Three months into the season, it is fair to say almost every expectation of Crystal Palace has been surpassed thus far. Despite Dougie Freedman departing for Bolton last month, the Eagles find themselves at the top of the table and new boss Ian Holloway is carrying on the feel-good factor. One thing that won’t surprise Palace fans though is star man Wilfried Zaha being called into the full England squad by manager Roy Hodgson for this week’s Sweden friendly. Winger Zaha, who has attracted interest from a number of Premier League clubs, has been in great form this season, finding the net four times in 15 games. While some Palace supporters will see his inclusion as widening the exposure of their starlet, the majority will surely be delighted, with the call-up symbolising the club’s move in the right direction since the 2010 Steve Parish-led takeover. And having won 2-1 away to Peterborough at the weekend to leapfrog Middlesbrough and go back top of the table, the club’s excellent run shows little sign of stopping.
One of the enduring topics of the Championship season so far has been the takeover saga of Leeds United. After announcing last May that talks had begun with Bahraini-based financiers Gulf Finance House Capital, there was much optimism of brighter days ahead for the west Yorkshire outfit. Yet six months later, with the takeover yet to be resolved, Neil Warnock’s side find themselves falling victim to the chronic under-investment of the Ken Bates era, illustrated by Saturday’s humiliating 6-1 home defeat by Watford. With a small squad already low on quality, injuries are starting to bite, with midfielder Rodolph Austin breaking his leg. Having started brightly up until last month, there was a belief that Neil Warnock could perhaps work against the odds and keep his side in the running till January. Yet given the ever fluctuating nature of the Championship, Leeds haven’t won in five and now find themselves down in 17th, perilously close to the relegation zone. As unthinkable as it sounds, it is now quite possible that Leeds could be heading back to League One if a drastic change in fortunes doesn’t come about.
The Seasiders appointed Michael Appleton from Portsmouth this week, giving the young manager a chance to test himself away from the crippling financial restrictions that blighted his time on the south coast. At home to Freedman’s Bolton, who themselves are still finding their feet under their new boss, Appleton saw his new side come from behind twice to draw 2-2 and take home a point. Goals from Thomas Ince and Nathan Delfouneso cancelled out strikes from Mark Davies and Chung-Yong Lee, leaving both teams sitting in mid-table. Appleton’s qualities and potential as a manger were often highlighted by many, so his appointment at a Blackpool side, who have faltered badly since the start of the season, could turn out to be one of the season’s most intriguing.
Millwall defeated Derby County 2-1 at The Den to move up to tenth and now find themselves unbeaten in ten matches. The Lions’ climb up the table has been a steady one, but has served to allay pre-season fears of being among the relegation candidates. After losing five of their first seven, Millwall looked a shaky proposition this term, but they have not tasted defeat since loss at Brighton on 22 September. Manager Kenny Jackett was absent on Saturday due to illness, but his side’s victory won’t have harmed his recovery, as the returning Andy Keogh netted the winner with 15 minutes remaining. If past history continues and the last play-off spot remains up for grabs to a number of teams at the tail-end of the season, then Millwall will hope their form continues to be one of these contenders.