Championship league ladder: Southampton up, Watford down

The Seventy Two’s Championship league ladder continues with the thoughts of Joe Harrison.

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 Joe…

It is always very difficult to make predictions at this stage of the year. Although pre-season is now underway for most teams, there is still plenty of transfer activity left to come and one move can change the whole mood around a club (for better or for worse). As the previous reshuffling of this table shows, the other main problem inherent in making predictions for the Championship is that it is a league that seems to delight in defying expectations and splitting opinions. Still, this is also the time when everyone and anyone has an opinion on something, so here goes with my two tips:

One up: Southampton

These days, having a new stadium seems to be the holy grail for clubs due to the extra revenues they bring in. Southampton’s descent from the Premier League to League One since the opening of the St Mary’s Stadium is testament to the fact that off-field ‘progress’ does not always correlate to success on the pitch. However, having seemingly sorted themselves out behind the scenes, Southampton have a team to match their surroundings, first winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and then following Brighton to automatic promotion.

The club now appear to be set on a firmly upward curve: a talented young manager in Nigel Adkins, who stepped up from physio duties to perform miracles at Scunthorpe before dropping a division to take up the challenge at Southampton, leading them to promotion at the first attempt. They also have the players, particularly going forward, to make a big impact on the division. Even assuming the latest wonderkid from their incredible production line, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, follows previous Saints Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale in making a big move to the Premier League this summer, plenty remain to make the step up and threaten Championship defences.

The prolific Rickie Lambert finally gets a chance in a higher division and he is supported impressively by the likes of Adam Lallana, Lee Barnard and Guly do Prado. Southampton have also signed Jack Cork from Chelsea, an excellent addition with Championship experience following spending last season on loan at Burnley, producing a squad which already seems equipped to do more than just compete at Championship level.

Southampton may also benefit from the inspiration provided by the success of the three promoted teams last season. Millwall spent much of the season flirting with the play-offs, while Leeds only just missed out on the top six. Of course, both these excellent achievements were blown out of the water somewhat due to Norwich achieving their second successive promotion in superb style.

All these factors indicate the momentum of promotion and making the right additions to a settled team can be a huge positive influence. For the first time since their stadium was unveiled, Southampton appear to be ‘all set’ for an immediate crack at the Premier League and though matching Norwich may be beyond them, a serious attempt at the play-offs looks more than a decent bet.

Southampton up to: 6th

One down: Watford

As a Cardiff fan, I almost feel embarrassed and guilty to predict a hard season for Watford as most of the negative headlines surrounding them at the moment are the fault of my team! After an encouraging season last time out — Malky Mackay leading a very young Hornets team towards the play-off positions for much of the season, playing some great football along the way, before losing steam and dropping down the table in the final weeks — Watford seemed a club on the up.

However, they have been rocked this summer by Mackay leaving for pastures new at the Cardiff City Stadium whilst also losing key players from last term: winger Will Buckley (to Brighton), midfielder Don Cowie (following his manager to Cardiff) and most importantly, last season’s top-scorer Danny Graham moving to Swansea City. It is also worth noting Mackay has taken a number of his backroom staff with him to South Wales, leaving his former number two and replacement, Sean Dyche, with much work to do.

Though Dyche’s ascension to the manager’s office, inheriting a young squad, is similar in situation to the successful appointment of Mackay, it is hard not to imagine a season of struggle for Watford this term. With a thin squad, Dyche has a big job to do this summer and up to now recruitment has been minimal. Replacing the creativity of Cowie and Buckley will be difficult enough, but add the colossal loss of Graham and Watford’s attractive attacking side of last season already seems a long way away. If Watford start the season poorly, it is easy to see them being unable to reverse a slide towards League One.

On a slightly more positive note (and to at least slightly assuage my conscience), the squad is not completely shorn of quality. The likes of Marvin Sordell, Lee Hodson and Ross Jenkins have proven themselves to be impressive young talents and figures such as Martin Taylor and John Eustace do add some much needed experience. If Dyche proves himself capable of making the transition from assistant to Manager, a few good acquisitions should be enough to see Watford safe, just.

Watford down to: 20th

Table after Joe’s picks:

  1. Nottingham Forest
  2. Leicester City
  3. Leeds United
  4. West Ham United
  5. Hull City
  6. Southampton
  7. Burnley
  8. Reading
  9. Ipswich Town
  10. Cardiff City
  11. Brighton and Hove Albion
  12. Middlesbrough
  13. Birmingham City
  14. Blackpool
  15. Derby County
  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.


  1. Channon Windmill
    July 13, 2011

    Fair enough assessment of Saints, although I have to point out that Oxlade-Chamberlain is still a Saints player and unless Arsenal or whoever come up with a very large cash transfer, he’ll remain a Saints player. We don’t need the money, Oxlade-Chamberlain has another 2 years to go on his contract and Saints chairman doesn’t like transfers paid in installments or clubs who do their business via the press.

  2. Sam
    July 13, 2011

    Another things the poster seems to be forgetting is possibly the finest centre back outside the Premier League is Jose Fonte. The boy is absolute class and would not look out of place in a top 4 side.

    • Rich
      July 13, 2011

      I think that although Fonte is a very good defender and would not look out of place at a team like Newcastle, West Brom, Wolves, Stoke etc, i dont think he would be anywhere good enough for a top four club. I am surprised the author has focused on Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, when are most potent and best attacking threat for the last 3 seasons has been Adam Lallana, a quality player and possibly the best outside the prem these days.

  3. Joe Harrison
    July 13, 2011

    Hi, thought I’d come back in on these responses, all of which make valid points.

    As a more general point, I am, of course, not a Saints fan so am willing to bow to those with greater knowledge on most things, mine is more of an outsider’s view.

    1st, it’s of course true that Chamberlain is by no means sold yet. It seems likely that he will be though and the point I was trying to make is that despite the fact that much of the focus is on him, there are plenty of other very good attackers at the club who are somewhat ignored because of his high-profile: as Rich rightly suggests, other players have made very(/more) significant contributions too and the team has a very potent attacking threat with or without him.

    2nd, on Fonte, I have to admit that I’ve heard he’s pretty good but don’t know much other than that. I think saying he could play top 4 is premature at this stage though – he was OK in the Championship before impressing in League 1 so I think he probably needs a good season at this level first before being talked about like that. Not saying it won’t happen though…

    As is clear above, I think Southampton stand a chance of a very good season but the real test will be how many of their players step up to the extent they are expected to. If most or all do, it could be a very exciting year.

  4. Watford Joe
    July 13, 2011

    Every season just about everyone predicts we’ll go down (even when we go up) so this is nothing new.
    recent incomings see us already with a bigger squad than last season and we have promises of 4 more plus loans ….. Danny Graham is certainly a great loss but I have faith in our scouting set up to find another gem and even if not, thanks to our much envied academy we have still have plenty of young hungry forwards at the club … as always goals will not be a problem.
    I’m hoping our letting in too many goals might be a problem already solved by the departure of the last manager. Whats his name again .. I’ve forgotten already?

    • dan the casual Horn
      July 13, 2011

      I think its MacTosh who has proven that a man can have more than one spiritual home in his lifetime!
      None the less I don’t wish Cardiff any ill will they certainly deserve a crack in the prem if nothing else for there fantastic support. I just hope its after they have booted out the kiltless one.
      By the way we love the underdog title and may just bite a few bums this year


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