The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

The Ultimate Championship – Premier League and Football League

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For The Ultimate Championship, the flagship of my predictions competitions, the leagues involved are the top four divisions of English football – the Premier League, the Championship, League One and League Two. These have been a part of the UC since its inception in 2004-05. Much has changed since then – that season, Torquay United were a League One club alongside Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City and champions Luton; Swansea won promotion from League Two; Sunderland, Wigan and West Ham were promoted from the Championship; and Southampton, Norwich and Crystal Palace were relegated from a Premier League won by Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, with Everton in 4th ahead of Champions League winners Liverpool.

In case you’ve forgotten (or simply didn’t know), these are the lists of teams in each division for the UC:

Premier League

Last year’s Premier League season was voted the greatest ever since the invention of football in 1992. Do I even need to go into further detail? The result of that is that Manchester City go into 2012-13 as reigning champions. Last time that was the case, they went on to finish 13th, with Leeds winning the title. That obviously isn’t going to happen this time, but it will be an intriguing season regardless – a morning-after-the-night-before for several teams, large or small.

Arsenal (LY: 3rd)
Aston Villa (16th)
Chelsea (6th)
Everton (7th)
Fulham (9th)
Liverpool (8th)
Manchester City (1st)
Manchester United (2nd)
Newcastle United (5th)
Norwich City (12th)
Queens Park Rangers (17th)
Reading (1st FLC)
Southampton (2nd FLC)
Stoke City (14th)
Sunderland (13th)
Swansea City (11th)
Tottenham Hotspur (4th)
West Bromwich Albion (10th)
West Ham United (3rd FLC)
Wigan Athletic (15th)

Teams in European competition:
Champions League: Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea
Europa League: Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, Liverpool

———-

Football League Championship

The Championship never fails to produce drama and surprises, and 2011-12…well, I wouldn’t say it was no exception, but generally, if you’d had a sneaky peak at the final league table 9 months in advance, I don’t think you’d have been particularly surprised. Promotion for Reading and West Ham was no great surprise – the Royals were unlucky to not be promoted via the play-offs in 2010-11, while West Ham spent big under Sam Allardyce to try and get out of the division as soon as possible. Southampton were surprise contenders in a way, but only continued a trend of sides promoted from League One doing well. Meanwhile, at the bottom, you could have guessed the three teams relegated to League One before the start of the season – Doncaster had been punching above their weight for a while, Coventry have been in a mire since the Ricoh Arena was built, and Portsmouth’s problems are well-documented.

Of course, I didn’t predict much of this at all last year. I expected it to be a battle at the top between the two former England bosses at Forest and Leicester, who both ended up getting the boot before the season was out. Shows what I know. Forest’s struggles in particular show you can take nothing for granted this league. Money is no guarantee of success, and youth can often emerge very quickly and surprise a lot of people. Expect the unexpected – oh, and expect the sides promoted from League One to do well. Charlton for the Prem?

Barnsley (21st)
Birmingham City (4th)
Blackburn Rovers (19th EPL)
Blackpool (5th)
Bolton Wanderers (18th EPL)
Brighton & Hove Albion (10th)
Bristol City (20th)
Burnley (13th)
Cardiff City (6th)
Charlton Athletic (1st FL1)
Crystal Palace (17th)
Derby County (12th)
Huddersfield Town (4th FL1)
Hull City (8th)
Ipswich Town (15th)
Leeds United (14th)
Leicester City (9th)
Middlesbrough (7th)
Millwall (16th)
Nottingham Forest (19th)
Peterborough United (18th)
Sheffield Wednesday (2nd FL1)
Watford (11th)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (20th EPL)

———-

Football League One

League One is traditionally the most difficult league to predict out of the top 4, but last year, bar the odd surprise, it was arguably the one that stuck closest to form and size. It was the three former Premier League sides battling at the top for much of the season, with Charlton eventually comfortably champions, ahead of the warring Sheffield twins, settled in favour of the blue corner after Ched Evans “disappeared”.

The big surprise package was Stevenage, aiming for a third promotion in three years after making the play-offs under new manager Gary Smith. The workaholic Hertfordshire team continued a trend of some of the smaller teams doing well, after Rochdale and Exeter came close to the play-offs the previous year. The bad news for Stevenage is that both those clubs were relegated last year, unable to sustain such giddy heights. They were joined by two sides promoted from League Two the previous year, Wycombe and Chesterfield. Only Preston were lower than expected, after the ominous figure of Peter Ridsdale turned up and decided he didn’t like the Tanned One himself Phil Brown. It will be interesting to see if they go on to hit the depths of Ridders’ previous clubs…

AFC Bournemouth (11th)
Brentford (9th)
Bury (14th)
Carlisle United (8th)
Colchester United (10th)
Coventry City (23rd FLC)
Crawley Town (3rd FL2)
Crewe Alexandra (7th FL2)
Doncaster Rovers (24th FLC)
Hartlepool United (13th)
Leyton Orient (20th)
Milton Keynes Dons (5th)
Notts County (7th)
Oldham Athletic (16th)
Portsmouth (22nd FLC)
Preston North End (15th)
Scunthorpe United (18th)
Sheffield United (3rd)
Shrewsbury Town (2nd FL2)
Stevenage (6th)
Swindon Town (1st FL2)
Tranmere Rovers (12th)
Walsall (19th)
Yeovil Town (17th)

———-

Football League Two

The big story for much 2011-12 in League Two was the presence of Paolo di Canio in the dugout of many grounds that would have been unfamiliar to the Italian. Swindon Town had seemingly suddenly become rather well-endowed and after capturing the former West Ham striker as boss, proceeded to sign a stack of players, and would go on to have quite a high turnover of players. At some point, something clicked, and in the second half of the season, the Robins surged to the title. Joining Swindon in League One will be Shrewsbury, after just missing out the previous season, and big spenders Crawley, albeit without long-time manager Steve Evans who abruptly left to join Rotherham just before the end of the season.

Rotherham have proceeded to splash out on plenty of well-established League Two names, although Evans should be wary of what happened to Bristol Rovers last season – Paul Buckle proved to be a casualty of his own carte blanche at the Mem. The Gasheads improved under Mark McGhee but not enough to make the play-offs, with late sprinters Crewe beating Southend and Cheltenham to return to the third tier. Any of these could be contenders again this year. It’s a wide open division as usual, though the bigger teams – the Port Vales, Bradfords and Oxfords of the league – will get it right at some point. Also watch for a resurgent Plymouth and Conference champions Fleetwood, not averse to spending a few quid themselves. And I haven’t even mentioned a certain side that plays in yellow yet…

Accrington Stanley (13th)
AFC Wimbledon (16th)
Aldershot Town (11th)
Barnet (22nd)
Bradford City (18th)
Bristol Rovers (14th)
Burton Albion (17th)
Cheltenham Town (6th)
Chesterfield (22nd FL1)
Dagenham & Redbridge (19th)
Exeter City (23rd FL1)
Fleetwood Town (1st Conf)
Gillingham (8th)
Morecambe (15th)
Northampton Town (20th)
Oxford United (9th)
Plymouth Argyle (21st)
Port Vale (12th)
Rochdale (24th FL1)
Rotherham United (10th)
Southend United (4th)
Torquay United (5th)
Wycombe Wanderers (21st FL1)
York City (4th Conf)

———-

Cup competitions
The FA Cup, League Cup and Football League Trophy (as in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) are available for you to predict the winners of

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Written by James Bennett

June 5, 2012 at 17:30

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