All teams in the Championship have now completed six games – and whilst still extremely early days, the table is already starting to take some shape and fans of all clubs will have, going into the international break, a sense of optimism, realism or concern about how their own club has started.
Here, we grade all teams, according to how they have started the season – along with their current league placing in brackets.
GRADE A+ (Superb start, far better than expected) – Swansea City (1st) & Charlton Athletic (2nd)
Twelve games, nine wins, three draws, zero losses – that’s the combined record of Swansea (5-1-0) and newly promoted Charlton (4-2-0), who currently lead the way in the Championship after fantastic starts. Neither team has had a soft start either; Swansea have had trips to Derby and Leeds United to deal with, whilst the Addicks have already faced Brentford, Nottingham Forest and much fancied Blackburn Rovers. Swansea fans will feel this start sets them a real platform for a promotion push; Charlton may not share those lofty hopes, but on this start, any fears of a relegation battle seem a long way away.
GRADE A (Excellent start) – Leeds United (3rd), QPR (8th), Bristol City (5th), Birmingham City (9th)
Only a last gasp goal conceded to Swansea drops Leeds into this group – that being their only loss of the season in the Championship and, to that point, had looked in dominant form. The fewest goals conceded already, Leeds have looked every inch the pre season favourites and will feel primed for promotion. Bristol City have rebounded excellently from a opening fixture loss to Leeds, winning 3 and drawing 2 to take them into fifth place. They will also feel nicely placed for their expected play off, if not automatic promotion, push. Both QPR and Birmingham will be delighted with their 10 points gained so far – they may well fall away a little as expected pre season, but where their starts are concerned, their fans will be more than satisfied.
GRADE B (Good start, positive signs) – West Brom (4th), Fulham (6th), Preston (7th), Millwall (12th)
Whilst still unbeaten, fans are still not sure what to make of West Bromwich Albion – but unbeaten they are and sat in 4th spot, so a good enough and more than satisfactory start for the Baggies under new boss Slaven Bilic (above). No clean sheets though from those six games shows why the Grade is B rather than A. Similar story for Fulham – at times looking unstoppable, but at times looking shaky – losses to Barnsley and Nottingham Forest tempering what would otherwise be a more than acceptable start for Scott Parker and all at Craven Cottage. Preston started slowly but have moved through the gears and are looking a dangerous side, whilst Millwall will be more than encouraged with just their one loss from six – but only five goals scored in the process may see them still looking more down than up. Still, they have more than served notice that they will be tough to beat.
GRADE C (An average, about expected start) – Nottingham Forest (10th), Sheffield Wednesday (11th), Brentford (14th), Luton Town (15th), Reading (16th), Barnsley (21st)
Brentford can point to a 3-0 hammering of Derby as the reason they find themselves in this grade – anything less and it could only have been described as a poor start. But that win and performance should breathe life into the Bees and find them back on an upward curve. Both Forest and Sheffield Wednesday have shown signs of potential, but also inconsistency, that puts that in the bottom section of the top half that may well be their placing also next May – but fans will be just about happy enough so far. Luton and Reading will be happy enough with 7 points from six games and a level goal difference….neither will harbour expectations of grandeur, but both keen to maintain this start of more than a point a game in their quest for Championship survival. Barnsley fans cannot have expected too much from their club, especially with Fulham, Sheff Weds and Charlton in their opening salvo of fixtures – but 6 points is a return they will be satisfied with – and not overly concerned with their division placing…..yet.
GRADE D (Disappointing start, below expectations) – Cardiff City (13th), Blackburn Rovers (17th), Middlesbrough (18th), Derby County (19th), Hull City (20th), Wigan Athletic (22nd)
Cardiff fans may feel a tad aggrieved to be graded here – but their losses to Wigan and Reading have to be regarded as disappointing – as well as only picking up points against Blackburn and ten man Fulham. Their next two games, against similarly graded Derby and Middlesbrough, could confirm this grading or make it look a tad foolish. Blackburn look like a team that are flattering to deceive after much pre season promise, whilst fans of the afore mentioned Middlesbrough and Derby will be wondering just what’s going on, with both teams looking well short of the quality and confidence needed for the expected play off pushes. Both will want – need – wins on their return to quell the warning bells starting to sound ever louder. Hull City fans will be fearing the worst after their own sluggish start whilst Wigan, after a fine opening game win over Cardiff, will be disappointed to have only picked up one point since – against Barnsley – and though expectations were tempered pre season, will still consider themselves down on where they could/should be.
GRADE E (Horrible start, way below expectations) – Huddersfield Town (23rd), Stoke City (24th)
Its quite scary to think that this time last season Huddersfield Town were a second season Premier League club and hoping to make it a third season in the top flight. 12 months on and the Terriers look a team in abject disarray – just one point from six games, managerless and not knowing where a win is coming from. Games against Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday, unbeaten West Brom and tough to beat Millwall up next for the Terriers…that wait could be a while longer yet. But, if things look bleak for Huddersfield – who maybe knew that a transitional phase was in store for them, what can be said about Stoke City, who were one of the pre season favourites for promotion – but lie rock bottom of the Championship – just a solitary point to their name and have easily the worst defensive record in the division – 15 goals conceded already. Manager Nathan Jones’ position at the Bet365 Stadium already looks in real danger, and their schedule looks no easier on their return – with Bristol City, Brentford and Forest all ready to make a horrible start even worse. The Stoke fans, like the one pictured above, will be asking Delilah ‘Why?’ even more vociferously if this start continues.