Five-star Derby hammer Wolves to send out a message
ANDY SAYS: I think every manager in the Championship knows how strong Derby are, but when you win 5-0 and put in a performance like that [it makes a statement]. Steve McLaren said he could just sit back and enjoy what his team were doing and that tells you how well Derby are now playing. There was a bit of a sluggish start to the season – they weren’t necessarily losing a lot of games or playing poorly, but now they’ve really hit their stride. They’ve scored five goals and Chris Martin didn’t score, so that shows the strength in depth that Steve has there. When they’ve got a bit of physicality in the side – and they certainly have that with Ryan Shotton – they’re not afraid to score from free kicks or set pieces. I think this season their mindset is incredibly strong. After what happened to them last season, losing out to QPR in that play-off final, from the very first game this season it’s been about getting the job done and getting promoted. I don’t think we’re going to see any slip-up from Derby.
Boro and Bournemouth share the spoils in Riverside stalemate
ANDY SAYS: Character is so important – managers want that. Of course they want great footballers with ability and goalscorers. Kike’s a very good goalscorer but there are times when you’ve got to be selfless and give things up for the team. It’s not all about one person. If the team is going to be successful, the manager knows it’s all about the squad, and the players have to realise that as well. We’re 17 games into the season and I think both managers will be happy with the position they’re in. It’s down to the performances of their young, maturing players. It all stems from playing regular football. Whatever the level might be, playing regular football gets you used to being in a team and you can relax and start to show what you’re capable of.
Ipswich leapfrog Watford with late winner against the Hornets
ANDY SAYS: Ipswich have done incredibly well. You look at the squad Mick McCarthy has, it’s fairly short in numbers but they’ve got real quality. It was a very tight game against Watford, very similar to the one between Middlesbrough and Bournemouth, and it could have gone either way. Ipswich are such an incredibly hard-working team – that’s going to be Mick’s philosophy this season: “If we work hard we’re going to be hard to beat and we’re going to run teams into the ground.” It could have gone either way, though – Watford had chances and they will be disappointed they didn’t get anything out of the game. But they will come on strong again, no problem.
Forest stop the rot with vital victory over Norwich
ANDY SAYS: I’m not sure the fans would have stood by every Forest manager, but Stuart Pearce is a legend at the club. There were nearly 25,000 at the City Ground and I think he mentioned it after the game – that win was for the fans. They have really stuck by the team. It was a great start to the season as they went unbeaten for a long period, but they were in a really tough spell and desperately needed a win. I think Stuart appreciates that the fans have stuck with the team. You would think Stuart Pearce going back to Forest, that’s bound to work, but that’s not always the case. We’ve seen it before with old players going back, famous players going back to their clubs and it doesn’t work out. You still need to be a good manager, and he is – he’s signed some very good players. They’ve just had a bad spell, but now with that win they could go the other way and put a run together.
Wigan’s slump continues as resurgent Bolton take derby spoils
ANDY SAYS: This Bolton under Neil Lennon is a very different animal to the one under Dougie Freedman. It’s not just the attacking play, the creative play, the goals they’re scoring – they’re working incredibly hard as a team. You look at Mark Davies and Neil Danns in midfield for them, they ran their socks off. They look more of a unit, more of a team, more of a squad, more of a club, and that’s down to Neil Lennon. He knew he had a good squad when he took over – they just needed a kick up the backside and to be told: “I’m going to make you into a good team”, and that’s been shown. Wigan are clearly good enough to beat the best teams in this division, but this division is about consistency. They’ve drawn six of the last 12 games and there are fine margins between picking up a point or picking up three. It’s about sticking the ball in the net when you’re playing well, and they don’t really have an out-and-out goalscorer.