Championship league ladder: Ipswich Town up, West Ham down
The Seventy Two’s Championship league ladder continues with the thoughts of Pat Riddell.
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 Pat…
One up: Ipswich Town
Ipswich manager Paul Jewell is rebuilding his reputation in the Championship after a torrid time at Derby County and slowly assembling an upwardly mobile squad at Portman Road after his appointment in January. Finishing a respectable 13th last season after Roy Keane’s second managerial effort left them perilously close to the relegation places, Jewell’s arrival has brought a sense of stability and hope to the club.
It’s fair to say most Ipswich fans are keen to put last season behind them — the 1-0 win over Arsenal in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final excluded — especially given Norwich’s promotion and a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of their fiercest rivals. Jewell, like Sam Allardyce, has a reputation for direct football but his style of passing football at Ipswich has been a refreshing change for fans used to Keane’s tactics, team selection and inconsistency. The sale of Connor Wickham to Sunderland, worth a potential £12million, should provide some funds to strengthen the squad and replace last season’s top scorer, captain David Norris, who departed on a free alongside Gareth McAuley and four others.
Even before Wickham’s sale, Ipswich had been linked with several big money moves and the additions of Michael Chopra, Nathan Ellington, Aaron Cresswell and Ivar Ingimarsson — with, at the time of writing, Lee Bowyer also on the verge of heading to East Anglia — should make them a force to be reckoned with this season. Further signings should follow as the final pieces of the jigsaw fit into place at Portman Road. On his appointment in January, Jewell said he expected to take two seasons to be challenging for promotion, recognising the difficulties of getting out of the Championship — so Ipswich should certainly finish higher than last season with the potential to be pushing for one of the play-off places.
Ipswich Town up to: 8th
One down: West Ham United
The appointment of Sam Allardyce might not have gone down too well with some of the Upton Park faithful — and it probably wasn’t the ‘big club’ he was hoping for (Real Madrid anyone?). But Allardyce has proven himself to be a very capable manager in all four divisions during his career with a brand of football that might not be the ‘West Ham Way’ but is pragmatic based on the funds and players available to him.
Let’s not forget that Allardyce is the man who ‘modernised football management in Britain’ (The Times’ words not mine) with his use of ProZone and a vast backroom team of psychologists, physios and masseuses. The contrast with Avram Grant — whose lack of tactics, motivation and gameplan baffled most — is stark. Big Sam’s torrid time at Newcastle (unfortunately overlapping with Mike Ashley’s disastrous takeover) will have given him experience of a club that expects to win in style. So he won’t have decided to take the job lightly but will also recognise the abundance of talent at West Ham even after the loss of 12 first team regulars (including loan players) with the likes of Scott Parker, Robert Green and Carlton Cole yet to make their inevitable exits.
As always, there is youth at Upton Park with players such as Freddie Sears, Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Jack Collison, while Jordan Spence, after a spell on loan at Bristol City, is expected to break into the first team squad this season. The signing of Kevin Nolan — who played under Allardyce at Bolton for eight years — adds some trusted steel to the midfield and the club hopes to add a further eight signings to the ranks.
For those who saw West Ham play last season, many of their basic mistakes can be easily eradicated — learning how to defend set plays, keep the back four in position, concentrating for a full 90 minutes and knowing how to kill a game (the final Premier League game at Wigan, case in point).
Making them hard to beat will be Allardyce’ s first task, winning will be a close second and the expectation for free-flowing, attacking football will follow — if he’s achieved all three by the end of the season… well, he might finally win over the fans. Make no mistake though, a game at Upton Park is going to every Championship club’s cup final this season and, with a new manager, new players and new style of football, a place in the play-offs is a more realistic proposition rather than automatic promotion.
West Ham United down to: 4th
Table after Pat’s picks:
- Nottingham Forest
- Leicester City
- Leeds United
- West Ham United
- Hull City
- Ipswich Town
- Cardiff City
- Brighton and Hove Albion
- Birmingham City
- Derby County
- Bristol City
- Crystal Palace
- Peterborough United
- Doncaster Rovers
- Coventry City