This weekend The Championship returns with what promises to be another pulsating season. This blog takes a look at the contenders for promotion and relegation.
After relegation last season, Harry Redknapp’s QPR have been made favourites by the bookies to gain promotion.
A summer of fire sales continues as the club continue to get the big names off of the wage bill. The club has brought in experience, with the likes of Richard Dunne, Danny Simpson and Karl Henry.
Key to the clubs success will be Redknapp’s ability to get the best out of the big names, who expect to be playing at a higher level than the Championship.
Second favourites are also recently relegated Reading. Manager Nigel Adkins has also spent the summer streamlining his squad with a lot of fringe players, such as Noel Hunt and Nicky Shorey leave the club. The Royals have also signed wisely, with 3 additions in the shape of Daniel Williams, Royston Drenthe and Wayne Bridge.
Other teams tipped for a promotion chase this season are Dougie Freedman’s Bolton and another recently relegated club, Wigan. After a strong end to the season, Bolton nearly climbed into the playoffs, just missing out on the final day. The club has strengthened bringing players such as Jermiane Beckford, Marc Tierney and Alex Baptiste. FA Cup winners Wigan have perhaps been the most impressive in the transfer market, acquiring players such as Grant Holt, James Perch, Scott Carson and Marc Antoine Fortune. Wigan will have to cope with the pressures of European football in order to have a good league campaign, something which is easier said than done.
Losing playoff finalists Watford will be hoping to go one further this year but may find it difficult to match the heights without loan stars like Matej Vydra and Cristian Battocchio. New players have arrived from parent clubs Udinese and Grenada but there will always be doubts to as whether these foreign players can gel and adapt.
Leicester and Nottingham Forest are also tipped for big things this season. Leicester’s young squad remains largely the same with only Zoumana Bakayogo arriving. Nigel Pearson will look for promising youngsters Chris Wood and Anthony Knockaert to improve. Forest on the other hand have made an abundance of signings. Jamie Mackie, Eric Lichaj, Gonzalo Jara, Dorus de Vries and Jamie Pattison have joined amongst others.
Brighton, Leeds and Blackburn will hoping to push for the playoffs. Brighton lost the playoff semi finals last season and after a controversial managerial change which saw Gus Poyet be replaced by Oscar Garcia, will hope for the same again. The club has bought in experienced center half Matthew Upson to help sure up their defence. Blackburn will look for more stability in their second season back in the Championship. With the goals of Jordan Rhodes, they always have a chance. The club has also bought in Matt Killgallon, DJ Campbell and Alan Judge. Under Brian Mcdermott, Leeds have a manager who knows how to gain promotion. He has bought in his former Reading striker Noel Hunt along with Luke Murphy and Matt Smith from League One.
The suprise package could come from Derby County or AFC Bournemouth. Derby have signed impressively, with the likes of England Under 21 international Adam Smith on loan, the impressive Johnny Russell, Chris Martin and Lee Grant. After promotion from League One last season Bournemouth, under the guidance of impressive young manager Eddie Howe, will be some what a suprise package. How has bought in experience in Ian Harte and Elliott Ward with exciting midfielder Andrew Surman joining the club on loan.
The best the likes of Birmingham, Ipswich, Middlesbrough and Charlton can hope for is mid table mediocrity. Birmingham are struggling financially and have seen key players like Nathan Redmond depart for pastures new. They have signed youngsters Tom Adeyemi, Lee Novak and Andrew Shinnie as well as Kyle Bartley on loan from Swansea. Charlton, now in their second season of Championship football, have failed to strengthen. Only Richard Wood and Mark Gower have joined the London club. The Championship’s longest serving club Ipswich will more than likely remain in the league for another season. Manager Mick McCarthy has brought in Christophe Berra from his former club Wolves, as well as some of last season’s loan players David McGoldrick, Jay Tabb and Daryl Murphy. ‘Boro had an awful second half to last season and have only signed Dean Whitehead on a permanent deal.
Favourites for relegation are League One playoff winners Yeovil. The club will have to over-perform to stand any chance of surviving in the division. Key to any chance they may have will be the performance of experienced signing Alan Tate and youngsters Paddy Madden and loan signing Michael Ngoo.
Fellow promoted side Doncaster are also tipped to struggle on their return to the Championship. The club have signed goalkeeper Ross Turnbull from Chelsea and Harry Forrester from Brentford, the club they beat to promotion in such dramatic circumstances. Bongani Khumalo has joined on loan from Spurs and will be key in providing defensive security.
The trio of Yorkshire clubs, Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield, who all survived last season, look set to struggle again. Huddersfield may well be alright if new signing James Vaughan can continue to score goals as he did on his loan spell last season. The club has also signed strikers Martin Paterson and Cristian Lopez to provide more firepower. After staying up miraculously last season, Barnsley will have a job to do the same again. The club has signed exciting youngster Dale Jennings from Bayern Munich and John Cofie from Manchester United and will rely on them to provide goals. Sheffield Wednesday have struggled in the transfer market, signing just 4 players including Jacques Maghoma from Burton.
Burnley and Blackpool might both struggle this season after both teams have failed to gain promotion back to the Premier League in recent seasons. The ongoing transfer saga involving Thomas Ince will do Blackpool no favours. The seasiders have signed strikers Michael Chopra, Steve Davies and Bobby Grant to bolster their attacking force. Burnley have lost key players this summer in the shape of Lee Grant and Chris McCann. Keeper Tom Heaton has joined the club from Bristol City and young full back Joseph Mills from Reading.
Finally, Millwall will rely on whether the returning Steve Morison can fire them the goals to keep them up. The club lost long term manager Kenny Jackett in the summer and may suffer from a hangover going into the season. New manager Steve Lomas has also signed Scott Mcdonald and Nicky Bailey from Charlton to avoid this.