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Ask Steve Claridge

Steve Claridge
Claridge is the BBC's Football League expert

Swansea are one of the form teams in the Championship at the moment and I take a look at their promotion hopes after their thrilling south Wales derby win over Cardiff at the weekend.

I also give my views on two sides who have come into the frame for promotion from League One - Norwich City and Millwall - after some terrific results, as well as Southend's financial troubles and Port Vale's prospects under Micky Adams.

If you have a question for Steve, you can submit it through Twitter at http://twitter.com/AskClaridge or use the form on the top right of the page.


At the start of the season, I'm not ashamed to say I was very, very worried about the direction that Paulo Sousa was taking Swansea in. Thankfully, he and the team seem to be growing in confidence every week and Saturday's win against Cardiff can only help that. The question I'd like to ask is: having come so close last year, do you think that Swansea could make the play-offs this year?
Joey Waldron, Wales

Back in August, I have to admit that I completely agreed with Joey. After his spell in charge of QPR, I was sceptical to say the least about Sousa. To be fair, with the way the Swans started I thought I had got that one right - but he has actually done extremely well.

He has rebuilt the team from the back - they conceded only two goals in nine games before Saturday - and probably had to do it that way because they haven't really got a target man or much of a cutting edge up front.

It has worked too, they have got a decent foundation to build from and they are 10-games unbeaten, so they are in good form and are obviously a very difficult team to play against.

Swansea v Cardiff

Swansea 3-2 Cardiff

Mind you, you wouldn't have believed they haven't conceded many goals by looking at their defending on Saturday but that just shows what an important player Garry Monk is for them and, also, it was always going to be a frenetic match because it was a derby.

The players probably got caught up in the occasion but it was a fantastic game of football and great to watch.

Can Swansea get into the play-offs? Of course they can. But I don't think they will - I think they might just be a tad short going forward and that's my worry for them.

But I'll hold my hands up and admit I have already foolishly under-estimated their chances once at the start of the season, and I won't mind if I am wrong about them again this time.

Hi Steve, What do you make of Norwich this year? Since we sacked Bryan Gunn and appointed Paul Lambert as manager, we have steadily picked up points. Do you feel we can finish in the top two in League One this year as that is now only four points away?
Kristian Cowles, UK

Can Norwich finish in the top two? Yes they can. I've watched Charlton a couple of times this season and they haven't impressed me that much - especially against Northwich in the FA Cup at the weekend.

I'm certain that Leeds will win League One but after that it's up for grabs and, looking at it, you'd back Norwich to edge Charlton with how they are motoring under Paul Lambert at the moment.

Norwich have got a decent squad and, as I've said before, I like Paul. He did a good job at Wycombe and when I've met him he has a lot of good ideas. When he took the Norwich job, I thought he'd do well and good luck to him, it's a super opportunity for him and he is making the most of it.

After a poor start to season due to our severe injury list, Millwall have become the form team in League One - but still receive no acclaim, especially on your show. Surely beating Leeds and Colchester consecutively deserves some reward?
Mark Robinson, UK

A few teams seem to be getting their act together in League One and, yes, Millwall are one of them. But, given the players they have got and their manager Kenny Jackett, I always felt they would be knocking on the door.

Millwall boss Kenny Jackett
Jackett has helped Millwall climb to seventh in League One

As Mark says, they have just ended two long unbeaten runs in one week which was fantastic, and, in doing so, they put themselves right back in the hunt for promotion.

This is the stage of the season where, if teams are promotion candidates, they start to get into gear. The Millwall players look like they are enjoying themselves at the moment and are full of confidence.

Jackett has got a settled team and squad and the board are playing their part too because he has been given money to spend and has repaid their faith by spending it well.

It could end up being quite close in the race for second place in League One and Millwall could end up being involved. MK Dons aren't going to be very far away and Colchester are very effective at what they do.

I am a long-suffering Port Vale fan who, over the past few years, has seen promising teams decimated, attendances diminish and hopes of any sort of glory disappear. This season seems much more optimistic under the guidance of Micky Adams, with the self belief of the players increased and the prospect of promotion considered. Would you consider the current management team capable of taking us up the divisions in the next few years?
Dave Rowley, UK

Port Vale manager Micky Adams
Micky Adams has taken Vale on an eight-game unbeaten run

It hasn't been a great couple of years for Vale, and what probably makes things worse for them is that Stoke are absolutely flying at the moment.

Vale tried Dean Glover and Lee Sinnott as managers and it didn't work out. Micky is doing a lot better though, and you could always rely on him to steady the ship.

He might have been a bit hit-and-miss as a manager in the past but I know he loves football and management and Vale have got someone who cares passionately about his job and is certainly going to give it 100%.

They will hope they bottomed out by finishing 18th in League Two last season and they are ticking along quite nicely at the moment on an eight-game unbeaten run.

It shows how important it is to get the right manager and, under Adams, they have got a real chance of making the play-offs - which would be a step in the right direction.

My club, Southend United, has been in the public eye for all the wrong reasons lately what with the possibility of administration. My question is how much does the manager of a club know about the financial goings on at a club and how much would that affect their choice to stay at a club?
Matt Adlington, England

He would be told there is no money - not that the club owed the taxman £2m!

But of course, in cases like Southend, the manager will have an idea of what is going on and obviously it has a big effect on his team - look at Steve Tilson's side there. Up until two years ago, they had a really experienced - and good - squad and been at the top end of League One or even in the Championship. That's not the case now.

It's actually a slight surprise to me that Steve hasn't left before now, when they were doing well - he probably could have done.

He might think he should have gone now because, through no real fault of his own, his team have become one of the potential strugglers in League One. They were badly beaten by Gillingham too in the FA Cup on Saturday which is not going to do their cause any good.

Steve's stock was very very high when he was building Southend up so it will be interesting now to see how they treat him now the boot is on the other foot.

This should be payback time. He stuck with them; now things are not going so well, they should stick with him and give him the chance to start again - he has certainly earned that.


Steve Claridge is a BBC Football League pundit who played more than 800 matches for 15 clubs over the course of a 24-year playing career. He was talking to Chris Bevan.



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