Championship league ladder: Birmingham City up, Watford down
The Seventy Two’s Championship league ladder continues with the thoughts of Tom Leftley.
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 Tom…
One up: Birmingham City
I really don’t like Birmingham City. Born a fan of Southend United, and of football, it was written thus. Ever since they pinched Judas Iscariot (or Barry Fry, as some insist on calling him) when we were riding high in Division 1, a special sort of disgust has been reserved for the club. The sort of disgust that could only be exacerbated by that same Judas taking all our best players with him. They sent my Blues into a spiral of defeat halted only when we hit 17th position in League 2. God damn Judas Fry.
It is natural then, that Southend fans know it is good and right to hate Birmingham City Football Club. Happily, that hatred fits neatly with a hatred of turgid football, miserable fans, and the worst live experience in the football league (I can’t believe there are people willing to part with as much as £490 for twenty-three matches that all involve Birmingham City). Hating Birmingham really is very easy. So easy, in fact, that I encourage others to take it up.
That said, the idea that they’ll be anywhere other than the top echelons of the Championship this season is little more than romantic schadenfreude. Week after humdrum week, Birmingham will pick up wins against their more attractive rivals. Donnie Rovers,Southampton, Forest and others will all outplay City. But with all the inevitability and humour of a John Motson pun, Birmingham will prevail. Liam Ridgewell and whichever defenders choose to stay (or join) City will keep clean sheet after clean sheet, Barry Ferguson and friends will work tirelessly in midfield, and Cameron Jerome will inexplicably score goals. Add in the Chris Hughton factor — a manager with a hundred percent record of promotion from the Championship, lest we forget — and you have a top Championship side.
Birmingham City, for all their ills — too numerous to fully explicate here — will simply have too much quality for most of the teams in the Championship next year. The idea that a club with the structure, management, squad, and money of Birmingham City stuck in the mid-table mire seems absurd. Even with the (presumably brief) distraction of the Europa League, I expect Birmingham to go straight back up.
Birmingham City up to 2nd
One down: Watford
Malky Mackay’s brief period in charge did much to restore Watford’s reputation as a football team. Last season in particular saw a far more pleasing brand of football; Danny Graham scored just two goals less last season than the whole squad managed in their solitary season in the Premier League. Unfortunately for the Hornets, both Mackay and Graham have moved on, along with a large part of the backroom staff, and that spells trouble. New manager Sean Dyche will undoubtedly have a tough task in his first managerial post.
Promoting from within sends one of two messages, depending on what spin you’re planning on putting on it. In the words of Taylor, and other executives, it provides continuity, and an understanding of the ‘Watford way’. It worked with Mackay, they must have thought. But a more cynical eye might not have to work too hard to spot another motive for the promotion. Money is scarce at Vicarage Road, even with Graham, Mackay and others off the wage bill. Dyche is, crucially, cheap.
His appointment is nevertheless a huge gamble. Untried and untested at any level higher than youth football, he may just not have what it takes. And if he does struggle, I’m not convinced the Watford squad has enough quality to keep its head above water. The only signing of the off-season so far came in the shape of Scunthorpe’s fourth-choice centre-back on a free transfer. Inspiring, no?
And this Watford squad needs improvement in all areas. The current strike-force, for example boasts just 53 senior goals in all competitions. The quality in the Championship will be high this year — this season’s new additions include an ambitious Brighton, efficient Birmingham, and quality in the shape of West Ham. I find it hard to see Watford’s squad coping with many of the teams in this division, and it seems Watford are ripe for the second relegation that has befallen Charlton, Southampton, Leeds and the Sheffields before them.
Watford down to: 23rd
Table after Tom’s picks:
- Nottingham Forest
- Birmingham City
- West Ham United
- Leicester City
- Leeds United
- Hull City
- Ipswich Town
- Cardiff City
- Brighton and Hove Albion
- Derby County
- Bristol City
- Crystal Palace
- Peterborough United
- Doncaster Rovers
- Coventry City