Some final predictions before the start of the season
Biggest surprise (positive): Southampton – a young, largely unknown team playing attractive football much like Swansea and Norwich last year.
Biggest disappointment: Well technically Stoke struggling would be a disappointment but I can’t see many people being disappointed if they are indeed relegated as I’ve predicted. Also have a sneaky suspicion Spurs under AVB may disappoint initially.
First managerial departure: Steve Clarke at West Brom. His replacement might dig them out of trouble, if my predictions are anything to go by. I definitely think they’ll be towards the bottom.
Best signing: Jan Vertonghen will be a great capture for Spurs, an able replacement for King. But I’m not sure this will be recognised as much because he’s a defender, so the signing most people will regard as the best one will be Pavel Pogrebnyak at Reading.
Worst signing: Jack Rodwell is in the process of career self-destruction. Victor Moses will do the same if he moves to Chelsea.
Top scorer: Fernando Torres – yeah, seriously.
Player of the season: I’ve gone for City to win the league, so David Silva.
Young player of the season: Jay Rodriguez will impress for Southampton. Could also thus be up there for Best Signing too.
Manager of the season: Outside the top 4, it’ll be Sam Allardyce for guiding West Ham through an impressively safe season. If this isn’t regarded as much of a surprise, it’ll be Nigel Adkins
Shocks: Peter Crouch to leave Stoke for someone relatively big (Sunderland if their move for Fletcher collapses?); Southampton to sign a good centre-back that will surprise people; and Harry Redknapp to get a job before the season’s out – perhaps Reading if McDermott gets a bigger job?
Biggest surprise: Not many people tipping Charlton to do well despite the success of recent League One winners, so them.
Biggest disappointment: Blackpool, because I’m not convinced Holloway either can pull more rabbits out of the hat or will stick around to do so. Also Blackburn may struggle big time despite some signings, and the usual teams will underachieve like Derby, Ipswich and Leeds as I’ve predicted already.
First managerial departure: Keith Hill at Barnsley.
Best signing: Darren Ambrose for Birmingham. Brilliant at Palace, if Clark can get the best out of him then he could be very influential in their promotion bid.
Worst signing: Nuno Gomes will not only be the worst signing in the league but also in England generally. Has massive flop written all over it (watch him score 20 goals now). Spending £40k a week on crocked Leon Best not far behind.
Top scorer: Mr Popular Marlon King.
Player of the season: Lee Chung-Yong is back from injury. Beware.
Young player of the season: Marvin Sordell’s still only 21 at now at my tip for the title. If Coyle utilises him (and he should, because he was great in this league last time), he could be extremely effective.
Manager of the season: Bolton will win the league but I’m going to go for the manager of the other team I think will go up, Lee Clark.
Shocks: Holloway leaves for a “bigger club” again, only to flop there; Warnock sacked by Ken Bates (actually, that wouldn’t be a shock, would it?); and Steve Kean stays at Blackburn for longer than a month despite poor results because Venky’s still refuse to sack him.
Biggest surprise: I stand by my prediction of Colchester being the surprise package at the top (because there will almost certainly be a surprise package at the top), and also I think Scunthorpe will do reasonably well under Alan Knill now that he’s had a year to get them sorted out.
Biggest disappointment: Bournemouth, despite spending loads of money, have spent on League Two players. I predict some of them will struggle to adapt to a higher level and Mitchell will go mental again. They’ll still be mid-table.
First managerial departure: Graham Westley will bomb at Preston and Ridsdale will get Peter Reid in to replace him.
Best signing: Could yet be Reuben Reid at Yeovil, keeping them clear of relegation trouble, although I’m not convinced they’ll get top half as some have suggested might be possible.
Worst signing: Lee Trundle at Preston. What a ridiculous signing. Already out injured. O’Kane and Grabban will disappoint at Bournemouth too, as I hinted above.
Top scorer: Charlie MacDonald didn’t really click at MK Dons last season but may yet score a few this year. It’s as good a shout as any as I haven’t got a clue.
Player of the season: Matt Ritchie of Swindon, after winning it last year in League Two. Either that or he’ll move to the Premier League or, at the very least, a big Championship club.
Young player of the season: Cyrus Christie impressed me last year for Coventry. If he sticks around, this could be an even better season for the young full-back.
Manager of the season: Whichever one of Paolo Di Canio or Karl Robinson is left in a job at the end of the season.
Shocks: Coventry finally bought out by someone who cares; Steve Coppell to leave Crawley before January; and Danny Wilson to get the boot at Sheffield United.
Biggest surprise: AFC Wimbledon have quietly built a decent squad and I think people are underestimating them in the same way they used to underestimate us.
Biggest disappointment: Wycombe are in a bit of financial bother and Stuart Beavon may soon leave. I think League Two regulars who haven’t been following the situation there may be a little surprised that they won’t bounce back straight away. Also Plymouth haven’t strengthened and may yet be in relegation trouble again.
First managerial departure: John Coleman from Rochdale. Bit of a punt but I expect them to struggle this season.
Best signing: Rotherham have signed a stack of good players. Ian Sharps is a great addition to the back line while Kayode Odejayi is a very good striker for this level. Could be either of them.
Worst signing: Chris Zebroski will underwhelm again at Cheltenham
Top scorer: Despite the relative exodus of talent from the league this season, two of last season’s three joint-top scorers are still in the division: I’ll go with Bayo over Midson, which is a bit predictable, though both may get over 20 this time. I’d also keep an eye on Freddy Eastwood, who has dropped down a couple of divisions to return to his former club where he scored a stack of goals before.
Player of the season: Bayo again. Worth a go, I suppose.
Young player of the season:
Michael Duberry I like the look of this guy Rovers have signed, Fabian Broghammer. In failing that, there’s always New Tredegar’s Eliot Richards of the same team.
Manager of the season: Mark McGhee if he can turn Rovers around.
Shocks: Two of the longest-serving managers in the division, Paul Tisdale and John Still, to leave their respective clubs; Rene Howe leaves Torquay in January for a League One/top end League Two club; Accrington nowhere near invincible at home this time; and Guy Branston does this time actually finish the year at Aldershot.