A week ahead of the EPL, the Championship gets underway and there’s plenty of talk concerning the movers the shakers, the duckers, the divers, the sharks, the minnows, the dark horses, the promotion favourites and the relegation fodder.

Here’s a handy guide to those teams aiming on breaking into the top flight, those happy to enjoy 2nd tier football and those fighting to avoid the drop into the dreaded third division.


West Ham is in the huntStarting with the sides who joined the Championship by the most unwelcome of methods, that’s by being relegated from the Premiership. West Ham who dropped out of Premier League, are the hot favourites to return to the top flight at the first time of asking. They have a (not pretty but gets the job done) manager in the shape of Sam Allardyce and the reliable and experienced new signing of Kevin (Chicken Dance) Nolan who helped Newcastle United bounce straight back a couple of years ago.

West Ham and her fans should be optimistic of a swift return, and possibly a League Winner’s trophy to go with it. Blackpool, who thrilled and entertained the fans of football the length of the country have a much harder task and despite retaining manager Ian Holloway, a place in the playoffs is far from guaranteed.

They ground out a 1-0 victory over former Premiership side Hull City (who look every inch a mid-table championship side these days) in the opening fixture of the season (on Friday) which sums up the job ahead, and the possible outcome.

Rounding out the regelation trio is Birmingham City, who have installed former Championship winning (with Newcastle) manager Chris Hughton and believe that they can go back where they came from. However despite Hughton’s record (and abilities) there are no guarantees and off pitch financial “issues” may have a huge impact on the side’s fortunes. Allardyce is 14/1 in the odds to be the next Championship manager to leave his post, Hughton is 8/1 and Holloway is at 16/1.

The beasts from below

There are three other new arrivals to the Championship, who booked their places with promotion from League 1 (the third division). Brighton and Hove Albion enter the Championship as League One champions and have the money, the momentum and the manpower (for instance striker C Makail-Smith who’s at 14/1 to be the League’s top scorer this year) to cement their place in the second division.

Southampton have a strong squad, including Jack Cork from Chelsea and striker Rickie Lambert, they should do well this season and should be a safe bet for a play-off place. Peterborough were the third team to drag themselves up from the lower league, but more on them later.

Ones to watch

Leicester CityThere are some “big” clubs that would dearly love to get back in amongst the cream of the Premiership where they feel they belong. Leicester City have (former England manager) Sven-Goran Ericksson as their manager and have bought wisely over the summer, usually from the league rivals (strengthening themselves and weakening the competition). They are 10/11 to win promotion with some bookies.

Nottingham Forest (9/2 to win promotion) have (former England manager) Steve McClaren as their manager and have been consistent performers over the past two years. Both sides are worth a bet for making the play-offs, but with the fickle death or glory nature of the play-offs I’d be wary of prediction promotion (just yet). Elsewhere Leeds United (who recorded the highest gate last season when 33,662 fans watched them beat Sheffield United 1-0), will have high hopes.

Not forgetting Ipswich, Reading (who had a league best eight game winning run last season), Middlesbrough and Portsmouth who will be going all out for a top six finish, but most will likely fall short.

Relegation Rounders

Peterborough may have a manger with the name Ferguson but little Darren will need a gob full of magic manager gum if he wants to share a league with Fergie Snr. While the family connections have provided a couple of very useful Old Trafford loan signings, Peterborough will find themselves at the wrong end of the table come May and will have to box clever to stay in the Championship.

Coventry City have floated around the Championship for a while now, but over the summer they have offloaded some of their better and most promising players and look likely for a seat of their pants league survival, or simple relegation this season.

If Doncaster Rovers continue where they left off they should plummet down the league, they ended last season with a 12 game winless run and were the lowest scoring team to avoid relegation, plus could well have done without the injuries they collected pre-season.

Despite being 14 points clear of the relegation zone last season Barnsley are breaking in a new a manger (Keith Hill) and have a bunch of untried players who may, or may not gel in time to collect enough points to avoid being dragged into a relegation scrap.

Prediction: A great season’s football!