Write the Future: The Championship 2010/11

Ahead of the big Championship kick-off next weekend, we asked supporters, bloggers and regional newspaper journalists about their thoughts on the forthcoming season.

Here are their predictions of what lies in store over the next few months, preceded by a quick who’s who of those involved:

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THE TWO UNFORTUNATES: Another Football League blog that we at The 72 thoroughly recommend.

Read more: The Two Unfortunates blog / Twitter

CHRIS WATHAN: In his position as football correspondent at Media Wales (formerly the Western Mail and South Wales Echo), Chris covers both Cardiff City and Swansea City.

Read more: Wales Online / Twitter

DAVE GOODERHAM: Dave is the former Chief Reporter of the East Anglian Daily Times and now writes about Ipswich Town for My Football Writer.

Read more: Ipswich Town My Football Writer / Twitter

JOEL CLYNE: Joel supports Derby County and recently wrote about the upcoming season at Pride Park for The 72.

Read more: Derby looking to build from the back / Twitter

CHRIS LINES: Chris is a journalist, magazine editor and supporter of AFC Bournemouth.

Read more: Twitter

MARTYN FISHER: Martyn maintains the Defensive Midfielder blog, mainly covering foreign football in fascinating depth. He also writes a weekly column for Backpage Football on the Bundesliga.

Read more: Defensive Midfielder blog / Twitter

THE EQUALISER: An excellent blog covering the world of football, with particularly interesting slants on events in Africa and South America.

Read more: The Equaliser blog / Twitter

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1. Who will win the Championship?

Two Unfortunates: Will go for Nottingham Forest. Strong last year and only their dire away form prevented them from success. At times, they looked well capable of matching the top two.

Chris W: Nottingham Forest. A young side will have learned from last year and Billy Davies has built a good squad who can adapt to playing different ways for different challenges. A few additions should make them clear favourites.

Dave: My tip is Middlesbrough as they have spent well in all the right places. Their spine is especially strong.

Joel: For me, it’s Middlesbrough. Despite signing half of Scotland, they have bought very well. They were taking shape under Strachan towards the back end of last season, can move the ball around well and have heavily invested in their side. History shows that those that who spend are there or thereabouts at the end of the season.

Chris L: Will say Nottingham Forest. Billy Davies is a hard task master and won’t want to go through the play-offs again. They’ll pip the likes of ‘Boro, Reading, Burnley and QPR by winning games they should have drawn and drawing games they should have lost.

Martyn: Middlesbrough. Ugly but effective – the Strachan style. Have also invested in proven goalscorers.

The Equaliser: Middlesbrough – if Gordon Strachan can get some momentum going at The Riverside, his players have the quality required to top the division.

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2. Who else will get promoted?

Two Unfortunates: Middlesbrough. It’s tempting to rule them out but their level of spending this summer has been unheard of in this division since the days of Manchester City and Fulham. It’s also time for a Welsh club to reach the top flight so I am going to go for Cardiff City to join them.

Chris W: Middlesbrough, or at least they should do given their spending and if Gordon Strachan can prove himself all over again. I’d go for either Norwich or Leeds as a surprise third choice, teams that have sound squads and that have a crucial bit of momentum behind them.

Dave: In my opinion, Burnley are the strongest of the relegated sides while I also feel Sheffield United have bought well.

Joel: Possibly Nottingham Forest if they get their transfer targets in before the end of August and if Billy Davies doesn’t talk himself out of a job. Ipswich may well be the surprise package this season. Keano had a bad start last season but their form picked up eventually and was steady in the back half of the season. With a few good additions they could be up there.

Chris L: If Strachan’s signings work out, I think Middlesbrough can come second but Kris Boyd must score by the bucketload. I have a feeling Neil Warnock will take QPR to Wembley, but can see Burnley beating them in a close play-off final.

Martyn: QPR, for similar reasons to those stated above for ‘Boro. I also think Leicester may benefit from Sousa-induced shutouts.

The EqualiserNorwich City – They may have only just been promoted from League One, but Paul Lambert’s side were impressive last season and, in my opinion, have the fire-power and defensive presence of mind needed to succeed in the second tier. Cardiff City – The Bluebirds have gone so close on so many occasions recently, but I think 2010/11 could be their year. My tip for promotion via the play-offs.

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3. Who will get relegated?

Two Unfortunates: Scunthorpe United have been shorn of their best players, while Barnsley have also lost key performers and ended last season inconsistently. Lastly, Preston North End will struggle after the exit of Ross Wallace although Paul Hayes is a good signing for them.

Chris W: It could be too much for Nigel Adkins to pull off another superb season and keep Scunthorpe above water, especially without Gary Hooper. Mark Robins will have a tough job on his hands to maintain Barnsley‘s progress in this division and don’t rule out Pompey or Hull getting dragged into a battle they don’t want to be fighting. I’ll go for Portsmouth ‘doing a Leeds’.

Dave: I think losing Gary Hooper will really hit Scunthorpe while I can also see Barnsley doing poorly as well having lost some key men. I think Millwall and Leeds could both struggle but I think it will be Millwall who fill the third relegation spot.

Joel: It’s hard to look past Scunthorpe, especially with Gary Hooper gone. How will they replace those goals? Watford had a terrible second half of last season and could struggle. Little money is available at Vicarage Road and Malky Mackay will be relying on good loanees as he did last season. Millwall will be another side that’ll be around the bottom three this season. They will no doubt rely upon Steve Morison to score the goals again but there are question marks as to whether he can make the step up.

Chris L: Preston, Scunthorpe and Watford. None of those clubs have much financial clout and none of them have done much of note in the transfer market.

Martyn: Will say Crystal Palace. They won’t escape the financial turmoil. Other teams in trouble will be Derby, whose manager Nigel Clough just isn’t cut out for this level in my opinion, and Scunthorpe, who lost Gary Hooper to Celtic this week. No Hooper = no goals.

The EqualiserPortsmouth – The club’s first team squad has been ripped to shreds as a result of all the financial troubles and I can’t see the team having the depth that is necessary to compete throughout what is a long and arduous season. Scunthorpe United – They left it late to escape relegation last season and, with the quality of the teams promoted from League One particularly high this season, I can see Nigel Adkins’ side struggling in 2010/11. Barnsley – I simply don’t think the team has the quality to survive at this level for much longer.

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4. Who will be the division’s star player?

Two Unfortunates: Gylfi Sigurdsson of Reading.

Chris W: I doubt Kevin-Prince Boateng will stay at Pompey long so I’ll plump for Kris Boyd at Middlesbrough.

Dave: Ipswich‘s very own Connor Wickham.

Joel: Derby‘s Kris Commons if his hamstrings stay intact. Nicky Maynard of Bristol City if not.

Chris L: Middlesbrough‘s Kris Boyd. Could he have as big an impact as Charlie Adam last season?

Martyn: Nicky Bailey of Middlesbrough – the epitome of the Championship.

The Equaliser: I will say Middlesbrough‘s Kris Boyd.

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5. Where do you see your team finishing this season?

Two Unfortunates: I can see Reading ending up in the play-offs. The Royals were rampant after Christmas last time out, although it’s easier when you have started from a low base.

Chris W: I think both teams will end up mid-table – although that can mean two points off either the top six or bottom six in this division. Both will find it tough to replicate last season’s success given Cardiff‘s off the field struggles and Swansea‘s search for stability. Both are capable of doing more but no-one should sneeze at consolidation this time around.

Dave: Currently, I can see nothing beyond about 10th place for Ipswich. But after a virtually silent pre-season, things are starting to warm up and with a couple of acquisitions in the right places (namely a striker), we could just break into the play-offs.

Joel: As far as Derby are concerned, a decent 9th-placed finish wouldn’t surprise. The season will all be down to whether we can keep our squad fit. At one stage last season we had 14 players out injured. If we can cut that number down dramatically then we have a relatively strong squad. Nigel Clough has made some astute signings this summer and is quietly going about his business unlike a certain Scot down the road. A proven goalscorer will be necessary if Rob Hulse is to be sold.

Martyn: It’s hard to judge before the end of August. If Chopra, Bothroyd, Whittingham and Dave Jones depart, then it could be the lower reaches for Cardiff this season. Otherwise, a safe mid-table position.

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6. Lastly, who should your club try to sign before the season starts?

Two Unfortunates: Gary Hooper (oops, too late…)

Chris W: Cardiff – In a word, anyone! The squad is dangerously thin and the transfer embargo means none of the issues from last year’s side have been addressed. The main problem – as shown in the play-off final – was a lack of options to switch to a Plan B. With deadwood shifted but nothing coming through the doors, it’s a worrying time.

Swansea – Swans are thought to be keen on Brian Stock who would suit Swansea’s style down to the ground and boost midfield options should Ferrie Bodde struggle to return and Darren Pratley get whisked away. A spare striker wouldn’t go amiss but Stephen Dobbie coming back from his bizarre Blackpool loan could be like a new signing.

Dave: A striker is completely and utterly essential as we are resting all our hopes on a 17-year-old (Wickham). Michael Chopra has been linked all summer. But if he decides to stay at Cardiff, we will probably need to look at the lower leagues (Charlie Austin at Swindon) or someone on the fringes of a Premier League side – a tougher decision. Would also like an experienced right-back (Steve Finnan is the rumour) and a creative midfielder. That is a lot to ask for so close to the start of the Championship season

Joel: We’ve been linked with Simon Cox who would be a fantastic signing. Would be a great addition to the side and would get a good opportunity to show his talents, unlike his sporadic appearances for the Baggies last season.

Martyn: Lee Grant would have been nice. Alas, Burnley got there first.

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.

6 Comments

  1. Stanley
    July 30, 2010

    I’m not about to denounce the predictions of a swift return to League 1 for Millwall: I’m steeling myself for a tough season. However, unlike Joel, I’m totally confident in Steve Morison’s ability to score in the Championship. The great unknown is whether the rest of the team can support him with some notches of their own.

    Reply
  2. Chris
    July 30, 2010

    As a fellow Ipswich fan, agree with Dave’s predictions on where we will finish (6th – 10th)

    Personally, I think Middlesborough are playoffs at best. Forest to win and Leicster worth a shout for 2nd.

    Scunthorpe, and Preston to go down, along with Barnsley – their impressive nack of narrowly avoiding the bottom three finally coming to an end.

    Players to watch: Jonny Howson, & Nathaniel Clyne

    Reply
  3. Damon
    July 30, 2010

    Essentially, what Dave said. Ipswich are looking to a promosing 17yo to propel their season to mid-table mediocrity. Anything else a bonus. Captain McAuley has probably never been so important.. I am not sure whether Keane has a master plan that none of us can yet really see, or whether he is a clueless idiot who can’t see beyond Sunderland or Ireland. Jury very much out, although he has really been kicked in the knackers with injuries before the season is even underway. That said, I can’t see there being a huge amount of difference between about a dozen sides this season. Are Boro any better than us? I’m not sure – a bunch of rejects from Scotland, not good enough for the Premier Lge?

    I think the Top 2 will come from Forest, Bristol C, Boro, Reading, QPR, Burnley, Cardiff, Palace, Norwich, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester, Sheff U … but I have no idea in which order.

    Going down will be Millwall, Preston and Hull.

    Thi season’s star man is probably going to be Kris Boyd (or possibly Darren Ambrose), although I hope it’s a three way tear up between Ipswich’s triple-pronged strikeforce of Whickham, Priskin and Counago.

    Reply
    • Lanterne Rouge
      July 30, 2010

      Much debate between myself and fellow Unfortunates about Forest. I think there is a tendency sometimes to favour teams that have been busy in the transfer market when picking likely Champions, but Forest have a settled squad from last year and were unplayable at times.

      Reply
  4. Lloyd
    July 31, 2010

    For what it’s worth, I’m surprised that so many went for Forest as Champions. I just can’t see it myself, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a storm brewing behind the scenes at the City Ground.

    It’s cetainly an open league, though, and a settled squad straight from the off will come in handy I’m sure.

    Looking down the table, I don’t think that Ipswich, Palace, Leeds, Millwall, Scunthorpe, Swansea or Watford will do anything but struggle this season. I’m sure that I’ll be wrong with at least one of them though…

    Reply
  5. Maxi Hobbs
    August 1, 2010

    Can’t see Forest making inroads myself. Cardiff to take the title for me and the 3 down from the Premiership I believe are in for long hard seasons ahead.

    Reply

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