Tomorrow, the fixtures for the forthcoming Championship season will be announced, and many fans will be keeping a close eye on where the difficult run-ins and must-win games will fall. Promoted teams Doncaster, Bournemouth, and Yeovil will be hoping for a home fixture on the opening day to gather momentum, while the likes of Bolton, Wigan, Reading and Forest will be wishing for a good opening run of games to crank pressure on their fellow promotion rivals. I am now going to outline a few things to watch out for over the coming day, and discuss how these will effect the season.
1) Opening/final day derbies
In a perfect world, the average football fan would love to see Derby vs Forest, a combination of Bolton, Burnley, Blackpool, Wigan and Blackburn, and Leeds vs any Yorkshire club all happen on either the first day or the final day of the season. I say this, because a win for a team in a derby on the first day of the season provides a huge moral boost which could see the team on the losing end embark on a losing run, while on the last day, more than just local pride could be at stake, whether it be relegation or the play-offs. Not to mention, every neutral loves a feisty derby game. As part of the 125th anniversary of the football league, 6 fixtures were announced today, one of which being Burnley vs Bolton, so we already have one opening day derby to savour.
2) Candidate vs Candidate on the final day of the season
Much like this season just gone, I will be particularly interested to see whether any of the favourites for promotion play each other on the final day, and the same goes for the favourites for relegation. Take for example Yeovil and Doncaster, if they play each other on the final day with the loser going down to League 1, or Forest vs Ipswich with the winner clinching 6th place. It just makes things more interesting if the stakes are at their highest. Additionally, a relegation vs promotion fixture would entail joy and despair no matter which way the result were to go, a la Palace vs Peterborough.
3) Strings of matches against the teams you have to beat
Managers will probably have an idea of who they think be battling against, and would ideally like to see those fixtures fall together mid-season. This would allow managers to identify when they need momentum and to drill into the players heads that a string of games is must-win when the time is right.
– Leeds have signed ex-Oldham striker Matt Smith on a two-year deal. Not so sure why though, perhaps they need strength in depth to go on that cup run they’ve been threatening to do for a few seasons now; and Matt Smith would seem ideal, scoring 4 of his 6 goals for Oldham in the FA cup, in the process earning somewhat of a name for himself as a cup specialist.
– Ipswich have secured the free transfers of Daryl Murphy and Jay Tabb on two-year deals. Solid if unspectacular signings who could prove valuable to a possible promotion push, Jay Tabb having recently played at that level.
– Barnsley have signed Dale Jennings from Bayern Munich for a reported £250,000 on a three year contract. He made a name for himself at Tranmere before moving to the German giants two years ago, playing 36 times for their fourth-tier B-side. This could prove to be a fantastic signing if he lives up to his potential, which appears limitless.
– Derby have finally signed Johnny Russell for a fee of £750,000. He scored 13 league goals for Dundee last season and could be the missing link upfront for a Derby side seemingly lacking in firepower away from Pride Park.
– Alex Cisak has signed for Burnley from Oldham. He will be contending for the number 1 jersey with other new signing Tom Heaton, though it’s unlikely he’ll attain that barring any sort of injury.