Championship Preview: Wolves' Saunders era begins against resurgent Blackburn

Rovers could be on the brink of finally replacing Henning Berg with Blackpool's recently-appointed Michael Appleton and will look to extend their recent run in the Welshman's bow
The swift dismissal of Stale Solbakken following an FA Cup defeat to Luton last week saw Wolves move even more swiftly to appoint Dean Saunders as his replacement.

The former Wales international was installed less than 48 hours after the Norwegian's sacking and is hoping to turn around a run of form that has seen the Molineux outfit pick up just 12 points from the last 48 available to them.

Solbakken insisted afterwards that letting him go was the wrong decision due to the amount of injuries, but those who are at the club are looking to hit the ground running.

Midfielder Jamie O'Hara has recently returned to the side following nine months out through injury, and thinks the former Doncaster boss can provide a spark to reignite Wolves' flagging campaign.


Bristol City
Nottm Forest
Hull City
Blackburn (Fri)
Crystal Palace
Sheff W (17.20)
"He's a real motivator," O'Hara told BBC Midlands Today. "He's going to get the best out of the players.

"He's already changed the philosophy and mentality. He's what we needed. He's the motivator that the team needs.

"We needed a different way. And I think it's going to benefit us. I hope we can go out and get results for him.

"When I joined we were on the up, being very ambitious, looking at being a top 10 side [in the Premier League]. Instead we've gone the other way and it's been a bit of a nightmare. Not great to be a part of to be honest."

The West Midlands outfit will tackle Blackburn on Friday evening, who look set to appoint Michael Appleton as their manager over the weekend.

Appleton only took charge of Blackpool two months ago, following Ian Holloway's move to Crystal Palace, but the Tangerines confirmed on Thursday that the 35-year-old is set for talks at Ewood Park ahead of the Wolves game.

Caretaker boss Gary Bowyer has led the team to three wins from three games since taking temporary charge, leaving Rovers just five points off the play-offs, and is doing his best to ignore the speculation.

He told reporters: “We knew anything could happen in that month we were given and it still can. We’ll keep going and prepare the team to go to win at Wolves.

“We bought the club some time and that’s what we set out to do. The club is exercising that right now.

“I was always aware that there were going to be approaches made to managers and it didn’t surprise me because we said that anything can happen.

At the top of the table, Cardiff host Ipswich, while Hull City face a Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday.

The Tigers sealed permanent deals for David Meyler and Robbie Brady, who had been on loan from Sunderland and Manchester United respectively, while Owls boss Dave Jones is determined to do some business of his own.

The Frenchman was one of Stale Solbakken's biggest summer signings at Wolves and has made an impressive start to life in England, notching 7 goals in 25 games from the wing. Dean Saunders will be hoping that the pacy No.10 can push and improve even further under his tutelage.
On loan at Middlesbrough for the season from Nottingham Forest, Miller initially struggled to make an impact due to injury, but established himself as a regular under Tony Mowbray over the festive period and has scored three goals in his last six outings for Boro, including an effort to seal victory over Peterborough last month.
Returned to Elland Road on a permanent deal this week after spending much of the first half of the campaign on loan from Stoke. Four goals from 19 games was a decent return from midfield, but Neil Warnock will be hoping Tonge can improve further as the Whites chase a top-six spot.
He told reporters: "Most of the business in the window is done late on. I am interested in all good players. Just because I won't give names doesn't mean we're not doing anything.

"I can promise fans we are trying really hard. The chairman is on to me every day."

Tigers boss Steve Bruce has been nominated for the Championship Manager of the Month award, alongside Malky Mackay and Mick McCarthy who will lock horns at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Mackay saw a much-changed line-up dumped out of the FA Cup by Macclesfield last week, but thinks it could be a blessing in disguise and help his side's title chances.

He said: "We picked a team here that we felt was capable of winning the game and I thought there were some fantastic performances.

"We have a dressing room of very disappointed players but they should be proud of the performance they put in and we can now get our head in the league."

Ready to pounce on any slip-ups above are Middlesbrough who host sixth-placed Watford at the Riverside Stadium.

Boro owner Steve Gibson is keen to see his club return to the Premier League, and has called on the supporters to help the squad achieve it.

"The crowd become the 12th man for us whenever our team play," he told The Evening Gazette. "There’s a reason why teams generally win more games at home than away from home and it’s the crowd."

"Having a good crowd is really important to the players and also to the fans who come to our games, because it improves the atmosphere dramatically."

"If we’re going to win promotion we’re going to need the manager and the coaching staff to give their all, but we’ll also need our supporters, the town and the community as a whole all pulling together and giving their all."

The Hornets' form has been patchy recently, and they were comfortably beaten by Premier League champions Manchester City 3-0 in the FA Cup, but boss Gianfranco Zola wants his players to learn from facing such high-calibre opponents.

He told reporters: "It is encouraging for all of us as we put a lot of faith in young players and it is a brilliant game for their education.

"I told them it would be impossible to stop them creating chances to score so they need to learn from better players if they want to become better players themselves and I am sure my players did learn a lot."

Another all-Yorkshire clash with implications at the top and bottom sees play-off chasing Leeds travel to last-placed Barnsley.

The Tykes are yet to replace Keith Hill, who was sacked over Christmas and were turned down by Terry Butcher this week, with the former England defender opting to stay and "make history" with Inverness in the SPL.

Caretaker boss David Flitcroft led the team to an FA Cup victory over Burnley last week and first-choice goalkeeper Luke Steele has backed the 38-year-old to take the job full-time.

Steele told BBC Radio Sheffield: "I think all of the players are happy with that and they would love to see him given the job. He's a really good coach, gets on with everybody and in the two games we've had under him we've done well."

Leeds manager Neil Warnock is wary of the trip to Oakwell, and believes that the Tykes do not deserve to be propping the rest of the division up.

"I always think the games against the teams at the bottom end of the division are far harder because everybody expects you to do things," he told reporters.

"I know how difficult it is at Barnsley. They actually gave us a lesson at Elland Road, they battered us for half an hour. How they didn't score I'll never know.

"That's the fine line in management I suppose and two or three of the other games I've seen them play, they've been very unfortunate, so it's an exciting atmosphere and I'm looking forward to it."

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