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Championship review: Chansiri nicks Sheffield Wednesday glory; Stoke produce perfect week; more crazy manager sackings

Stoke City produced the perfect three-game week, Dejphon Chansiri stole the glory from two-goal Michael Smith at Sheffield Wednesday and Taylor Harwood-Bellis is making things easy for Southampton boss Russell Martin. All this and more from the latest round of the Championship...


Stoke City

I'm no kind of expert on American sport but I'm pretty sure I can use the terminology 'slam dunk' and 'home run' for Stoke City's past week in the EFL Championship. A nine point, three game week, is rare at the best of the times but when you consider the opposition that Stoke faced it's all the more impressive.

Game one saw a 2-1 home win over last season's losing play-off semi-finalists Sunderland and that was followed up with a 1-0 home win in midweek over year one parachute team Leeds. If games one and two were a mix of excellent and surprising then the theme continued with a 2-0 win up at Middlesbrough to cap off the perfect three game week.

Stoke were out of sight in the first half at the Riverside with goals from Michael Rose and Mehdi Leris doing the damage to a Boro side who had won their previous seven consecutive games in all competitions. We've already been up and down with the Potters this season, their exciting transfer window and decent first few games were followed by a run of six defeats in eight Championship games.

It looks like we're on the up at the Bet 365 once again, and the fixture list now blesses Stoke with games against four of the current bottom six sides across the next six games. They've given themselves the platform, can Stoke now do what they've not done consistently since their return to the Championship in 2018 and keep trending upwards?


Michael Smith (Sheffield Wednesday)

When you hear a player interviewed after scoring a couple of goals, the football cliches handbook will normally see them suggest some kind of humble offering about 'the team coming first' and 'the three points are the most important thing'. I'm sure Sheffield Wednesday's Michael Smith is stoic and professional enough for it not to be the case, but he surely must've been even more conflicted than your average goalscorer after his double at Hillsborough this weekend.

On the one hand Smith's two goals came against his former club Rotherham, but on the other it was the first win for new manager Danny Rohl and the first win of the entire season for Wednesday and we're already up to round 14.

This should now be the part where I talk about Smith getting promoted with Rotherham and then immediately dropping back to sign for Sheffield Wednesday down in League 1. We could discuss Smith's viability as a Championship marksman or whether this could be a turning point for the Owls after their utterly dreadful start to the campaign.

Unfortunately though as with everything Sheffield Wednesday related it always seems to come back to Mr Chansiri the owner who, to use a term frequently levelled at players, appears to have downed tools. Sheffield Wednesday are now under embargo over unpaid money to HMRC and right now it doesn't look like their owner is in any way willing to stump up the cash. Sorry Michael Smith, but the Hillsborough headline hogger has stolen your thunder!


Dugout Dance

I'm almost wondering whether I should bother writing anything about the current Championship managerial merry-go-round on the basis that in the time between hitting send on this article and it reaching the excellent Tribal Football website the landscape could've changed once again. It's been a wild week or two and all change in the Championship dugouts.

Before the international break Xisco Munoz was given his marching orders by Sheffield Wednesday then, before Wednesday could replace Xisco with Danny Rohl, Birmingham got rid of John Eustace and replaced him with Wayne Rooney.

At the back end of the international break Gary Rowett left Millwall and, at time of typing, he's not been replaced yet. Since Rowett went we've had another two firings, with Gareth Ainsworth out of QPR and Nigel Pearson leaving Bristol City.

QPR took just 48 hours to replace Ainsworth with Marti Cifuentes meaning that, as I sit here right now, there are two open Championship jobs at Millwall and Bristol City. The rumour mill has Nathan Jones replacing Rowett at Millwall and John Eustace landing at Bristol City, never the most scientific way to look at the managerial roster but when it comes to the Championship we're talking about a very inexact science to begin with. Six clubs are already without the manager who started the season in situ, how many more will roll the dice before we reach May?


Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Southampton)

We've talked about Taylor Harwood-Bellis in this segment of this column on a few occasions before. If my maths is correct the 21 year old centre back will pass through 100 Championship appearances early in the new year if he stays fit.

I won't add 'if selected' because I can't quite understand why any Championship manager with access to Harwood-Bellis wouldn't select him given his talent and experience. We first saw him in the second tier on-loan at Blackburn for the back end of the 2020/21 season, he was then off to Anderlecht for the first half of the 2021/22 season but he did end it with Stoke City. Last season Harwood-Bellis was part of the Burnley side who walked the division to win the title under Vincent Kompany, whom he'd worked with during the Anderlecht loan one year previously.

What's interesting about Harwood-Bellis is he keeps ending up in the Championship and is now with Russell Martin at Southampton. The big centre half has already stacked up eight appearances and stepped up with the opening goal in the Saints 3-1 win over Birmingham at the weekend.

With the three year one parachute teams all looking square in the face of the top two it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility for Harwood-Bellis to win back to back Championship promotions only this time he would finally make it to the Premier League.

I thought Burnley would be picking him up after they confirmed their Premier League status but Southampton definitely will be as there is a well publicised 'obligation to buy' element to Harwood-Bellis' contract that will see his move made permanent if they make it over the line this season. I'm sure he'll get there in the end but the route is clear if his Southampton loan is as successful as Burnley's.

Follow Benjamin Bloom on Twitter @BenjaminBloom

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