Football Features

Five things we learned from Saturday’s Championship action

By Harry Edwards

Published: 20:36, 3 August 2019

Although the Championship officially started on Friday evening with Luton Town and Middlesbrough’s exciting 3-3 draw, Saturday saw it really kick off.

Nine games took place on Saturday afternoon, with two relegated teams and two promoted teams involved in the action.

So, what did we learn from the first Saturday of the new Championship season?

1. The Championship is back

Of course the Championship is back, otherwise there wouldn’t be any action to write about. But one of the most competitive and gruelling leagues in world football wasted little time in reminding fans what it was about.

Looking to get their quest for a swift Premier League return up and running, both Fulham and Cardiff City fell to opening day defeats, to Barnsley and Wigan respectively.

Charlton Athletic marked their return to the Championship with a win over Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn Rovers, who will have hopes for a play-off place come May.

But arguably the biggest “Championship-ing” of the day came in Birmingham City’s 1-0 win over Brentford. With the Bees starting their farewell to Griffin Park, Thomas Frank’s men peppered the goal, taking 15 shots though only three hit the target. By contrast, Birmingham had one, in the 18th minute, scored by Kristian Pedersen.

Welcome back.

2. Fulham won’t find bouncing back easy

Despite some outgoings over the summer, Fulham would have hoped their squad would be enough to guide them to an immediate return to the Premier League.

But their opening defeat to newly-promoted Barnsley should it will be anything but easy.

Scott Parker’s side were unable to recover from going behind early and can count themselves lucky to have not lost by more than the solitary goal, as their hosts enjoyed some good chances.

Aleksandar Mitrovic was practically anonymous up front, having just one shot on goal and being dispossessed four times, while loan signing Anthony Knockaert failed to make an impact from the bench.

Up next for Fulham is a potentially tricky game against a Blackburn team who will be looking to bounce back from their own defeat to a newly-promoted side.

3. Barnsley are invincible at Oakwell

Although Fulham would have gone into the game as favourites, given the two sides were leagues apart last season, perhaps Barnsley should not have been disregarded.

The Tykes have been formidable at home under Daniel Stendel, yet to lose in 28 games under their boss across all competitions.

In fact, Barnsley were the only team in the top four English divisions to remain unbeaten at home in all competitions in 2018/19, form they will be hoping to utilise as they look to remain in the Championship.

4. Warnock’s impressive run ends

Like Fulham, Cardiff must have fancied their chances of getting off to a winning start in the Championship, especially considering their impressive form.

Not since 2007/08 had Cardiff lost on the opening day of a Championship season, winning five and drawing four of their past nine.

On top of that, Neil Warnock hadn’t suffered defeat on the opening day of the second tier’s season since 2002/03 when he was manager of Sheffield United.

But all good things must come to an end, and that was the case for Cardiff and Warnock when they faced Wigan Athletic.

In a competitive game at the DW Stadium which saw seven yellow cards, Cardiff were unable to keep hold of a first-half lead, eventually losing 3-2 to Wigan who had finished the previous campaign in 18th.

5. Bilic has West Brom ready to fight

West Bromwich Albion were so close to promotion to the Premier League last season, losing out in the play-off semi-finals having finishing fourth at the end of the regular campaign.

Two months before the semi-final heartbreak, Darren Moore had been sacked as automatic promotion became out of reach, leaving the Baggies without a permanent manager.

Over the summer, Slaven Bilic was installed and already looks to be making a positive impact on the Midlands club.

Despite going a goal down early on to Nottingham Forest in Saturday’s evening game, West Brom fought hard to take a 2-1 lead into half-time.

After taking the lead, West Brom made keeping look relatively easy, perfectly shutting down Forest’s attacks in the second half, with 18-year-old Nathan Ferguson enjoying a wonderful game in his senior debut.

The right-back won all four of his tackles, won four aerial duels, completed two take-ons and set up Matt Phillips winning goal. Not a bad first game for the teenager.