Football

Championship 2013/14 Preview

Cardiff City romped to the title last season (©GettyImages)
Cardiff City romped to the title last season (©GettyImages).

After a fascinating Championship season with only 14 points separating sixth place Leicester City and recently relegated Peterborough United in 22nd, this coming campaign is going to be unbelievably tight with all 24 clubs having a say on who goes up and who goes down.

Every manager will be thinking this season could be there time to shine. Joining the most ‘unpredictable’ league in the world, FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic, Harry Redknapp’s Queens Park Rangers and Berkshire club Reading. All three clubs will be hoping to bounce straight back up to the English Premier League but it will be difficult in different ways.

The three teams coming up from League One, champions Doncaster sealed there names as champions on the last day of the season with a dramatic winner against Brentford. Bournemouth finished second under manager Eddie Howe, who returned to the club in January and little old Yeovil who were playing non-league football not so long ago sealed promotion with a play-off final victory over Brentford at Wembley. All three club’s will be aiming for survival but who knows what this season will throw at us?

Recently relegated Reading have come down with basically the same squad that won promotion in 2012, with Nigel Adkins taking over from Brian McDermott in March he knows how to guide a team out of this league having done so with Southampton in 2012, the first Saints manager to manage back to back promotions. Having already released a number of players such as Ian Harte, Noel Hunt, Simon Church and Jay Tabb, Adkins is looking forward to rebuilding a Championship team to gain promotion at the first attempt with the additions of former Chelsea left back Wayne Bridge and former Real Madrid winger Royston Drenthe. If the team from Berkshire can keep the likes of captain Jobi McAnuff and poacher Adam Le Fondre they will be the team to beat. 

Reading predicted finish: 1st

Nottingham Forest just missed out on the play-offs on the last day to Leicester City. Billy Davies returned to the City Ground after Sean O’Driscoll was dismissed in 2012 and made his mark with a strong end to the season. Davies hasn’t spent too long bolstering his squad for next season with the signings of Dorus de Vries from Wolves, Jamie Paterson from Walsall and making Chilean international Gonzalo Jara, a permanent signing after a successful season on loan from West Brom. Under Davies, Forest fans can expect an entertaining season and are in with a huge shout for promotion.

Nottingham Forest predicted finish: 2nd

Just missing out on the play offs, Bolton Wanderers who had a storming second half of the season will be looking forward to another strong campaign. After the sacking of Owen Coyle, the Trotters appointing former Crystal Palace manager, Dougie Freedman who lead them on an eight match unbeaten run that ended at Portman Road in March will be hoping to replicate that form. With the additions of Alex Baptiste form rivals Blackpool, Robert Hall from Premier League West Ham and Marc Tierney from Norwich City,  it looks like Freedman is looking to go one step further and cement a place in the play offs at least.

Bolton predicted finish: 3rd

Ipswich, yes they are my boyhood team but I promise to be professional. After a dreadful start to the campaign under Paul Jewell last season it was good to see McCarthy come in with his trusted right-hand man Terry Connor and steady the ship and no doubt if Ipswich had him from day one they wouldn’t have been in the position they were under Jewell, I’m not saying we would have gone up but it would of been more positive. This season the mood round Suffolk isn’t gloom and doom for once, fans are expecting a successful season and a firm push for the play offs at the minimum but anything can happen under McCarthy. Ipswich have bolstered the squad with the signings of Cole Skuse and Paul Anderson, both from Bristol City with Jay Emmanuel Thomas going in the other direction as part of the Anderson deal, Jay Tabb’s loan was made permanent from Reading, the same with Daryl Murphy from Celtic (even though he has been with the club for 3 seasons now) and David McGoldrick from Nottingham Forest. With Scott Loach as the only professional keeper McCarthy quickly snapped up Dean Gerkin on a free. With more players being linked I can honestly see a successful campaign for the Tractor-Boys, but Town do have to keep left back Aaron Cresswell.

Ipswich predicted finish: 4th

Birmingham have had a strange few years, from winning the Carling Cup against Arsenal in 2011 and getting relegated the same season, to there owner being sent to prison for tax invasion in his home country leaving the club in financial turmoil. But the current times are looking good under manager Lee Clark, after bringing through youngsters such as Jack Butland and Nathan Redmond who have now moved on to Stoke City and Norwich City respectively, Clark has replaced them with not only young talent but a few experienced players who know a lot about promotion, such as Dan Burn on loan from Fulham after a successful season with League 1 play off winners Yeovil, Matt Green from Conference winners Mansfield, youngster Kyle Bartley from Swansea,  Andrew Shinnie and goalkeeper Darren Randolf from Inverness and Motherwell respectively and Neal Eardley from Blackpool. I feel Birmingham will be dark horses and I do expect them to be up and around the play offs come May.

Birmingham predicted finish: 5th

Tony Mowbray has done well since being appointed manager of Middlesborough in 2010 but after what looked like a flying start for the reds, it ended sourly for them, he couldn’t buy a win away from home and struggling in-front of there own fans caused them from going from a play-off sport to finishing 16th. Keeping the main core of the squad together is something Tony has done well and has added experience with the signings of Dean Whitehead from Stoke on a free and Jozsef Varga on loan from Hungarian club, Debrecen. There is alot of work to do at Middlesbrough but if they can have a consistent season I can’t see why they wouldn’t be in the top six with the team they have.

Middlesbrough predicted finish: 6th

Blackburn Rovers are a club that can’t choose a manager.  Steve Kean started the season as manager but after months of fans protest and a relegation Blackburn decided to dismiss Kean when Blackburn were flying high in the league, occupying a play off spot. Blackburn appointed club legend Henning Berg, which only lasted 57 days which caused more controversy from the Blackburn faithful. The appointment of Michael Appleton from Blackpool was another strange decision from the owners, Venkies who sacked the latter in March. They then went by the choice of appointing caretaker manager Gary Bowyer as permenant manager. Overall it was a dramatic season for the fans of the Lancashire side and are hoping for a stable season. Bowyer is under a lot of pressure to bring success this season but he is hoping to keep hold of golden boy Jordan Rhodes who scored 29 goals last season. He has already added seven new additions which include, Matthew Kilgallon from Sunderland, Keeper Simon Eastwood from Portsmouth and DJ Campbell returning after a loan spell that was cut short due to injury from QPR. Times look good once again at Ewood Park, but for how long will this last?

Blackburn predicted finish: 7th

Leeds United, labelled by many as the ‘dark horse’ of the league. Not so long ago they were playing Champions League football against the likes of Valencia but since then they have suffered two relegation’s (one Premier League & one Championship) and ever since they gained promotion from League One in 2010 they haven’t really pushed for the play-offs. With Neil Warnock being relieved from his duties in March, former Reading manager Brian McDermott was appointed and since then hasn’t looked shy in spending with the likes of Crewe Alexander hot-shot Luke Murphy joining for £1 milion and the additions of strikers Matt Smith from Oldham & Noel Hunt from Reading on frees it seems Leeds are looking strong going froward. Who knows what Leeds will come up with this season, sneak into the play offs, Champions or even relegation? You never know these days with the Yorkshire side.

Leeds United predicted finish: 8th

Leicester reached the play offs on the last day of the season by beating local rivals Nottingham Forest and at one stage looked like contenders for the Championship title, which was eventually claimed by Cardiff City. The Foxes will be looking to keep key players such as keeper Kasper Schmeichel and defender Wes Morgan if they want to mount a serious promotion bid. So far it has been a fairly quiet summer of incoming transfers with Pearson’s only addition being Irish midfielder Connor Clifford from Chelsea.

Leicester predicted finish: 9th

Play off semi-finalists Brighton and Hove Albion will be looking for a strong season again with the club already trying to bolster their team; Brighton who dismissed Poyet in June after breaching the clubs code of conduct, replaced him with Óscar García who has gone on to sign young full-back Adam Chicksen from MK Dons & have retained Matt Upson for another year.

Brighton predicted finish: 10th

Charlton Athletic finished the season on a high after gaining promotion the season before, the aim for Chris Powell’s side was to stay in this division but unexpectedly finished 4 points off a play off spot. Charlton haven’t made any summer signings to date but will be looking to bolster a squad that is not only talented but is managed by a good young manager.

Charlton predicted finish: 11th

Wigan, who have got a European campaign to deal with on top of there league fixtures will be looking for an instant return, after there seven season stay in top flight football came to an end. Questions will be asked about if the Wigan squad can handle the fixture overload and the mileage travelling across europe under new manager Owen Coyle who joined the club in June after departing manager Roberto Martinez left for Everton. With key players departing such as top scorer Aroune Kone and key defender Antolin Alcaraz joining Martinez at Everton. Coyle hasn’t taken his time with replacements with the signings of Norwich City striker, Grant Holt and former England international Scott Carson from Turkish side Bursaspor.

Wigan predicted finish: 12th

Morale in the QPR camp last season was non-existent in the Premier League after a number of high earning player failed to shine for the West London club last term. Harry Redknapp will be seeking replacements in every department with Chris Samba leaving only after six months at the club by rejoining the club that sold him, Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia. With the likes of Loic Remy, Adel Tarrabt & Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar also on the verge of leaving, Redkanapp will be looking for quality to guid his team back up to the Premier League at the first attempt. Harry hasn’t splashed out on big money transfers just yet but has added experience with the addition of former Manchester City and Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne and Right-Back, Danny Simpson after his release from Newcastle United.

QPR predicted finish: 13th

With Crystal Palace earning a place in the Premier League after a play-off victory over Watford in May, Zola’s men will be hoping to go one better this season. With many of there team on loan from Italian side, Udinese and Spanish side, Granada last season they will be hoping to keep most of the team that came close. The signing of Lewis McGugan on a free from Nottingham Forest and making some of the loan signings permenant, there is still a feeling around the Watford camp for a successful season. Troy Deeney will be looking to start where he left off last season whilst top scorer Matej Vydra, who was one of the loan players from Udinese looks set to be off to higher club. Still under a transfer embargo set by the Football League, it will be interesting how Watford will do this coming season.

Watford predicted finish: 14th

Blackpool started last season as promotions favourites and got off to a decent start before Ian Holloway left for play off winners, Crystal Palace. Since then Blackpool appointed Michael Appleton from Portsmouth before he left for Blackburn a few weeks later, Paul Ince was the man to take over in the end and it hasn’t been a great start to his career as Blackpool manager. But a new season is a new start and after Paul’s son, Tom Ince declared he is staying because of his new born child, Blackpool fans can finally look forward to a positive season with the signings of defender Gary Mackenzie, there is a lot of work to do for Ince but it looks positive for the Seasiders.

Blackpool predicted finish: 15th

Derby County once again have to settle for a top half finish after inconsistent results have let Nigel Clough’s young side down. Clough has responded with the signings of Dundee and Scottish international, Johnny Russell, Craig Forsyth from Watford, Lee Grant recruited from Burnley with Frank Fielding departing to recently relegated Bristol City. Overall it looks like this season could be the same as last.

Derby predicted finish: 16th

Kenny Jackett has just left Milwall after six years in charge, His appointment Steve Lomas, a West Ham legend wasn’t taken so kindly by the faithful but the Milwall board see Lomas as the right man to take the club forward. If his signings are as good as his teams results then I can see Milwall gaining a high finish. He’s brought in former player Steve Morison on loan from fellow rivals Leeds, Lee Martin on a free after his contract expired at Ipswich & defensively, Stephen Bywater on a free and Sean St. Ledger on loan from Leicester. I can see positive things and an improvement from the last campaign.

Milwall predicted finish: 17th

Huddersfield had a good season in the Championship and like Sheffield Wednesday survived on the last day of the season. But they need to improve there side and get a goal scorer in after Lee Novak left for Birmingham. From what I have seen from Mark Robins signings so far he has agreed with me. Robins has brought in more firepower in signing James Vaughan from Norwich on a permanent deal, he has also signed Jon Stead and Martin Paterson from Bristol City and Burnley respectively, who on there day can get you goals left, right and centre. There is definitely competition now and with Adam Hammill signing permanently from Wolves a few weeks back, I can see where the assists are going to come from. I expect Huddersfield to crack on this season and don’t expect them to be scrapping in another dog fight.

Huddersfield predicted finish: 18th

Burnley haven’t really been promotion contenders since relegation from the Premier League in 2009, but with a young strong squad they could mount a serious push this season if they keep there top talisman Charlie Austin and gain some consistency. Sean Dyche took over in December from outgoing Eddie Howe and has kept the boat afloat with a decent start as manager, with the signings of keepers Alex Cisak from Oldham and Tom Heaton from Bristol City he has recognised where the team needs to improve. Personally I think It will be another disappointing season for the Clarets but I hope they prove me wrong.

Burnley predicted finish: 19th

”Little old” Yeovil as many football fans call them has done majorly well, not only to avoid relegation, which many pundits had them for last season but to win promotion to the second tier of English football. Gary Johnson has done wonders at the Somerset club since re-joining 18 months ago. Top scorer Paddy Madden certainly was their main source of goals with 24 goals but as a whole you have to give credit where it’s due, which is to everyone associated with Yeovil Town Football Club, a club run on limited resources and having to travel hundreds of miles for away games the teams spirit had a never say never feel, which showed in the play-offs games with victories over Sheffield United and Brentford. If the club from Somerset can keep that team belief then who knows where they will end up?

Yeovil predicted finish: 20th

Barnsley looked certain to go down at the half way stage but after David Flitcroft took over from the departing Keith Hill the clubs fortunes changed, from being routed to the bottom three of the Championship, Flitcroft found something is his team to survive after a last day result sending Peterborough down. He has already been busy in the transfer window with the signings of Lewis Nyatanga from Bristol City, making Chris O’Grady’s move a permanent one from Sheffield Wednesday after a successful spell last season and Dale Jennings from European Cup winners, Bayern Munich for £250,000. So times at Oakwell look positive but unfortunately can see another season near the bottom of the league.

Barnsley predicted finish: 21st

Doncaster under new manager Paul Dickov will be hoping for survival and consolidate their place in the Championship after an instant return.  Dickov has bolstered his squad with the signings of Dean Furman from former club Oldham Athletic, winger Mark Duffy from League Two side Scunthorpe and Harry Forrester from Brentford. Dickov will be hoping Doncaster replicate their form that crowned them champions last season.

Doncaster predicted finish: 22nd

Sheffield Wednesday’s first season back in the second tier started off well under Dave Jones but only just survived relegation on the last day of the season. Wednesday fans will tell you it was a decent season but for a club with massive amounts of history they should be at the top half and not fighting to stay up. Saying that you can only build on it and if i’m honest, with the signing they have made I can’t see them improving much. They have signed Jeremy Helan from Manchester City and Jacques Maghoma from Burton, but are these players gonna improve the squad much? I don’t think so. I think Jones will have another relegation battle on his hands.

Sheffield Wednesday predicted finish: 23rd

Bournemouth were struggling before Eddie Howe came back in October to lead them to an extra 24 wins that earned promoted for them from League 1. Howe rejoined Bournemouth from Lancashire club Burnley due to ‘personal reasons’ and it looks like the gamble paid off with the additions of veteran Ian Harte and experienced centre back Elliot Ward to a very talented squad, with the likes of Matt Richie & Marc Pugh at the club but I don’t think as a team they are strong enough to stay up.

Bournemouth predicted finish: 24th

 

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Topics:
Wigan Athletic
Middlesbrough
Reading
Birmingham
Football
Championship
Sheffield Wednesday
Leeds United
Bolton Wanderers
Bournemouth
Nottingham Forest

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