Football was back, and better than ever with the return of the fans (made even better by the long awaited stadium check in on the FanHub app). Hence, as we recap a chaotic weekend of action that reminded us just how tight the second tier is, I thought I’d run you through my TOTW for week 1.
Goalkeeper: Simon Sluga (Luton)
For Matchday 1, the Hatters looked in cruise control as they gave Peterborough a rude awakening to the rigors of the second tier.
Therefore, in a weekend of free flowing attacks that saw just two clean sheets, I’ve elected to reward Sluga with a TOTW selection. Though Benda was a bit more busy in Swansea’s defeat, his error for Brereton Diaz’s (god I love saying that) penalty gives him no more than an honourable mention.
Defender: Tommy Smith (Stoke)
Though the modern full back has seen more of an emphasis on defenders to contribute & create in an attacking sense, two assists on the opening day is an impressive feat for Smith.
Even in a team with set piece specialist Mario Vrancic, Smith was awarded the opportunity to take an indirect free kick just within the Reading half. A sumptuous delivery to the back post found Nick Powell, before he connected with debutant Surridge to assist a late winner, fitting for TOTW selection.
Defender: Rob Dickie (QPR)
Dickie loves a screamer, and he started as he meant to go on in QPR’s opening day draw with Millwall.
Against a Rowett side protecting a narrow lead, sides cry out for that little moment of magic. However, it often doesn’t come from your center half. In typical Dickie style though, he confidently brought the ball of defence before a sweet strike past a helpless keeper to make this side.
Defender: Dara O’Shea (West Brom)
There’s not much more of a baptism of fire for a return to the second tier than an away clash to Bournemouth, but O’Shea rose to the occassion.
With the Baggies trailing to an early Marcondes debut strike, O’Shea domineering physical presence helped him nod in an equaliser. Although there’s no pride to be taken in a defender conceding two goals, it will be one of the Baggies’ toughest games this season.
Defender: Marc Bola (Middlesbrough)
I promise in coming weeks I’ll reward actual defending rather than attacking when choosing my teams of the week.
For now though, Bola gets credit for his role in ‘Boro’s surprise point at promotion favourites Fulham. In a diamond, full backs are crucial to provide width on the attack, and the over & under lapping Bola suits this to a tee. Admittedly against the run of play, Bola was responsible for Warnock’s side’s only shot on target, a goal to equalise in the 77th minute.
Midfielder: Keane Lewis-Potter (Hull)
Hull will be hoping Saturday was a sign of things to come, as a convincing victory over Preston eased any fears over readjustment to the second tier.
One of the stars of Saturday was young Lewis-Potter, who’s goal & assist was indicative of how beneficial a year in League One was for him. After 13 goals last season, a replication of that sort of feat could see him feature regularly in these teams.
Midfielder: Alex Mowatt (West Brom)
A highly sought after free agent this summer, Mowatt looked at home in one of the league’s most star studded XI’s.
He looked settled within his new squad as one of few that accustom to Ismael’s unique footballing philosophy, providing an assist & three key passes. This all against another strong side in the division, away from home, on route to securing an impressive point given the circumstances.
Midfielder: Richard Smallwood (Hull)
Smallwood has spent his time bouncing between League One & the Championship in spells with Rotherham, Blackburn & now Hull, but Saturday made him look at home in the latter.
Making a case for player of the weekend, Smallwood both scored and assisted, becoming pivotal to the Tigers roaring on matchday 1. He really was captain fantastic, and Hull will be hoping he can avoid a return of the knee injury that derailed his second half of last season.
Midfielder: Fred Onyedinma (Luton)
Often, new signings can struggle to live up to expectations on opening day as they become settled in their new environement. However, Onyedinma more than met expectations in a dominating performance.
With a hand in all three of Luton’s goals, he was a poster boy for what has been an impressive summer for the Hatters. Definitely securing player of the week, more performances like that could fire Luton into playoff contention this season.
Striker: Viktor Gyokeres (Coventry)
How better to cap off a return to the Ricoh than a late comeback, started by Viktor Gyokeres.
Against a Forest side that many expect to impress in the upcoming campaign, Coventry looked to have fell flat on their homecoming. That all changed come the final 10 minutes, as after an improved second half performances, Gyokeres equalised with just 9 minutes to go, placing him on this list.
Striker: Jacob Brown (Stoke)
Brown struggled in his maiden campaign with the Potters, but he started as he’ll mean to go on in a victory against the Royals on Saturday.
A constant threat in behind, he looked busy as always, and much more at home alongside a second, more physical striker. An improved performance was capped off by a goal to help Stoke retake the lead, before his relentless press helped any attempts to preserve the lead.
There you have it, my team of the week for Matchday 1 of the 2021/22 Championship campaign. Do you agree? Or should John Swift had made it despite defeat? Or Benda despite his mistake? Let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet us on @FanHub.