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Thursday, 16 August 2012

nPower Championship Preview

As a celebration for my half century of blog posts on the site, I'm going to go through my predictions for the upcoming season... Who will be celebrating promotion come May and what club's players will be sitting on the field in tears come the end of the season? Of course, the play offs will also have to come into consideration so here goes!...

As the Premier League is a little predictable and you've probably seen plenty of the predictions for that league, I'll begin with a division that I believe is the best in England... The Championship!

The Contenders?

The Championship is a wide open division where you always get the odd surprise or two as both Southampton and Reading showed last season... In no particular order...

Birmingham City
The Blues were expected to be in the automatic promotion spots last season under the guidance of Chris Hughton but it didn't really happen for them.  During the Summer, Hughton has departed St Andrews and been replaced by former Huddersfield Town manager Lee Clark. Clark set to work at adding to an already very good squad and has added the experienced trio of Hayden Mullins, Peter Lovenkrands and Darren Ambrose to his ranks - The latter an absolute bargain in my eyes at a reported fee of £250,000. The emergence of Team GB goalkeeper Jack Butland has also been a plus for the Midlands' club and automatic promotion will be the aim. Up front, the firepower options of Marlon King, Nikola Zigic and Adam Rooney should give them a chance especially with the service that Ambrose, Nathan Redmond, Chris Burke and Wade Elliot will provide.

Ambrose (Blue) is proven in the Championship
It was surprising to see Ian Holloway's men in the play-offs last year. Many thought they punched above their weight when they made it into the Premier League two seasons back and believed it would be a period to rebuild for a season before going again. The club have a decent starting XI but do seem to be a little light in quality on the bench. Thomas Ince and Matt Phillips were two bright sparks for the Seasiders last campaign and they will have to be at their best if the Tangerines are to be successful. One poor move in my opinion was selling midfielder Keith Southern to Huddersfield - A great player who seems to go about his job without being noticed. Holloway picked up both Isaiah Osbourne and Scott Robertson from the SPL and time will tell if they can cement their places in the team. Up top, there isn't a lot of pace with Kevin Phillips still playing at the grand old age of  48  39 - Admittedly, he can score a goal but you do wonder whether he can fire them to where they want to be.

Ince had a great debut season at Blackpool
Huddersfield Town
I said at the start of this blog post that you always get the odd dark horse and for me, Huddersfield are this team!  I've been very impressed with their business so far and Simon Grayson is putting together a very accomplished team at the Galpharm Stadium. The highly rated Paul Dixon was signed on a free after his Dundee United contract expired with the former Scotland under 21 international joining the Terriers despite Premier League interest. Other signings include winger, Sean Scannell from Crystal Palace, Anthony Gerrard (Steven's cousin) joining from Cardiff City, midfielder Oliver Norwood arrived from Manchester United along with former Nottingham Forest defender Joel Lynch. Another player who joined was Adam Clayton, a regular in the Leeds United side and someone who has a bright future in the game. Up top of course, they could still have the goalscoring prowess of Jordan Rhodes. The Scotland international is hot property at the moment and should score his fair share. Norwich did it and so did Southampton, could Huddersfield be the third side in three seasons to go from League 1 to the Premier League in just two years?!

THE RHODE TO THE TOP: Jordan's goals could be key
Blackburn Rovers
Now we are onto Steve Kean's men and it's been quite a Summer up there! After suffering relegation to the Championship, a couple of the club's "star players" left for pastures new. Yakubu up sticks and went to China and Junior Hoilett went south to join QPR. Kean then decided to sign a couple of "ageing" players such as the evergreen Danny Murphy from Fulham and Nuno Gomes (I was surprised he was still playing to be honest!) from Braga. Also arriving for a stint at the Rovers Revolution were Leon Best and Dickson Etuhu - Both good signings although Best is out injured for  six months after damaging his anterior cruciate ligaments. Another new boy is Colin Kazim-Richards who signed after departing Galatasaray. I'm expecting to see Blackburn up there with Keano leading them to glory however, his case wasn't helped after the club's global advisor said he would be sacked if they lose three games on the trot - No pressure Steve!

NUNO GOMES: Was decent about 10 years back
Nottingham Forest
To be honest, a few months back, I would have been putting Forest down for relegation rather than mounting a challenge at the top of the league! However, after the takeover from the Al Hasawi family along with the dismissal of Steve Cotterill, the new board haven't been shy to splash the cash after appointing Sean O'Driscoll as the new boss last month. O'Driscoll quickly made his moves, capturing Danny Collins from Stoke City and instantly making him captain. Following in Collins' footsteps came Dan Harding, a left back from Southampton and Greg Halford from crisis club Portsmouth. The signings make up for the departures of high profile due Garath McCleary and Chris Gunter who both joined Reading. Also arriving at the City Ground were Simon Gillett from O'Driscoll's old side Doncaster Rovers and a familiar face as Adlene Guedioura signed a permanent deal; the former Wolves player had a spell on loan at the club last season. The new signings bring some hope to being back fighting at the top for Reds fans after a disappointing campaign under Cotterill's guidance.

GILLETT: The best Forest can get?
Leicester City
In truth, it was a disappointing season for Leicester last season. Despite many tipping them for promotion after Sven-Goran Eriksson snapped up a number of high profile players in his bid for success. After just 13 games though, Sven was replaced by former Foxes boss Nigel Pearson who managed to guide the club to a 9th place finish. This coming campaign will be one where Leicester will be aiming for promotion once again with Pearson splashing the cash to bring in the highly rated Jamie Vardy for a reported fee of £1m and ex- Norwich defender Zak Whitbread on a free transfer. Pearson brought in former Manchester United duo Matty James and Ritchie De Laet as well, with the latter replacing Lee Peltier who moved to Leeds. Also departing was Matt Mills who headed north to join Bolton Wanderers. It'll be a big season for Leicester and unlike the last campaign, they'll have to start well.

The fee paid for Vardy was a non-league record
The dark horse...

Leeds United
It's been a Summer of transition for Leeds United for the beginning of Neil Warnock's first full season as manager. Despite the departure of star Robert Snodgrass to Norwich City, Leeds haven't been afraid to spend money too with Warnock raiding crisis club Portsmouth for a quartet of their better players in Jason Pearce, Luke Varney, Jamie Ashdown and David Norris. Strengthening a shaky backline from last season was key and Warnock  brought in goalkeeper Paddy Kenny (Seems to follow Warnock wherever he goes!) from QPR, right back Lee Peltier from Leicester and legendary Norwich left back Adam Drury. In midfield, Paul Green arrived from Derby on a free and the Whites paid a fee to land Rudolph Austin from SK Brann. One move that urked the fans was seeing El-Hadji Diouf sign; Warnock labelled Diouf  "lower than a sewer rat" after the Senegalese hurled abuse at QPR forward Jamie Mackie whilst he was on the floor after suffering a broken leg. Warnock was QPR manager at the time. I wouldn't write Leeds off; Warnock knows what it takes to get out of the division and United look solid at the back and have firepower in the likes of Luciano Becchio and Ross McCormack up front.

Norris (L) and Varney (R) joined from Pompey
 And at the bottom...

Barnsley are one of those clubs that seem to struggle every year but end up surviving - A Wigan-type if you like. This season, however, I can see them finally being wrestled from a league they have been clinging onto for years now! They never had any real top class players in the first place but Jacob Butterfield's move to Norwich puts their survival hopes in doubt for sure and you never know what Mido will turn up - The one that has the ability to score a few or the one that is lazy and doesn't bother to try.  The signing of Martin Cranie is a good move by Keith Hill but for me, it will be another relegation for Cranie who was a Coventry City player last season. Barnsley fans, you're in for a tough season, sorry!

MIDO: A bit on the crazy side

I saw first hand on Tuesday night that Millwall will be in for a struggle. Admittedly the Lions were without first choice goalkeeper David Forde and striker Andy Keogh who were both away on international duty with the Republic of Ireland but they were dominated by League 1 newboys Crawley Town for the majority of the game. Captain, Paul Robinson has been out injured for quite a while and defensively, the team were all over the place. Up front, they lack a clinical striker too; they were fortunate for a while last season to have Harry Kane on loan from Tottenham to score a few goals however, Kane's gone back to White Hart Lane and they seem to lack that killer instinct up front despite the best efforts of Darius Henderson. Boss, Kenny Jackett has brought in Danny Shittu to shore up the defence but it may not be enough.

GET YOUR JACKETT: Kenny could be in trouble
New owners, new manager and a number of new players at Watford but it's a bad move from them in my opinion. Sean Dyche worked wonders last season and led the Hornets to a creditable11th place. However, Dyche was sacked as the takeover of the club was completed and Gianfranco Zola was appointed. Zola soon made a host of new signings from a number of Italian clubs on loan and you do wonder how these young Italians will get on at places like Middlesbrough or Blackpool on a cold, Tuesday night in February and I fear the worst. Zola didn't have the best of times at West Ham and when you're relying on Chris Iwelumo to get you goals you know you're in trouble!

GOALMACHINE: Chris Iwelumo

My League 1 preview is also coming soon.

One photo courtesy of


  1. how do you see crystal palace doing

  2. I'm sure Palace will be fine. Freedman did an excellent job last season and they have strengthened well with Aaron Wilbraham, Joel Ward and Aaron Martin and should be fine, despite the departure of Nathanial Clyne to Southampton. A big season for Zaha as well coming up. Mid table easily IMO.