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Championship

Done deal: Leeds United sign Pierre-Michel Lasogga from Hamburg

Jake Jackman

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Lasogga

Leeds United have announced the loan signing of Hamburg striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga. It was important that the club signed a new striker to replace Chris Wood and they have brought one in with a good pedigree. He will take the number nine shirt and supporters will be hoping that he wears it well.

Thomas Christiansen has had a busy summer and the club have changed their recruitment policy, as they have favoured players from abroad. Lasogga is the club’s 16th signing in a summer of squad upheaval.

Who is Pierre-Michel Lasogga?

The German striker has had an interesting career to date, as he has played for three clubs since making his debut in senior football. As a young player, he had a seven-year spell at Schalke, but he never broke into the first team. Bayer Leverkusen was his first club in senior football, but he only ever played for their second team.

His first team debut came at Hertha Berlin and he managed to build a good reputation for himself there with 22 goals in 64 matches. This earned him a loan move to Hamburg and he scored 13 goals during a successful spell. He scored a Bundesliga goal every 113.2 minutes, which convinced the club to make the move permanent. Although he hasn’t been as successful since that season, he has scored another 13 league goals for the club.

What is the deal?

The Leeds United official site reports that he arrives on a season-long loan deal from Hamburg, but they don’t give any further details. Supporters will be hoping that there is an option to make the move permanent.

What will his role be at Elland Road?

The club’s decision to give him the number nine shirt speaks volumes for their faith in him. It is likely that he is given the chance to become the first-choice striker. His experience in the Bundesliga means that he has good pedigree and the club will be hoping that he can recapture his form from the 2013/14 season. There was talk of a Premier League move after that campaign, but he decided to stay at Hamburg. It will be interesting to see if he can make the adjustment to the Championship, but he is a striker with a lot of power. The physicality should suit him.

 

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

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Brentford

Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford

Finding himself in the best form of his career at Brentford, Romaine Sawyers talks us through his experiences adapting to life in the Championship with the Bees.

Romaine Sawyers

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Photo: Reuters

The step up to the Championship, moving from Walsall to Brentford, was a difficult one.

For one, the quality of players is much different, no disrespect to League One.

There are a number of quality individuals and teams, but there is also a greater emphasis on the tactical side of the game, largely due to the strong balance of clubs from the top right through to the bottom of the division.

At first I was inconsistent and spent a fair bit of time trying to find my feet. But now I am over that hurdle and playing at a level I am happy with.

This season has been good. In fact, probably my best one to date. I feel that I’ve been quite consistent and in really good form.

I can’t thank Dean Smith enough. His influence has been massive. He gave me my first real chance at mens’ football and he has continued to have faith in me as I’ve progressed through the levels.

I was fortunate to spend my formative years at the West Brom in the club’s academy. I was there from the age of seven and received a great footballing education. I still speak to most of my coaches that I had at a young age there, even now.

Dean initially brought me to Walsall when I left West Brom, and he has been a key factor throughout my development. He knows to get onto me if need a kick up the arse, or he will compliment me if I need an arm over my shoulder.

Above all, he is a great man manager. He quickly finds your strengths and weaknesses as a player and knows how to get you performing.

He gets the balance of praise and constructive criticism just right, in order to get the very best out of the individuals in the team.

I would say recently is the best I have performed in my career and my Player of the Month nomination for December was recognition of the work me and my Brentford teammates have been doing.

It feels like a real group effort every time we go out on the pitch and that has shown both on and off the field.

At the same time as myself being nominated for an award before Christmas my teammate, Lasse Vibe, was in the mix for the PFA Player of the Month prize.

We have players who are topping stats charts left, right and centre and we have some real depth and versatility in the team. This means we can attack from all areas, whereas in the past we have maybe been reliant on one or two individuals.

Personally, I like to get on the ball and make things happen, helping the team to score goals by creating chances. I think I could probably add more goals to my game by getting behind the opposition defence more regularly.

I’ve scored four times this season, so far, but this is something I’m working on in training with the coaching staff at Brentford. We do a lot of work with video analysis to help me and improve this aspect of my game, but it is a work in progress.

Stats are a well known aspect of the backroom work at the club. Personally, I don’t read into them as much as others. I’m a player who prefers to be visual, making decisions and reacting based ‘on the eye’, rather than through what the data says.

It is good when you feel you are in positive form and you consider yourself to be in a good place, then the stats back it up. I prefer to see it as a secondary option, rather than a first.

Having said that, in terms of recruitment, it has shown to be a success time and time again through the players that the club have signed from lower divisions and abroad – there is a lot of talent to be found outside the top English leagues.

I have fond memories from my time with Walsall and being nominated for League One Player of the Year in my final season is probably the best moment of my career to date, alongside signing for Brentford.

However, I also hold a lot of pride in representing my heritage country, Saint Kitts and Nevis .

It is a very fulfilling ambassadorial role, in terms of giving hope and confidence to the youth of the country. Whether it is through football or something else, it is possible to provide for your family and that is the message I like to send.

Every time I go back there I try to motivate them a little bit more.

From a football perspective, it is a different culture and a new style. I think that has helped my game. It is a lot more physical and rough. You get kicked about and you have to learn to deal with that.

Playing for my country means a lot to me because of my family history. If I am there actively with football it gives me the chance to get involved with the people and their community.

Away from the pitch I am also involved in the Kick It Out campaign, which is a role that is very important to me.

I remember growing up and being a young boy wanting to be a professional footballer. It is extremely important that we continue to try and bridge the gap in today’s game.

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Reading

What’s in store for Reading in the Championship run-in?

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Photo: Reuters

After a brief period of optimism following Reading’s victory over Burton Albion last month, the Royals have slumped back into poor form and have failed to gain a single point since their visit to the Pirelli Stadium.

As a result, the negativity and frustration among the Reading fanbase has not subsided.

Back-to-back defeats, including yet another home defeat under Jaap Stam, who only a season ago had turned the Madejski Stadium into a fortress, have only served to increase the hostile atmosphere around the club.

The grievance was clear on both sides after the Millwall defeat. The Dutchman remarked that he doesn’t pay any notice to the fans and that even during the success of last season, negativity ruled over positivity.

The former Manchester United man’s comments were partly truthful and, while they don’t go as far as blaming the fans entirely, the actions of certain members of the Reading faithful have not been helping the on-pitch situation.

Indeed, there were sections of the support that were not best pleased with the possession driven style that Stam implemented. However, painting the fans in even a slightly negative light is not going to end well.

Despite the fact it is felt by many that booing and jeering your own team is the worst possible way to show your displeasure, the form currently on display is always going to encourage a negative presence from the stands, and it is up to the management and playing staff to figure out how to stop the unfavourable behaviours.

Too often this season Reading have looked slow, lifeless and disorganised.

New signings have flopped and even with record transfer investments, no overwhelming impact has been made on the field.

The Madejski currently has the scent of tactical staleness and a manager reluctant to stray too far from his template, leading to a stagnated club that seems willing to repeat the same mistakes time and time again.

However, there is hope, Reading have not conceded more than two goals in a single Championship game this season, indicating, at least on paper, that the club may not be too far from turning things around.

Due to the ongoing participation of Sheffield United in the FA Cup, ten days will have passed since the previous Royals match when Tuesday comes.

This provides opportune time for the slate to be wiped clean and a trip to Spain for five days of intense training in a bid to turn around their woeful form, with a third of the season remaining.

Tuesday night offered an opportunity for Reading to showcase their new and refreshed mindset as they travelled to fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest, where they picked up a 1-1 draw.

A win could have given new life to Jaap Stam’s men before the visit of high-flying Derby County on the weekend, but it was not to be.

While it seems somewhat inevitable that Matej Vydra, the Championship’s top scorer – who thoroughly underwhelmed during his time in Berkshire – will find the net, it would be a pleasant surprise if the Royals could buck the trend of home defeats and collect their first win on a Saturday at the Madejski Stadium this season.

The traditional benchmark for Championship survival is 50 points and Reading currently sit on 33 points with 14 games to go.

If that points total is to be taken as gospel, the Royals are just six wins away from ensuring their Championship status for another season.

However, when you have only won a single game in the previous 12, those 18 crucial points seem like a huge hurdle.

The hope for Jaap Stam will be that the time spent in Spain will enable the squad to bond and refresh their minds before, what is surely going to be, a busy end to the season.

The relationship between the supporters and the players is at a significantly low point.

It is more important now, than ever, that the management, playing staff and most crucially the fans, remember that everyone is fighting for the same thing – Championship survival and the continued success of Reading Football Club.

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Cardiff City

Will Championship great Neil Warnock earn a final shot at the Premier League?

Achieving promotion to the Premier League with second-placed Cardiff City would rank among Championship stalwart Neil Warnock’s finest career achievements, writes Greg Whitaker.

Greg Whitaker

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Neil Warnock
Photo: Reuters

Earlier this week, Neil Warnock told the assembled press that he “loves it” when his Cardiff City side are not mentioned in the race for promotion this season.

The high flying Bluebirds have certainly proved a surprise package this season, with Warnock once again up to his old tricks and making good use of his vast managerial expertise.

With runaway leaders Wolves, along with the likes of Aston Villa and Derby, taking all the headlines this season, it would appear Cardiff are indeed operating under the radar.

With relatively limited resources at his disposal and no real promotion expectations prior to the start of the season, the highly divisive Warnock, even in his 38th year of football management, is once again showing why he is still the master at this level.

The 69-year-old, who is now managing his 15th club, is a rare beast in modern football.

Unapologetically honest and forthright, he is the last in a dying breed of old school British managers, and one of the very few who has managed to adapt and continue to succeed in a game that barely resembles the one he left as a player nearly four decades ago.

Cutting his managerial teeth in non-league football, Warnock soon began to make a name for himself as an up-and-coming manager during the 1980s.

His managerial career was kick-started when he guided Conference side Scarborough into the Football League for the very first time in 1987, making them first club to win automatic promotion following the abolition of the re-election system in the process.

Successful stints at Notts County, Huddersfield Town, Plymouth Argyle, Oldham and Bury followed, before he took over at his boyhood club, Sheffield United, in 1999.

Under his stewardship, the Blades were transformed from a struggling second tier side into serial promotion contenders, with the club’s long awaited return to the Premier League coming in 2006.

However, a highly controversial relegation the following season, immortalised by the image of the ‘ineligible’ Carlos Tevez scoring a vital winner for relegation rivals West Ham at Old Trafford, saw Warnock resign and take some time away from the game.

Despite the Blades receiving a £20 million settlement after a lengthy court battle, Sheffield United are yet to return to the Premier League – surely Warnock’s biggest regret of his career.

The former winger returned to the dugout with Crystal Palace, before getting his second shot at the Premier League after guiding fellow London outfit QPR to the Championship title in 2011.

Time spent at Leeds United, a second spell at Selhurst Park, and a relegation scrap with Rotherham all came and went before Warnock was announced as Paul Trollope’s successor at Cardiff City in October 2016.

Admitting when he took the job that it would likely be his last in football, Warnock has unashamedly stuck to his tried and tested management style, once again with great effect.

Packing his teams with leaders on the pitch and in the dressing room, organisation drilled into each and every squad member, and a ‘my way or the highway’ mentality, rarely so effectively implemented by anyone else in the modern game, has made him enemies over the years, but also brought him a great deal of success.

This method of success, along, of course, with his infamous short temper and frequently observable explosions of rage, often aimed at match officials, has given Warnock an almost pantomime villain image, and one which he loves to play up to.

Indeed, as he noted in a recent interview, when discussing how the past greats of football should be remembered, he said, “I don’t want silence. I want them all to be chanting “Warnock’s a w*****” over and over again. For a whole minute. That would be my ideal.”

However he presents himself, it cannot be argued that the man gets results.

Cardiff City were deeply mired in a relegation battle when Warnock took to the hot seat at the Welsh capital club in October of 2016.

Less than 18 months later the Bluebirds sit in second position, behind only runaway leaders, Wolves.

A turnaround made all the more impressive when Warnock’s transfer budget is taken into account.

The Welsh outfit have spent a little under £15m on incoming players during the last two transfer windows combined – a shadow of the money spent by other names in the promotion mix, including Wolves, Villa, Derby and Middlesbrough.

Although he has claimed in the past not to enjoy managing in the Premier League, it is hard to imagine Warnock is not itching for one last shot at the big time.

His Championship credentials are unquestionably up there with some of the great Football League managers.

However, fate has been unkind to the Yorkshireman during his only two spells managing in the top flight.

Football is all about theatre and narrative.

Despite a great deal of ‘pantomime’ animosity aimed at the Marmite-esque Neil Warnock, if he manages to take this unfancied Cardiff City side into the Premier League this season, it would surely rank as his finest achievement, and cement his status as one of the second tier’s greatest managers.

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