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:
THE TWO UNFORTUNATES: Another Football League blog that we at The 72 thoroughly recommend.
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.
DAVE GOODERHAM: Dave is the former Chief Reporter of the East Anglian Daily Times and now writes about Ipswich Town for My Football Writer.
JOEL CLYNE: Joel supports Derby County and recently wrote about the upcoming season at Pride Park for The 72.
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.
THE EQUALISER: An excellent blog covering the world of football, with particularly interesting slants on events in Africa and South America.
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.
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 Equaliser: Norwich 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.
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 Equaliser: Portsmouth – 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.
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.
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.
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.