In the second instalment of Countdown To Kick-Off I preview and predict every Championship teams’ fortunes. I’ll probably be wrong with many but here are my predictions!
1) Wigan. Boss Owen Coyle has experience in this league and he’s made a super signing in Grant Holt, who’ll be lethal at this level. They’ve also managed to keep hold of Maolney and McMannaman.
2) Reading. After their disappointing Premier League campaign, I feel they’ve got all the right ingredients to make it back there – their manager Adkins knows how to steer a club up and their squad is very capable too.
3) Watford. Zola did well last time and I can only see more success for him. He can clearly embed a squad well as more players, which, if last year’s are anything to go by, could be high standard, are brought in from Italy, also the signing of McGugan and Abdi in permanently can only help their cause.
4) QPR. I think coming down to the Championship will be quite an initial shock for their high-earning stars but they do clearly have the personnel to succeed in the league, which is easier said than done.
5) Bolton. Freedman’s squad contains players capable of beating anyone in the league. Their goalkeeping and defensive departments, with Baptiste in, are tight while Beckford, with a point to prove, could excel in attack. Eagles, Pratley and Holden remain key assets.
6) Derby. Nigel Clough has quietly formed a well-balanced squad with more depth. After minor progress each year, it’s time for a real push so my heart says a play-off spot! The signing of the up and rising Johnny Russell could be one to make the rest of the league envious. The strength of Derby’s midfield is very healthy for the club but quite a headache to select out of for Clough. The Rams’ defence does, however, probably need bolstering. My heart says the Rams can do it but who knows?
7) Leeds. McDermott can work well with his resources and also get the best out of his current crop, he proved this at Reading when he steered them to the play-offs and then the title.
8) Forest. They have a large squad with good players at this level, but if they are to challenge they must have stability from the board room – something which didn’t happen last year. There are so many contenders for the top six, their defence needs work to be further up.
9) Brighton. The biggest question is whether they can continue where Poyet left off. The squad is there but Óscar García has less managerial experience for a growingly fierce league. The events of the end of last season weren’t ideal preparations for the players to return to.
10) Leicester. Their owners have spent, spent and spent in the past few years and haven’t got far. This time they’ve been relatively quiet on the transfer front, their squad is, again, a good one but the heartache of their play-off defeat to Watford will, I believe, remain sore.
11) Ipswich. McCarthy has steadied the ship after a disastrous spell under the stewardship of Jewell. However, I don’t think they have what it takes to compete much higher than mid-table.
12) Blackburn. Rovers have a brilliant team of players but the worry is their owners, off-field antics always seem to be rife with the club. The owners need to allow Boywer the freedom to sort his own squad out.
13) Birmingham. Uncertainties off the pitch and the departures of Davies and Redmond will not stand them in good steed. Keeping Burke will be a good boost but there isn’t enough firepower in the Blues’ squad to make it much further up than mid-table.
14) Burnley. Losing Grant, Paterson and McCann are all big blows. Dyche remains determined to keep Austin, which is pivotal but their squad doesn’t have enough to get much of a look in towards the top six.
15) Charlton. Powell’s success last season in taking the club, back in the Championship after promotion, to 9th was very impressive. More clubs are assembling very competitive squads, I think the competition is too mean for the Addicks to repeat the feat.
16) Huddersfield. The permanent arrival of Vaughan is good but I see more looking over their shoulders for the Terriers. Again, there’s such fierce battling for even the top half.
17) Sheffield Wednesday. Jones hasn’t had the money to bring in players capable of moving the club forward and will therefore face a frustrating campaign.
18) Middlesbrough. I see more struggle, they’ve come down a long way since being relegated in 2009. Their manager is good but he can only do so much, the squad lacks quality.
19) Barnsley. The club have a good young manager in Flitcroft and he’ll have to work wonders again if they’re to progress. I anticipate another season of struggle. Their spirit is to be admired though, a good attribute for the relegation survival run-in.
20) Bournemouth. Howe’s team lack experience and the step up to a league where there are no guarantees won’t be easy. Nevertheless, their achievement of getting into the Championship is not to be under-estimated.
21) Doncaster. The demands of the Championship will be tough, they can’t compete financially. I think they’ll just about survive.
22) Blackpool. Somewhat of a surprise tip for relegation after their recent successes but I suspect they’ll struggle, particularly if Tom Ince moves on, and their players that have already exited were key members of their side.
23) Millwall. The loss of the resourceful and steady Jackett is a big blow. Replacement Lomas is too big of a gamble due to his lack of experience as a manager and West Ham ties.
24) Yeovil. Their story of their arrival to the second tier is amazing and a model to aspire at for lower league clubs. Johnson did a great task with Bristol City in this league in 2007/2008 but this is a step too far – the fairytale ends this season for me.
My predictions for the Rams in Sporting Life’s Championship guide for the new season can be found here.
Come back tomorrow for the third part of Countdown To Kick-Off! Sign up for article alerts direct to your inbox in the email sign-up box on the side bar (down the right hand side) of this web page.