EFL weekend preview as Luton and Wigan become the Championship’s latest managerless teams
With Hull and Middlesbrough having finally filled their managerial vacancies, it is now the turn of Luton and Wigan to sift through the CVs
After appearing to have done the hard work by thrashing Burnley 5-2 last weekend, Sheffield United were unable to complete the job and take over at the top, losing to struggling in Rotherham in midweek.
It was a sequence of results which summed up the unpredictable nature of the Championship, with all the teams capable of beating each other and a managerial sacking around every corner – Leam Richardson was the latest manager to bite the dust, just weeks after being handed a three-year contract at Wigan.
However, it was not just the second tier which threw up surprises this week, with League One Lincoln City handing out a Carabao Cup shock only days after being on the receiving end of an FA Cup one. And, as for runaway leaders Plymouth, who saw that thrashing at Grimsby coming?
With the World Cup looming into view, here are some of the fixtures to look out for across the EFL this weekend.
Wigan Athletic vs Blackpool
Wigan’s decision to get rid of Leam Richardson means only four Championship managers remain from this time last year.
A lot can happen in a year it seems but also in a month at Wigan who only awarded Richardson a three-year contract just over two weeks ago.
“We are all delighted that Leam has committed his future to the club and that he wants to continue to develop his career at the DW Stadium,” said chief executive Malachy Brannigan when Richardson agreed the new deal.
Brannigan added: “Everyone is aligned on what the short, medium and long-term goals are for the football operation.”
Clearly, the short-term goal was not to embark on an eight-game winless run that has seen them drop to 23rd.
Nevertheless, with money tight at the DW, Richardson who steered Wigan to League One survival by a point in 2020-21 before romping to the title the following year, will take some replacing.
And it will become a whole lot harder to attract someone should the Latics suffer defeat to fellow strugglers Blackpool on Saturday.
Inside the bottom three and with very little money to play with in the January window, it would need a brave (or desperate) soul to take them on.
Luton vs Rotherham
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Luton embark on their second post-Nathan Jones era with a home match against a Rotherham side who provided the biggest shock of Tuesday night in beating Sheffield United.
Southampton-bound Jones admitted it was “tough to leave” the Hatters after six years and two spells at the club but the prospect of taking over an established Premier League club ultimately trumped his desire to take Luton to the top flight.
He has, however, left plenty to work with at Kenilworth Road, with the Hatters just two points adrift of the play-offs.
Rotherham already know what it is like to lose a promising manager to a ‘bigger club’, though in the case of Paul Warne to one in the division below.
Results since have been patchy but Matt Taylor was encouraged by the way his side recently went toe to toe with both Burnley and Norwich, despite losing both games.
The midweek win over the Blades was therefore not as unexpected as it might have been by those who had merely glanced at the Millers five-game winless streak.
However, Saturday’s result will go a long way to framing the first half of their campaign. Defeat and another relegation scrap awaits. A win and mid-table security or maybe more will be the dream.
Norwich vs Middlesbrough
Michael Carrick took his time before deciding to take on the Middlesbrough role but appears to have made a good choice with two victories and a draw coming from his last three games.
He was dealt a decent hand, to be fair, with most of the prediction models having Boro down as unlucky rather than abject under Chris Wilder.
A relatively kind opening few games have helped him bed in too, with Hull and Blackpool leaking goals for fun and the draw against struggling Bristol City now looking like two points dropped.
Saturday’s game is a big step up in quality, however, with Norwich fourth and having had a full week to prepare for the game after a blank midweek.
Having grown accustomed to their free-flowing style of play under Daniel Farke, Canaries fans have yet to warm to Dean Smith.
An inability to translate their Championship-winning football to the Premier League has repeatedly proved their undoing, however, so a change of tack was needed.
Are two play-off chasing campaigns better than one promotion season and one relegation season? Norwich could be about to find out.
Lincoln City vs Plymouth
Four points clear at the top of League One and sweeping all before them, Plymouth looked on course to continue their league form into the FA Cup last Saturday when they opened the scoring against Grimsby Town in the fifth minute.
However, it all went wrong from then on in, with the League Two side putting Steven Schumacher’s Pilgrims to the sword, scoring five and wasting several other chances to make the margin of victory even more emphatic.
Plymouth are back in Lincolnshire again this weekend and will be hoping for a better outcome against a Lincoln side who are proving tough nuts to crack at home.
Unbeaten at the LNER Stadium they have drawn six of their other seven games there.
The Imps also fell victim to an FA Cup shock, bowing out to non-league Chippenham Town but responded in fine fashion to dump hosts Bristol City out of the Carabao Cup in midweek.
There have only been 14 goals in Lincoln’s seven home league games this season and their counter-attacking style is certainly more conducive to playing away.
But with Plymouth set to dominate possession, it may suit them well. It should certainly please the goal-starved LNER faithful, with the Pilgrims’ eight away games this season having already yielded 31 goals.