Football League Expert & Columnist
Wood've been great
Peter Beagrie blogs on Jonathan Woodgate - and why he is not dreaming of a white Christmas.
Last Updated: 14/12/12 4:05pm
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 Middlesbrough defender Jonathan Woodgate, Bristol Rovers' toils and whether Preston are underachieving...
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How good do you think Jonathan Woodgate could have been if he had stayed injury free? Thanks, Marcus Hodgson (Leeds fan)
BEAGS SAYS: Jonathan could have been the best footballing centre-half England have had had since Bobby Moore; that's how highly I rated him and how good he should have become. Beset by horrendous injuries, Jonathan also failed to follow instructions to the letter as far as rest, recuperation and rehabilitation goes. That has had a massive bearing on Jonathan's career and if he is honest with himself I think he will admit that. Now back at Middlesbrough where it all began and considerably older and wiser, Woodgate is back in love with the game, playing regularly and enjoying life at his hometown club. He now has an opportunity to educate and set an example for the youngsters already in the team as well as the graduates coming through the prestigious Boro academy. Marcus, your question has been asked by various fans, players, pundits and managers for many years because we all recognise real talent when we see it - and Jonathan had a lot of talent.
FOREST TO FIRE?
Hi Peter, Do you think Nottingham Forest can get nearer to the promotion places over the rest of the season? Thanks, Karl Poynton (Nottingham Forest fan)
BEAGS SAYS: Before the recent back-to-back defeats against Hull and Ipswich, I believed Nottingham Forest had found the level of consistency needed to make a real statement of intent going into the New Year. The victory over Burnley at the weekend proves to me that Forest certainly have the perfect strike partnership in Dexter Blackstock and Billy Sharp and if that duo are given better service, Sean O' Driscoll's men can have a huge say in the promotion shake-up this season. The squad has quality and strength in depth and, in my opinion, only lacks an out-and-out winger; the overreliance on Andy Reid to be creative is apparent and both he and fellow attacking midfielders Lewis McGugan and Henri Lansbury like to drift in instead of out wide. If, and it's a big if, your team can come through the next four games - away to Brighton and Watford and at home to Leeds and Crystal Palace - with seven points, they will give themselves the confidence and belief to kick on and cement a place in the upper echelons this term.
RUNNING OUT OF GAS?
Hi Peter, Can you explain the decline of Bristol Rovers? Cheers, Stuart Oakes (Bristol Rovers fan)
BEAGS SAYS: I'd like to offer a case for the defence, Stuart - literally - but I can't. Your club have constantly been among the top scorers at home in recent years and the end of last season was a great example of that, but none of your recent managers have been unable to address the team's sieve-like defence, meaning Rovers regularly had to score three goals to win a game. The goals have become harder to come by and the defensive frailties have continued - which is not a recipe for success. Hey presto, relegation, disappointments and a precarious position in League Two and loyal fans fearing they may lose their Football League status. The away form has always been a concern and it has been Rovers' Achilles heel once again this season; six points accrued from a possible 30 and only seven goals scored in those 10 away games doesn't make good reading. Good luck with the rest of the season, Stuart, and seek solace in the fact that there are at least five other teams floundering as far as form goes at the bottom of League Two.
Hello Peter, Do you think Graham Alexander is a good managerial appointment by Fleetwood? Cheers, Peter Saunders (Fleetwood fan)
BEAGS SAYS: I think the Fleetwood chairman has made a very brave decision; to sack Micky Mellon, a manager who knows the players' talent and temperament inside out, with the club in a play-off position is one thing, but to replace him with someone whose only brush with management is a spell in joint control of Preston with David Unsworth is another. I must counter that by saying Preston lost only one of the five games in which Alexander was in charge, but whether the chairman is as brave as a lion or as daft as a brush will be dependent on Graham's success. The appointment shows consistency in terms of employing young and hungry managers, which is what Mellon was when he joined Fleetwood. Graham has been a magnificent professional, leader and captain at every club he has been at and is well-liked and more importantly well-respected, so I am pleased that that somebody who has sacrificed so much for his sport now has the opportunity to put across his ideas and ideals. If passion and desire allied with hard work and knowledge are the traits of a good manager then Graham has the chance of becoming Alexander the Great (sorry, couldn't resist that one!).
INTO THE ABYSS?
Hi Peter, Do you envisage a Football League club folding in the near future, what with the financial problems currently being suffered by clubs like Portsmouth and Coventry? Cheers, Dave Campbell (Man United fan)
BEAGS SAYS: Thanks for your question, Dave, and I am astounded a League club has not already gone bust. Many clubs are under financial pressure at this time of year and if a team has a couple of games called off over the festive period the financial ramifications are unbelievable. Clubs in the lower reaches are operating on such small profit margins and don't have contingency plans or rich benefactors to bail them out. There are genuine threats to their futures and if a fan buys a programme, pie and a pint, although this sounds ludicrous, they are helping to safeguard the future of their club. In an ideal world I would like fans of Premier League teams - if financially viable, of course - to adopt a lower-league team and watch them play when their preferred club are away from home. Every year the FA and League Cups come around, I am hoping for plum draws and giant-killings as I know first-hand it can secure club's futures for a number of years. It is too much to ask for a sunny December and January, but I hope Jack Frost can read, has a heart and stays away.
NOT UP TO SCRATCH
Hi Peter, Did you expect Preston to do be higher up the table? I know they bought in virtually a brand new squad but Charlton did last season and they went up. Thanks, Alex Marshall (Preston fan)
My beloved Bradford have been in administration twice and only preserved their Football League status on the penultimate day of last season, but on Tuesday night secured an incredible result against the mighty Arsenal, who were almost at full strength.
That win has already wiped out half the debt from this year and with the promise of a two-legged semi-final tie with either Premier League Aston Villa, Swansea and Chelsea, or a clash with Yorkshire neighbours Leeds, at least a million pounds could be cleared, which will secure the long-term future of a club I hold close to my heart.
We will leave the criticism of Arsene Wenger to everyone else because he was a complete gentlemen after his team lost; the way he applauded the Bradford fans, shook the players' and manager's hands and was very complimentary about the Bantams' performance was brilliant.
Arsenal's playing staff and supporters were also fantastic, too, and paid great respect to their counterparts and clapped Bradford off. The Gunners may be struggling on the field but they have not lost their humility.