Football League Expert & Columnist
Heaven for Hull
Peter Beagrie talks Hull's sparkling form, Watford's Nathaniel Chalobah and Millwall's play-off hopes.
Last Updated: 14/11/12 5:38pm
Peter Beagrie is here every week on skysports.com answering YOUR Football League questions.
The former winger, who played over 770 games, representing clubs in all four tiers of the English footballing pyramid, including Manchester City, Everton, Bradford, Sheffield United, Scunthorpe, and Grimsby, forms part of the Sky Sports punditry team for all the big matches in the Championship, League One and League Two.
So if you have a poser for Peter, whether it's about your team, a player, match or incident that has caught your eye, or a wider point on the Football League, make sure you send it in.
Read below for this week's column where Beags gives his take on promotion-chasing Hull, Watford starlet Nathaniel Chalobah and Millwall's play-off hopes...
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Hi Peter, Hull have started the season really well and are playing some of the best football I've ever seen them play. They have a strong squad and have acquired a few good loan signings of late along with an experienced manager. How have they look to a neutral this season and how do you rate their chances come May? Ben G (Hull fan)
BEAGS SAYS: I witnessed first-hand at Bristol City what this Hull squad is capable of and they have genuine quality throughout, while I think their results could have been even more flattering had they converted some more of the chances that their attractive approach play has created. They are reasonably solid at the back, have creativity and width in midfield, and options up front and that augurs well. Robert Koren, a little magician with an eye for a killer pass, a dynamite right foot and the ability to find space has been Hull's most important player but much-travelled 23-year-old Sone Aluko has been sensational, whether playing as a tricky, snake-hipped winger or as an auxiliary striker, and has scored six goals. Sunderland loanee Ahmed Elmohamady has brought a new dimension to the Tigers, too, providing a conveyor belt of crosses when occupying a wide midfield position or playing as a right wing-back; and it seems like a shrewd move by Steve Bruce to bring the Egyptian in. If Koren, Aluko and Elmohamady stay fit, a play-off berth should be a cert.
Hi Peter, Last week you named Josh McEachran as the best loan player in the Championship but what do you think of Watford's Nathaniel Chalobah, who is only 17 and just earned his first call up to the England Under-21 squad? I can only see it being a matter of time before he finds his feet in the Chelsea first-team and the full England side. Thanks, Dean Lee (Watford fan)
BEAGS SAYS: I think Chalobah is an exceptional talent and even though his career is still in its infancy I would be surprised if he does not captain his country at full international level; when I say his country I mean England but he is also eligible, by birth, to play for Sierra Leone. He played for the England under-16s at the age of 13, the Under-17s, with whom he won the European Championships, at 14, is currently captain of the Under-19 side and made his England Under-21 debut at against Northern Ireland this week. Nathaniel is a fantastic athlete, tall and elegant, and equally at home at centre-half as he is as a central midfielder who can turn defence into attack. He is very composed and shows quality and a maturity beyond his years and if he keeps his talented feet on the ground, I not only see him breaking into the Chelsea team but becoming one of its brightest stars. Be thankful of Gianfranco Zola's connections with Chelsea, and the Pozzo family's ones with Udinese and Granada for that matter, as Watford are using the loan system to their advantage and are doing brilliantly at the moment.
BOURNE TO RUN?
Hi Peter, I know Eddie Howe moved back to Bournemouth for family reasons but with a bit of money at the club now, where do you think he can take the Cherries? I certainly think we get to at least top-half of the Championship within the next few years. Cheers, Alex Brown (Bournemouth fan)
BEAGS SAYS: There is genuine investment in Bournemouth now, Alex, and it is great to see a club come back from the brink and challenge the more established teams. Let's be honest, though, money talks and despite a tug on the heart strings prompting Eddie to return to Bournemouth, he was also remunerated healthily. The chairman, Eddie Mitchell, and co-owner, Maxim Demin, have vowed to continue developing the club from top to bottom but, more importantly, leave team affairs totally to Howe and his assistant Jason Tindall. The Cherries are certainly progressing and after play-off misery in the past the owners will want return on their considerable investment, and with five wins in six League One games and the gap to the final play-off place closing to five points, dreams of being a Championship side next season remain very much alive.
JAMES STILL BEATT-ING
Hi Peter, Hi Peter, What do you make of James Beattie's move to Accrington Stanley? David Pollard (Accrington fan)
BEAGS SAYS: I think this is the last-chance saloon for Beattie and having gone 53 games since his last goal, there should be a hunger within him to make sure that at the age of 34 he is not lost to the game prematurely. Player-coach is the title he has been given and he won't be short of an opinion, but he must take his role seriously and lead by example amongst what is a primarily young squad at Stanley. Hopefully the fact it took him such a long time to find a club after he left Sheffield United in the summer has highlighted that you can't live off reputation alone - and made him realise that a life without football in some way, shape or form is unthinkable. The Accies will hope he can lead the line and find his goal-scoring threat quickly as they have a game in hand on most teams in League Two and are only five points off the play-off spots - but with some tricky games coming up, this weekend's match with struggling Barnet is a must-win.
NOT RUN OF THE MILL
Hi Beags, Millwall are on a great run at the moment. I was a bit worried about how we'd get at the start of the season but things seemed to have clicked. I'm a big fan of James Henry and think he's a key to our chances. What do you think of him? And do you think we could sneak into the play-offs? Charlie Stevens (Millwall fan)
BEAGS SAYS: I must admit, Charlie, that I shared your reservations at the start of the season when the Lions went out of the Capital One Cup to Crawley and then lost to Blackpool in the Championship, but after defeats to Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff and Hull, the Londoners are now on a nine-game unbeaten run and are scoring goals for fun, though their record of just two clean sheets in 16 games shows they must tighten up at the back if they want to keep their fine run going. Darius Henderson has reacted brilliantly to being dropped at the start of the campaign, while midfielder Liam Trotter has been in excellent form. Add to that the goals of loanee Chris Wood and super-sub Andy Keogh and Millwall can beat anyone on their day. I have waxed lyrically about James Henry before and share your enthusiasm with regards to his ability; he is key to the Lions' success, providing natural width in in general play and excellent delivery from set-pieces. He must stay fit if Kenny Jackett's charges are to push for the top six.
Hi Peter, Why do you think Cardiff are so good at home and so bad away? From your experiences, why do some teams have such trouble when on the road? Joe Sharp (Cardiff fan)
BEAGS SAYS: Teams that play a really fluid passing game, such as Cardiff's, can be excellent in their home environment because they are able to use their crowd to their advantage - and Cardiff's crowd can be extremely vociferous. When things are tight your fans can suck that extra bit of out of players, as we saw when on the opening day of the season, when the Welshmen beat Huddersfield despite not finding their form throughout their 90 minutes. Away from home, though, your supporters are usually stuck up in a far corner and can't have the same impact and teams don't feel as comfortable. You also have to adapt your game on the road and be able to deal with the dynamic of not having as much possession and maybe Cardiff haven't done that yet, while I also think they have missed the pace and skill of Craig Bellamy, who has the ability to hit teams on the break, as we've seen how dangerous outfits like Crystal Palace have been on the road with the speed of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie. I also reckon teams may have packed the midfield against Cardiff and tried to stop them playing, but now that Malky Mackay's men are on a bad run, sides might open up - and that could play into Cardiff's hands.
Don't forget to tune into this weekend's Football League fare as Tranmere host MK Dons (7.30pm, Friday, Sky Sports 2 HD), Peterborough entertain Blackburn (5pm, Saturday, Sky Sports 2 HD), and Millwall face Leeds (1pm, Sunday, Sky Sports 1 HD).