Championship league ladder: Brighton up, Blackpool down
The Seventy Two’s Championship league ladder continues with the thoughts of John Verrall.
In brief, the idea will be that the table begins in the order that the Championship finished at the end of the 2010/11 season and a series of bloggers and journalists will each re-position one team further up and one team further down based on their thoughts over the summer. By the end, we will have a predicted Championship table for which we can all take some part of the blame…
Over to John…
Making predictions is never easy. Making predictions at this stage of the season, is even harder. With very little transfer activity happening just yet and pre-season training just starting for most clubs it has been hard to gauge which clubs could have a successful season and which won’t. But here are my thoughts on Brighton’s and Blackpool’s chances this coming season.
One up: Brighton and Hove Albion
Norwich showed just how dangerous newly promoted teams can be in the Championship. The momentum gained from promotion can inspire a team to continue their good form for another campaign. When you are used to winning, it comes naturally. Brighton are certainly used to winning. The Seagulls stormed to the League One title last season and could have easily gone past the 100 points barrier if they hadn’t taken their foot off the gas in the latter stages of the season, after already successfully securing the title.
Poyet’s first full season in charge of the south coast outfit has seen him transform the football club’s outlook on and off the pitch. Supporters are flocking to watch them play, with over 18,000 season tickets sold for this season in their brand new Amex stadium, Brighton suddenly have a new lease of life about them. Away from the Withdean, a decrepit ground hardly designed for football, and into a state of the art facility that many teams across the Football League will be jealous of. They are planning for the future.
On the pitch too, they have been revolutionised since Poyet’s arrival. The Uruguayan has brought a continental style not typically associated with lower league football – even if in modern times this stereotype is starting to change – and Brighton have certainly benefited from it. A large number of the squad shone to their full potential last campaign. Elliott Bennett was a revelation last season, as was Inigo Calderon while Glenn Murray also thrived under Poyet’s leadership.
Although Murray and Bennett have already left Brighton, for Crystal Palace and Norwich, Poyet seemingly has been backed with funds. The addition of Will Buckley from Watford is an astute one. With reported interest in Kazenga Lua Lua, who was on loan with the club for the early stages of last season, and yesterday’s capture of Craig Mackail-Smith, one of the Football League’s hottest properties, Brighton are signalling their intent. They don’t want to be sticking around in the Championship for too long.
The playoffs may be a step too far for Brighton this time around but they may well surprise many with their style of football and the talent at their disposal. Poyet has a side full of exuberance and their fan-base are also excited and united behind their manager. The Seagulls may not fly high enough to reach the Premier League this season but a top half finish will represent a very successful first season back in the Championship.
Brighton and Hove Albion up to: 10th
One down: Blackpool
The last two years have been a fairytale for Blackpool. Cast aside as relegation fodder in 2009/10, they shocked everybody by achieving promotion to the Premier League. A team of hardened Football League veterans and unfancied players had gelled together as a squad and upset the odds in the most dramatic of circumstances.
They did it again in the Premier League. A 4-0 win at Wigan on the opening day showed their intent and they were still not relegated by the start of the final day. A team once again written off, supposed to be the ‘whipping boys’ of the league, had far surpassed anyone’s expectations of them.
Yet this season feels different. The end of an era. Three of the clubs main protagonists in their success in recent years – Charlie Adam, David Vaughan and DJ Campbell – look set to leave and even with the increased money that a season in the Premier League brings to a club, it is unlikely that Ian Holloway will bring in big-name replacements, always favouring players with a point to prove and maintaining stringent rules in terms of wages – a refreshing outlook as many clubs continue to spend beyond their means.
This season Blackpool realistically will have to settle with consolidation in the Championship. Two years ago, if you had offered the Tangerines a mid-table finish in England’s second tier they would have snapped your hands off. They are now in a healthy position and look set to remain at this level for the foreseeable future. With a new training ground, an improved stadium and a successful strategy, Blackpool have turned from an unfancied club to one that most wish to replicate. This season, though, feels like the end of a fairytale rather than the start of a new one.
Blackpool down to: 14th
Table after John’s picks:
- West Ham United
- Nottingham Forest
- Leicester City
- Leeds United
- Hull City
- Cardiff City
- Brighton and Hove Albion
- Birmingham City
- Ipswich Town
- Bristol City
- Derby County
- Crystal Palace
- Peterborough United
- Doncaster Rovers
- Coventry City