Sky Sports EFL pundit Andy Hinchcliffe has insisted that West Brom and Fulham will still go on and achieve automatic promotion this season despite their setbacks before the international break.
West Brom and Fulham both enjoyed strong starts to the Championship season and put down early markers over their promotion credentials this term. That came with them producing some excellent performances and getting great results in the early weeks of the campaign.
However, over the last few weeks, West Brom have managed to pick up just nine points from their last six matches while Fulham have only picked up seven points in that period.
The Baggies were beaten for the first time this season in the Championship by Stoke City on Friday, with the Potters managing to edge them out with a narrow 1-0 win.
Fulham, meanwhile, suffered a heavy 4-1 defeat at Coventry City despite taking a half time lead and they could not contain a rampant second half display from the Sky Blues.
Quiz: Have West Brom ever been involved in these 18 scenarios?
Speaking to Sky Sports’ latest EFL podcast (3:30), Hinchcliffe insisted that West Brom and Fulham both suffering defeats before the international break and dips in form recently is a reminder of how tough the Championship is.
While he also insisted that both West Brom and Fulham will still be right up there amongst the top two come the end of the campaign.
He said: It’s just a case of the Championship striking again. I still would stick by that (West Brom and Fulham to go up), I think at the time looking at Fulham and West Brom their form their squads how they play, I still believe they will be the top two in the Championship regardless of what has happened recently.
“To me, it’s more about Stoke and Coventry than necessarily about Fulham and West Brom, you’re going to have games in a Championship season where you don’t have things your own way, and I think Stoke and Coventry City have started the season incredibly well, the major challenge is playing against Fulham and West Brom and they stood up to those challenges and it is the Championship all over.
“Nothing is taken for granted and Bournemouth now look like the really form side, a team that can win the title, but again they’re going to have two or three games, they’re going to have blips during the season because this is the toughest league you can play in for the variety of challenges you face,
“So even the good sides Fulham and West Brom are still good sides I haven’t changed my opinion on that, they just came up against teams who got their game plans right.
“And in Coventry’s case, how they turned around a mid-week battering at Luton to then go and beat Fulham 4-1, I couldn’t believe as the goals were going in against Fulham, but then you start to think wait a minute, this is the Championship and it can happen and it is going to happen to every club and certainly it’s going to happen to the clubs in the top six.
“But I still think over the course of the season the consistency of Fulham and West Brom will come through and they will still make it.”
Considering the strength in depth that both West Brom and Fulham have within their squads in most positions, you can understand why Hinchcliffe is still positive in his belief that they will end up as the top two in the Championship at the end of the campaign.
However, teams like Bournemouth and Stoke are going to have a lot to say about that. You would expect them to continue to push West Brom and Fulham right the way throughout the season.
There is a lot more expectation and pressure on Valerien Ismael and Marco Silva than there is on Scott Parker, Michael O’Neill and even Mark Robins at Coventry City.
Therefore, that is going to have to be something that both West Brom’s and Fulham’s manager can show they can handle.
The Championship is always going to through up shock results and it is how teams bounce back from setbacks that is the most important thing.
We will see the true credentials of both West Brom and Fulham when the campaign resumes to see how they recover from their first major setbacks.