With what personally seems like an awfully long summer without football, it is a relief that the time is over and hopes and aspirations for a successful season re-ignite once more ahead of a gruelling 46 game campaign. With the likes of Huddersfield, Reading and Burton among others proving that the second tier can still produce the unexpected on a regular basis it can only encourage each side to aim high and go for automatic or play-off glory. That being said we are seeing a new Championship era, we are seeing sides fork out over £15m for one player alone and you feel what is normally a more balanced competition is getting the Premier League infection of inequality in terms of spending power. That can only be a consideration as I make my Championship predictions and offer my thoughts on each club going into the season.
13th - Sunderland
Sunderland were a real mess in the Premier League and their chances of making an instant return have been badly hit by the departures of star men Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford. They have however made every signing count and bought in the likes of Lewis Grabban and Aiden McGeady. The names they've attracted to the Stadium of Light will definitely help their cause but I think they need to do much more than that to fix what is a very damaged squad. We saw in similar circumstances with Aston Villa how hard it can be to drag yourselves out of a rut and Villa had built a better squad by then. I see Sunderland faltering too many times due to the nature of their re-build. Simon Grayson is an interesting appointment and cautiously could be the man to boost Sunderland because of his man management and if he installs the same grit that his Preston side showed then Sunderland may appear as play-off contenders because not many fancy their chances. There's a lot of experienced pro's there with a point to prove, I'm not sure they've got the fight but there's plenty of opportunities to right some wrongs.
14th - Bristol City
Ashton Gate will be hoping to witness an improved season after a 17th place finish last campaign. Lee Johnson has added just three fresh faces to the squad with Nathan Baker coming in permanently and most notably a £5.3 million signing in Famara Diedhiou who is an unknown prospect. That deal could very much determine the depths to which the club can strive as we have previously seen Jonathan Kodjia arrive from the same club and do wonders for Bristol City's chances. That aside though many of these clubs predicted around the 14th mark are going to shown inconsistencies throughout and I predict that to be the case for the Robins who aren't blessed with the most talented squad and therefore have the potential to slide down and flirt with relegation if they are not careful. However I think there is another experience and a solid spine to the team to make it a solid season for the South West side.
15th - Nottingham Forest
Forest fans will be pleased that Fawaz Al-Hasawi's time at the club is up and now look to a fresh start under Mark Warburton's first full season. They've lost Britt Assombalonga which is naturally going to be a blow but have been much more sensible in the market than previous seasons. Daryl Murphy and Darikwa are astute signings for the re-building process going on at the City Ground, both are proven players in the division and join a squad with potential. I think Forest can have a positive season although I struggle to see them putting a run of points together which will limit progression. This is because they have frailties in areas of the squad still and despite plenty of young talent coming through such as Ben Brereton, there may not be quite enough at each end of the pitch to really gather the momentum needed.
16th - Sheffield United
The Blades will be beaming with confidence after a comfortable League One winning season last term. You'd be stupid to bet against anyone managed by Chris Wilder at the moment after two successive promotions and Sheffield United look well equipped to hold their own this time. They've added nicely most notably with the additions of Richard Stearman, George Baldock and Ched Evans. For me a lot could depend on the form of Billy Sharp, 30 league goals last season, it could prove to be a different ball game this time. I personally don't rate the forward too highly so am interested to see his goal return this season. Other than that I'd expect Bramall Lane to be a tough place to go and with a experienced and reliable set of players I'd expect the club to stay clear of safety.
17th - Birmingham City
A big scare for Birmingham on the final day of last season, they will be hoping they don't come close to relegation this season with Harry Redknapp in charge in his first full season. For a start I have my doubts about Redknapp's managerial abilities as it is if he's without the heavy resources behind him. He hasn't been supplied substantially yet but they've bought in some good captures including David Stockdale, Marc Roberts and Craig Gardner permanently. That definitely adds to squad that could really fluctuate either way. As seen under Gary Rowett if managed correctly the Blues can become a stern side to come up against but equally they are vulnerable if not as they do not have talent in abundance. I think the club will struggle for the large part particularly away from home, picking up the odd win. When you look at who's at the club this is probably about where Birmingham should be and that testifies to the job Rowett did.
18th - Preston North End
Having lost Simon Grayson, Preston have appointed former Norwich boss Alex Neil which I think is a good fit. The Scotsmen can install a good belief into what is a relatively adequate squad, ability wise. Preston haven't exactly added any promising signings and for this reason I think they will not overachieve this time. They are a very workmen like bunch though so I think they're unlikely to be relegated and I think Deepdale will still be a tough place to go.
Do you agree with these clubs predictions? Let us know in the comments below!