The Championship kicked off this weekend to signal the return of domestic football in England and Wales as Blackburn Rovers drew 1-1 with relegated Cardiff City at Ewood Park on Friday night. The curtain raiser may not have been as thrilling as the Sky cameras were hoping for but the weekend did have some brilliant games in store! Here are 5 things we have learned about the Championship so far:
1. It won’t be easy for the relegated clubs
Cardiff City’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn was in fact the best result of the relegated clubs as Norwich and Fulham both lost their openers. Cardiff led through a Kenwyne Jones header on 18 minutes but a cracker from Tom Crainey from outside the box levelled it just before half time and that is how it would end. Fulham meanwhile were lacklustre in a loss to impressive Ipswich with David McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy sinking the Cottagers. Defender Tim Hoogland did give Fulham a glimmer of hope on 86 minutes but Felix Magath’s team would lose 2-1 and start this season how they finished last, struggling. Norwich were also on the losing side to promoted Wolves as David Edwards headed home in the 1-0 victory for a side who were two tiers lower than the Canaries last season.
2. Bournemouth are ones to watch
Bournemouth were promoted to the Championship in 2013 and were mightily impressive finishing 10th with 22 goals from forward Lewis Grabban. They sold Grabban to Norwich this summer and perhaps some fans were worried if this would signal a tough second season in the division. This weekend would seem to indicate that this is not going to be the case as the Cherries went about dismantling poor Huddersfield Town 4-0 away from home. It took 26 seconds to open the scoring with Marc Pugh netting and then exciting debutant Callum Wilson made it 2-0 after 32 minutes. Yann Kermorgant scored early into the second half before 22 year old Wilson had his second and Bournemouth’s fourth on 64 minutes. Wilson would then go on to miss a penalty and a chance at a hat-trick but even so Eddie Howe’s men sent out a stark warning to the rest of the league!
3. Football is still crazy
I imagine you could bet on who would be the first managerial casualty and how quick that would happen… Did anyone have 1 day into the season and Mark Robbins of Huddersfield Town being the man? 1 day, crazy!! Following the 4-0 lost to Bournemouth Robbins met with the club’s directors and it was decided ‘amicably’ that it would be in the team’s best interests for him to depart. Robbins was in charge for 16 months and took control of 51 games, winning 17 of them. Initially thoughts were that there was something extra behind the departure but a club statement seemed to imply that it was as a result of the loss and the need for a change before the transfer window closes.
4. Blackpool need more players!
Blackpool have had a well documented nightmare of a summer with only 8 professionals and no goalkeeper on the books for large parts of pre-season. With a tour cancelled and new manager Jose Riga feeling very frustrated with life at the Seasiders, Karl Oyston has work to do to keep Blackpool in the league and this means the owner has to invest, no arguments about it. They could only name 4 subs in their 2-0 opening day loss to Nottingham Forest and with a squad completely untested with each other things are still looking grim. There is still time for Blackpool to add some bodies before the window closes and this is vital to survive a punishing 46 game campaign.
5. The promoted clubs could make waves
The Championship is filled with unpredictability and this is shown regularly by sides being promoted from League 1 and often outperforming the relegated Premier League teams. Wolves put Norwich to the sword already this weekend and have high hopes for a strong return to the second tier, even with play-off ambitions in their mind. New-boys Brentford held long term Championship side Charlton Athletic to a 1-1 draw at Griffin Park as former Cardiff man Tommy Smith netted in the 85th minute. Rotherham United were the unfortunate promoted side with last season’s play-off losers Derby County their hosts. They didn’t show themselves up though, it took 82 minutes for the Rams to find a winner, Jeff Hendrick the goalscorer. All 3 teams delivered a strong showing on the opening weekend and none of them will be pushovers over the coming months.