Friday, November 09, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012/13 - The npower Championship. Update!

With one-third of the 2012/13 football season gone, I thought I would take this opportunity to update you all on my progress in this seasons Phones 4u sponsored Championship Fantasy Football league. In doing so I will also highlight any players that have shone, some that have had shockers and some unexpected performances whether good, bad or indifferent among all the players involved!

In August I selected eleven players from the second tier of English football that I felt would excel for their respective clubs this season, as I pitted my wits against friends and football fans around the country, in a 'foolish' attempt to convince myself that my knowledge of Championship football was equal to or maybe even superior to that of other football fans.

As the months have gone on, I have delved in and out of the transfer market as players have lost form, moved clubs or suffered injury.

A lot was expected of some players this season, some have delivered whilst others have failed. There are a lot of 'experienced' players in the Championship such as those among the ranks of the clubs relegated from the Premier League last season, namely Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves. I am thinking of the likes of Paul Robinson, Roger Johnson, Danny Murphy, Kevin Doyle and Kevin Davies. However of the three relegated clubs only Blackburn have been able to sustain some consistent form. Part of the reason for this has been down to their £8 million pre-season acquisition of Jordan Rhodes, who has found the back of the net eight times so far this season. Both Wolves and Bolton have struggled and sit 13th and 17th respectively in the Championship, as I speak.

Despite Bolton's woes which have included a change of manager, with Crystal Palace playing legend Dougie Freedman leaving the South London Club and taking over from Owen Coyle at the Reebok, Chris Eagles has been a hit this season and has the second highest points tally for a midfielder, behind Blackpool's Tom Ince. Ince and Palace's phenomenally talented Wilfred Zaha are without doubt the most exciting players to watch right now in the Championship. Zaha's wing wizardry has helped Palace to the top of the league, while Ince has contributed massively to Blackpool's solid start to the season with 8 goals and 6 assists. In an ironic twist Palace lured Blackpool boss Ian Holloway to Selhurst Park following the loss of Freedman, and he began his tenure last Tuesday with a 5-0 thumping of Ipswich. Glenn Murray was the hat-rick hero and his 13 league goals has been another reason for their lofty league position.

The Championship's top striker is Burnley's Charlie Austin. The 23 year-old hit man has bagged an astonishing 17 league goals in just 14 appearances for the Clarets, who sit just one place outside a play-off spot. If Burnley can tighten up defensively they may well be in with a shout this season.

Talking of defence, Brighton have conceded only 11 goals in their opening 15 matches and statistically they currently have the best goalkeeper in Tomasz Kuszczak, and they posses the highest scoring defenders in this seasons fantasy football competition. Salter, Bridge and Greer have scored 60 points between them and Brighton currently lie 8th in the league.

Of the clubs promoted from League One last season, namely Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town, only Huddersfield have started well and currently lie in 7th place. Charlton currently lie 19th and Sheffield Wednesday 20th.

So how has all this reflected on my Championship fantasy football team since I selected it back in August?

In August my team was as follows:

Goalkeeper: Paddy Kenny (Leeds).

Defenders - Wes Morgan (Leicester), Anthony Gardner (Sheff Wed), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich), Curtis Davies (Birmingham).

Midfielders - Chris Burke (Birmingham), Tom Ince (Blackpool) Wilf Zaha(Crystal Palace).

Strikers - Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield, pictured right), Simon Cox (Forest), Marlon Harewood (Barnsley).

I have made seven transfers since the campaign kicked-off in August. First out the door was striker Stephen Fletcher who moved from Wolves to Premier league side Sunderland before a ball had been kicked. Then I replaced ex-Palace defender Anthony Gardner who wasn't getting a look in at Hillsborough, with Stephen Crainey who's Blackpool side were flying high early doors. Since then Crainey has only kept one clean sheet in eleven.  Ipswich's Aaron Cresswell was next to get the chop as his Ipswich team started and continue to have an awful season. Ipswich currently sit bottom of the league having conceded 31 goals in just 15 league games and have a goal difference of -20. I replaced Cresswell early in the campaign with Hull's Abdoulaye Faye, but his return has not been great, just one clean sheet in seven games, although he has netted twice. Next to go was Curtis Davies as his Birmingham side had real trouble keeping clean sheets, just two in 12 games before I let him go. To fill the defensive gap left by Davies I brought in another ex-Palace player Cardiff's Mark Hudson.

So three of my first four changes changes were all defenders, in what would be comfortably described as a real defensive headache if I were using footballing terminology. I certainly made a mess when I picked my back four in August!

Next out was Marlon Harewood who I genuinely believed would get a regular run out could bag a few goals at this level. Oh how wrong I was. Not only was he not scoring goals, he wasn't often in the Barnsley starting XI. I brought in Brighton's Ashley Barnes to replace him and Charlie Austin to replace Simon Cox. Cox was getting regular games at Forest but could not find the onion bag. After a return of one goal and two assists in eight games he had to go! With hindsight I should have had Austin in my team about ten games earlier.

My most recent change was my first in midfield. Birmingham's Chris Burke was having a 'mare' and although I persisted with him for eleven games neither he nor his side were showing signs of an up turn in their fortunes. One goal and one assist says it all. In his place I brought in the exciting Wolves midfielder Bakary Sako. The French under-21 international was a deadline day signing by Wolves boss Stale Solbakken and he scored in his first game after I signed him.......nice one Bakary!

It's not been a great opening three months for me, particularly compared to this stage last season when I had the likes of Rickie Lambert, Rob Earnshaw, Robert Snodgrass and Kevin Nolan tearing up defences left right and centre. However this season the league is much more competitive. There are no runaway leaders and only 7 points separate the top 10 teams. They are a lot of goals being scored in the Championship this season and not a lot of clean sheets being kept. It is apparent that the strikers certainly have the upper hand over the defenders as we go into the second third of the season. Finding a a decent back four and goalkeeper could be the key to winning this competition!

As it stands today my current team is as follows:

Goalkeeper: Paddy Kenny (Leeds).

Defenders - Wes Morgan (Leicester), Stephen Crainey (Blackpool), Abdoulaye Faye (Hull), Mark Hudson (Cardiff).

Midfielders - Bakary Sako (Wolves, pictured right), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Wilf Zaha (Crystal Palace).

Strikers - Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn), Ashley Barnes (Brighton), Charlie Austin (Burnley).

I am 15,548th overall in the whole competition, 17th of 28 players in the 'Holmesdale Radio' private league, 237th of 449 in the 'Official Crystal Palace FC' private league and 23rd of 39 in the '' private league.

Until next time............good luck!

No comments: