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Football League Review - Rhodes And Westley Are Men In Demand

Tuesday 10th January 2012
We're just over a week into the January transfer window, and although we've had a few movers and shakers up and down the Football League already, the big business has yet to happen. I think it almost goes without saying that there are a couple of names we expect to see moving this month, with Doncaster's Billy Sharp seemingly a fair way down the road to securing a move to Leicester, and Bristol City keen to sell Nicky Maynard rather than lose him on a free in the summer, but let me make the case for another man who is set for big things in the future – Jordan Rhodes.

The Scotland international has been in exceptional form for both club and country this season and has now netted 25 league goals this season, and 33 goals in 29 games overall. He has shown an eye for goal and the kind of clinical finishing which belies someone of his tender age – Rhodes is still only 21 – and his five-goal haul at Wycombe last time out was watched by a whole host of Premier League scouts. It would not surprise me if Rhodes is playing Premiership football by the end of the month, and it would be no less than he deserves for the performances he's put in for Huddersfield since joining the club from Ipswich in 2009.

On the subject of men in demand, Stevenage manager Graham Westley has been subject of perhaps more attention than he might have anticipated. Of course, managers are not restricted to the same rules as players when it comes to moving clubs, however Stevenage have this month rejected an approach from Preston North End for the services of Westley, and I suspect Preston won't be the last club to make enquiries for the former Farnborough Town and Rushden & Diamonds boss. His success with Stevenage has been well documented, with their rapid rise from playing non-league football just two seasons ago to the clubs current position of seventh in League One largely attributed to the work ethic of the club, both on and off the field.

While Westley looks set to stay put, it's been all change at Yeovil Town as Gary Johnson returns to Somerset to take the top job at Huish Park, with former boss Terry Skiverton staying on as Johnson's assistant in something of a strange move. Logic normally dictates if a manager is replaced, the previous one leaves the club, rather than stays on as assistant manager but Skiverton, who was on the playing staff during Johnson's last stint at the club, admitted the opportunity to work under Johnson again was an opportunity too good to turn down and felt that this was the best way forward for the club.

Moving from affairs off the pitch to those on it, a much-reduced programme of Football League action over the weekend saw Carlisle United benefit in League One, picking up a 4-1 home win over Leyton Orient to move into sixth place in the table, while Exeter moved away from the bottom three with a 2-0 win at bottom club Chesterfield, who have really struggled to adapt to life in League One despite being promoted as League Two champions last season. In League Two, Southend United moved up to second place with a convincing 3-0 home victory over Port Vale, while Oxford moved into the playoffs with a very comfortable 3-0 win at Aldershot.

Football League teams were also grabbing headlines in the FA Cup over the weekend, as several clubs thrust themselves into the limelight with victories over higher-ranked opposition, most notably Swindon Town, who came from behind to beat Premiership side Wigan Athletic with a 2-1 victory, with Matt Ritchie's deflected strike finding the net via Paul Benson to give the League Two side a famous win, and a tie with either Nottingham Forest or Leicester City in Round 4.

Stevenage also pulled off a famous victory after beating last season's beaten Championship Playoff finalists Reading 1-0, with a solitary effort from Darius Charles enough to give the League One side a home tie with Notts County, who advanced after an impressive 2-0 win at Doncaster with a double strike from Jeff Hughes. Crawley Town also advance to the Fourth Round with a 1-0 win over Championship side Bristol City, with Matt Tubbs scoring the winning goal in that game, while a Chris O'Grady strike gave Sheffield Wednesday an impressive 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Hillsborough.

MK Dons will face a replay after drawing 1-1 with Premier League side Queens Park Rangers, in a game the League One side were unlucky to win, and Karl Robinson's side will surely be keen to impress at Loftus Road. QPR have only won one game in front of their own fans all season, and haven't won an FA Cup tie since 2001, so there is every chance for the Dons to pull off an upset and land a glamour tie with Chelsea, should they progress. Macclesfield Town also surprised a lot of people by holding Bolton to a 2-2 draw, and now face a daunting replay at the Reebok Stadium, with a home tie against Swansea City up for grabs, while Dagenham & Redbridge also earned a replay after a gritty 0-0 home draw with Millwall. A home game against Championship promotion hopefuls Southampton awaits whichever team comes through the replay of that tie.

Looking ahead to the next couple of days and there is more exciting cup action for some of our Football League clubs. Leeds travel to the Emirates tonight to face Arsenal in the FA Cup Third Round, while Tuesday night sees Cardiff and Crystal Palace do battle in the first leg of their Carling Cup Semi Final tie, with a place at Wembley, and potentially a spot in next season's Europa Ligue up for grabs for the winners. This is a huge opportunity for both clubs and there is no doubt that both teams will put everything they have into trying to ensure that they come out of this tie as winners.

The amount of money that could be earned by participating in next season's Europa Ligue (on the assumption that Manchester City beat Liverpool in the other semi final and then also finish in the top four of the Premiership this season, both of which seem reasonable assumptions to make) will be hugely important to both clubs, as both have had their fair share of financial struggles in recent seasons yet are now making steps in the right direction. The extra money would go a long way towards securing a bright future for whichever of the two Championship sides makes it to the final.

On a final note, it's also worth giving a mention to the League Two clash between Hereford and now-managerless Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night. Both teams are struggling down towards the wrong end of the League Two table, and perhaps it's a little early in the season to be using this term, but this is potentially a relegation six-pointer. A much less prestigious prize on offer for the victors of this particular game, but one that will be taken just as seriously by those involved.
Bruce Halling
Bruce is a 24-year-old self-confessed Football League addict and author of the 'Road To The Promised Land' column. He is a passionate Southend United fan who has witnessed the Shrimpers' rise to the Championship as well as their more recent fall back to their current position in League Two. Though he doesn’t get to many games as a spectator, he has worked at Southend, Colchester United and now Queens Park Rangers as a steward, so is never too far away from the action on a matchday. Away from football, he is a Politics graduate and currently jobhunting. Follow Bruce on Twitter @brucehalling

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