Championship: Promotion candidates

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For all the clubs in England’s second tier, the Premier League is the Promised Land.

It’s the Holy Grail, the Hollywood, the Mecca of the football world. It’s where every player wants to be and what every team wants to be a part of. But which three clubs from the Championship can obtain Premier League status this term?

Many would argue that the Championship is one of the most unpredictable, yet challenging leagues in the entire world.

Take Wolverhampton Wanderers as a victim of the Championship, who only a couple seasons ago were playing in England’s top flight. They now find themselves planted in League One. Only a few would’ve predicted that Wolves would get relegated in successive seasons.

This comes as an unnerving warning to all of the newly relegated teams; this season that prospect looms for Queens Park Rangers, Reading and Wigan Athletic.

Queens Park Rangers, I am sure, are everyone’s favourites to win promotion this season. How can they not be? In the 2012-13 season they spent a total of £36.5m on players, more than half of the clubs in the Premier League spent. The transfers included high profile players such as Loic Remy and former Manchester United winger Park-Ji Sung, many of whom are still at the club. With a manager of Harry Redknapp’s ability at the helm, who won the FA Cup with Portsmouth I hasten to add, surely there’s no stopping them?

What about Nigel Adkins and his jubilant Reading? Reading were left in relatively good shape after the drop from the Premier League having only had Jimmy Kebe and Adrian Marriapa stolen from them on deadline day by Crystal Palace.

In response, Adkins bolstered his team with American international Danny Williams, former Chelsea and England left-back Wayne Bridge and ex-Real Madrid man Royston Drenthe. Not a bad bit of business considering that the total transfer outlay for the aforementioned three players was precisely £0.

Chris Baird, the former Fulham defensive utility man, also joined Reading in September on another free transfer. Reading, although unprepared for the Premier League last season, have a squad scattered with first team international players. With fast and exciting players such as Gareth McCleary and Hal Robson-Kanu, Reading are certainly dangerous going forward. An already jelled Reading team has now been injected with more experience and quality and it isn’t difficult to see them achieving an immediate return to England’s top flight.

Personally I don’t think Wigan will find their way back into the Premier League this term. Although they acquired the services of former Norwich target man Grant Holt and talented former Sunderland winger James McClean, they will find it difficult to remain consistent, a quality required to do well in this league.

Moreover, Owen Coyle’s men have found themselves in the difficult situation of balancing European football with an already tightly packed fixture list.

Do Wigan have the squad depth to cope with this challenge?

Recently my attention has turned to Owen Coyle’s former employers, Burnley and how could it not be? The way they have been performing of late has impressed, no, startled me.

When they lost their top goalscorer from last season, Charlie Austin to QPR, I thought it was

like losing a limb; I didn’t think they could function properly without him. On the contrary, they’ve been in fine form with both strikers Danny Ings and Sam Vokes banging in goals from all angles, with 13 and eight goals respectively. If they keep this momentum going then I don’t see why they can’t be in the Premier League once more next season.

The one thing that can be guaranteed is that it will be a long and gruelling season and there will be many twists and turns along the path to The Promised Land.

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