Written by David Robinson
Here we are then, just days away until the Football League starts and over 46 games, it’s sure to be another exciting, action packed campaign throughout. The second tier of English football always seems to deliver and usually it goes down to the wire at both ends of the table. One of the finer aspects of the Championship is its unpredictability, I’ve certainly found that to be the case when trying to compose my predictions for this season. There are a number many squads of which I feel are of similar strength and with not much in it, every game will be crucial along the way. The League is in my opinion becoming more influenced by the financial powers meaning certain clubs will struggle to compete at the top which gives more of an air of predictability to a degree. With an awful lot of time left in the transfer window, I’m sure some crucial signings will be made which could make all the difference. This only makes predicting this league even harder however these are my Championship predictions, starting off with the top 6 in a four part series.
credit Mike chernucha
1st – Newcastle United
A very predictable pick, I don’t think life will be easy for the Magpies but I’ve gone with them to top the league mainly due to one reason, Rafa Benitez. I was shocked when he stayed on following relegation from the Premier League and even in his short spell in charge his influence is clear to see. At last the Toon are making smart moves in the market, spending that extra bit of cash but they’ve brought in proven players, ones that should handle the gruelling campaign ahead of them. They had to get this right in my opinion as prior to this with the squad that saw them get relegated, I think they would’ve been found out particularly mentally. I expect Benitez to steer Newcastle in the right direction with the likes of Ritchie, Gayle and Hanley being key and while I don’t think their squad is by any means a cut above their rest, having a top class manager can make all the difference. On the other hand you would expect their opposition to look to raise their game each week, particularly when they visit St James Park. This is where they will need moments of quality as they could endure some frustrating matches where they will nearly always be expected to win. This could provide to be the stumbling block and should the crowd get on their backs again, things may not be as rosy for the club as expected however should they overcome this you would fancy Newcastle for the title.
2nd – Derby County
The foundations are there for Derby County, they have everything that’s required to go all the way however as everyone has now discovered, when the going gets tough it all seems to fall apart. Nigel Pearson for me can provide the answer, installing a resolute mentality is likely to see the Rams go one step further. No new faces have come in but I consider that a positive with the squad already full of talent, it should allow some continuity. I believe some big money signings have more to give this season, if they produce what is expected of them I can see the club going under the radar to an extent as it almost seems destined that they won’t get promoted in recent years. Having the likes of Will Hughes fully fit will be a bonus but I think picking up clean sheets will be the key for the Rams this season, something that looks achievable with Pearson at the helm. A strong spine to the squad is vital and Derby certainly have that.
3rd – Norwich
This prediction is nearly solely based off anticipating the Canaries bringing in a proven striker. They have the platform to go on and be successful yet again in this league but scoring enough goals has been the problem and will continue to be an issue should a marksman not arrive. While Cameron Jerome has done it before, a more ruthless forward alongside the impressive Steven Naismith would be a real cause for concern for Championship defences. A bid for Ross McCormack of £10 million signals intent so I do think they will get someone in and this is why I am merely anticipating Norwich to do well. Alex Neil displayed his impact when he arrived from Hamilton a couple of years ago in this division and I expect him to pick up where he left off. They should use their experience to their advantage and be hard to break down, they were so strong away from home a couple of years ago, it would not surprise me if they continue this trend and pick up points frequently across the term however I still think at this point in time I cannot see them in a commanding position for an automatic place. I’d go as far to say Neil’s men have a similar mould to Middlesbrough with plenty of protection in front of the back four, it should be hard to break them down particularity as some on their defenders look stronger than their previous promotion season. Redmond will be a loss but they’ve signed the talented Sergi Canos instead so I don’t see that being a huge cause for concern.
credit Ben Sutherland
4th – Sheffield Wednesday
No play-off hangover for me, Wednesday have strengthened again this summer notably bringing in Almen Abdi who was a key member for Watford in the Championship. They have the experience and quality over the season to plug away at the top of the league. I will be interested to see if sides try and counter act them this season as they could be more of a known quantity making it harder for the Owls to break the deadlock. The Yorkshire club have match winners and that’s important however keeping a tight defensive unit once again will more than likely have a bigger say as to whether they can have a shot at automatic promotion which I believe they certainly can. Adding Steven Fletcher was an interesting addition, Carlos Carvalhal now has plenty of options which could be a decisive factor over the season. It really is a case of continuing where they left off at Hillsborough.
credit Gareth Williams
5th – Brighton and Hove Albion
A huge improvement for Brighton last season and I now I expect them to cement their place in the play-offs. The key reason being that the likes of Knockaert and Skalak will have their first full season at the AMAX meaning they can continue to build on what they produced. Glenn Murray is an astute signing and with Brighton being a team that have in recent times had everything but the final touches, they should have enough goals now to be looking up the table. Beram Kayal for me remains one of the finest in the division and that control in their game is a huge reason why Brighton can take the initiative to their opponents once more. They have a great identity now under Hughton so there is no reason why fortune could be in their favour this time round following unfortunate circumstances towards the end of last season. With the club agreeing a fee for Alex Pritchard, the club has ambition and is moving in the right direction. I see no reason why Brighton can’t go up automatically, I think this could largely depend on injuries obtained and whether either Murray or Hemed hit a hot streak of form in front of goal. They do however lack a bit of speed up front and possibly variety to their game could pose a question that will need answering.
credit The Stadium Guide
6th – Nottingham Forest
My surprise pick in the play-offs, it could really have been from a number of teams but Nottingham Forest have an important quality in their ranks and that is a goalscorer. The return of Britt Assombalonga could be deemed as a new signing and if he can continue his form before his long lay off they have one of the hottest properties in the league. He will be key as his goals I think could determine Forest’s position by a good 10 places depending on if he can find form. The Tricky Trees have made some changes and have gone with a continental approach, one that could go either way truth be told. The club have had quality players for a number of seasons now but staying injury free has always been a killer problem. It’s about time Forest fielded their best eleven continually, if they do that I believe their squad remains a competitive one higher up the league. New boss Montanier will have to adjust to English football immediately if they are to succeed and with more help being installed to help owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi, the guidance at the top of the club could very well be instrumental in allowing for an easier time on the pitch this season. The most risky decision out of the lot but one I’m prepared to gamble on.
What do you make of these predictions? Let us know in the comments below!
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