Championship league ladder: Cardiff City up, Peterborough United down
The Seventy Two’s Championship league ladder continues with the thoughts of Joe Brewin.
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 Joe…
One up: Cardiff City
Oh, Cardiff. If last season was anything to go by then the Bluebirds’ dreams of a Premier League place may appear a mere speck on the horizon this time around. With arguably the best squad in the division, Dave Jones’ side managed to continue their tradition of haplessly waiving promotion as they crashed out in the play-off semi-finals with hefty defeat to Reading on home soil.
Not even the likes of Craig Bellamy, Michael Chopra and Jay Bothroyd could propel the Bluebirds to the Promised Land, with the latter’s season in particular dipping dramatically following a surprise England debut.
But with Bothroyd departed for Queens Park Rangers on a free transfer, Bellamy back at Manchester City, Chris Burke shown the door to Birmingham and Chopra moving on for Ipswich, Cardiff’s once-lethal front line will now take on a very different shape.
Not only that, but with Malky Mackay now at the helm, the fresh outlook so desperately craved in the Welsh capital has already begun to take form. In through the door with Championship experience are local boy Robert Earnshaw, Coventry midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and Scotland international Kenny Miller.
Earnshaw in particular is a man on a mission to impress after a somewhat subdued campaign for Nottingham Forest, but few can doubt the pedigree of the Welsh striker in the Championship. With Peter Whittingham still on the books and the proven Miller ready to shine, the Bluebirds’ depleted attack should soon be restored to its former glories.
The capture of Watford winger Don Cowie looks to be an astute signing to provide for the team’s fresh attack, with Mackay knowing the Scottish international well from his time at Vicarage Road.
The quality is certainly present, and so much of what was good about Cardiff last season still remains. A goalkeeping crisis lent a significant hand towards the Welsh outfit’s downfall last season, but with both David Marshall and Tom Heaton fit again, Mackay can breathe easy once more.
Mackay’s summer task is not yet over, but the Scot is making strides to ensure that he does not fall where Jones did so too often. With so many strong teams in the division this year the task on his hands is heavy, but there should be few doubts that Cardiff have what it takes to mount another charge on English football’s top tier this time around.
Cardiff City up to 6th
One down: Peterborough United
“It would be nice if we could kick a ball before being written off” – the words of Posh chairman Darragh MacAnthony ahead of Peterborough’s return to the Championship at the first time of asking. “The media think we are doomed this season and some of our fans on the message boards agree. It reminds me of this time last season when few gave us a chance to get straight back out of League One”.
Sorry Darragh, but add one more to that ever-expanding list. Because if the club’s summer activity is anything to go by, then Peterborough are in for an uphill struggle in their bid to avoid the drop.
MacAnthony’s regular tweets over the summer months have painted a similar picture — bid accepted, deal breaks down over personal terms. This had most recently been the case with Wolves target and last season’s loanee Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, whose personal demands were said to be ‘staggering’ by Posh officials.
He isn’t the only one either. While few have entered through the door at London Road, the notable figure of talismanic striker Craig Mackail-Smith has departed for pastures new with ambitious Brighton. The 27-year-old cracked in 27 league goals as Posh emerged victorious in the play-offs last season, leaving huge shoes to fill up front for manager Darren Ferguson.
As it stands, Nicky Ajose looks set to begin the campaign up front alongside former Rushden & Diamonds man Lee Tomlin. The Championship will certainly not quiver at the prospect of a striker force with very little league experience, let alone at this level. Peterborough may have hit an incredible 106 league goals last season, but few would bank on them achieving anywhere near that total this time around.
But while Posh look set to have great issues of their own up top, it is at the back where they look perennially doomed. Their last venture into the Championship saw them ship a mouth-watering 80 goals, while even last season’s success yielded 75, the joint-second highest figure in the division. Pre-season results have painted a similar picture, and Ferguson’s defensive woes do not look to be ending anytime soon ahead of the strongest Championship line-up yet.
Keeping hold of mercurial winger George Boyd remains the next pre-season battle, with the club already having rejected two bids from league rivals Burnley for the Scot’s services. MacAnthony’s valuation is almost certainly going to be nearer the £3 million Brighton were forced to pay for Mackail-Smith, but the Clarets will no doubt be preparing to return with a third offer.
Either way, Peterborough have themselves a huge task to fight for their Championship status, and the lessons of 2009/10 must be learned if they are to stand any chance at all of making the step up this time around. But with so many strong and established teams around them, it should prove too much for Ferguson’s men once again.
Peterborough United down to: 24th
Table after Joe’s picks:
- Nottingham Forest
- Birmingham City
- West Ham United
- Leicester City
- Leeds United
- Cardiff City
- Hull City
- Ipswich Town
- Brighton and Hove Albion
- Derby County
- Bristol City
- Doncaster Rovers
- Crystal Palace
- Coventry City
- Peterborough United