Revisiting our predicted Championship table
Back in the summer, a series of posts from a variety of guest writers brought about a predicted Championship table. The final entry in the series was written by Blackpool blogger Chris Walker and you can find the final predicted table below, with each team’s actual current league position in brackets:
- Nottingham Forest (22nd)
- Birmingham City (14th)
- West Ham United (2nd)
- Leicester City (11th)
- Cardiff City (5th)
- Hull City (4th)
- Southampton (1st)
- Middlesbrough (3rd)
- Reading (7th)
- Ipswich Town (19th)
- Leeds United (6th)
- Burnley (12th)
- Brighton and Hove Albion (10th)
- Blackpool (9th)
- Derby County (16th)
- Millwall (20th)
- Bristol City (21st)
- Portsmouth (17th)
- Doncaster Rovers (23rd)
- Barnsley (13th)
- Crystal Palace (8th)
- Watford (18th)
- Coventry City (24th)
- Peterborough United (15th)
For the most part, it is surprisingly close to reality and only Nottingham Forest’s prediction stands out like a sore thumb. Forest were moved to the top of the tree in the first week of July and no subsequent prediction dared displace them. Revisiting the specific post that sent them to the top makes for interesting reading, with the Steve McClaren factor featuring prominently. Of course, we all now know how that appointment ended up. In the author’s defence, he does mention in the comments that he didn’t think Forest would win the league and that his decision was based on the process used for the league ladder.
There are three clubs who ended up being placed more than six places lower than their current league position – Barnsley, Crystal Palace and Peterborough United.
All three have confounded expectations to differing degrees but Barnsley and Peterborough in particular were widely seen as potential strugglers. Barnsley’s recent run has been hugely impressive and Keith Hill continues to prove the doubters wrong, some of whom were Tykes fans themselves. Posh, on the other hand, are simply awe-inspiring.
Arguably an even bigger achievement, however, is Dougie Freedman’s manoeuvring of Palace into play-off contention. The Eagles are two points off the top six following their late 1-0 victory over Birmingham on Monday evening, yet more evidence that the Scot has assembled his squad expertly. Despite a magnificent League Cup run putting a drain on resources, Freedman has shown a great ability to shuffle his pack and continue to produce results.
There are four teams who were predicted to finish more than six places above their current league position – Forest, Birmingham City, Ipswich Town and Leicester City.
Birmingham are in something of a false position given their games in hand. Indeed, if the current table was based on points average, they would be four places higher in 10th. Even so, predicting a finish of second for Blues always looked a little optimistic given their Europa League exploits and the upheaval throughout their squad over the summer. It will be interesting to see whether they begin to rise now that Thursday nights are no longer a concern and their raft of new players have had time to settle.
Ipswich’s season went from good to bad very quickly and it almost got worse when Barnsley led Paul Jewell’s men 2-0 at the break recently. Half time at Oakwell may well prove to be the lowest point of Ipswich’s season and their second-half showing was dazzling. One 5-3 victory later and there were some green shoots of optimism again. Such is life in the tightly contested Championship, where even 45 minutes of football can radically alter the entire outlook of a club.
Which brings us to Leicester City. Sven-Goran Eriksson, like McClaren, has long since exited the East Midlands and we are left to ponder the future for the Raksriaksorns and King Power. There are plenty of rumours that Leicester’s owners will sanction another huge spending spree for Eriksson’s successor Nigel Pearson. The truth is that it is again a necessary one. The Swede had a wealth of departing loanees to replace in the summer but he failed to bring the right balance to a squad that is heavily weighted with central midfielders but low on creativity and pace in wide areas. At times, the narrow midfield worked perfectly but Pearson has re-introduced a traditional 4-4-2 and now he needs the wingers to play it effectively.
Boxing Day’s full round of fixtures will mark the halfway point in the season. So far, it appears largely to be going as expected. Perhaps the Championship isn’t quite as unpredictable as the cliche suggests?