Welcome to The Trawler, your weekly submersion through the teeming waters of life in the Championship, League One and League Two. You might be surprised what you find down there.
There goes Big Sam's grand slam
He might not be famous for purveying the brand of attractive, pass-and-move football that West Ham fans would have you believe they're entitled to, but that didn't stop Sam Allardyce getting a rapturous reception before his new club's opening game in the Championship.
After a torturous campaign last season, long-suffering Hammers fans had become reacquainted with hope as they anticipated the visit of Cardiff City, and a new dawn for a club that needs promotion more than most. In three years' time West Ham will likely take up home at London's 2012 Olympic Stadium. With 60,000 seats to fill, Premier League football is pretty much essential.
Such necessity had forced even the most romantic of West Ham fans to soften their stance somewhat. Big Sam might be the anti-Pep Guardiola, but a purists' dream of tiki taka theatre could be forsaken for a romp to the title and a return to the top flight. The man himself dismissed scepticism over his appointment; stressing in a pre-match interview that he fully intended to attack and set out a team to score the 80 or so goals his team would need for automatic promotion.
Ninety minutes into their season and the Hammers are still to get off the mark. Beaten 1-0 at home by Cardiff City, Allardyce's team dominated possession but were as blunt as a spoon in attack. And as their underwhelmed fans filed forlornly out of Upton Park, it was left to a morose Big Sam to capture their mood in one of the most depressing post-match interview you're likely to hear this season.
"Nobody's more miserable than me. I won't be sleeping tonight and I will probably be watching the game when I get back home," he said. "We're gutted because of our performance in terms of chances created and not converted. We had 14; they had three. Professional football then kicks you right where it hurts sometimes and today was exactly that ... "
Allardyce was a little off the mark with his stats. Cardiff actually had 13 attempts on goal, but nonetheless most agreed West Ham were victims of their own profligacy. Big Sam will be hoping new signing John Carew can add a cutting thrust to his operation, and praying Scott Parker's wage demands are off-putting enough to ensure he stays in the Championship.
It's early days in the Big Sam revolution, but with a home grand slam already gone his fragile popularity is already looking precarious.
Back-to-back victories against Aldershot in the League Cup on Tuesday and away to Doncaster Rovers in the Championship next Saturday are required. West Ham players can expect shooting practice on the days either side.
Sheffield Wednesday pride restored
The saying goes that you're only as good as your last game, and considering Sheffield Wednesday's was a 14-0 defeat at the hands of a non-league outfit, you'd be forgiven for making light of their chairman's talk of promotion to the Championship.
Alfreton Town did the damage last Sunday, putting double figures past a Sheffield Wednesday XI and themselves on the map in the process. It didn't seem to matter to the media that Wednesday had drawn with Premier League Stoke the day before; nor that they'd sent out a youth team to honour the fixture and let the home side keep the gate receipts.
"On Saturday we drew with Stoke and were excellent against a team who had £95 million worth of players. Yet we're talking about a ridiculous defeat on Sunday," manager Gary Megson said. "I was going to apologise to the people at Alfreton. We should have a team capable of not being beaten 14-0, but everyone knows that we are short of players ... I had a choice: either call the Alfreton game off, or send the youth team."
As it turns out Megson was fully vindicated on Saturday. Wednesday started their League One campaign with a 2-0 win against Rochdale, before a crowd of over 21,000 watching on at Hillsborough. New signing David Prutton scored on his league debut and put in a standout performance, and talk of Alfreton Town was finally resigned to the annals of curious football trivia.
Wembley on the south coast
Brighton & Hove Albion began life in their shiny new stadium with a dramatic 2-1 victory against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, prompting much talk about the size of the playing surface. The dimensions of the pitch, 115 yards by 75 yards, are identical to those at Wembley, and were apparently set out at the behest of manager Gus Poyet.
"It's huge, but the way we play it favours us," said Brighton's two-goal hero Will Buckley, who came on as a substitute to win the game. "The philosophy is to play the ball on the floor and keep it local. We don't go running around for the ball when we've got it."
Speaking on the BBC's Football Focus, assistant manager Charlie Oatway joked that if Poyet had got his way the pitch would have extended into the stands. Ironically that's exactly where Poyet ended up after he was sent off for having a tantrum on the sidelines.
Trawler Picks: Week Two
My Championship game to watch this weekend is Leicester City versus Reading. Sven-Goran Eriksson's City got off to the perfect start with a win at Coventry, and some bookmakers immediately moved them ahead of West Ham as favourites to win the title. Reading missed out in the play-offs last season, and judging by the gutsy fight-back that saw them salvage a draw against Millwall the Royals will give Sven's men a stern test.
From League One, Notts County versus Charlton will see two teams who underperformed last season looking to build on excellent starts to the new campaign. Both won 3-0 on the opening day, which seems to suggest we could be in for an entertaining afternoon.
My League Two pick is Crawley Town versus Macclesfield Town. The 'other Red Devils' are making their first steps in the professional ranks, but such is the financial weight behind them they've been made favourites to win the league. Broadfield Stadium is ready to welcome league football for the first team, and a full house will be expecting victory against a Macclesfield team who lost at home on opening day.
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