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Championship Half-Season Report

An in-depth review of how the Championship looks at the halfway stage of the season.

Cardiff City won the Championship last season.
Cardiff City won the Championship last season.
Michael Steele

This article covers the first 23 matches of the season, but following delays was finished and thus published following the 24th match of the season.

Surprise Packages?

With odds of 66/1 to win the title at the start of the season - Burnley have exceeded all expectations, especially after selling last seasons' top scorer, Charlie Austin, to QPR. They didn't spend big in the summer either, but Danny Ings and Sam Vokes have been impressive - helping Burnley to their high league position. A seven game winning run over mid-September and October helped them to the top of the table, but recent poor form has seen them caught up recently.

At the other end of the scale - you have Bolton Wanderers. 40/1 to get relegated before the season started, but sit in a dangerous position in the table. No major players left the club, and a some good Championship players joined - including Jermaine Beckford and Alex Baptiste. The Trotters failed to win any of their first ten league matches, but form has started to pick up recently.

Top Scorers?

Ross McCormack leads the way at the top of the Championship scoring charts with seventeen goals; he had 33/1 pre-season odds. Jordan Rhodes (6/1 favourite) follows with thirteen goals, ahead of Danny Ings (over 40/1) with thirteen.

Second favourite Chris Wood (10/1) has only managed one league goal all season, but he has been limited to only four starts this season plus nine appearances from the bench. At 12/1, you found Adam Le Fondre - he has seven this season following nine starts and has featured eight times as a substitute.

Attendances?

Brighton are the club with the highest average attendance (26,802), slightly edging Leeds (26,012). Other clubs with an average attendance over 20,000 are: Derby (24,128), Nottingham Forest (23,111), Leicester (22,735) and Sheffield Wednesday (21,028).

The three promoted clubs are the bottom three in terms of attendances - however, for Yeovil and Bournemouth especially, ground attendance does affect how high their averages are. Yeovil are bottom with an average of 7,095, followed by Doncaster (8,853) and Bournemouth (9,624).

What about Reading?

Reading have been performing below par - if you are still following the claim by Anton Zingarevich that Reading will win the title this season. However, Reading sit only a few points outside the play-offs - an area in the table which most Reading fans would be happy to be in at this stage of the season.

Nigel Adkins has been unlucky to have been unable to use his new signings for a lot of the season - with all five having injuries. Adkins' new signings have helped improve the depth of the squad, however left-back remains an area where we need a backup for - as Wayne Bridge is injured until February and wasn't able to play two games in a week earlier on in the season.

Sean Morrison and Jordan Obita have managed a good run of matches this season, with the latter coming through the club academy - following in the footsteps of McCarthy, Pearce and Karacan to name a few. Also, Jake Taylor featured at Burnley and Aaron Tshibola made the bench against Derby.

Pavel Pogrebnyak could be seen by many as the clubs most improved player - as he was expected to leave the club in the summer, but remained and is currently our second top goalscorer. Hal Robson-Kanu gets my vote for the most disappointing player of the season - following his great run of form at the end of last season.

Alex McCarthy has been exceptional this season for the Royals - keeping us in a number of matches. It's a shame that he has been dropped from the England squad following relegation, but the stats this season show that he should be first choice.

A club-by-club round-up?

Fans of each team were asked what their best game so far this season was, who their best player was, who their most disappointing player was, who their best signing was and how they believe they are performing compared to their pre-season expectations.

Barnsley

As voted for by members from the BBS Barnsley forum:

Barnsley fans voted their win over local rivals Huddersfield to be their best game of the season - the 2-1 win at Oakwell in August. Also mentioned was the 1-1 draw with Reading in October. A three way player of the season so far award went to Martin Craine, Chris O'Grady and Scott Wiseman. Craine and Wiseman are defenders, which may come as a shock considering that Barnsley have one of the worst defensive records in the league. O'Grady has managed seven goals this season. Worst player of the year was won by last seasons' player of the year David Perkins. The central midfielder has failed to live up to expectations this season. O'Grady narrowly won the best signing of the year award, while Barnsley fans believe that their team is underachieving this season.

Birmingham City

Birmingham end the year in seventeen place - managing only seven wins all season. It's hard to believe that Birmingham won the League Cup in only 2011 and now find themselves in the lower reaches of the Championship. On loan Manchester United attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard is the Blues top scorer with six, followed by strikers Zigic and Novak. Lingard is yet to score away from home. Defender Paul Robinson has managed to pick up nine yellow cards so far this season. The 4-0 win over Millwall in October remains Birmingham's biggest win.

Blackburn Rovers

As voted for by members from the RoversTalk forum:

The 4-1 thumping of Bolton was voted as Blackburn's best game of the season, as top scorer Jordan Rhodes picked up best player of the season. The Scottish international has managed sixteen goals this season, so far. Leon Best picked up the most underperforming player of the season so far. Attacking midfielder Tom Cairney was voted as the best signing of the summer - he has played in all but one of Blackburn's games this season. Blackburn fans believe that they are performing as expected, but some believe that they can challenge for the play-offs in the second half of the season.

Blackpool

As voted for by members from the  Back Henry Street forum:

The best game saw a number of matches come up, but the ninetieth minute winner against Nottingham Forest picked up the most votes. However, the 2-2 draw with Leicester was the "most entertaining game". Neil Bishop and Ricardo Fuller were voted as the joint best player and best signings. Bishop was mentioned to be an unpopular signing at first, due to him being a 31-year old from Notts County without any Championship experience, while Fuller was mentioned to be a player they can't do without - they miss him when he's not in the team. Tom Ince hasn't lived up the hype of last season and "his mind seems to be somewhere else" when he is on the pitch for Blackpool and seems to put in around "10% effort". Someone mentioned that he's "undroppable" playing under his dad. Are Blackpool overachieving, or underperforming? This question sparked some differences, but the general feel was that they are overperforming based on the league table position, but the recent results have been poor.

Bolton Wanderers

Members from the Wanderer forum were asked to vote for the winners of the following categories:

Wins against Doncaster and Bournemouth were voted as the best games of the season, however there were a number of matches that could have won this section. Even more differences came up with best player - Mills, Feeney, Danns, McNaughton, Tierney and Bodgan all gained votes. However, these differences were put down to Bolton having a very poor season. Chris Eagles was voted as the underperformer - sticking out amongst the rest of the underperforming squad. The best signing of the season was the loanee Neil Danns according to the Bolton fans. Predictably, one of the promotions favourites fans say that Bolton are underperforming.

Bournemouth

As voted for by members from the CourtOffside forum:

Matches against Millwall (5-2 win), Charlton (2-1 win) and Reading (2-1 win) all came up, with the former two getting around the same number of votes. The Millwall game was picked out as "you couldn't look away for a second", while the Charlton game gave fans belief that they could do well in the Championship. A number of different names came up, but Steve Cooke was the most voted for, as he picked up Bournemouth's best player award. The underperformer of the season was another section that brought up a number of names, but Rantie was singled out for costing the Cherries £2.5m. Despite being on loan, Lee Camp was voted best signing, as he helped plug a huge hole - reducing the amount of goals that Bournemouth conceded. Bournemouth fans believe that they are performing above expectations, as they believe that anything over 21st is a good finish. The Cherries have been in the top half this season - peaking at sixth.

Brighton & Hove Albion

As voted for by members from the North Stand Chat forum:

Brighton fans believe that their game against Leicester was their best this season so far. The Seagulls was 3-1 condemning the Foxes to their fifth loss of the season. Rohan Ince and Andrew Croft were voted as player of the season - with Ince playing in his first professional season for Brighton. Will Buckley was voted as the underperformer of the season - it's interesting to note that he makes the least amount of passes per game out of all the Brighton players to have featured in more than fifteen matches. Craig Conway has made an instant impact at Brighton since joining on loan from Cardiff - he was voted as signing of the season. Matthew Upson, who made his move permanent in the summer, was also mentioned. Brighton fans believe that they are overperforming - partially due to having a number of key players injured for a long spell during this season.

Burnley

As voted for by members from the Longside forum:

The 2-0 win over QPR was voted as Burnley's best game of the season. It was the last of Burnley's seven game winning streak earlier on this season. Three players became the join player of the season for Burnley as Dean Marney, Kieran Trippier and Jason Shackell were voted for. Leading scorers Danny Ings and Sam Vokes didn't gain any votes at all. Keith Treacy was voted as the underperformer of the season so far. Burnley fans, as expected, said that they are overachieving this season. However recent form has dipped to be as they expected.

Charlton Athletic

Charlton find themselves nineteenth following the first twenty-three matches. Yann Kermorgant is their top scorer with five goals, as Michael Morrison is the only player to have featured in every match for the London club. Nineteen year-old Callum Harriott has played in eleven games for Charlton this season - showing that the youth academy at Charlton is able to produce first team players. He also made appearances last season. Charlton are yet to win a game by more than one goal, but their 3-2 win over Brighton is their highest scoring win.

Derby County

As voted for by members from the DCFCFans forum:

An interesting winner for best game of the season so far, as the defeat to Nottingham Forest was chosen. This is mainly due to the belief the this game was a wake up call for the players and it helped turn their season around. Craig Bryson earned the most votes and gained the best player award. Despite being one of their top scorers, Jamie Ward picked up the most disappointing player of the season so far award. Andre Wisdom was voted as the best signing of the season, ahead of top scorer Chris Martin. Derby's fans believe that they are punching above their weight, as their team challenges for one of the promotion spots.

Doncaster Rovers

As voted for by members from the Viking Chat forum:

Doncaster fans thought that the 2-0 win over Blackburn was one of the best performances they have seem from their team at this level - and so won the best game of the season award. Ross Turnbull and Richard Wellens gained the most votes for player of the season. Federico Macheda picked up the underperformer of the year award. Ross Turnbull edged the player of the season award - just ahead of Mark Duffy. Doncaster fans believe that they could be mid-table if it wasn't for their injuries, but they believe they are around where they should be.

Huddersfield Town

As voted for by members from the Down at the Mac forum:

The 2-1 win over Burnley impressed the Huddersfield fans; it picked up the game of the season award. Alex Smithies was voted player of the year, ahead of striker James Vaughan. John Stead's poor performances has allowed him to be voted for as most disappointing player of the year. Vaughan was voted as their best signing. Huddersfield fans believe that they are performing as expected in the Championship this season.

Ipswich Town

As voted for by members from the Tractor Boys forum:

The 3-2 away win at Blackpool - where Blackpool equalized in stoppage time, only for Ipswich to go up the other end of the pitch to score the winner. Three names came up for best player, as David McGoldrick, Aaron Cresswell and Tommy Smith were all worthy of a mention. McGoldrick was voted for the most, however. Paul Anderson has been the underperformer of the season for Ipswich this season - the right midfielder has found himself out of the squad in recent matches. Another award for McGoldrick has he was voted best signing from the summer window. Ipswich fans believe that they are performing above expectations this season - especially as they have spent little money and they haven't changed the squad much since last season's fourteenth place finish.

Leeds United

As voted for by members from the Marching on Together forum:

Leeds fans voted the 4-0 home win over Birmingham to be their best game of the season. Centre-Back Marius Zaliukas and top scorer Ross McCormack gained the most votes for best player of the season so far for Leeds. The former joined the club in October following a trial. While McCormack has managed seventeen goals this season - half of their goals this season. Sam Byram was mentioned after not living up to last seasons' form, however the Leeds fans admit that he has been out with an injury. Also named was former-Reading striker Noel Hunt - who has been limited to eight appearances this season. Zaliukas was been voted the best signing of the season. Also mentioned was Luke Murphy and academy product Alex Mowatt. Leeds fans believe that they are performing above expectations - with McDermott taking a mid-table squad and turning them into promotion contenders. Sound familiar?

Leicester City

As voted for by members from the Foxes Talk forum:

Leicester's stunning 3-0 win over Watford, who knocked them out of the play-offs last season, was voted as best game of the season - ahead of the 1-0 away win at QPR. Danny Drinkwater was voted as player of the season so far. The midfielder has managed three goals this season. Despite being their top scorer, David Nugent was voted underperformer of the season - of his twelve goals, eight have come from the penalty spot. Polish defender Marcin Wasilewski picked up the best signing of the season award. Leicester fans believe that they are exceeding expectations, with their side sitting top of the Championship - play-offs being the aim for this season.

Middlesbrough

Boro ended 2013 in thirteenth position - a slight improvement of their sixteenth place finish last season. Albert Adomah is currently Middlesbrough's top scorer with nine league goals this season, as Grant Leadbitter earning seven assists this season. Boro sacked their manager Tony Mowbray following poor form and brought in Aitor Karanka in November, becoming the club's first ever non-British manager. Middlesbrough's form has improved - and they won all of their last three matches at the end of the year. Boro's biggest win was the 4-0 win over Doncaster - in Karanka's first game as manager.

Millwall

The Lions ended the year in nineteenth position, as they look to get away from the relegation zone. They ended the year with only two wins in fifteen. Steve Morison was their top scorer with four goals - while Liam Trotter had their most assists with three. Their 3-1 win over Blackpool was their first and, so far, largest win of the season. Millwall had five players sent off in the first half of the season - only bettered by Blackpool with nine.

Nottingham Forest

As voted for by members from the A Block forum:

Forest's 2-0 win over Leicester was voted as the best game of the season so far, as Andy Reid was voted as player of the season so far. The underperformer of the season was Radoslaw Majewski - he picked up the most votes. Jack Hobbs was voted as signing of the season - the loanee from Hull. Forest fans are happy with their current position, but aren't happy to beat sides like Leicester and QPR one week, only to lose to sides like Yeovil the next.

Queens Park Rangers

As voted for by members from the Loft for Words forum and the QPR section of the Not606 forum:

QPR fans voted their team's 2-1 home win over Derby to be their best game of the season. Joey Barton picked up the player of the season so far award, with Charlie Austin close behind. Junior Hoilett was voted as the underperformer of the season so far. Charlie Austin was voted as the signing of the season, following his move from promotion rivals Burnley. QPR fans are split on how their team is performing this season - with some saying that they should be winning the league and some saying that they are happy to be where they are.

Reading

As voted for by members from the Royals Rendezvous forum:

A number of games came up for the best game so far category, but the 3-2 away win a Nottingham Forest edged the vote. Two names came up for best player - Alex McCarthy and Pavel Pogrebnyak. McCarthy has been in excellent form for Reading, while Pog has impressed after a slow start. Hal Robson-Kanu hasn't lived up to the hype following the run of form at the end of the Premier League season - and was voted as the underperformer this season so far. Wayne Bridge was voted to be the clubs best signing, however injury has meant that the left back hasn't featured since October. Reading fans believe that the Royals are underperforming, due to the belief that we have one of the strongest squads in the division. Also noted, was the fact that the performances have been poor as well as some of the results.

Sheffield Wednesday

As voted for by members from the Owlstalk forum:

The 5-2 win over Reading was voted as the best game, however the 2-1 win over Leicester also scored highly. Connor Wickham was voted as player of the season - he has scored six goals this season. Former-Royal Michail Antonio and Kamil Zayatte were voted as joint-underperformers of the season. Antonio for not living up to expectations of last season, and Zayatte for being awful this season. Sheffield Wednesday's fans believe that they are underperforming this season.

Watford

As voted for by members from the WFC forum:

The 6-1 home win over Bournemouth was voted as game of the season, as Sean Murray was voted best player. Diego Fabbrini was voted for as underperformer of the season, while Almen Abdi was voted for as signing of the season. Watford fans believe that they are underperforming this season - following their good start.

Now - two fantastic responses from Watford fans. The first is from "Orny Arry":

What was your best game of the season so far?

Birmingham away, first match of the season. Brum will finish in the top half and will undoubtedly beat some good sides this season. This will turn out to be a much better result in months to come than it felt like at the time. Plus, the atmosphere was decent and it was the start of the flare phenomenon.

Who has been your best player?

I can't really give you a player who has stood out most - nobody has been particularly consistent. I can tell you that Lloyd Doyley makes me sh*t myself every time he gets the ball though. Can't pass, can't tackle, can't shoot, can't mark his man, can't run without looking like he's sh*t himself. But he's Mr. Watford and we all love him...

Who has been your underperformer?

McGugan - we've all seen what he's got in his locker. Unfortunately, that's all he has got - one moment of brilliance every 5/6 games, which isn't really good enough. I like the lad, he seems to care about winning, which says a lot when compared to some other of our recent signings, but his decision making at times is often poor - he had three shots at goal against QPR in the space of 10 first half minutes yesterday, and didn't hit the target once and there were players in better positions on two of these occasions. He often bottles challenges, and though he likes to take players on, he doesn't really have the pace or skill to do so - in fact, he often shows the ball to the defender, making an incoming tackle more simple that it should be. I like to think there's more to come from him... Indeed, with the rumoured signed of Merkel, McGugan will need to buck his ideas up overnight.

Who has been your best signing?

Abdi, I guess - he was on loan last season and has played only a handful of games this season. Hopefully he'll be back soon - we sure do need him. Fabbrinni is also a class act, but he plays like the Italian that he is and has failed to change his game to suit English football. Great going forward, but the end product is awful. In the same breath as McGugan, Fernando, etc, Fabbrinni is generally guilty of being too selfish at times. If these players can adapt, they'll be sought after, mark my word.

Do you believe you are underperforming, overachieving or are performing how you expected at the start of the season?

Underperforming, without a doubt. The squad we have available to us and our overseas connections (let alone what we're capable of attracting locally) we should be well within the play-offs right now. People may say this is an expectation that doesn't reflect reality, which is quite obvious considering where we are sitting in the league currently, but we should have built on last season and I feel as if we brought in players that we knew very little about - they just looked good on paper. The likes of Iriney and Acuna are good examples, both of whom are soaking up salaries without playing regularly, and in my eyes, not good enough to play the style of football we play, or the standard of football we've become accustomed to. This is down to poor scouting in my eyes. Zola had to go and he resigned at the best possible time - he looked a broken man after the Sheffield Wednesday loss, but there were bigger issues that us supporters will never hear about, not in any detail anyway, and this of course relates to player recruitment. I expect a massive improvement during the next two months, and I still think we'll have a shout for a top six position. There's always one team that makes that last minute dash - some make it, some don't. Bolton last season only just missed out. I think there's a few teams who could make this "dash" towards a top six position - Blackburn being one, but why could it not be us? Exciting times still to come, I feel. Plus, I'm quite happy with opposition teams looking at us and convincing themselves we're an easy win - I reckon old twitchy 'ead at QPR wasn't expecting the test or the second half performance we gave yesterday.

And the second is from "Malteser":

Best Game of Season so far. The one I enjoyed the most, for entertainment value,was the 3-3 at Reading. The best team performance was the second half of the first home match when we put 5 past Bournemouth.

Best Player. Hmm a hard one to say as nobody's really been outstanding consistently. Deeney's had patches, Abdi was good before his injury and Doyley's been reliable. But I'll nominate Murray for showing signs of being back to the great form he showed two seasons ago.

Underperformer. Hmm where to begin? Almunia's made some silly mistakes. Personally, I feel Ekstrand's been half the player of last season. Cassetti was a liability in the back 3 before finally getting chance to play at wing-back. Of the new signings, Fabbrini's obviously struggling to find a defined role in the side. Belkalem, Iriney and Acuna have failed (so far) to live up to the hype they were afforded by some on the forum when signing. But actually, I'm going to vote for 2 players I like..both have been on fire at certain times of the season BUT distinctly average at times too, and thus because of the high standards they've set and the performances we know they CAN give, I think Deeney and McGugan have both underperformed because of INCONSISTENCY.

Best signing. Hmm, of the loanees from last season, Abdi, still the king of the assist before his injury and sorely missed since. Of the new players, Angella. He's been the one constant in our back 3 this season, and the error at Mboro apart has settled in well. With a more defensively minded coach in charge now, I think he has the potential to become a Watford great. A future captain too.

I believe we are underperforming. When we eeked out a narrow but valuable 1-0 win over Wigan in October, we sat in the top 3 with just 2 defeats all season. Who could have predicted such a sudden and shocking loss of form, especially at home, where we had been unbeaten over the first 5 matches. It's too early to say how things are going under Sannino..I hope he can continue to sort out the defensive aspects while not totally losing all our joie de vivre in attack. Sunday's match might have been an ok point and continue our recovery but in truth it was a shocking, joyless match. The attacking flair shown by Derby in their revival and Leicester all season show that you can still bang in the goals while remaining hard to beat. Our squad still seems very unbalanced and I don't feel the additions of Merkel and Ranegie will necessarily address that. And I find it interesting we're still playing the 3-5-2 that most people called for Zola to abolish. But certainly, things look brighter now than a month ago.

Wigan Athletic

As voted for by members from the This Northern Soul forum:

Wigan fans voted their team's 3-2 home win over Bolton to be the best game of the season. Leon Barnett was voted for as best player of the season - the centre-back has managed three goals as well. Grant Holt hasn't lived up to expectations at Wigan and was voted as the underperformer of the season. Barnett also picked up the best signing of the season award. Finally, Wigan fans believe that they are where they should be this season - following the number of changes that has happened at the club and due to the Europa League matches.

Yeovil Town

As voted for by members from the The Green Room II forum:

Yeovil fans voted the 3-0 away win at Watford as the best game of the season - a shock result with a fantastic away following. Shane Duffy picked up the most votes to become player of the season so far for Yeovil, being a standout defensive "monster". Ed Upson and Paddy Madden haven't lived up to their performances in League One and were voted as the underperformers of the season. An interesting vote went to the Championship referees - not surprising considering the amount of dodgy penalties that they have awards against the Glovers. Shane Duffy, who is on loan at Yeovil, picked up best signing of the season, fending off challengers - such as Wayne Hennesey, Joel Grant and John Lundstram. Yeovil fans believe they are where they expected be, but they believe that they should be higher due to the refereeing decisions against them this season. One fan pointed out that they are over-performing by being in the Championship in the first place.

A huge thanks to everyone on the relevant forums that took part and also to "daib0" who posted on a lot of these forums for me.