PREDICTIONS 2013/14: The Championship
We now take the role of devil’s advocate in attempting to pick a winner in this seasons Football League Championship. Proving year after year to be increasingly harder to predict. This season has a total of 18 former Premier League clubs. Here we dive in with our choices for both promotion and the drop. All safe in the knowledge that we are probably going to end up looking like mugs come May.
As always the teams that have just come down from the Premier League will always be in and around the bookies favourites for a quick return to the promise land. Wigan Athletic, Queens Park Rangers and Reading will need to find the balance between shifting the dead weight and keeping those willing to push for those automatic promotion places.
If anything Wigan’s squad now looks better than when they were in the top flight. Grant Holt from Norwich City is a proven scorer at this level while England international Scott Carson and Republic of Ireland winger James McClean have signed from Bursaspor and Sunderland respectively. They will have European football this season which could prove extremely difficult in a season that already has 46 league games alone.
Harry Redknapp will need to shift a lot of players at Loftus Road. Big earners that under performed last season and players who simply weren’t good enough for the top flight will have to be assessed by the QPR boss before the end of the transfer window. Unpopular owner Tony Fernandes will want a quick return for financial reasons and if they don’t get it this year you fear a few turbulent seasons and a revolving managerial door could creep into the West London club.
After the managerial merry-go-round at The City Ground last year Billy Davies looks to be finally bringing stability to former European Champions Nottingham Forest. Kuwaiti owners the Al Hasawi family sacked Sean O’Driscoll on Boxing Day, only to replace him with a disastrous 40 day tenure of Alex McLeish. Billy Davies was of course the man to lead Forest’s rivals Derby out of this league and also came agonisingly close with Preston on a number of occasions. Missing out on the play-offs on the last day would have hurt Forest but many feel the straight talking Scot known as ‘King Billy’ is the man to put some life back into this sleeping giant.
Brian McDermott’s sacking from Reading last year sent shockwaves through English football. Now back in management at Leeds United he will feel he has something to prove in the Premier League. 10 years since top flight football has been played at Elland Road, McDermott certainly has the knowledge and pedigree to get the Yorkshire men back to where they belong. An opening day crowd of over 33,000 saw them beat Brighton. Which is an indication of just how big a job McDermott has taken on.
In the second tier for the first time in their history many expect Yeovil Town to drop straight back into League One and the Somerset club will do well to avoid the drop on a tight budget. Manager Gary Johnson’s hero status at Huish Park is already guaranteed. He took The Glovers from the Conference to League One in his first spell and from League One to the Championship in his second. If they can keep hold of him and last seasons top scorer Paddy Madden then who knows. A side that plays without fear could end up finishing anywhere.
As a former West Ham captain Steve Lomas is going to need to do a good job to get the Millwall fans on his side. The former Northern Ireland international guided Saint Johnstone to back-to-back Europa League qualification so given the time he could work some magic at The New Den. Millwall’s problem last season was not finding the net enough, only Ipswich scored fewer. Millwall legend Neil Harris has been brought in to coach the goal shy strikers.
Doncaster Rovers, Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth will be lounging around the foot of the table for most of the season. Doncaster proving yet again too good for League One last season with that dramatic last day win against Brentford. They’ve been at this level before but have fallen straight back down. They’ll want to cement their place as a Championship side under new manager Paul Dickov.
Certainly expect Barnsley to struggle in the coming campaign. A 4-0 home loss to newly relegated Wigan Athletic on the opening day wasn’t the ideal start. Youngster Dale Jennings was signed from Bayern Munich in the summer.
CHAMPIONS: Bolton Wanderers
PROMOTION: Leeds United
PLAY-OFFS: Reading, Queens Park Rangers, Nottingham Forest, Wigan Athletic
RELEGATION: Barnsley, Doncaster Rovers, Huddersfield Town
BY DANIEL GORMAN