Review of the Football League Championship So Far: Part 3

Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield TownAfter being a dominant side in League One for some time, the Terriers are finally looking to establish themselves in the Championship. Their determination was shown in the ruthless dismissal of manager Simon Grayson in February. Grayson led them to triumph in last season’s play-offs, and even took them as high as sixth in the Championship, but was shown the door after a winless run that lasted 12 games. Although it seemed harsh at the time, it seems understandable considering their recent heartbreak in the League One play-offs that denied them Championship football. Quite fairly, they are determined to seize their opportunity in England’s second tier and should secure their status for another season despite some inconsistent form and the departure of star striker Jordan Rhodes to Blackburn in August. However, their defense must tighten up away from home, as they have conceded an astonishing 42 goals on the road this season, which has contributed to having the worst goal difference in the division.

Hull City

Steve Bruce’s side have been the surprise package of the Championship this year. Despite rarely threatening a promotion push since relegation from the Premier League, they have been one of the leading teams this time round. They have been equally solid both home and away throughout the season, which has kept them in contention for an automatic promotion spot. Like many other teams though, their fate could be heavily impacted by whether Cardiff’s recent slip ups and Watford’s superb form are to continue until the end of the season. Their upcoming games against two of their biggest promotion rivals are likely to be crucial, particularly the home tie against Cardiff on the final game of the season. The fact that their form against the top sides has been varied this season makes the promotion race all the more unpredictable.

Ipswich Town

Ipswich TownSimilarly to Steve Kean at Blackburn, there was no sense of shock when Paul Jewell was axed as manager at Portman Road in October. After struggling for large parts of last season, the Tractor Boys began the season in poor form, collecting just seven points from their opening 12 games, which left Town with little choice but to relieve the former Derby and Wigan manager of his duties. The appointment of former Wolves boss Mick McCarthy revitalized the Suffolk club, vastly improving the team’s fortunes and leading them off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation places. They could be at a major disadvantage in the relegation scrap due to their inferior goal difference, but if they can continue their current form under McCarthy, survival should definitely be achieved. Upcoming games against the likes of Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday could prove vital though.

Leeds United

The expedition to lead one of England’s once most revered teams back to the top flight has showed no signs of simplifying this season. While much of United’s season has been dominated by off the field matters surrounding takeover rumors, an end to the Yorkshire side’s nine year exile from the Premier League is by no means guaranteed. It looks increasingly unlikely that Neil Warnock will be at the club next season, ultimately admitting that he will leave Elland Road if he does not achieve promotion. While the notoriously outspoken Warnock’s relationship with the club was always likely to be a talking point, many might consider that a little harsh. A play-off spot is not out of the question for Leeds, and they have been in impressive form at home throughout the season. But it has essentially been their away form which has prevented them excelling further, picking up just three wins on their travels: the joint lowest in the league. Whatever the outcome of this season, an important summer lies ahead for Leeds to bring some much needed stability both on and off the pitch.

Leicester City

Leicester CityThe Foxes have made considerable progress this season under Nigel Pearson, and have looked to be strong candidates for a play-off spot. However, a disappointing couple of months, which has seen them deliver just one win in eight league games, has stalled their season. Although they have been aided by the fact that they are not the only play-off hopefuls struggling for consistency, their form has allowed in-form teams, such as Nottingham Forest and Bolton, to reduce the gap between them in the table. City face a tough run in from now until the end of the season, with many of their fellow promotion hopefuls still to come, including difficult trips to Brighton and Crystal Palace and a potentially decisive local derby at the City Ground on the final day of the campaign. Recent form must be overcome, and done quickly, if they are to secure their place in the top six.

Middlesbrough

After a solid spell of form before Christmas, 2013 has proved to be a disaster so far for Tony Mowbray’s men with just two league wins. Their away form in particular has been dreadful with twelve defeats all season, the current joint worst in the division with rock bottom Bristol City. This form is particularly unwelcome with trips to Hull and in form Bolton still to come. Although recent wins over Cardiff and Leeds will have given the Boro faithful hope that this can still be a successful campaign, they will have to improve considerably, particularly in defense  to have any chance of securing a play-off spot. With a tricky number of fixtures still remaining, they may have to rely on teams around them hitting a lean spell in their remaining games.