Blackburn, Bolton & Wolves endure mixed fortunes in Championship
James Pozzi examines the first weekend of the Championship as Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves endured mixed fortunes
Warnock will make Leeds competitive this season
Hopelessly outspent by their rivals but never outgunned, Neil Warnock’s new-look Leeds side fought their way to a deserved victory over bookies favourites Wolverhampton Wanderers. In new boys Paddy Kenny, Jason Pearce, Rodolph Austin and El-Hadji Diouf, Warnock has assembled a line-up of quality players on a shoestring budget, and their commitment paid dividends as Luciano Becchio’s first-half goal sealed three points against Stale Solbakken’s men, who’ll need to improve if they are to mount a serious challenge for an instant return to the Premier League. For Leeds, with talk of a multi-million pound takeover still refusing to go away, a lot could rest on chairman Ken Bates’ willingness to sell in determining the Elland Road club’s season. But under Warnock, mastermind of seven promotions, they couldn’t be in more capable hands.
Blackburn & Bolton could struggle in second tier
There was mixed fortunes for the two Lancashire clubs, as they joined Wolves in beginning life away from English football’s top table. Blackburn, with under fire manager Steve Kean, managed a 1-1 draw at Ipswich, while Bolton were defeated 2-0 by county rivals Burnley. Rovers, who went one up with a goal from new boy Colin Kazim-Richards, have much work to do if they are to deliver in justifying the pre-season backing given by many to their talented squad. Bolton boss Owen Coyle, still reeling from relegation last year, must also find the right formula to reverse his side’s fortunes as they were soundly beaten by Eddie Howe’s Burnley, with the goals coming either side of the half. History says relegated teams often struggle with life away from the Premier League, and the three sides will hope to follow the example of a West Ham United rather than a Portsmouth.
Expect Leicester City to emerge as title contenders
After an eventful summer of transfer activity and upheaval, Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City got off the mark with a 2-0 victory over Peterborough United. Having signed no fewer than eight players in the close season, the Foxes continued to spend big under their Thai owners as they seek to return to the top flight for the first time since 2004. Goals from Wes Morgan and Andy King gave them a comfortable win, and boss Pearson, who returned for a second spell at the Kingpower Stadium in November last year, will expect the same consistency to mount a serious challenge. Already a pre-season favourite and displaying the solid, no-thrills but effective football accustomed to a Pearson side, you’d be wise to not bet against the East Midlands outfit from being in the top two come next May.
Phillips staying will have a positive impact on Blackpool’s season
The dynamic Scotland international winger, who made a transfer request last week amid speculation of a £5m bid from Southampton, has been told he is staying at the Seasiders by manager Ian Holloway. Phillips – who last season offered a potent double threat from the wings along with Thomas Ince – pulled out of Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Millwall with injury as the latter bagged a double in an impressive away outing. But with a squad packed full of experience in the form of Barry Ferguson, Kevin Phillips and Ian Evatt, Holloway will be relying on his young stars to compliment the old guard by providing the spark required to fire Blackpool to promotion after their near miss in last season’s playoff final.