The second weekend of the Football League season is coming up, and Ross Gibson predicts a shock for Newcastle and success for Scunthorpe.
Can Newcastle get off the mark?
Magpies fans are probably still being teased by their neighbours Sunderland, the team who beat them to safety in the Premier League in the final weeks of last season – and coincidentally, their biggest rivals.
Arguably Newcastle’s best business of the summer was getting Rafa Benitez to stay on as manager, but the Spaniard has added some very tidy players to his roster for that level in Mo Diame, Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle, just to name a few.
The stage was set for the Magpies on Friday night as they kicked off the start of the 2016/17 season live in front of the Sky Sports cameras, as the nation watched and expected them to put aside Fulham at Craven Cottage. As with many things Newcastle in recent times, things don’t seem to go their way, so as Matt Smith headed home on the brink of half time they could have been forgiven for fearing the worst. The worst was delivered, as a lacklustre second half meant they created very little to claw themselves back into the game, and 1-0 it finished.
The players have their first chance to redeem themselves this Saturday, as they take on Huddersfield Town at St James Park, which leads nicely on to the next section…
Could Huddersfield Town be a surprise package?
Huddersfield were promoted to the Championship in 2012, and in the three years they’ve played at that level they’ve finished 19th, 17th and 16th. That may only be a slight progression year-on-year, but could they be in line for a big jump up the league rankings this time around?
David Wagner, the gaffer, was relatively unknown in the managerial game before becoming the Town boss last season, other than the fact he was one of Jürgen Klopp’s pals, and a member of the coaching staff at Borussia Dortmund. The German has already tried to instil fast paced football into his side, and the importance of closing down your opposition at all costs – something his mate Klopp has had huge success with.
Last season arguably the weakest point in the Terriers team was their defence, but the signings of Jon Stankovic, Michael Hefele and Christopher Schindler, a player they paid a club record transfer fee for, could prove a master piece by Wagner.
In midfield the addition of Aaron Mooy on loan from Man City has already started to show its benefits, as he followed up his impressive performance on Saturday with another dazzling display on Tuesday night, which included a delightful assist for Elias Kachunga.
The club has also managed to keep hold of a key player in Nahki Wells, the man who finished as the club’s top scorer last season on 18 goals, and who has been subject to interest from other clubs throughout pre-season.
There is plenty of belief from the fans that they can be a surprise package, and with the likes of Bournemouth showing that the smaller clubs can make the Premier League, you have to ask yourself – why not Huddersfield too?
Will Scunthorpe’s budget Bergkamp help them continue their fine form?
The Iron finished the 2015/16 season in immaculate fashion, winning six games on the bounce, and missing out on a play off place on mere goal difference. The side that pipped them to that spot, Barnsley, are playing Championship football this season.
With that said, it’s fair to say the fans from North Lincolnshire felt a bit of injustice, but that could soon be forgotten about if Graham Alexander’s men can continue where they left off at the end of the previous campaign.
Last season’s top scorer Paddy Madden missed the last couple of weeks of pre-season with a calf strain, and is still yet to return to full training. That loss of goals could have given the supporters a worry entering into last Saturday’s opener with Bristol Rovers, but their fears were soon put to bed when Dutch striker Kevin van Veen scored to level the game, before Josh Morris and Kyle Wootton added to the scoresheet, ending the game at 3-1. Van Veen then added a further two goals to his tally against Notts County in the cup this week, with his confidence clearly beaming.
The Dutchman joined the club in January 2015, but despite glimpses of excellence sporadically, he has never properly found his feet in England.
However, a loan spell back in his native Netherlands at the end of last season seems to have revitalised the striker, and his goals have helped the club start the new season where they left off last time around.
Seven consecutive league wins isn’t all that bad, is it?
Exeter grateful for the school holidays
The Grecians handed a debut to one Ethan Ampadu in their EFL Cup first round fixture with Brentford on Tuesday night. Sounds pretty ordinary for this stage of the season, right? Players are making their debuts all over the shot. But Ampadu is only 15 years and 331 days old, meaning he became the club’s youngest ever player. And what’s better, is he was only able to play due to it being the school holidays.
According to the club, Ampadu has been taking advantage of the summer break from his studies and has been training doubly hard to ensure he gets a first team opportunity. When that opportunity came this week, he well and truly grasped it with both hands.
The youngster played a huge part in a 1-0 victory over Brentford, a side who ply their trade two leagues higher than the Devonshire club. Following the match, he was described by his manager, Paul Tisdale, to have “played like a 35-year-old” that night. Ampadu played at centre back, and a common theme is that with age you become wiser in that position, so that is some compliment from his manager.
The 15-year-old will be hoping to make his league debut this weekend as his side face Hartlepool United at St James Park.
Huddersfield to upset the St James Park crowd on Saturday and take the victory, 17/4. (BetVictor)
You can still get Van Veen on as League One’s top scorer at 50/1 ,which may be worth some money EW. (Stan James)
Ethan Ampadu to be first goalscorer vs Hartlepool, because why not? 28-1. (Bet365)