In the blink of an eye we are now ten games into the new Championship season, so what better time to take stock of what we have seen so far in the Football League. West Brom, Sunderland and Forest Green Rovers currently lead the way in their respective divisions and will be delighted with their starts, but who else is flying?
The Championship has already taken shape and with the benefits of parachute payments, there is already a clear top three emerging. As many people expected, West Brom, Fulham and Bournemouth are the elite trio in the league and have shown as much in the opening ten matches. WBA and Bournemouth are the top two on 22 points, with Fulham on 20 not far behind. If those three aren’t the top three in May it will be a huge surprise.
Mark Robins’ Coventry City are flying high in fourth and nobody expected the Sky Blues to have such a flying start. Viktor Gyokeres has bagged seven goals already and the CBS Arena has proved a happy hunting ground, with five wins out of five for the home side. However a 5-0 defeat at Luton last time out suggests tougher times could be on the horizon. Meanwhile, Huddersfield Town have also made a promising start having battled relegation last term, while Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers occupy play-off positions.
Derby Country’s 12 point deduction has them rooted to the bottom of the league despite some positive results under Wayne Rooney. Newly-promoted Hull City have only picked up one win so far this term and Peterborough United are also in the bottom three on goal difference.
The biggest disappointments so far have come from Barnsley and Nottingham Forest. Under Markus Schopp, the Tykes have failed to replicate the form that saw them reach the top six last season. Forest meanwhile sacked Chris Hughton after a string of awful results, but are now on the up under Steve Cooper.
Is this the season that Sunderland finally get out of League One? Under Lee Johnson they have made a cracking start losing just one of their opening nine fixtures to top the league. Their home form has been impeccable with five wins from five and Ross Stewart, with seven goals so far since signing from Ross County, has been a gem for the Black Cats.
This is the best they’ve been since relegation, while huge credit must also go to Wigan Athletic, who look back on track after a rotten few years. With Charlie Wyke and Will Keane, they should maintain their good start which sees them in second place.
MK Dons, having lost Russell Martin in the summer to Swansea were an unknown quantity under head coach Liam Manning. But boy have they been a breath of fresh air, only losing to early leaders Sunderland so far. Scott Twice’s hat-trick against Fleetwood Town last time out was a mark of his quality and Manning’s team currently lie in third.
The highly-rated Ryan Lowe has got Plymouth Argyle up into the play-offs and a special mention has to go to Cole Stockton at Morecambe. The League Two play-off winners were expected to be relegation fodder this term yet the striker has scored nine goals in ten games for the league’s entertainers that find themselves in 11th.
Ipswich Town’s 6-0 demolition of Doncaster Rovers at the weekend should kick their season into gear after a sluggish start, but under Paul Cook they are in safe hands. They should be finishing in the top six once that squad settles at Portman Road and Macauley Bonne has already made an impressive start to life in Suffolk.
Richie Wellens at Doncaster is having a nightmare, with that Ipswich result leaving his side bottom, while Charlton Athletic are seriously underperforming with many fans calling for Nigel Adkins to be sacked. Crewe Alexandra and Shrewsbury Town make up the bottom four at this early stage.
The aforementioned Forest Green Rovers have been knocking on the door but now seem to have gone up a level under Rob Edwards over the opening nine games. Yes annoyingly for this piece, League Two haven’t quite made it to ten matches yet, but we’ve still seen enough to be able to cast an early judgement.
Along with Leyton Orient, Harrogate Town and Exeter City, they have only lost one game so far but it has been their attack that has stood out from the pack. 18 goals in nine is promotion level goalscoring, while four clean sheets in a row shows the defence is getting more organised.
Harrogate. Wow. They did incredibly well to survive in their first season in the Football League and now are absolutely flying under the longest serving current manager Simon Weaver, who has been at the club for over 12 years. Picking up Luke Armstrong from Salford City has been a stroke of genius, with the 25-year-old returning six goals and two assists in nine games this term.
Leyton Orient have also gone up a level under Kenny Jackett and could well challenge those promotion spots based on early form, while Hartlepool United in their first season back in the FL currently occupy the final play-off spot! A remarkable season of storylines is taking shape.
Oldham Athletic’s off-the-field problems look to be disrupting efforts on the pitch as they sit bottom with two wins to their name, although their spirited win at neighbours Rochdale will give Keith Curle hope. It looks like it could also be a long season for Scunthorpe as they have disappointed over the opening period of games, while Stevenage look to have regressed from their 14th place finish last season.