The (Real) Championship: Derby Survive, Mark Robins Doesn’t


Welcome to The (Real) Championship, a weekly round-up of life in the second tier of English soccer, below the Premier League. 

The Championship season kicked off this weekend, and already a manager has been sacked. My colleague Ross Bramble wrote for this blog a preview of which manager would be sacked first in the Premier League, something that has developed into a contest, called the “sack race.” Even with all the pressure put on managers to succeed, and the little time they are given to do it, sacking a manager after the first game of the season is unthinkable, even for Roman Abramovich.

Huddersfield was spanked on Saturday by Bournemouth, 4-0. Afterwards, the board and manager Mark Robins decided it was time to part ways.

And yet, Huddersfield have done just that. After losing 4-0 on Saturday to Bournemouth, the board met with manager Mark Robins, and mutually agreed to part ways. Robins helped save Huddersfield from relegation two seasons ago, when he took charge mid-campaign. However, the team finished 17th last season, and Robins failed to ever inspire the team to great things. So, after 90 minutes, Robins is out of a job. But why keep him?

If it took as little as one game to convince you that he wasn’t the right guy, then why wait all summer? Why not fire him before he goes through all his transfer business? And if he left by his own will, why not earlier? Was he just waiting for the right opportunity to make headlines? If that’s the truth, then he is in a desperate state. I mean, who wants to be remembered for leaving their job, on the first day, after losing 4-0? No one.

Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick celebrates winning Derby County’s first league game, against Rotherham. It started off what County fans hope will be a season ending in promotion.

In other news, promotion favorites Derby County got off to a strong start in their promotion campaign, beating newly promoted Rotherham United 1-0. It was a tight game, however, and Derby on several occasions saved the ball on the line. Will Hughes, in the first half, twice stopped the ball from crossing the line, once a header off a corner, and then stopping the follow up shot. Then, in the 82nd minute, Jeff Hendrick latched onto a precise pass from Cyrus Christie, and hit a shot past the keeper, into the upper left corner. Derby were able to hold the lead for the remaining few minutes, although Craig Forsyth was called on in stoppage time to clear a potentially dangerous shot, which had slipped past keeper Lee Grant, off the line.

Derby County looked set to return to the Premier League when, in the Championship Playoff Final last year, QPR, their opponents on that day, went down to ten men. County failed to score though, and at the last, Bobby Zamora scored the winner, sending Rangers, not Derby, through. However disappointing it was for manager Steve McClaren and his young team, they have entered this season confident of their ability, and sure of promotion. Odds makers are also confident in their chances, and a win to start the season, even if Rotherham came close on occasions, is vital.

Derby are ready to make it back to the Premier League, and redeem the horrible season they had in 2007-08, when they were relegated from the Premier League. Their relegation was assured in March, the first time that had happened in England post-WWII, and accumulated the lowest points total ever, with just 11 points. Derby will do better next season, when they make it.

The table is never truly clear in leagues until late October and November, so league position right now doesn’t really matter. But, just for reference, that top six looks like this. (The full table can be found here).

  1. Bournemouth: 3 pts, GD 4
  2. Watford: 3 pts, GD 3
  3. Middlesbrough: 3 pts, GD 2
  4. Millwall: 3 pts, GD 2
  5. Nottingham Forest: 3 pts, GD 2
  6. Ipswich Town: 3 pts, GD 1

That’s all for this week. Check back in every Monday for wrap-ups on the (real) Championship weekend, and for a first look at the teams who will be promoted to next year’s Premier League. You can follow me, James Sutherland, @thepitchview, and don’t forget to follow We Are Hooligans @WeRHooligansFS.