The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

2011-12 Predictions – Championship

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Here we go with my predictions for the Football League Championship (a name I still don’t like, by the way):

1. Leicester City
Aside from all jokes about going nuts at the KP Stadium, it has been a very good summer to be a Leicester fan. There have been too many good signings to discuss. It would be daft to not put them in your top 5. I just hope that if they do win it, Sven actually shows some emotion

2. Nottingham Forest
They’re not going to go up via the play-offs, so it’ll have to be automatic, and I think they could get it. Come on, it’s written in the stars – a battle between the master and his former apprentice, Sven and Shteve. Anything less than promotion will be considered a failure

3. Ipswich Town
Paul Jewell is another one of those managers you can bet will get a team in form. Ipswich have been crying out for a gaffer of his quality (at this level) for a while, and have underachieved consistently. And surely Chopra will bag himself some goals on a regular basis. This has to work

4. West Ham United
Big Sam might be a bit of a figure of fun in English football these days but that distracts from the fact that he is a very good manager, especially for this level, and the players he has brought in have been of a similar quality. I’ll be surprised if they struggle

5. Middlesbrough
This is my gamble, and it’s based on Tony Mowbray, the man who looks about 60 but is still a damn good manager (again) at this level as he proved at West Brom. I think you have to think long-term here – even though they don’t have a fantastic squad, they had good form at the end of last year and Mowbray will bring more good players in

6. Leeds United
Some aren’t convinced that Leeds will maintain their form of last year. Neither am I, although that is mainly a long-term view as I expect some of their best players to leave. But as it stands, they still have Gradel, Becchio, Snodgrass and co, so you’d still expect them to do well

7. Cardiff City
The consensus at the end of last season when Cardiff crashed out of the play-offs was that this was it – Dave Jones was gone, Bothroyd and Burke followed him out the door, and they wouldn’t be able to replace them. As it happens, I think they’ve done a decent job of replacing them, and they should still do well, especially if Bellamy returns

8. Burnley
The Clarets were a solid side last year who powered forward under Eddie Howe under the radar last year, so I expect them to be contenders for a play-off berth once again. They’ve got some very talented forwards and if they can keep them, they could be a surprise package

9. Brighton & Hove Albion
There is plenty of expectation that Brighton will follow Leicester and Norwich in being contenders for a second successive promotion, and maybe even returning to the top flight. However, I have my doubts, although the way they dominated L1 last year suggests a quick return there is highly unlikely. They should do well, although I’d not be surprised if Poyet moves on to bigger and better things

10. Reading
Brian McDermott’s men will have their work cut out to repeat last season’s surge into the play-offs and trip to Wembley. Matt Mills is a loss, and Shane Long could soon depart as well. If so, expectations will be lower, but not too low

11. Birmingham City
It could go either way for the Brummies this year. Reports of potential financial meltdown were a bit wide of the mark this week but it shows that all is not totally well behind the scenes and the big names have already or will depart. I can’t see them returning to the top flight this year

12. Millwall
Despite being considered more for the drop than the play-offs, last year was a very good year for London’s least popular club. You’d think that losing Steve Morison would be a blow, and I’d agree, but they still have a solid outfit there, and Kenny Jackett knows what he’s doing. A solid mid-table finish again

13. Blackpool
After last year’s jaunt into the top flight, my feeling is this year will bring Blackpool back down to Earth. Don’t forget, before Ian Holloway arrived, they were usually relegation candidates. I don’t predict a fate that bad this year but I can’t see them being in contention for a quick return, especially without you-know-who

14. Hull City
Nigel Pearson has built a solid side and I can’t see it disintegrating just yet. The return of Corry Evans from Man Utd is important, and McKenna and Adebola from Forest are good additions. They have a good mix of youth and experience, with which surely you can’t go wrong

15. Southampton
I predict a more difficult year for Southampton not because I don’t think they have a decent side, but because the step from L1 to Championship is a big one. It’s one of those that could go either way but I think there are too many good teams here for them to finish in the top 6

16. Portsmouth
Like their South Coast rivals, I think Steve Cotterill has built a decent side at Pompey, and they were one of the form teams in the second half of the year after that terrible start. But again, I think other teams around them have moved on. Relegation unlikely, but so are the play-offs

17. Derby County
I really can’t see how Nigel Clough can convert this team from relegation battlers to winners, especially without the talismanic Robbie Savage on the pitch. It has surprised me as I think he’s a decent manager but if he couldn’t do it last year, I don’t see how he’s going to do it this year with a weaker squad. Prove me wrong, Nige

18. Doncaster Rovers
One of the more remarkable stories of the last decade has been the rise of Doncaster and their increasingly stable position in the second tier. I had been tempted to put them further down but I see no reason to in terms of the transfer dealings. O’Driscoll is another underrated manager

19. Crystal Palace
Palace, like Derby, have become mired in a series of relegation fights and have only just escaped a couple of times now. I don’t think their number is up just yet, as they have improved their squad enough. But equally I wouldn’t be surprised if they did slip into the third tier for the first time since the 1970s

20. Bristol City
The Robins had a decent year last year once they’d got over the mess that Steve Coppell left behind, but I am concerned for them – we recently beat them quite comfortably at Plainmoor, and I don’t think they’ve moved the squad on enough. It is a gamble to put them this low, though

21. Barnsley
Another one of those teams that is a good bet to be towards the bottom every year. It’s easy to forget Barnsley were a Premier League team 14 years ago, but they are now considered a small club at this level. I can’t see anything changing just yet

22. Watford
With Malky Mackay gone, Hornet hopes rest on Sean Dyche in his first job in management. You couldn’t get thrown in a deeper end. Last year was a solid year for Watford but that was with Danny Graham banging in the goals up front and Will Buckley in support. With both gone, the future looks a bit bleak

23. Coventry City
Talking of bleak futures, it looks really bad right now for Coventry City. Usually they’ve at least been able to afford some improvements to the squad over the summer, leading to a good start before the inevitable collapse. This time, I’m not sure they’ll get that good start…

24. Peterborough United
We’ve been here before – Darren Ferguson leading a Peterborough side into the Championship. It didn’t end well. Without Craig Mackail-Smith, who led the charge to promotion last year, I can see a repeat. It would be hard to look past them for potential relegation candidates

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Written by James Bennett

July 28, 2011 at 15:22

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