EFL Reporter @simgholam
Championship, League One and League Two talking points: Five things to look out for on Saturday
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Last Updated: 31/08/19 2:20pm
Jonathan Woodgate's difficult start at Middlesbrough, Swansea excelling under Steve Cooper and Lee Bowyer putting smiles on faces at Charlton.
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Woodgate's difficult start at Boro
It hasn't been the easiest start to managerial life for Jonathan Woodgate. He has won just once so far in his first five games - and even that was a nervy 1-0 win over a Wigan side that are notoriously terrible on the road.
Woodgate, however, has been tasked with the unenviable responsibility of making Boro's style of play more pleasing on the eye following the era of Tony Pulis, and it is never simple to try and improve entertainment and results at the same time.
You can see the signs already of what he is trying to do. Average possession is way up on last season, as are touches and passes per game. There does, however, appear to be less of a cutting edge in the final third, with numbers of touches in the opposition box and shots both falling.
"We want to get fans on the edge of their seat," Woodgate said when he was appointed in June. "We want as many fans back in the stadium as we can by playing attacking, exciting football with high pressure, pressing in different areas."
Entertainment is all well and good, but promotion will always be the aim for Middlesbrough in the Championship. After all, Garry Monk spoke in a similar way a couple of years ago, and he only made it to Christmas on Teesside.
Cooper taking his chance at Swansea
Steve Cooper may have been a slightly left-field appointment for Swansea, having only ever managed in the club and international game at youth level, but it is a choice that looks to be paying dividends so far.
Some were concerned for Swansea before the start of the season, having seen the club lose manager Graham Potter, star man Dan James and top scorer Oli McBurnie in the summer, but under Cooper they head to Leeds on Saturday second in the table, level on 13 points with their pace-setting opponents and having scored more goals (11) than anyone else in the Championship.
That is not to say success should come as a surprise to a man who led England to success at the U17 World Cup in 2017, overseeing a team featuring the talents of Phil Foden, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Rhian Brewster and Jadon Sancho, among others.
Borja Baston has been brought in from the cold and Andre Ayew has been an influential presence thus far. Both are players who will have a big impact this season should Cooper be able to convince them to stay beyond Monday's European Transfer Deadline.
But even without Borja, Ayew and several other key players, they still managed to put six past Cambridge in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night. It will be fascinating to see if Cooper can make it last.
Bowyer putting smiles back on faces
And keeping with the theme of young English managers in the Championship, we turn to Lee Bowyer - the once-reluctant Charlton boss who has performed miracles at The Valley.
Charlton were tipped as favourites for the drop at the start of the season, but a mixture of team spirit and some canny recruitment has seen them claim 11 points from their first five games ahead of their trip to Reading on Saturday.
"Lee Bowyer has single-handedly put the smile back on Charlton fans' faces," Addicks fan and podcaster Martin Atkins told Sky Sports. "Our League One run-in, the last-gasp Wembley win over Sunderland, and now our tremendous start in the Championship. It has been nothing short of remarkable.
"We have great team spirit, flexible formations and tactics and every player knows their job. The whole team is clearly playing for him. In addition, very clever squad strengthening on one of the smallest budgets in the league could see us pop up as a surprise challenger for a play-off place."
A play-off place may be a stretch at this stage. A note of warning would be that Bolton were third in the Championship at this point last season. But Bowyer and Charlton, even amidst ownership problems at the club, have at the very least proven they can fight well above their weight at this level.
Is it coming together for Sunderland?
Sunderland should really be in the Championship this season. They were in pole position for automatic promotion at the start of April, but won just one of their final seven games of the season, handing the spot back to Barnsley.
The Black Cats were then gifted a freak opener by Charlton in the play-off final, but then allowed their opposition back into the game before finally losing it with the last kick at Wembley.
Pressure had begun to build on Jack Ross and his perceived negative style, and two 1-1 draws - Sunderland's trademark scoreline - in their opening games didn't help that. Since then, however, there have been four wins on the spin, including a superb comeback to beat Premier League side Burnley at Turf Moor in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.
Ross even made eight changes for that tie, and now he wants those fringe players to challenge for a regular place in the side ahead of their trip to Peterborough on Saturday. "The vast majority of that team have started league games for us this season and have every right to believe they should be starting games because they performed consistently well," he said.
"The players should take pride in coming to a Premier League team away from home and achieving a victory to put on their CV now, and they can grow in confidence from it. No doubt it makes my job harder in keeping them all happy but it's a nice problem to have as a manager."
Lubala making his impact at Crawley
It is never an easy decision for a player to drop down the leagues in search of first-team football, but Bez Lubala's decision to leave Birmingham for Crawley looks to have been a smart one.
The striker, 21, made three appearances for the Blues in the Championship last season, but couldn't find a way through at St Andrew's and opted to drop down to League Two, where he has scored four times in five games so far.
His highlight so far, however, came in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night as he struck the only goal of the game to knock out Premier League side Norwich. It may have been a deflected effort, but he didn't care a jot.
"I'm happy for nights like this," he told the Crawley Observer after the game. "As a young player, you want to be out there playing. I got my opportunity at Crawley and it's been working out so far for me."
Lubala, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is an intriguing character who already possesses a UEFA coaching license. He will hope to continue his fine start to the season at home to Cheltenham on Saturday.