Championship league ladder: West Ham up, Birmingham City down

The Seventy Two’s Championship league ladder continues with the thoughts of Alistair Hendrie.

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 Alistair…


One up: West Ham United

Relegated last season with estimated debts of £100m, the east London giants now enter a transition period with the vastly experienced Sam Allardyce taking the reins from Avram Grant. It seems baffling that Grant wasn’t sacked earlier, what with the Hammers propping up the table in January. The Israeli was apparently powerless to stop a downward slide – he oversaw just seven wins all season.

His signings didn’t help either. To mention two of his loan acquisitions, Wayne Bridge and Robbie Keane were hapless at best. Demba Ba impressed but the transfer market is a double edged sword. Senegal international Ba netted seven goals in 12 games since joining in January, though the Hammers downfall always signalled a quick exit for the striker who recently joined Newcastle.

The capture of forward Benni McCarthy was just as catastrophic as that of Bridge and Keane. Overweight and unenthusiastic, the South African’s contract was terminated in April. He was one of so many strikers who Grant gambled on that failed. The seven strikers he used scored just 23 goals between them.

Of course, it’s clear that the Hammers will need to fire on all cylinders in front of goal to gain promotion. Allardyce’s signing of Kevin Nolan from Newcastle could also be crucial. Nolan, one of Newcastle’s brightest sparks, netted 12 times last season. Abdoulaye Faye’s arrival also adds more Premier League experience to the Upton Park men.

With or without the likes of Scott Parker, Rob Green and Mark Noble, West Ham’s squad is too good for the Championship. Allardyce’s tactics may not be swashbuckling, enterprising football, but his reputation for ruffling feathers in the Premier League will mean a handful of big names may be arriving soon. There have been rumours that Joey Barton, a useful player even in the tier above, could be arriving.

In around a decade of labouring, Allardyce established Bolton as a top-flight mainstay and also guided them to European qualification. He’s won promotion to the Premier League before with the Lancashire club, so don’t be surprised if he repeats the feat.

West Ham United up to 2nd


One down: Birmingham City

February’s Carling Cup final win should have been a day to saviour for the Midlands club. However, after the Blues were relegated following surrender at the hands of Spurs, the Wembley triumph fails to mask what was a disastrous season. Manager Alex McLeish has understandably been replaced by Chris Hughton, who now awaits a bothersome Europa League campaign as a consequence of City’s Carling Cup win.

Last season’s failings were there for all to see. With 37 goals representing less than a goal a game, Birmingham scored fewer goals than any other Premier League side. Striker Cameron Jerome scored just three goals all season.

The team were not helped by McLeish’s horribly negative and stubborn tactics. To be fair to Jerome, time and time again he was isolated by his deep-lying colleagues. The St Andrews side were dreadfully bereft of any spark. Last season’s accumulation of four 0-0 draws and six 1-1 draws smacks of a team with a negative attitude and lightweight options.

Their new boss Hughton did a fine job in the seemingly cursed role of Newcastle manager. Newcastle coasted to the Championship title in 09-10 and began well in the Premier League before Hughton’s unwarranted sacking.

He now inherits a squad in tatters. The likes of Roger Johnson, Craig Gardner, Lee Bowyer, Seb Larsson and others have all left. In financial terms, they’ll lose £40m a year in TV money from the Premier League, and stand at an original loss of around £17m a year. It is glaringly apparent that the talismanic Liam Ridgewell will leave. Ben Foster also looks unlikely to stay. Add to that the recent troubles of club owner Carson Yeung and City find themselves on rocky waters.

Birmingham are used to stale, unadventurous football and Hughton must change this by fashioning the squad in his own image. The arrival of Marlon King and Chris Burke adds proven Championship quality, but key men trickling outwards means it could be a tricky season for the Blues. Teams such as Reading, Nottingham Forest and Leeds – teams with less upheaval – are more likely to gain promotion. Expect Birmingham to challenge for the play-offs but fall at an early stage.

Birmingham City down to: 15th


Table after Alistair’s picks:

  1. Nottingham Forest
  2. West Ham United
  3. Leicester City
  4. Leeds United
  5. Hull City
  6. Southampton
  7. Burnley
  8. Reading
  9. Ipswich Town
  10. Cardiff City
  11. Brighton and Hove Albion
  12. Middlesbrough
  13. Blackpool
  14. Derby County
  15. Birmingham City
  16. Millwall
  17. Bristol City
  18. Portsmouth
  19. Barnsley
  20. Watford
  21. Crystal Palace
  22. Peterborough United
  23. Doncaster Rovers
  24. Coventry City
The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

12 Comments

  1. Kaje
    July 15, 2011

    Even for me, a slightly pessimistic Birmingham fan, 15th is just way off the mark.

    West Ham may have a decent squad (though they are starting to lose yet more key players, and Sullivan and the Golds are not known to be big spenders) but I fully expect them to struggle just as much as Blackpool and we do.

    I’d go for Leicester 1st (their money will be too much this season), Birmingham 2nd and West Ham via the play-offs. Big Sam’s style is battling rather than attacking, so I expect West Ham to have a consistent, but ‘stodgy’ season.

    Reply
  2. Ye Gads!
    July 15, 2011

    Zola brought McCarthy not Grant. Also, after his dreadful debut against arsenal, bridge played quite well. Not exactly the flop you make out. What cost west ham was a bankrupt Icelandic billionaire and filling the squad with mediocre players under nani and duxbury. The only reason we didn’t go down under Zola was that it was a weaker league that season. Grant was the only one who wanted the job – daft sod.

    I wouldn’t bank money on Forest coming top. There’s going to be a lot of contenders for the top 6 spots.

    Reply
  3. clapton
    July 15, 2011

    15th must have been written by a spammer. West ham have a worse squad than us and that’s before they lose their best players.

    Reply
  4. Pete
    July 15, 2011

    It is a shame the writer has basic facts wrong that undermine the article. benny mac was signed under zola. Grant did not gamble on him. I don’t think he ever picked him in the league. Apart from a dreadful match against arsenal, bridge was a good signing. He was a big improvement on what came before, so we can’t complain.

    Reply
  5. joe king
    July 15, 2011

    Not sure where he gets his thoughts and ideas from West Ham had the worst defence in the premiership, one of the poorest attacks and an almost complete lack of team spirit, they have lost their best forward in Ba and Cole is on his way out. Dyer moved on and Upson has been given a free transfer, Parker & Green want out so where do you get the idea they have a squad too good for the championship? Not forgetting they are £100m in debt, mind you they have been thrown a lifeline with a free stadium, meaning they can sell their ground to developers for a huge profit clear the debts and give Gold & Sullivan a nice healthy profit before they move on.

    Reply
    • matt
      July 15, 2011

      free stadium? i don’t think so, they’ve got to spend near on £90mil just to get the damn thing ready for playing a football game cause they need retractable seating. and lets be honest who are they kidding theres no way in hell they’ll ever fill the damn thing, and even if they do somehow manage it people on the 2nd tier still won’t be able to see anything, may as well give it to spurs and let them rebuild the entire thing imo.

      Reply
      • joe king
        July 15, 2011

        Matt, they dont have to put retractable seating in to use it also they wont give a damn if the 2nd tier can see anything, the barrow boys will talk a lot of investment but wont spend anything on the stadium. The will sell upton park to developers and make big promises about next year, hoping to get back to the prem so they can sell WHU at a massive profit.

        Reply
  6. Michael doney
    July 15, 2011

    15th oh please, mate i suggest you take up knitting again because football isn’t your strongest point is it? I see Blues finishing top 10 easily. so they have had players leave, so what? Phillips is at the end of his career, seb larrson didn’t want to be at the club, Johnson has left to go to Wolves who will clearly be in the mix for relegation again. Jerome can go if he wants, he’s useless. Hopefully Ferguson will go, his crab mentality was debilitating at best

    your statement ‘challenge for play offs and then finishh 15th’ makes no sense whatsoever. this is a reason i hate the internet at times. bet you’ve never set foot inside St Andrews, but now all of a sudden your an expert.

    get back in your box and ask your ISP to disconnect you quick before your mum comes home.

    Reply
  7. Paul
    July 15, 2011

    You bang on about debts and yet have the Hammers to finish second (conveniently forgetting their debts are much bigger than Birmingham’s) and Blues 15th. Will you be around at the end of the season to swallow that huge dollop of humble pie? I doubt it.

    Reply
  8. GOR!
    July 16, 2011

    LOOKS LIKE WEST HAM ARE DOING WHAT THEY DO EVERY SEASON,THEY MENTION THEY ARE AFTER THIS PLAYER AND THAT PLAYER,YET ALWAYS LEAVE IT TO LATE THEN SOME OTHER TEAM AND GRAB THEM ITS ALWAYS THE SAME,AND WHY NOT JUST KEEP HOLD OF THE BEST PLAYERS IF THEY ARE SO CONTENT WITH GOING STRAIGHT BACK UP MAKES SENSE,WEST HAM WILL NEVER HAVE A GREAT TEAM CHALLENGING FOR TROPHYS IF THEY ALWAYS SELL THERE BEST PLAYERS INSTEAD OF BUILDING AROUND THEM,ALL THEY SEEM INTERESTED IN IS MAKING MONEY.

    Reply
  9. Tom
    July 16, 2011

    Hello,

    Im a Forest fan and i just want to say we have a great chance of promotion, but no matter what Birminghams fiancial worries are, they are still in my opinion one of the favs to go up. The new boys they have already brought in are better then most of the players in the championship. I think they will become champions or second

    Reply
  10. normangunston
    July 16, 2011

    Still some big variables with Birmingham. Will they have to keep on selling off their defensive crown jewels? Will Hughton be given transfer income to spend? What happens if Yeung is found guilty and has to sell?

    Take Foster, Dann, and Ridgewell out of that side and their prospects next season look poor. Not 15th poor, but probably in and around that band of clubs jostling for the playoffs.

    Reply

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