Monday 3 March ~
The Premier League is once again looking fairly predictable. While relegation, European places and the title have all yet to be decided, the groups of teams involved in these various contests are much as expected. We have to turn elsewhere for true surprises and this year's Championship has intrigue at both top and bottom. Several clubs who might be expected to finish in the top half of this division, such as Preston, Southampton and Coventry, have had managerial upheavals and are currently hovering above the bottom three. So at the top there are number of unforeseen names.
None more so than Bristol City who, promoted as runners-up from League One last season, reclaimed top position on Saturday with a home win against promotion hopefuls Hull. City are now in a strong position, 12 points clear of Plymouth in seventh place. Looking at Derby's season you would fear for the Robins should they play in the top division for the first time since 1980 – after which they became the first English club to suffer three successive relegations. Message board debate, however, is extremely bullish.
At the bottom, the takeover at QPR has been well documented and large sums of money will surely be thrown at a promotion bid in 2008-09. At Sheffield Wednesday there is also a big money takeover looming, though this one is very much work in progress. Fronting a consortium is businessman Geoff Sheard, though he has yet to make a formal bid for the ten per cent shares owned by fans' group Wednesdayite. Due to financial rules, very little concrete information is available about who exactly is involved. So rumours are rife, including the potential involvement of Alan Shearer as manager, and the arrival of very rich Russian, Vladimir Yevtushenko, leaving Wednesday fans confused.
Yet on the field Wednesday are not improving, playing out a 0-0 draw with local rivals Barnsley at the weekend. The local press, revelling in Russian imagery, described this game as “as much fun as an afternoon in a gulag”. If a Russian telecommunications tycoon is to spend “a few billion roubles” on Wednesday, his first target might be to get them out of the third division. Ed Upright