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Matt Holland's Blog 24

30 January 2013

With a guaranteed six npower Championship teams through to the fifth round of the FA Cup, you'd have to say it was a good weekend for the division. The exploits of Oldham Athletic, Milton Keynes Dons and Brentford maybe overshadowed our teams when it came to generating back page headlines but you really can't argue with the performances.

Personally I'd have to pick Leeds United's 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur as the stand-out display. After they were thumped 5-1 by Chelsea in the Capital One Cup in December, I'm sure there were a few nerves at Elland Road before kick-off but Neil Warnock's side acquitted themselves superbly and deserved to go through.

It was certainly far from a weak Tottenham side. Andre Villas-Boas has taken all the cup competitions seriously this season in terms of his team selection and it was the same on Sunday but Leeds were right up for it and showed quality when they needed to. There was nothing lucky about the result.

I was also hugely impressed by Brighton and Hove Albion in their 3-2 defeat against Arsenal. Gus Poyet's side didn't look out of their depth for a lot of the match and ultimately it was only the Gunners' superior strength on the bench and the luxury of bringing on match winner Theo Walcott after 68 minutes that was the difference between the two sides.

Millwall of course set the tone on Friday night with their 2-1 win against Aston Villa. The cynics might suggest Villa aren't much of a scalp at the moment in the wake of their nightmare against Bradford in the Capital One Cup but that's nonsense. They're still a Premier League side and with the likes of Ron Vlaar, Darren Bent, Shay Given and Charles N'Zogbia, they had plenty of fully-fledged internationals in the starting XI.

Another npower Championship manager has gone since last week's blog and the unlucky man this time was Simon Grayson, who was sacked by Huddersfield Town on Thursday. Simon got less than a year in the job at the John Smith's Stadium but with the Terrier' failing to win in any of their last 12 league games, I'm sure he knew he was in increasing trouble.

What does surprise me though is the fact Huddersfield still look to have a good chance of consolidating last season's promotion and staying in the division. Their current position of 19th is nothing to write home about but surely the target this season was to remain in the npower Championship. Simon still looked like he was capable of achieving that and seemed to have retained the support of the players.

The rumour mill is already in full swing and if the whispers that Nigel Adkins will be the new manager are true, I'm sure Huddersfield fans will be very happy indeed. Simon's sacking may have been borderline but Nigel losing his job at Southampton was just unbelievable.

There will be a lot of npower Championship manager hoping Nigel Adkins gets a new job sooner rather than later. His record speaks for itself and they know there will be no shortage of chairmen keeping very close tabs on him, giving them that little bit less job security. If Huddersfield don't get him, a host of clubs will be ready to pounce.

In transfer news, Barnsley have signed Jason Scotland after Ipswich Town released the 33-year-old earlier in the month. He didn't exactly set Portman Road alight but I still think he's got something to offer at this level and in getting him on a free, the Tykes have done a sensible piece of business.

Heading to Portman Road is Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Richard Stearman, who's joined on loan until the end of the season. Mick McCarthy knows what he's getting in Stearman having worked with him at Molineux and with Ipswich still struggling, defensive reinforcements are very welcome.

Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Bristol City was a blow but far from fatal. The recent draw at Cardiff City and wins at Wolves and Charlton Athletic prove Mick has the side heading in the right direction and with a six-point cushion between the side and Peterborough United in 22nd, I'm confident he will keep the club in the npower Championship reasonably comfortably.

On Friday Crystal Palace finalised the negotiations that made Wilfried Zaha a Manchester United player and I think the Eagles have pulled off a fantastic deal.

To get Zaha back on loan for the rest of the season and the push for promotion is great but it's the £10million up-front fee, plus a potential £5m more depending on appearances and silverware, that is the real coup.

Like most people, I love watching Zaha play. I enjoy the way he plays off the cuff, the way he isn't robotic or predictable but the truth is United are paying for potential rather than the finished product. For Palace to pick up at least £10million for potential is great business.

Sunderland signed Connor Wickham for £8million with a possible £4million on top on exactly the same basis. It hasn't yet worked out for him at the Stadium of Light and although I believe he will come again - he's still only 19 - his experience illustrates that are absolutely no guarantees with players that age. It really doesn't matter how talented they are.

I wish Zaha luck when he finally goes to Old Trafford and I certainly don't blame Palace for taking the money on offer now rather than gambling on his progress over the next season or two.

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