Early starters in The Championship: Who has already got great value in the transfer market?
With only a month to go to the start of the Football League season, teams are beginning to take shape. Whilst we can still expect a lot of transfer activity, there has already been a significant number of players changing hands; it’s about now that fans are starting to realise what their team’s intentions are for the season. Are we seriously challenging or merely keeping our heads above water?
So with a month to go, let’s start looking at who Championship clubs are bringing in, and more notably, who might have bought a lemon. Starting with the relegated teams, Steve Kean has quickly gone about trying to prove that he isn’t an incompetent fool by signing up two players who should be a notch above most of the Championship. Veteran Danny Murphy should find himself creating goals for fun at this level, and striker Leon Best has joined from Newcastle. Best was surprisingly good on Tyneside and could easily bag himself 20+ goals in the Championship should he get off to a good start. Bolton have brought in Irish midfielder Keith Andrews on a free, a player who whilst on loan at Ipswich in the first half of last season showed how good he was at Championship level. Expect 10+ goals from him from this season. Owen Coyle has also brought in defender Matt Mills from Leicester, a player who is starting to become too old for the “great potential” tag. He was good at Reading and decent at Leicester, but now is the time for him to really put together an outstanding season. Wolves have yet to make any major manoeuvres in the market, and their business may well come down to who they can keep hold of. If Jarvis, Kightly, Doyle and Fletcher stick around, then Wolves may not need to make any major signings.
Birmingham must be considered a team in contention for the playoffs at least. Lee Clark has signed mostly experience so far in Hayden Mullins and Peter Lovenkrands, but this week he signalled a sign of intent by signing Darren Ambrose from Crystal Palace. At only 28, Ambrose is possibly about to peak, and at a rumoured price of only £250,000, Clark may have pulled off one of the bargains of the season. Another team making waves are Brighton, bagging themselves a lot of Premier League bench warming/training with the reserves experience in Wayne Bridge and Tomasz Kuszczak. Jokes aside, both should find themselves barely troubled at this level, but then again considering how badly Bridge played at West Ham and Sunderland over the last couple of seasons, he could go for a hattrick of awful loan spells.
Another interesting signing is that of Grant Leadbitter moving to Middlesbrough. Leadbitter looked good when he burst onto the scene at Sunderland under Roy Keane, and he followed Keane to Ipswich. As Ipswich floundered around in mid-table for the past few years, Leadbitter’s game appeared to have floundered too. He is, however, a very decent player – a box-to-box midfielder who leads by example. Middlesbrough might just be the place for Leadbitter to reignite his career.
Even at this early stage in the transfer merry-go-round, there is plenty to get excited about. Watch out for ex-Manchester United academy product Oliver Norwood at Huddersfield, who impressed in a loan spell at Coventry last season and is now looking to establish himself in a regular first team spot. Look out for Mido’s ever expanding waistline at Barnsley (they do good pies in South Yorkshire), and watch out for Jonathan Woodgate no doubt injuring himself in the warm up to the first game of the season at Middlesbrough.