Cole relishing new challenge

Ashley Cole is looking forward to helping his former England team-mate Frank Lampard in his quest to guide Derby County to promotion.

The 38-year-old has played for Roma and LA Galaxy since leaving Chelsea in the summer of 2014.

He won 10 trophies during his eight-year spell at Stamford Bridge having previously starred for Arsenal.

Cole represented England 107 times between 2001 and 2014 and is keen to work with Lampard again.

"It's going to be a challenge," he said. "I've not played in England for five years now, so coming from the MLS in America and a different culture, different way of way of playing and philosophies then coming here where it's cold, it rains, difficult conditions and strong players in a good, tough league.

"I'm again coming out of my comfort zone when I could have stayed in the MLS and relaxed. I wanted to come here and fight for something, fight for a good cause and make promotion. I think that would be great for the club and for Frank Lampard and me as well.

"I had a conversation with Frank a month, maybe two months ago. It was a no-brainer to come here and get involved in this great environment and hopefully push for promotion."

Derby are 7/2 to be promoted this season and 6/4 to win their next Championship match against Preston at Deepdale on 1st February.

Karanka makes Forest exit

Nottingham Forest have parted company with head coach Aitor Karanka, with the club just outside the Championship play-off places.

The 45-year-old took charge at the City Ground in January 2018, having previously guided Middlesbrough to promotion to the Premier League in 2016.

Karanka started his senior coaching career as an assistant at Real Madrid, the club where he spent five years as a player, in between two spells with Athletic Bilbao.

A short statement from Forest confirmed: "Aitor Karanka has asked to be released from his contract as the manager of Nottingham Forest Football Club.

"The club have agreed to this request and the terms of departure have been agreed. Both parties wish each other every success for the future and there will be no further comment from either party."

Forest, currently seventh in the table, have only won one of their last six Championship games, but that victory came last time out when they saw off table-toppers Leeds United 4-2 at the City Ground.

Following that, what turned out to be Karanka's last game in charge came in a 2-0 FA Cup third round defeat at Chelsea.

The Midlanders are back in action on Saturday when they travel to lowly Reading, with the visitors side 6/5 to win the game, while the draw is priced at 12/5 and a 1-1 final scoreline is available at 5/1.

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Jones relishes Potters chance

New Stoke City manager Nathan Jones hopes to be able to make a big impression with the Championship club, having been chosen to succeed Gary Rowett.

Jones admits he took a difficult decision to leave Luton Town, where he had been in charge for three years – having guided the Hatters to promotion to League One last season.

This term they are well on course to gain a second successive promotion, as they currently occupy the second automatic promotion place, behind Portsmouth.

And Jones has confirmed that he had previously turned down several offers from Championship clubs, but felt that his latest opportunity was the right one to take.

He told his new club's official website: "I have had other opportunities in the Championship before with numerous clubs, but none of those were of the stature and standing of Stoke City.

"This is a club with wonderful tradition, it has a Premier League structure in every regard, barring the league this year of course.

"I believe I am an appointment for the long-term here. I want to win games and I want to instil a culture and a philosophy that people are going to really get behind and be proud of.

"Along the way there will be some ups and downs, hopefully plenty of ups, but when we get our philosophy implemented and get working with the players, I'm sure they're going to respond."

Stoke currently stand in 14th place in the Championship table, eight points adrift of the play-off places.

They are next in action on Saturday when they head to Griffin Park to take on Brentford, with the Potters 2/1 to win the game and 9/4 to secure a draw.

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Mid-table Potters axe Rowett

Stoke City have terminated the contract of Gary Rowett just eight months after the 44-year-old was appointed manager at the us Stadium.

Rowett leaves the Potters, who were relegated from the Premier League last term, in the wake of the weekend FA Cup third-round draw against Shrewsbury Town.

Stoke are currently 14th in the Championship table, eight points adrift of the final play-off place and 13 points clear of the relegation zone.

A brief statement from the club said: "We would like to thank Gary and his staff for their efforts over the past eight months.

"A new managerial appointment will be made as swiftly as possible but in the meantime Rory Delap, Kevin Russell and Andy Quy will take charge of first-team affairs."

Rowett signed a three-year deal when he succeeded Paul Lambert as Stoke boss in May 2018.

The Potters had prised Rowett away from Derby County after he had led the Rams to the Championship play-offs, where they were beaten by Fulham.

Rowett began his managerial career in League Two at Burton Albion before leaving for Championship side Birmingham City in 2014.

He enjoyed some success at St Andrew's but was controversially axed by the Blues in December 2016 when they were challenging for a play-off spot and moved on to become Derby boss three months later.

Stoke, 14/1 to be promoted from the Championship this season, are 2/1 to beat Brentford in their next match on Saturday.

Bruce confirmed as Wednesday boss

Sheffield Wednesday have confirmed that Steve Bruce will take over as the club's new manager, starting work on 1st February.

Dutchman Jos Luhukay left the Championship club in December after less than a year in charge and Bruce, who left Aston Villa earlier this season, had been strongly tipped to take over at Hillsborough.

Now that has been confirmed by the club, Bruce taking over next month with his assistants Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence taking charge in the meantime.

A club statement read: "Steve Bruce brings a first class CV to Hillsborough, with an outstanding success rate of Championship promotions – four to date,"

Bruce has previously been in charge at Sheffield United but most recently has been in charge at Hull City and then Aston Villa.

His Hull side won promotion to the Premier League in 2016, winning the Championship play-off final at Wembley, beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0.

That was his second promotion to the top flight with Hull, he also took Birmingham up twice.

Most recently he took Villa to the play-off final last season where they lost to Fulham and, after a poor start to the current campaign, he left Villa Park to be replaced by Dean Smith.

Since Luhukay left Hillsborough, Wednesday have been unbeaten in the four games in which Lee Bullen has been in temporary charge.

They currently sit 16th in the Championship table, 10 points clear of the bottom three but 11 shy of the top six.

Their last game was a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham on New Year's Day while this weekend they are in action at home to League One Luton in the third round of the FA Cup.

They are 5/4 to win through to the fourth round on Saturday with Luton 2/1.

Wednesday are 40/1 to finish in the top six of the Championship this season with Villa 5/4 and Hull City 10/1.

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Moore happy to secure Holgate

West Bromwich Albion boss Darren Moore expects loan signing Mason Holgate to be a more than useful addition for the second half of the Championship season.

The 22-year-old defender has moved to The Hawthorns until the end of the current campaign, having not featured for parent club Everton since mid-September.

However, Moore is in no doubt that Holgate will prove himself to be decent signing for the Baggies, who are currently in third place in the Championship standings after mounting a nine-game unbeaten run.

He told the club's official website: "I tried to bring Mason into the squad in the summer, but at that stage Everton were not willing to release him.

"I want to get our business done as early as possible and this is a good start. First and foremost he is a good, good player. He is quick, agile, athletic and comfortable on the ball.

"He will compete for the right-back and central defensive positions. His enthusiasm to come also impressed me – he wants to play and I believe he is going to be a good addition for us."

Meanwhile, the Baggies have also extended the stay of veteran defender Tyrone Mears until the end of January.

The 35-year-old joined the Baggies in late August, having spent the last two and a half years in the United States and has since made appearances for Albion.

West Brom are 10/11 to gain promotion this season, while they are 4/1 to claim the Championship title.

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Villa rocked by Nyland blow

Aston Villa's promotion push has been dealt a major blow after Orjan Nyland suffered a serious Achilles injury in training.

The 28-year-old Norway international, who joined the club in the summer from FC Ingolstadt, looks set to be sidelined for the rest of the season.

He had been a regular in the Villa first team this season but now looks set to be replaced by Lovre Kalinic, who has agreed to join the club in January.

The 28-year-old Croatian will officially join Villa from Gent on Tuesday on a deal that does not expire until 2023.

Head coach Dean Smith said when announcing the signing earlier this month: "We are delighted to be signing someone of Lovre's experience and quality.

"He is an outstanding goalkeeper and we are looking forward to welcoming him when he joins at the beginning of January."

Meanwhile, Smith has recalled Tommy Elphick from his loan spell at Hull City.

Elphick said: "The chance to come back and work with the new gaffer and push for another promotion was a huge draw for me. There were no second thoughts. I am delighted to be back and get going as soon as possible.

"I see this as a fresh start. When I signed here two-and-a-half years ago, I came here to do something and we haven't done it yet. That's what's burning inside me – the desire to get the job done for this football club."

Villa, 7/2 to be promoted this season, can be backed at 17/20 to beat QPR on Tuesday.

Pulis hits back at his critics

Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis cannot understand why his players have struggled so much at home this season.

Boro have only won once at the Riverside Stadium in the last three months and are 12 points behind Championship leaders Leeds United after losing 1-0 at home to managerless Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day.

They were also knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the quarter-finals by League One side Burton Albion on home soil earlier this month.

"You have to accept there is sometimes going to be criticism," said Pulis. "It's a big club with big expectations. People want performances and results.

"It affects people in different ways [playing at home]. I find it difficult to explain. The best place to play is at home.

"One or two lads dropped their heads a bit [against Sheffield Wednesday]. But the majority really showed their character and kept going.

"If players aren't giving enough, then the crowd, and individuals within the stand, have a right to criticise.

"What you've got to do as a person and a player is stand up, roll up your sleeves and prove you are good enough to play for this club."

Middlesbrough are 7/2 to be promoted this season, while Leeds can be backed at 1/3 and Derby County at 7/2.

Surgery keeps Hemed sidelined

Queens Park Rangers will be without loanee Tomer Hemed for at least another month, after the striker underwent surgery to repair a hernia.

The 31-year-old Israel international frontman, who is currently on a season-loan loan from Brighton & Hove Albion, has scored three times in 14 Championship appearances so far this season.

However, he has not featured since the 3-2 home defeat to Hull City on the first day of December and has now been ruled out for at least another four weeks.

R's boss Steve McClaren told the club's official website: "Tomer has had a little operation, a routine one in terms of a hernia.

"It can take anything from four to six weeks. Hopefully it'll be nearer four than six."

Meanwhile, McClaren has challenged his side to continue their fine run of recent form, which has seen them win three Championship games in a row to roar into play-off contention.

However, he is aware that they will need to do so without midfielder Massimo Luongo, who is off to the Asian Cup to feature for Australia.

McClaren added: "We've got injuries and Luongo now goes for a month. We're going to miss him.

"He quietly goes about his business, does his job very effectively without people really noticing and we'll see how much we miss his presence in midfield."

QPR are available at 20/1 to gain promotion this season, with Aston Villa priced at 3/1 and Derby County 7/2.

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Downing: Promotion now a must

Veteran Middlesbrough midfielder Stewart Downing says his side have to refocus on trying to secure promotion, having crashed out of the Carabao Cup to Burton Albion.

The Championship outfit missed out on reaching the last four of the League Cup when they were beaten 1-0 by the visiting Brewers on Tuesday evening.

And former England international Downing has warned that there is no time for he and his colleagues to feel sorry for themselves, with a return to the Premier League the ultimate aim for the Teessiders this season.

He told The Gazette: "Now the big thing is the league. That was the most important thing at the start of the season and is still the top priority.

"Yes, we should have beaten Burton and got to a semi-final, but we can't dwell on that. It's gone – now we have to get promoted."

Boro are currently sixth in the Championship table, having failed to win any of their last four games, with head coach Tony Pulis warning that a continuation of that poor form over the busy festive period could prove fatal to their promotion hopes.

He added on the club's official website: "We've got to show some character now.

"We've got a really busy Christmas period coming up, a lot of tough games and games we've got to do well in."

Next up for Boro is a trip to lowly Reading on Saturday, with the visitors 10/11 to take all three points at the Madejski Stadium, while the draw is priced at 5/2.

Meanwhile, the Teessiders are 10/3 to gain promotion come the end of the season.

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