Yes, it really is that time of year already, the Championship season starts tonight with Middlesborough facing Sheffield United at the Riverside. Its been a long old summer of annoyingly empty transfer rumours and general merriment as Newcastle United embrace their role as UK football’s slapstick, sad-sack sidekick. Oh look they’ve got into a fight at Huddersfield, wahey, they’ve brought out a terrible away kit… wooah, now their team jalopy has fallen to bits on arrival at the stadium, and oh no, the physio’s bucket is just filled with confetti.
Anyway, as it seems is customary on the dawn of the new season we’ve cast our eye across the division’s 24 teams and made wild and unsubstantiated predictions as to where each club will finish. In all honesty I could have just drawn names and positions out of a hat, and the only reason I didn’t is because it would have been more noticable to my colleagues that I wasn’t drafting the meeting proposal I said I was. OK, then, here goes nothing. Feel free to pull my predictions apart using the ‘leave a comment’ option.
The Tykes spent much of the second half of last season looking over their shoulder and without any major additions to their squad they look set for a similar campaign this time. Unless they get off to a great start this could be the season that relegation sneaks up on them.
Last season: 20th. Prediction: 22nd.
Blackpool have been favourites to go down from the moment they set foot in this division and again are most people’s tip to go down. However they’ve made a couple of solid additions in Charlie Adams from Rangers and the experienced Jason Euell, plus windswept Bloomfield Road will be a daunting prospect for many teams. Just enough to survive again.
Last season: 16th. Prediction: 21st.
Gary Johnson has made a lot of changes in personnel over the summer and as such it could be a while before his side gel. There is much potential in The Robins’ squad, but whilst they are in little danger of going down, they seem to lack the spark of kicking on beyond mid-table. In a close division they could slide to lower mid-table in the late season.
Last season: 12th. Prediction: 17th.
The Bluebirds had been enjoying an excellent couple of years until Easter last season when a freak result at Deepdale suddenly left them twitchy on the run in. Although they have kept much of the squad that impressed early in the season, the confidence blow of late last season and the transfer rumours surrounding some players could make this campaign more of a struggle. Expect them to challenge until losing McCormack in the January transfer window and settling in mid-table.
Last season: 7th. Prediction: 11th.
Coventry have brought in some recognised Championship talent in Michael McIndoe and Sammy Clingan, but they have lost some of the solidity of their side from last season in the form of Scott Dann and Danny Fox. As such it could be another difficult season for the Sky Blues. Their quality on set-pieces and ‘keeper Kieran Westwood will keep them up, but they’re unlikely to threaten the other end of the table.
Last season: 17th. Prediction: 18th.
Palace have talent in their ranks, but like any Warnock side, and like Warnock himself, you feel they are never more than one bad decision or piece of bad luck away from on-pitch implosion. A transfer embargo over the summer has not helped their preparations an it could be a long old season. Will Simon Jordan keep patience with Neil Warnock?
Last season: 15th. Prediction: 20th.
Derby have a strong squad at their disposal and Nigel Clough has worked well over the summer to trim off the excess and also bring in established talent such as Simon Barker and Lee Croft. Having had time to get to know his side last season this campaign should see them kick-on and challenge at the top. Play-offs beckon.
Last season: 18th. Prediction: 4th.
And so to us, perhaps cautiously, few pundits are predicting Rovers to go down, although with key players Richie Wellens and Matt Mills having departed it certainly does not look set to be an easy campaign. Rovers though can still field a strong side and the nature of their play will always cause teams problems. However, any wave of injuries or suspensions and our comparatively small squad will be tested. We’ll stay up, but won’t do much beyond that.
Last season: 14th. Prediction: 16th.
Ipswich were a competent side last season, but their inability to string wins together meant that they stumbled into 11th place round about November and never ventured more than two places in any direction over the next six months. Roy Keane’s arrival has certainly shaken up the Suffolk side, ten of last season’s squad have been moved on and Keane has already brought in quality players he knows. The Tractor Boys will improve this season, but only enough to scrape a play-off place.
Last season: 9th. Prediction: 6th.
A cut above in last season’s League One Leicester have strengthened their squad further over the summer as we are all too aware of. Alongside Wellens, the addition of Jack Hobbs from Liverpool could prove a particularly shrewd signing. Much like Swansea last season the momentum will carry them onwards and upwards to a top half finish.
Last season: 1st (League One) Prediction: 9th.
Boro’ may have lost Stuart Downing and ‘keeper Ross Turnbull but they come into this division on a relatively sound footing and still possess a strong enough squad to push for an instant return. The signing of Championship mainstay Leroy Lita is a major boost, and the addition of much coveted Mark Yeates will go someway to covering Downing’s departure. They might start poorly, but expect them to be up there come the end.
Last season: 19th (Premier League) Prediction: 3rd.
Where do you start with Newcastle, other than by humming the theme from ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em? Well, at the risk of understatement the club is distinctly unsettled. They have lost or released a lot of players for the sake of slashing the wage bill, and whilst the departure of strikers Martins, Viduka, and Owen took the headlines it’s the departure of defenders Bassong, Beye and Edgar that could ultimately hamper them. It will get worse before it gets better, but expect a second half of the season revival to bring them within sight of the play-offs.
Last season: 18th (Premier League). Prediction: 7th
The most active club in the transfer market with nine players leaving the club and a further six loaned out. On top of that they have brought in nine new names to the tune of around £3million. They have bought some quality players but the concern is that they have strengthened in attack at the expense of defence. The addition of Dexter Blackstock and Dele Adebola brings another dimension to their attack alongside the pace and precision of Nathan Tyson and Rob Earnshaw. Indeed the main issue could be keeping all their attacking players happy. A much better season lays in store than last year, but still just shy of the play-offs
Last season: 19th. Prediction: 8th.
Peterborough are expected by many to continue their move up the divisions and they certainly have momentum on their side, whilst London Road will be a shock for many visiting players and fans (where are the seats?) this season. Squad wise their additions have come from the lower divisions and so a wave of injuries could hamper their progress. In short, they’re this season’s us, only with Darren Ferguson to bring in more media attention.
Last season: 2nd (League One). Prediction: 15th.
Plymouth have bolstered their squad with the addition of Bradley Wright-Phillips of Southampton, but in all honesty that looks set to be a frying pan to fire transfer. Plymouth were poor last season and but for a good opening three months would be lining up in League One. Without improvement it looks set to be even more of a struggle this season.
Last season: 21st. Prediction: 24th.
Preston North End
Last year’s play-off contenders have lost their hypnotic captain Paul McKenna to Forest which could be difficult to recover from, despite the addition of Paul Parry and Velice Sumulikosi (aka ‘the Balkan Gerrad’). The Lilywhites have power and presence to grind out results, but with few alterations opposition know what to expect from Alan Irvine’s side and so they’ll do well to match last season’s play-off puch.
Last season: 6th. Prediction: 12th.
Queens Park Rangers
One of last season’s under-achievers Queens Park Rangers have trimmed some of their squad in the summer. Alessandro Pellicori could be a good addition having found the net regularly for a relegated Avellimo side last term, but there are few pointers toward obvious improvement. Manger Jim Magilton had Ipswich rooted in mid-table last season, its likely he will fair the same in West London this campaign.
Last season: 10th. Prediction: 10th.
Reading were one of the best footballing sides in the division last season, but their promotion push petered out in the last few months. New manager Brendan Rodgers has seen a number of players depart with only Matt Mills coming the other way to strengthen their defence. If Rodgers can get the best out of the young players coming through then the play-offs look likely again.
Last season: 4th. Prediction: 5th.
A return to the second tier for our north Lincolnshire neighbours, and it looks set to be a long hard season. Teams won’t fancy a trip to Glanford Park much (and not just because its in Scunthorpe) and in defender Rob Jones from Hibernian they have strengthened in a key area. However, having only scraped into the League One play-offs on the final day of last season it will take more than a clichéd tight little ground to avoid the drop.
Last season: 6th (League One). Prediction: 23rd.
A busy summer for Kevin Blackwell in the transfer market has seen Sheffield United lose a number of last season’s squad, but bring in some impressive replacements, and in Kyle Walker’s case, exactly the same bloke. Ched Evans should really be plying his trade a division higher whilst Lee Williamson is a good Championship player. The one concern for United could have been the goalkeeper position after Paddy Kenny’s recent misdemeanours, but Mark Bunn on loan from Blackburn is adequate cover. It’s the Blades title for the taking.
Last season: 3rd. Prediction: 1st.
Not much transfer activity from Wednesday this summer, although holding onto Marcus Tudgay has been a significant boost. Their current squad is compact, but it contains enough talent to surprise a number of sides. That said, In the face of tough competition mid-table looks the most likely bet, which won’t go down well if United fulfil their potential.
Last season: 11th. Prediction: 14th.
Despite an excellent season based on some neat football last year, there is no getting away from the fact that losing Roberto Martinez is a major blow to Swansea City. Similarly the departure of striker Jason Scotland, also to Wigan, means the loss of a significant attacking dimension. The additions of Nathan Dyer and Jordi Lopez will stand them in good stead but it could take a while to steady the ship.
Last season: 8th. Prediction: 13th.
It could be another tough year for Rovers opening day opponents Watford. Whilst they have made encouraging additions to their squad in Danny Graham, formerly of Carlisle and Scott Severin from Aberdeen the loss of Tamas Priskin to Ipswich is a major blow to Malky Mackay as he gets set for his first season of management.
Last season: 13th. Prediction: 19th
West Bromwich Albion
The Baggies came down from the Premier League playing some impressive football and their sensible approach to the transfer market a year ago, means that they start this season with no major playing departures aside from Kim Do-Heon’s return to Korea. Simon Cox is a player who was much coveted at Swindon and is a good addition for new manager Roberto Di Matteo. They’re the relegated side best poised for a swift return, but their lack of physical presence could be what costs them the title.
Last season: 20th (Premier League). Prediction: 2nd.