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Championship Focus: Week 3

An enviable strike-force, a Redknapp rant, and familiar faces on the scoresheet.

Millwall v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

‘Magnificent seven’ for the Championship’s bargain strike-force

Few would have predicted Ipswich Town’s perfect start to the season. The Tractor Boys have beaten Birmingham, Barnsley, Millwall and Saturday’s opponents Brentford, maintaining their 100%-win record, and scoring nine goals in the process. Not bad for a team that many tipped for relegation.

It’s Ipswich’s strike-force that I’m most interested in. New recruits Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn have bagged an impressive seven goals between them (Waghorn four in three games, Garner three in four games), stats that make them comfortably the leading duo in the division thus far. Brentford conceded two of their goals on Saturday, as Waghorn broke the deadlock 10 minutes before the interval with a neat finish, and Garner’s second half header was confirmed by goal-line technology, putting the game to bed.

Mick McCarthy will no doubt be delighted with the pair, having only recently bemoaned his club’s struggles in an inflated transfer market. Both Waghorn and Garner signed from Rangers, each for a bargain £1 million fee. Although both were struggling for form north of the border, they did have reasonably fruitful spells in the Football League on their CV’s, Waghorn at Wigan and Garner at Preston, and the fact that they had already played together was surely a consideration too. Astute business indeed.

With tougher games to come, Ipswich’s hot streak may not last too much longer, but with goals in attack and three clean sheets in five competitive games, it’s fair to say that all relegation fears were ill-judged. Waghorn and Garner may just be the cut-price goal-machines that all clubs craved.

Redknapp blasts Birmingham players in bizarre rant

Bristol City v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

When Birmingham City surrendered a lead to lose 2-1 to lowly Burton Albion on Friday night, that was the final straw for Harry Redknapp. In a frank, frustration-fuelled interview with talkSPORT, Redknapp lambasted his players for their second half performance and concluded that they were ‘not good enough to represent the club’.

Redknapp’s rant continued, “I keep saying you don’t win two from 25 games with virtually the same team. No one is going to walk in and say, ‘ok lads, lets sprinkle star dust on you and you’ll be new little boys this year. Forget that you ruined [Gianfranco] Zola last year – this year we’re going to be different. It’s very difficult.”

For me, this statement is bold, if not totally reckless. Gianfranco Zola’s tenure was disastrous, but from the outside looking in, pinning the blame on the players alone is farcical. Ever since the contentious, and for many woefully misguided, sacking of Gary Rowett last December, the Midlands’ side have struggled for form and direction. Confusion off the pitch appeared, through little fault of the players, to have influenced performances, and what’s more, Zola, who had lost the fans, did not seem like the right man to revive the club.

Having saved Birmingham from the drop last campaign, Redknapp has had all summer to build a competitive squad and re-energise his players ahead of a fresh start. Results suggest that this has not been achieved. Redknapp did however end the interview with a promise, “I still say, by the end of the window I’ll have a group of players that I work with and we’ll be up there pushing for the top six this year.” Yet, if this debacle has burned bridges with the current crop beyond repair, he may need a whole new XI.

How many goals have ex-Royals scored in the Championship this season?

Reading v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Hubbard/Getty Images

I’ll give you a clue. A lot more than Mendes, Bodvarsson, Clement and Kermorgant combined...

Former-Reading players have found the net a noteworthy 10 times this Championship season. Recent loan-signing Lewis Grabban has contributed three to that total, as he bids to help his new club Sunderland bounce back to the top-flight. Elsewhere, fan-favourite Adam Le Fondre scored on the opening day for Bolton, boo-boy Jamie Mackie opened his account for QPR, and Billy Sharp has scored twice for Sheffield United. Ex-captain Sean Morrison has scored for high-flying Cardiff, Matej Vydra scored a spot-kick for Derby, and finally Lucas Piazon found the net at the Mad Stad.

No such luck however for midfielder Hope Akpan and ex-academy defender Angus MacDonald, who have both been shown a red card in one of their opening fixtures.

Meanwhile…

Derby County v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship

Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City remain top of the Championship, after a magnificent 2-1 away win at much-fancied Wolves. Nathaniel Mendez Laing bagged the winner, scoring his fourth goal in three games. The prolific winger featured in our Championship Focus last week.

Aston Villa bounced back from their disjointed performance at the Madejski, in an entertaining 4-2 win over Daniel Farke’s Norwich. Conor Hourihane scored a hat-trick. Elsewhere, Sheffield United beat Barnsley 1-0 with both teams down to 10men, but fellow new-boys Bolton were beaten by Dave Nugent’s brace for Derby.

Leeds United remain unbeaten, adjusting to life without star striker Chris Wood with a 2-0 away win at Sunderland. QPR beat Hull 2-1 scoring a late winner, and Britt Assombalonga’s return to Forest was not a happy one, with the home side prevailing as 2-1 victors. Brentford are languishing at the bottom of the table, having been denied in stoppage time on Tuesday night by Bristol City, and slipped to defeat at Ipswich this weekend.

Coming up next week:

There’s no rest for the Royals as they host Millwall in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night, but I’m sure Jaap Stam and his players will have one eye on their trip to St. Andrews to face Birmingham at the weekend. If it were me, I’d also keep an eye on Fulham’s visit to Ipswich, and the late kick-off with Leeds travelling to in-form Forest.