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Sky Sports EFL Podcast: Covid cancellations and managerial merry-go-rounds

Listen to a new episode of the Sky Sports EFL Podcast every Monday throughout the season.

Jonathan Oakes is joined by pundit Andy Hinchcliffe and presenter Caroline Barker to look back on the Covid-hit festive season in the Championship, League One and League Two.

There were also a raft of managerial departures and the panel take a look at the departure of Tony Pulis from Sheffield Wednesday, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink replacing Jake Buxton at Burton, and Paul Hurst coming in for Ian Holloway at Grimsby.

We also hear from Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster in Ten To Tackle, assess the form of Jamal Lowe at Swansea and the struggles of Birmingham.

All leagues and angles are covered in this week's show, but here were some of the main talking points...

The Pulis-Wednesday affair ends swiftly

The Tony Pulis era at Sheffield Wednesday lasted just 45 days as he was sacked last week.

Since then, the chairman Dejphon Chansiri has held a fascinating press conference to explain all that went wrong during Pulis' tenure, and the club have won their two most recent games under caretaker Neil Thompson - climbing out of the bottom three in the process. Here is what the podcast had to say about the latest saga at Hillsborough...

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Hinchcliffe: "You only have to look at his track record to know he was brought in to keep them up. It was an incredibly difficult situation but the numbers weren't great, they didn't look like they were playing high enough up the pitch to score goals and win games.

"The problem with any manager coming in at Sheffield Wednesday is that the owner clearly wants a coach, and he'll deal with the running of the club. That was probably the frustration for Tony Pulis. But when you win one in 10 and when the style of football isn't great, you are going to come under pressure."

Barker: "Chansiri's press conference was like a play in 72 acts. Obviously you're only going to get his side of it, but it was brilliant in that way. I'm sure Pulis will be popping up on one of our programmes in the not too distant future, and he'll admit it all went wrong for him there.

"The next decision is a big one of who they bring in. Will it be about longevity? Or Just keeping them up?"

Do Swansea need a striker?

Swansea started the season without a recognised striker, but it hasn't hindered their progress thus far, as they sit second in the Championship - largely thanks to their incredible defensive record, which is the best in the division.

Steve Cooper's side relied largely on the goals of Andre Ayew in the early parts of the campaign, but in recent weeks Jamal Lowe has come to the fore, scoring six in his last six.

But do the Swans need to recruit a striker in January? Or is the formula they have working already...

Barker: "[Lowe] has all the attributes, he works hard and has six goals in six games. He is a real confidence player, and that will be sky high at the moment. He's doing it for the team, and if he keeps playing like that you don't know if they need a backup."

"Steve Cooper knows he needs to bring someone else in, and everyone would love another striker, but right now they've got players in good form."

Hinchcliffe: "You can see how congested it is at the top of the table. Cooper will be looking to finish in the top two, so that's why he'll be looking at the loan market - which he has had great success with in the past.

"If he can bring in the right type of player in that position to get a few goals, then that will make all the difference. Maybe there is no one that can improve the situation they are in, but one or two injuries in that area could leave them in trouble, so they need to bolster the squad."

Ben Foster takes Ten To Tackle

Ben Foster was the player taking on our Ten To Tackle challenge this week, as he answered our quickfire questions... as he described his anguish at singing in front of his West Brom team-mates and more!

"This is my second spell at Watford and I tried to get away with it by saying I'd already done my initiation song here!" he joked.

"But the one I did at West Brom was the 'A Team' by Ed Sheeran and it was absolutely brutal. it was one of the worst moments of my life! It was the most nerve-racking horrible moment standing in a room with 30 other blokes and having to sing in front of them."

Hasselbaink back at Burton

Queens Park Rangers manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink enjoyed great success in his first managerial stint in this country at Burton, leading them to the League Two title in 2015.

After less successful stints at QPR and then Northampton, Hasselbaink is back at the Brewers after nearly three years out of management. He has also brought former Stevenage and Oldham boss Dino Maamria in as his assistant.

But can he get the League One's bottom club out of trouble following the departure of Jake Buxton? It didn't start so well as they were thumped 5-1 by Oxford on Saturday.

Hinchcliffe: "Will he have to re-educate himself on League One football? It's been a while since he was there with Burton and these leagues change so quickly.

"It's a very different club he has returned to, and it would be some feat to keep them up. It has to start at the back, because they have conceded too many goals and they need to defend better. It would be some story if he could work a miracle there."

Barker: "I'm intrigued by the relationship between Hasselbaink and Maamria. Their work together will be key. Hasselbaink has been here before, and he'll try and give them that confidence that they desperately need.

"Maamria might be a little hands on, and his record shows he generally improves all the clubs he's at. They've certainly got goals in the side, so there is a little bit of hope there."

And Hurst returns to Grimsby

Ipswich Town manager Paul Hurst during the Sky Bet Championship match at Portman Road, Ipswich. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 2, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Ipswich. Photo credit should read: Steven Paston/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

There has also been another reunion in League Two, where Paul Hurst has returned to Grimsby Town following the departure of Ian Holloway just before Christmas.

Hurst won promotion back to the Football League with the Mariners in 2016 and then had great success with Shrewsbury a couple of years later, but troubling spells at Ipswich and Scunthorpe have hindered his progress.

They were beaten by Cambridge in his first game back in charge on Saturday, and currently occupy a spot in the relegation zone.

Hinchcliffe: "They always say never go back, but the reaction of the fans to his return tells you everything. Bringing someone in who has done so well in the past, they need to give him time to prove how good he is.

"He has had difficulties in his last two jobs, but that has to be a motivation for him. I'm expecting big things."

Barker: "Ian Holloway needs to take some responsibility for the way that team were playing. He brought in 16 players in the summer, and it seems not enough of them were good enough.

"But those players who have come in seem invested in Grimsby, and a lot of this club's future will be focused on the regeneration of the town and where they want to go. They've got so much potential and those that want to take over the club will be important in pushing that forward."

Sky Sports Fantasy Football is back!
Sky Sports Fantasy Football is back!

Another year, another £50,000 jackpot on the line. Sky Sports Fantasy Football makes its return for the 2020/21 season.

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