Here’s how I think the Championship will finish.
1. Bolton Wanderers
2. Wolverhampton Wanderers
3. Birmingham City
4. Leicester City
5. Cardiff City
7. Leeds United
9. Brighton and Hove Albion
10. Nottingham Forest
11. Sheffield Wednesday
12. Hull City
14. Derby County
16. Blackburn Rovers
17. Ipswich Town
18. Huddersfield Town
19. Crystal Palace
22. Charlton Athletic
23. Bristol City
24. Peterborough United
I think Derby’s season will be similar to last, up and down. I don’t feel we have enough quality to mount a serious promotion challenge, we might have a flirt with the play-offs and promotions spots as we always do. My prediction would probably be much different if we’d signed this ‘proven striker’. I hope I’m wrong with my prediction on how Derby will finish. Unfortunately, I think Forest will finish above us. The Kuwaitis at Forest, I hate to say it, have funded some good signings however I’m not sure Sean O’Driscoll is the ‘iconic’ manager though.
Agree or disagree? Use the comments section below.
Players to watch.
Jack Butland- Birmingham City
Butland has only ever played in League Two at club level but he has huge potential to perhaps even rival Joe Hart for the number 1 England shirt in a few years to come. The 19 year old bagged a space in England’s Euro 2012 squad due to the injury of John Ruddy, he didn’t play but the experience of the tournament can only help him. Shortly after Stuart Pearce picked him to represent Great Britain in the London Olympic games, Butland impressed. His Olympic campaign was cut short by a quarter-final exit but he made some excellent saves and didn’t look out of place. His performances at London 2012 helped him win his first cap in a win over Italy. Birmingham manager Lee Clark has handed him the number 1 jersey ahead of the new season, indicating he will be the first choice goalkeeper for the Blues.
Roger Johnson- Wolverhampton Wanderers
There’s no doubt in Roger Johnson’s ability to perform at this level, he has proved that with Cardiff City. A League Cup winner in 2011, Johnson has great leadership qualities. Now after 3 years in the Premiership he is back in the Championship, with Wolves. Wolves paid a reported fee of just over £4million in 2011 to bring him to Molineux following Birmingham City’s relegation. He was handed the captaincy swiftly after his move there. This season he could be a key figure in the Wolves side’s bid to gain promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Jonathan Woodgate- Middlesbrough
Woodgate is a fantastic defender, you pnly have to look at the teams he’s played for to work that out. His former clubs include Leeds (in their glory days!), Newcastle, Real Madrid, Tottenham and Stoke. The former England international has a wealth of experience with over 330 career appearances and 8 England caps to his name. Middlesbrough re-signed him following his release from Stoke City. The 32 year old is an excellent addition in Middlesbrough’s big for promotion back to the Premier League, having huge experience and helping to settle the defence.
Jason Shackell- Burnley
The Derby fans were very disappointed when Jason Shackell left to join Burnley, some even asked for season ticket refunds (not me!). He played every game for The Rams last season proving to be a quality centre-half. The former Norwich defender knows the league very well, having played in the Championship for numerous other clubs. We found out last season that Shacks is a good leader, stepping in very well for injured captain Shaun Barker. Burnley can expect a good accomplished performance regularly from the consistent defender.
Chris Eagles- Bolton Wanderers
Chris Eagles will make the step down from Premiership to Championship with Bolton Wanderers. He already has plenty of experience at this level in various loan spells and in his time with Burnley. I am actually surprised a Premiership club hasn’t signed Eagles since Bolton were relegated. The former Manchester United winger will undoubtedly be up in the top part of the assist chart, his creative play is a real treat for strikers at Bolton to get on the end of. The 26 year old has already been promoted twice from this division, once during a loan spell with Watford in 2006 and with Owen Coyle at Burnley in 2009. Owen Coyle is clearly an admirer of Eagles, he has signed him twice times- signing for Burnley in 2008 and signing for Bolton in 2011.
Peter Whittingham- Cardiff City
Peter Whittingham doesn’t really need an introduction to this league, he has played well over 200 games at this level. I’m surprised that by now he’s not a Premier League player again. His ability to control game tempo, excellent vision, sweet left foot and neat passing are just a few attributes that has helped him control some many games at this level. The midfielder is a perfect player for your fantasy football teams, he makes tonnes of assists and scores a fair few goals. “But as I’ve said, I’m happy here and until the gaffer (Malky Mackay) wants to sell me I’m here” the former Aston Villa and England under-21 international said as speculation of interest from Premier league clubs arisen this summer. For me he is the best player outside of the Premier League. As always, he’ll be a key man in Cardiff City’s promotion bid. I’d love Peter to come back to Derby (very, very unlikely because of his price tag!!), he spent a short loan spell at Pride Park back in 2005.
I’m sure many Brighton fans were pleased when he decided to stay for another season. The former Spanish international arrived at Brighton last summer, following his release from Spanish side Valencia. he is very highly regarded at Valencia, where he made over 300 appearances during his time there. For the Spanish international side he won 38 caps. The attacking midfielder and winger will bring flair to their attacks, providing good service for the strikers.
Chris Burke- Birmingham City
Burke knows the league well and last season he scored 13 goals and made 19 assists, quite an impressive return for his first season with the club. The Blues player of the year is one of the league’s best players, having proved that with both Birmingham and his previous club Cardiff. The former Rangers winger has reached the Championship play-offs in the past three seasons but not gained promotion, two times with Cardiff and one with Birmingham.
Craig Bellamy- Cardiff City
What a signing for Cardiff by Malky Mackay! Bellamy’s experience will help and his passion for his home-town club will be clear as he aims for promotion. The 33 year old showed everyone, last season, that he’d still got it at the very top level with Liverpool. The Welsh international’s former clubs include Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester City, West Ham, Blackburn and Celtic. A loan spell at Cardiff in 2010/11 saw him and Cardiff loose in the play-off semi-finals, perhaps showing he’s got unfinished business at the club. He has been criticised for his behaviour both on and off the pitch and been described as having a ‘volatile character’ but there’s no question about his ability. He’ll bring a dynamic approach to the Cardiff attack, both scoring and setting up goals. He was also involved in the Team GB squad this summer.
Jordan Rhodes- Huddersfield Town
The Scottish international striker is definitely one to watch, should Huddersfield keep hold of him. I can’t see it being long before he is sold to a Premiership club. Last season he scored an incredible 40 goals in 45 matches (all competitions) as Huddersfield gained promotion to the Championship via the play-offs. Here’s a few Huddersfield records he boasts- Fastest ever headed hat-trick, golden boot 200/10, 2010/11, 2011/12 seasons, successive hat-tricks, joint most goals in a match (5 goals) and the most league goals in a season.
Nuno Gomes- Blackburn
Steve Kean signing Portugal legend Nuno Gomes, no it can’t be true but it is! The 36 year old striker made the move from Braga to Lancashire this summer on a two-year deal. He’s made a total of 583 club career appearances and scored 22 goals, which is some career! A total of 79 international caps and 29 goals for Portgual and captaining his country at Euro 2008 a just a couple of the international feats he has reached. It’ll be very interesting to see him grace the league and battle against some of the tough centre halves.