by James Bennett
This weekend’s big match in the Championship pitted two sides against each other that have been through their fair share of financial problems and are owned by two of the most divisive figures in the Football League.
It’s fair to say Ken Bates has made more enemies than friends during his life in football. The former Chelsea owner hasn’t so much divided opinion at Elland Road as pissed off just about everyone there. The sale of key players at inopportune moments, disputes with fans and local media, sacking several managers and the administration period of 2007 after which he re-purchased the club have all made him Public Enemeh Number One in West Yorkshire. Adding the unpopular duo of manager Neil Warnock and El-Hadji Diouf has spread contempt for Leeds further through the league.
Vincent Tan has a somewhat lower profile in English football, but has already gained notoriety for his decision to change Cardiff’s kit colour from traditional blue to red, and sidelining of the bluebird emblem in favour of a red dragon, supposedly in order to appeal to the East Asian market, who he thinks will go mad for the shirts of a Welsh club in the second tier of English football just because of the colour. The Malaysian billionaire’s decision has been welcomed in some parts due to his promise of further investment in the playing squad in order to get the club promoted to the Premier League, but this is not guaranteed such a competitive decision where big-spending clubs have failed many times before, and Tan’s opponents have insisted that accepting Tan’s promises is no different to accepting Sam Hammam’s or Peter Ridsdale’s, both of which led to serious financial difficulties.
Either way, both clubs are in the Football League doghouse right now – I’m sure there were many fans out there hoping both would lose. But unfortunately the match had to reach a logical conclusion, and in the event, it ended in favour of the ex-Bluebirds. Craig Bellamy’s introduction on 64 minutes turned the game when three minutes later, he blasted a free kick into the top corner, while 6 minutes later, Nicky Maynard was brought down by Tom Lees inside the box and Peter Whittingham slotted home the penalty. Rodolph Austin scored with another long range free kick, this one more fluke than goal of the season contender, but there was to be no comeback. Cardiff are now 5th, level with 3 teams above them on 10 points, while Leeds slip to 9th, the first of 4 teams on 7 points.
Cardiff are now one point behind Blackburn of all teams. Yes, Steve Kean has indeed guided a team to the top of the league. Whodathunkit? I mean aside from the fact that he’s had loads of money to spend and brought on loads of obscure Portuguese players who Kean has never seen play, which isn’t suspicious at all.
OK, I’ll be nice. Jordan Rhodes is a good signing for Rovers, even if they paid way too much for him, and he managed to grab two goals yesterday in the dramatic 5-3 win over Bristol City. Nuno Gomes, who I tipped to flop at the start of the season, scored his third goal in three games, continuing to demonstrate I know nothing about football. Even Scott Dann scored. Bristol City may not be contenders this season but it was an impressive display. I’m already eating words.
While Blackpool drew at resolute Barnsley to remain in the top 2, Brighton climbed to 3rd after a 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night at a packed Amex Stadium. The fourth team on 10 points is Steve Bruce’s Hull who thrashed Millwall 4-1.
At the bottom, Peterborough remain pointless after a 5-2 defeat at Burnley, but there was a first win for Crystal Palace, who beat local rivals Charlton on Friday. Wolves also climbed away from the bottom with a 2-1 win over Leicester on Sunday. The other clubs in the bottom 2 are now Ipswich, who lost 2-0 in Middlesbrough, and Birmingham, who were pegged back to a 2-2 draw by Nottingham Forest. With 4 points separating the relegation zone and the play-offs after 5 matches, the Championship is once again looking incredibly close.
Tranmere regained the top spot in League One after another victory, this time at home to managerless Coventry. Jake Cassidy and Andy Robinson were again on the scoresheet as the Sky Blues sunk to 23rd, above only Colchester. The Essex club also lost again, this time 2-1 at home Doncaster. John Ward’s side have just a solitary win in their last 21 matches. Joining them at the bottom of the table are Bury, who at least managed to hold league favourites Sheffield United to a 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane. Meanwhile, Scunthorpe picked up their first win of the season at Shrewsbury to move up to 21st, ending the Shrews long unbeaten run at the New Meadow in the process.
Tranmere overtook Notts County at the top, with the Magpies held by Oldham. The Latics’ two new forwards, Matt Derbyshire and Jose Baxter, both scored in the 2-2 draw. Some other unlikely names are towards the top of the league at the moment: Stevenage, trying to prove last season’s play-off finish was no fluke, are now 3rd after a 2-2 draw with Crewe; promoted Crawley beat Preston and annoyed Graham Westley in the process; and Walsall won at Portsmouth to go 5th. Yeovil, though, were beaten in Milton Keynes and slipped to 6th. MK Dons, now having finally stopped losing players to red cards, are up to 8th, on the same points as the Glovers and Sheffield United.
Over half the games in League Two saw at least 3 goals yesterday. Early form teams Gillingham and Port Vale both scored at least 3 goals each: the Gills beat struggling Bristol Rovers 4-0 at Priestfield, while Vale came from behind to win 3-1 in Plymouth. Gillingham now lead by 3 points over Vale, along with Fleetwood, who edged a late win over Northampton, and Exeter, who were held at home by York.
At the New York Stadium, Rotherham were guided by assistant manager Paul Raynor for the first time this season as Steve Evans began his 6 match stadium ban for unmentionable things. The Millers dominated proceedings over Torquay but could only find 1 goal, though the Gulls were too damn awful to muster up a response. Torquay are now without an away win since March, and face a crucial trip to 21st-placed Wimbledon to turn around their season. Oxford could also do with a change of form, after their 4-0 thumping by Burton at the Pirelli Stadium.
At the bottom, it’s Barnet. Some things change…