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
Starting 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
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
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
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
There 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.
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.
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
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!