Chasing the Championship – Road to the Premier League

As close as the chase for the Premier League title is, the chase for the Championship and promotion to the top flight is also very close. With four points separating the top four and seven between second placed Middlesbrough and sixth place, things are looking very interesting. Out of the top six, only third placed Brighton have yet to take their chance of Premier League football. Their closest opportunity to Premier League participation has been two play off place defeats. Will the play off runs put them in good stead for a Wembley visit or can they nail the automatic promotion that has eluded them for some time. Here’s how the weekend (26-28 Feb)

Hull opened the Championship’s latest round of fixtures against Sheffield Wednesday, who were looking to further secure their play off spot and brief hopes of automatic promotion. It ended goalless despite the possession and number of shots on goal. Naturally of course the stats count for nothing if you cant convert and so Hull’s chance to increase the gap between them and second place was missed.

Whilst Hull were blowing their opportunity, Burnley doing hard to overcome theirs. After 45 minutes the game was goalless but three second half goals in the space of 16 minutes saw Bolton’s hopes of victory dashed. Having gone 1-0 up in the 69th minute, the lead wasnt to last.  Two goals from Andre Gray (74,85) helped  see his tally rise to 18 and the visitors to the top of the table. The Clarets though will need to make sure they that they keep matters in their own hands having played additional games compared to rivals Hull and Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough kept the pressure on as they increased their unbeaten run to 4 games with a win over struggling Fulham. An early goal from the promotion chasers together with a second first half goal secured the points and moved Boro level on points with Hull. With two games in hand to all but one of the other promotion chasers around them, it is surely advantage to the North Eastern club if they can take maximum points from those respective games.

As if that wasnt enough for Hull, south coast side Brighton are hanging on in the title race.As they go into their Monday night game against Leeds Utd, the Seagulls have a chance to close the gap on Burnley to 2 points as they hope to make their first visit to the Premier League and the return to the top flight for the first time since 1983.

With ten games to go the chase for the championship looks certain to be another close on.

The Deciding Month – Dan Raywood

Now comes the month of uncertainty for Spurs, as February has typically been the month where the 20 something games played already goes to waste.

Memories will be cast back to those who chose to remind our not-so-noisy neighbours to “mind the gap”, while in 2011/2012 Spurs backed up an impressive five goal win over Newcastle with another collapse and failure to qualify for the Champions League. This season does look like things could go right. At the time of writing Spurs are third in the league and have a capability to grind out results – recent games against Norwich City and Colchester United are a great example of that.

Yes the stories about the price of the starting 11, Delle Alli’s emergence and Harry Kane’s goal scoring have all been told and are crucial to the tale of this season. Crucial also is the lack of any new players to arrive in January, while Andros Townsend, Federico Fazio and Alex Pritchard all left the club for the rest of the season. I did see an analogy that said when Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan in prime form they didn’t go out and get another Jordan, instead they put full faith in the playing squad that they had. Same here I guess, Kane, Eriksen, Alli, Alderweireld and Lloris have all remained fit, and the squad has so far only been set back by the injury to Jan Vertonghen.

Many will point to the failure to boost the defence and striker positions in January if the season collapses, but a collapse now would mean a failure to qualify for the Champions League. Some are whispering about the league championship, others on the FA Cup and Europa league, the truly ambitious on all three. What I know is this is the strongest team we have seen in years and week after week Spurs are getting the results they need to ensure strength in the finish.

Whether the unspeakable (be it positive or negative) should happen, the club will never satisfy everyone, but in a season where so much is possible, this dark February could be the month that sits in history books and is talked about for generations. Again, whether it is positive or negative remains to be seen.

Transfer Deadline Day so far- lunchtime update

So the January transfer window closes at 11pm and with a lunchtime deadline for new signings to feature in the midweek round of games, will it have been a busy morning or will it have been a slow go as club staff work busily to avoid the late disappointments that occur when the time ticks away.

It’s 13.20 and the breaking news of the day is that the probably worst kept secret is now official. Pep Guardiola is to take over from Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the season. A three year deal….which would be interesting if the City end the season with a couple of trophies in the cabinet.

It seems to be a mostly loan day as several players make temporary moves till the end of the season. A flick through the completed transfers show more loans than anything. Debuchy is on the way to France after Wenger rejected United’s interest.

It will be interesting to see how the afternoon unfolds.