The days leading up to the commencement of the new Football League season can only mean one thing. Yes, its time for the annual stab-in-the-dark fest that is our divisional preview and prediction piece. I shouldn’t put myself down though as last season we did successfully predict that West Bromwich Albion would finish second, and er, that was kind of it. We were a single position away from accurately predicting the final resting places of Coventry City, Crystal Palace, and Plymouth Argyle mind, so thats something eh?
Anyway, here’s our attempt to predict the outcome from what could be the hardest to predict Championship season in some time. It won’t be pretty, but we feel it has to be done.
The Tykes have lost much of their attacking threat, but strengthened their defence, though its likely to be the first half of that sentence which defines their season. They’ve a decent side at Oakwell, but as we’ve discovered ourselves, a lack of a proven goalscorer in your squad can greatly affect your prospects.
Last season 18th. Prediction: 18th
The Robins have lost crowd favourite Bradley Orr to QPR and Scotland international Paul Hartley too, yet still confidence is high amongst their supporters. The reason for this being two significant arrivals; firstly new manager Steve Coppell, and secondly new goalkeeper David James. That plus retaining Nicky Maynard mean the future is suddenly much brighter for City who could now find themselves amongst the contenders should Coppell’s side bed quickly.
Last season 10th. Prediction: 2nd
The most stable of the relegated clubs coming down from the Premier League Burnley have released and sold a large number of players, but have also brought in some decent new faces such as Dean Marney and Ross Wallace. Supporters at Turf Moor may expect their side to bounce back up at the first attempt, but they were way off the Premier League pace for the second half of last season so that’s hard to see.
Last season 18th (Premier League) . Prediction: 6th
Having released five players and having seen Joe Ledley and Mark Kennedy move elsewhere City’s squad, which of course reached the play-off final last season is suddenly becoming quite threadbare. Club finances what they are City are unlikely to be able to add to their lot and so will be struggling should they pick up injuries. Mid-table, chasing the play-offs looks likely, but without the strength in depth to make that chase successful.
Last season 4th. Prediction: 11th
With a new manager and a much changed squad its hard to know what to make of Coventry this season. On paper their squad looks strong, but it depends on how quick Aidy Boothroyd can gel them together, though having the division’s best goalkeeper in Kieron Westwood should buy him more gelling time than most.
Last season 19th. Prediction: 15th
Having avoided both relegation and liquidation there is much relief coming into the new season at Selhurst Park. With twelve players having left the club in the summer and just four coming in its hard to envisage anything other than a bottom-half slog for a side who (albeit with a ten point penalty) survived only on the final day of last season.
Last season 21st. Prediction: 19th
The Rams have held onto the key men from last season’s squad and as shown with the signing of Gareth Roberts, have also made some solid acquisitions too. Its unlikely to catapult the club towards the Premier League, but its will see them edge in the right direction. Who knows they finally even get a league win over Rovers.
Last season 14th. Prediction: 13th
So to us then, and even for a notoriously pessimistic bunch such as our supporters its difficult to find any Rovers fan who is not embracing the new season with an air of confidence. Losing Gareth Roberts was a blow, but adding Billy Sharp has countered that. A settled squad, still under the tutorship of Sean O’Driscoll should emulate last season’s achievements.
Last season 12th. Prediction: 12th
The Taaaaagers have returned from their two seasons in the sun and appear to have come back with something of a limp. As with any side coming out of the Premier League they have shed a large number of players and added just two, the evergreen Nolberto Solano and James Harper. Plus of course a new manager in Nigel Pearson. Given the strife of the field caused by over-living the dream, mid-table should be welcomed by folk at the KC Stadium.
Last season: 19th (Premier League) Prediction:
After a poor season Roy Keane has taken the odd approach of streamlining his Ipswich squad ahead of the new campaign, though the signings of Mark Kennedy and Conor Hourihane mean he has at least retained his policy of only signing Irish or ex-Sunderland players (Niall Quinn must be fancying his chances). Could be another long season for Town fans, particularly with teen prodigy Conor Wickham set to miss the start of it.
Last season 15th. Prediction: 17th
Ooh good Leeds United are back, climbing the ladder back to their rightful place as Champions of the World… or something. United have replaced one Scandinavian ‘keeper called Casper with another (albeit with a K) as Ankergran gives way to Schmeichel though the loss of Jermaine Beckford could be the factor that prevents the onward upward momentum expected by many in West Yorkshire, unless Billy Paynter can manage the switch from Swindon and the step up in division.
Last season 2nd (League One). Prediction: 14th
The Foxes have much the same side as that which reached the play-offs last season, but the change in manager from Nigel Pearson to Paulo Sousa (and the change in philosophy held by said manager) could prevent them from reaching the same level again this season. A season of stability should Milan Mandric tolerate such a thing.
Last season 5th. Prediction: 9th
Gordon Strachan’s second stint at the Riverside is likely to be more productive than his first. Having shipped out a number of the bigger names still lurking at the back of cupboards from the Premier League seasons (Emanuel Pogatetz, Jérémie Aliadière and Mido) and replaced them with some impressive new signings ‘Boro look both much stronger and much more Scottish coming into this season.Expected to be up there challenging and this year, unlike last, they’re expected to live up to that expectation.
Last season 11th. Prediction: 1st
Being promoted via the play-offs is usually an effective way of securing the favourite for relegation tag. However, as ourselves and Scunthorpe have proved in the last couple of seasons this does not have to be a guarantee. That said, in a wide open division Millwall still look one of the Championship’s weaker sides. Assuming all teams stay out of administration then its hard to see the Lions staying up.
Last season 3rd (League One). Prediction: 23rd
The League One Champions are rightfully confident of remaining in the Championship and will be looking to the example set by Leicester City last season. The Canaries have held onto their key players and added well with the acquisitions of Elliott Ward and Andrew Surman, plus Grant Holt will be keen to prove himself at this level once fit. Certainly safe, and capable of kicking on beyond that.
Last season 1st (League One). Prediction: 8th
Having been the Del-Boy of last summer’s transfer market, Nottingham Forest have been decidedly less bullish this year, and have only seen players move away from the City Ground. With their season having tailed off after Christmas last year, its difficult to see them maintaining any promotion charges this term.
Last season 3rd. Prediction: 7th
Despite having somehow survived the very real threat of liquidation just hours before I write this preview Portsmouth’s season does not look set to get any easier. Pompey, do possess a reasonable starting XI, but with a transfer embargo in place and much of last season’s squad unsurprisingly gone, there is little beyond that XI. It looks set to be a long hard season, with decisions made off the field as crucial as those made on it.
Last season: 20th (Premier League). Prediction: 20th
Preston North End
Its been a difficult summer for North End fans, with their club having been somewhat surprisingly hit with a winding up order. Despite being unable to pay their players or the taxman as last season ended PNE have still been fairly active in the summer transfer market. Lower table looks likely, as does the potential for incurring a ten-point penalty at some point.
Last season 17th. Prediction: 21st
Queens Park Rangers
QPR it seems are preparing for a battle, not a tough football season, just a battle. Neil Warnock has brought in Clint Hill, Paddy Kenny and Shaun Derry in an effort to share out the inevitable dislike from opposition supporters. Palace were a horrible to play against under Warnock, its likely Rangers will be just as fearsome, but with the added threat of financial backing and some better players surrounding the thugs. They’ll probably bludgeon their way into a play-off spot.
Last season 13th. Prediction: 5th
The form team from the second half of last season Reading are amongst most people’s favourites for this campaign. The main summer transfer movement has seen Marek Matejovsky return to the Czech Republic and replaced by Andy Griffin. Its not much movement, but the consensus seems to be that a settled side under a popular manager will progress well enough.
Last season 9th. Prediction: 4th
With the Iron having lost their two key players from last season Gary Hooper and Paul Hayes its hard to see them repeating last season’s achievement of staying in the division. Yes, I know that a year ago folk were saying the same about Doncaster after the departure of Matt Mills and Richie Wellens, but there is a marked difference in supporting personnel. Scunthorpe’s new signings come highly rated, but from two divisions lower, which is asking a lot.
Last season 20th. Prediction: 24th
As with last year the doors at Bramall Lane have been swinging open and shut regularly during the summer with more than a dozen players either coming or going. United continue to look a strong side on paper, but also look set to find it difficult to fully pull that together into a footballing side that poses a serious threat. They’ll be in the mix, but they’ll still be generating most of the ‘Grumbles’ on Radio Sheffield of a Saturday tea-time.
Last season 8th. Prediction: 3rd
The big summer news for Swans’ fans was the departure of manager Paulo Sousa to Leicester City to be replaced by Brendan Rogers. That change in management, plus the departure of Leon Britton means its hard to see Swansea pushing for a play-off spot as keenly as last season, though if Rogers can solve the Swans’ goalscoring problems then that may change.
Last season 7th. Prediction: 16th
The struggles of last season look set to continue this term for Watford with a number of players having left Vicarage Road, and barely any coming the other way. Add to that the indignation of cheerfully embracing the nickname ‘The Golden Boys’ and it’s set to be a difficult campaign.
Last season 16th. Prediction: 22nd