Shropshire Star

Kevin Phillips: Championship race looks all over for Wolves and Aston Villa

What a week it’s been in the race for the Premier League...nothing in the Championship surprises me any more.

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You can become a fool if you predict certain results and outcomes in this league and the biggest thing for me about Wolves increasing their lead over Villa from seven points to 13 is that it isn’t a surprise.

I saw Wolves picking up maximum points from their games with Reading and Burton, but with Villa you’d have to say it’s the story of their season.

They went through a sticky patch before Christmas and when they lost at Brentford people were calling for Steve Bruce’s head. Then they went on an unbelievable run of seven straight wins and now they’ve lost back-to-back games against teams you’d expect them to beat.

Following on from the manner they beat Wolves 4-1 just last weekend, well, it sums up the Championship in a nutshell.

Unless you’re really dominating in terms of winning games week after week, it can happen.

Wolves are different because they’re a class above everyone else when you look at their players – they had a blip against Villa but bounced back straight away.

On the other hand Villa – and we’ve done it ourselves at Derby where we’re seven games without a win – lack that consistency.

It just shows you the class Wolves have got in their ranks and unfortunately for Villa I’d suggest the top two are now done and dusted. I would put Villa’s two defeats down to two things.

Bruce suggested he perhaps should have changed two or three players in the midweek fixture against QPR.

It’s not a young squad he’s got there and he probably should have freshened it up.

We’ve had that at Derby this season, a lot of these things become apparent after the event.

It’s easily done – you come off the back of a fantastic result, you pick the same team and say ‘go on lads, do it again’.

But so many times it doesn’t happen and credit to Steve, he came out and took the blame.

The second reason for me is complacency, which plays a massive part of it.

After the big win over Wolves you’ve got QPR and Bolton next up, two teams who’ve not done well this season. You look at it and think ‘we should just turn up and we’ll beat them’.

But teams raise their game at Villa Park. QPR did that and they performed.

Then you go to Bolton away, it’s on TV and they’re scrapping for their lives.

At the end of it all they’ve maybe ruined their chances of getting the second spot.

As for Wolves, well they’ve been outstanding all season. Yes, they had a blip but their quality has shone through again.

No team in the Championship is going to go a whole season without a blip – the games come thick and fast – the work rate and the rigours of it, it’s a hard, hard league.

You’re going to have your ups and downs and it’s about how you respond to the downs. With Wolves, nine times out of 10 they’ve followed up a loss or a draw with a victory.

They’re just four wins away from promotion now and for me it’s only a matter of time.

We play them in four games time and it wouldn’t surprise me if it gets to that point and they need to win to go up. It will be a very interesting match that’s for sure.

Benik Afobe was Wolves’ hero on Saturday with two goals and he’s proving again that he’ll always score at this level.

When I first joined Derby two-and-a-half years ago with Paul Clement we sat down and I remember clearly he asked what it would take to get promoted and I said to go and sign Benik Afobe.

Paul thought it would cost £15m to sign him and I remarked that’d be the difference between going up or not.

That’s how highly I rate the guy at this level – he will guarantee you goals with the right service.

The fans love him, he feels comfortable at the club and he’s got a number of players who can create chances for him, so it’s a great fit for Benik and Wolves.

Below Wolves it’s probably out of seven teams for four positions in the play-offs.

It’s a fascinating time of the season and the international break offers a chance to reflect, get some injured players back and prepare for that final run-in.

It certainly won’t be dull, that’s for sure.