play-offs for sure.

I mentioned QPR, so let's discuss them. They have definitely underachieved this season given the amount of new players they have signed. A change of management hasn't made a lot of difference to the West Laaandon team to be honest. Since appointing Paulo Sousa, QPR are still pretty inconsistent. While they have shown they can beat the top teams like Birmingham and Wolves, they have recently lost to Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley and Watford, while drawing with Plymouth and Palace. They will need to find some form if they are to make the play-offs in the second half of the campaign as some of the teams above them are currently flying.

One of those teams is Burnley and what a season they are having. Not only have they dispatched of Fulham, Arsenal and Chelsea in the Carling Cup to reach a semi-final showdown with Spurs, they have been amazing in the colaship. They currently occupy 4th spot in the table, losing just two of their last twelve fixtures. Bloody Burnley have certainly set out their stall for a play-off spot come May.

Burnley mascot 'Stan'. He's a happy chap!

Reading have being going strong this season, they may have had the odd slip up to teams such as Southampton and Preston but they have also scored 48 goals. Only Wolves have scored more. The Royals currently sit in third, one point away from Bongo FC. I can see Reading finishing second leaving Bongo to fight it out with the play-off final hopefuls, such as Burnley, Palace and Sheffield United. Reading have lost just three of their last seventeen games. Impressive indeed.

Where did that come from? Super weird..Oh well.

At the bottom of the table it's tighter than a Wall Street wallet right now. There is just a four point gap from the bottom three to Southampton in 21st and ALL three basement dwellers are on 18 points.

Southampton are in real trouble. Financially they are proper f-cked. The sales of Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale, Chris Baird and Kenwyne Jones to Premier League teams should have helped, but where has the cash gone? This January they will likely be forced to sell the next crop of promising youngsters. Adam Lallana and Andrew Surman will likely be flogged in an effort to balance the books. But, the three million they get for those two will not be close to enough to make a dent in their debt.

The Saints have won just once at St Mary's this season and the crowds are disappearing fast. They have also won just one of their last eight games, beating Reading if you can believe it. I see Southampton following Leeds and Leicester through the League One trap door. They can blame mismanagement at the board room level for this mess and for appointing inexperienced dutch manager Jan Poortvliet, but having an answer to the problems will be of no solace to the suffering Saints fans as money doesn't grow on trees and Jan won't turn into Johan over night.

Adam Lallana. Off in January?

Norwich are currently 5 points from the bottom and have been having a stinker of a year. Awful football and a solid defence was the state of affairs early on and now they are playing tasty football, but couldn't defend a 2-ft goal from a 3-ft beach ball. Still, while the defense is something that can be fixed, the inability to play football and to create and convert chances is something entirely different. Now City have found their attacking feet, a couple of new faces in defence should sort out the back line. City have given up some sloppy goals in recent times and lost games they should have won with suicidal defending. The midfield is in fine form and now Roeder has discovered the five man midfield with Hoolahan excelling in the hole, he should feel confident that the Canaries will start to accumulate points.

Up top, on-loan striker Leroy Lita is probably going to be sold by Reading to a lower-ranked Premiership side, and Antoine Sibierski is returning to Wigan after failing to impress on loan. Carl Cort has signed until the end of the season and if he stays fit, he is a class act. That's a BIG if though, Cort has been plagued by injury in the recent years and he was nearly forced to retire.

City will need to find a forward in January as well as an answer to the injury torn defence. If no Premiership takers come in for Lita he could join City permanently, but I can see West Brom or Stoke snapping him up when the transfer window opens. The league position Norwich City currently find themselves in is a false one for sure and Bigus isn't worried. Norwich will continue to improve throughout the new year and if they can fix the leaky defence and gain some consistency in the defensive selection (there have been seven different center-back partnerships this season), they will finish mid-table.

Oops, I have no idea how this keeps happening!

Charlton, like Southampton, are also in jeopardy of disappearing to the misery of League One. Charlton's support has been terrific this season and even though they are in a relegation dogfight and currently second from bottom, twenty thousand punters stream through the gates weekly. Charlton fired Alan Pardew two weeks ago but interim gaffer Phil Parkinson isn't doing much better. Charlton have not won a game in their last thirteen.

I hope their losing ways continue for another weekend at least as Charlton visit Norwich tomorrow. Charlton had to sell a lot of their best players during the summer but they still have enough in the locker to survive. However I reckon they will need fresh blood on the coaching staff and Phil Parkinson will have to follow Pardew through the front door before things get better at the Valley. Parkinson still represents the Pardew era and change is likely the only way out of the mess they find themselves in.

Forest have been struggling to find the net recently but now that Earnshaw is back they should pick up points. They are in a bit of a false position for me and I can see them climbing out of the bottom three over the next couple of months. They have drawn too many games that they should have won recently and if they can score a few more at home they will be alright.

Bigus' Colaship predictions

1. Wolves
2. Reading

3. Bongo FC
4. Sheffield United
5. Crystal Palace
6. Burnley

22. Southampton
23. Barnsley
24. Doncaster


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