Championship winners and losers topped by Scott Parker

Date published: Thursday 16th September 2021 9:23 - Nathan Spafford

Scott Parker

What fool doubted Scott Parker? He tops the Championship winners list…

 

Winners

Scott Parker
Which idiot doubted Scott Parker and Bournemouth for hooking up this summer? Early days it may be, but this initially ill-suited pairing of club and manager looks to have all the hallmarks of a lasting and successful relationship. The youngsters are thriving, Dominic Solanke is transforming into a reliable goalscorer in front of our very eyes, and along with West Brom, they are the only unbeaten side in the Championship after seven games played, taking down the previously invincible QPR on Tuesday night.

Without the same megastar resources offered to him at Fulham, Parker is beginning to look every inch an assured manager confident in his own abilities and vision on the south coast. It is rare that a manager with a promotion from this division in his only second-tier season in charge would have so many doubts thrown his way, but Parker had prompted a lot of questions prior to his Bournemouth move. He is making fools of us doubters with every passing game now.

 

Aleksandar Mitrovic
It is often easy to overlook individuals from whom we have come to expect great things. There is no greater example of that than Fulham’s iconic and talismanic striker, whose double against an often imperious Birmingham home defence took him to six goals from seven games for the season. Such returns at this level usually prompt clamours for moves to the Premier League, and the Serb is good there too.

But just because we have come to expect it does not mean we should celebrate it any less. Performing to such lofty heights on such a regular basis need not be normalised. 44 goals in 64 games at this level for the Cottagers; Mitrovic is more than just at home in the second tier. He owns the kingdom, and for as long as Silva has his golden striker, Fulham will be favourites for promotion.

 

Huddersfield Town and David Wagner aligning
The season may only be seven games old, but Huddersfield Town fans have a full season in recent memory to allow themselves to believe in a serious case of déjà vu. Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Blackpool was a welcome return to form after going down to Stoke at the weekend.

And on the same night that legendary Terriers manager David Wagner guided his Young Boys side to victory over Manchester United in the Champions League, his old side were looking like men against boys at Bloomfield Road. The mixture of experience and youth littered in the squad amongst players who have been there and done it before has Town fans very excited indeed. After the last couple of seasons, who can blame them?

 

That Gibbs-White/Ndiaye combination
It may have been a hit and miss night for Sheffield United, but having both made impressive debuts and first league appearances of the season respectively on Saturday, seeing Iliman Ndiaye tee up midfield partner Morgan Gibbs-White for the Wolves loanee’s second goal in as many games at Bramall Lane continues to bring optimism to the red-and-white corner of the Steel City.

One goal in five league matches before the duo came into the team, and eight in two matches since speaks volumes louder than the S2 cheers every time the ball hit the back of the opposition net in the past week.

 

Jaiden Anthony
It was left back Jordan Zemura who stole the show on Saturday in Bournemouth’s remarkably simple 3-0 defeat of Barnsley, but the far tougher test that the previously unbeaten QPR brought to the Vitality Stadium saw left winger Anthony put in a vital performance.

Opening the scoring having robbed the usually imperious landlord of this section, Rob Dickie, of the ball before confidently finishing for the second senior goal of his career before setting up Solanke towards the end of the first half showed just how promising the future is looking for the Cherries. Here at Lefty365, a promising left wing is always welcomed.

 

Luton Town late shows
Maybe we all got somewhat carried away by Luton’s 3-0 opening-day win over Peterborough United. The Hatters have distinctly set themselves down in midtable ever since, save for that 5-0 reverse at home to Birmingham City in August. To have not won since would have you believe their season has gone to tatters, but three successive draws have Luton ready to go either way at this stage of the season.

Injury-time equalisers in their last two outings to Blackburn Rovers and Bristol City suggest the fight and momentum is there to see Nathan Jones guide Luton up the table rather than down.

 

Mark Travers
But it’s not just the outfielders who deserve praise in Dorset. Goalkeeper Mark Travers made a raft of saves in the dying embers of this match to deny QPR yet another comeback point. Having been on loan at Swindon Town in the second half of their relegation season to League Two, and having expected to play back up to new Norwegian ‘keeper Orjan Nyland this term, Travers is doing everything in his power to keep the gloves long term. At 22, again, the future is bright for Bournemouth.

 

Brad Collins
Make no mistake; Stoke City dominated their clash with a Barnsley side who have started the season adjusting to the new pair of shoes that is Markus Schopp. But if Cauley Woodrow was the point winner with his superb free kick, it was the heroics of Collins which ensured the Tykes did not leave empty-handed.

His second crucial penalty save of the season was followed by a plethora of point-blank saves and superb reactions. Quickly, Collins is writing himself into the dictionary as one of the most secure goalkeepers in the division.

 

Kelle Roos
Travers wasn’t the only shot-stopper to impress in midweek. Dutch ‘keeper Kelle Roos is the first choice of three quite good custodians on the books at Pride Park, and could be immensely proud of a performance which proved why he is the best man between the posts.

West Brom took nine shots on target and save for a clearance off the line, Roos was unbeatable, no more so than at the death when he blocked Darnell Furlong’s header from point-blank range. Roos has faced questions over his quality throughout his career, but when Derby have needed him most as the struggle for goals continue, he is doing his job in keeping them out.

Derby County goalkeeper Kelle Roos.

 

John Swift
Only the one goal (slacking), but what a goal it was. Add to that the talisman’s late assist and it’s 10 goal involvements in seven games this season. He had three in 14 appearances last season, and is well on course to beat his career best 16 goal involvements in a single campaign. Thank f**k the transfer window is shut for *checks notes* three and a half months *gulps*.

 

Coventry City
Four games back in Coventry. Four wins back in Coventry. For the fans, four descending matches in drama and entertainment at the death, but ascending life in knowing this Sky Blues team is reaching for the stars. If Forest were all too easily undone by Cardiff bringing on Kieffer Moore and Rubin Colwill at the weekend, Mark Robins’ side were not phased by the duo starting. It is an incredible rise, and deserves far more insight than it will get today. Coventry fans, keep your eyes peeled.

 

Losers

Robin Olsen
Following Aaron Ramsdale’s eventual move to Arsenal, Sheffield United knew a replacement was most likely needed. Michael Verrips has a ceiling higher than his current ability while Wes Foderingham had a decent EFL career with Swindon Town before learning to play second fiddle at Rangers when the prospect of silverware came back to Ibrox, but neither looked likely to be the man that Slavisa Jokanovic could rely on as his number one between the sticks for the season.

Enter stage left, Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen, for his second loan spell in England following the temporary switch from Roma to Everton last season, where the 31-year-old provided initial cover – followed by genuine competition – for Jordan Pickford’s starting spot. Therefore, his arrival at Bramall Lane came with much fanfare and appeared a genuine coup for a club in desperate need of a reliable shot-stopper.

But with the Blades 1-0 up and looking to fly past Preston much like they had done their alphabetical counterparts Peterborough at the weekend, Olsen’s positioning allowed Daniel Johnson to notch an equaliser. Following the less-than-impressive performances by Verrips and Foderingham, Ramsdale is by far the most impressive of the four Blades’ ‘keepers this season.

 

Peterborough United’s defence
Okay, let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Peterborough having, and we’re being generous here, a shaky defence at this level is nothing new. The Posh have generally prided themselves on having an upper-class attack and a defence with plenty of work ethic but little in the way of actually keeping goals out.

Darren Ferguson’s side went into Tuesday’s game at Reading against a Royals side who, in conceding 16 goals in their opening six games, had equalled a Championship record in that regard, but ended up putting in another defensive disasterclass of their own, shipping three and going down to a fourth straight defeat. That last-minute drama against Derby County already feels a very long time ago.

 

Peterborough United’s attack
From talking of events that seem a long time ago to events that were a long time ago. The caveat to Peterborough’s usually lax defending is that they will score the goals to make up for it. In half of their games this season, they have registered nil on the scoreboard, and have seven goals from seven games in the league. Young wing-back Harrison Burrows and wantaway forward Siriki Dembele have two apiece, but Jonson Clarke-Harris’s sole strike from the penalty spot is a prime example of how this Posh side are failing to live up their predecessors.

This attack will not make up for the defence behind it. Something needs to give.

 

Daniel Bentley
13 games without a home win looked to finally be over as Bristol City held onto the Nathan Baker-inspired lead into the dying embers of their clash with fellow mid-tablers Luton Town. But unlike all those goalkeepers who made a positive name for themselves in this midweek round of fixtures, Daniel Bentley found himself out of goal for another late Luton leveller, affording Danny Hylton the easiest finish of the midweek fixtures. For the Robins, the finish to this dreadful run goes on.

 

QPR’s leniency
It was always going to come back and bite them. QPR are not losers for losing their first game of the season at the eighth attempt. It has been an overwhelmingly great start to the season from one of the best-run clubs in the division, but the folly of making things difficult was going to affect them sooner rather than later. A comeback win against Middlesbrough as well as coming from behind to draw to Millwall and two goals down to get a point against Barnsley and Reading meant QPR were being successful the hard way.

Try as they might, two goals was a bridge too far against a largely solid Bournemouth side bookended by the reliable Solanke and winner Travers. There is no need to rip up the rulebook; the law of averages proves you can’t keep going 2-0 down and getting back into it. QPR’s leniency has made for much excitement. Now might be the time to tone the excitement down and get back to winning ways. They are more than capable.

 

Swansea City
Yet to win at home in the league. Yet to score more than once in a league game this season. Yet to do much of note under Russell Martin besides a 4-1 victory at the swansea.com Stadium against Plymouth Argyle in the EFL Cup; how Swans fans and manager Russell Martin alike must be wishing that form would transcend to the Championship.

We knew from Martin’s time in charge at MK Dons that this would not be a quick fix or an easy job, but without results should come some form of entertainment. If the home supporters soon tired of Steve Cooper winning ugly, then exhaustion must be setting in in south Wales as Martin’s iteration excel in the former without much in the way of the latter. Successive 0-0 draws against Millwall and Hull – two of the division’s lowest scorers – could provide building blocks to something better, but the reality is that anything less would have represented a near disaster even at this early stage of the campaign. There is little to suggest that won’t be coming soon.

 

Nottingham Forest
There are no words left. Absolutely diabolical in every sense. Turns out I had five more.

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