Tomorrow marks the beginning of the football season for Premier League clubs and the excitement is almost at fever pitch. But whilst all the focus has been on City, United and Co, many will have not realised that the Championship also kicks off tonight.
Ahead of yet another hotly contested season Connor Jipps predicts the standings come May, predicting the placing of the teams in alphabetical order.
Barnsley – Last year the Tykes comfortably avoided relegation, despite what the table may have suggested, but they should be delighted if they can repeat the trick. Injury will keep first choice goalie Steele out for the beginning of the season and replacement Alnwick has not played competitive football on a regular basis for years. Mido is an interesting signing and could help with the goalscoring aspect of the side, and that could make the difference between staying up and going down. Prediction: 21st
Birmingham –The club have been rocked by the departure of Chris Hughton but Steve Clark’s appointment will soften the blow. In Jack Butland they have a keeper capable of playing at the highest level and keeping him for another year will show intent. Darren Ambrose will provide much needed creativity and Ravel Morrison could begin to show his potential following his loan move. Prediction: 5th
Blackburn –As with Bolton, Steve Kean has miraculously managed to hold on to a large chunk of his first team. Danny Murphy is an excellent signing, despite his age, whilst Nuno Gomes could still have something to prove. Losing their two best players of last year, Hoilett and Yakubu will hamper them though and they will just miss out on an automatic promotion spot. Prediction: 3rd
Blackpool –Ian Holloway has thrown together a group of players that work hard whilst also possess skill and plenty of pace. If they can keep hold of Tom Ince and Matty Phillips, they will have no problem creating chances and this will fire them into the playoffs once again, providing easy on the eye entertainment along the way. Prediction: 6th
Brighton – Brighton performed admirably last season in their return to the Championship and I think they will continue to improve under the impressive tactical nous of Gus Poyet. Exciting signings have been made, with Kuszczak the pick of the bunch between the sticks. Another near miss for Brighton but fans should not be downhearted. Prediction: 8th
Bristol City – Bristol City’s position last season flattered them having languished in the bottom three for the majority of the season and only a late surge of form kept them up. Adomah will be key to Bristol City’s season but one player a team does not make and a real lack of quality may result in them returning to League One and a reunion with city rivals Bristol Rovers. Prediction: 23rd
Bolton – Kept hold of the majority of their squad following relegation and have bought well. Benik Afobe, on loan, could be a masterstroke signing with the Arsenal player highly rated by Arsene Wenger and English youth sides. Owen Coyle is a proven Championship manager having promoted Burnley and all of these factors together will help Bolton return straight back to the Premier League. Prediction: 1st
Burnley – Losing Rodriguez up top will be a huge blow to Burnley this season and all the weight of goalscoring duties will fall on Austin. The money from the sale hasn’t been re-invested and signings are nothing better than average. On the plus side though manager Eddie Howe is an astute young manager and will get the best out of his squad. Finishing 16th would be an achievement with the squad available to the Clarets. Prediction: 16th
Cardiff – In Malky Mackay they have one of the most talented young managers across the football league. Cardiff have steadily improved over the last three years and the signings of Bellamy and Mutch show both short and long term planning for the future. These two will be influential alongside the consistent Whittingham in taking Cardiff up to the promised land. Prediction: 2nd
Charlton – Out of the three clubs promoted from League One last year, Charlton look the most promising bet to avoid relegation comfortably. Wagstaff and Jackson will be key to creating opportunities for Charlton’s strikeforce whilst the defence will need to replicate their solidarity of last season. Ultimately I think they’ll be able to and stay up with ease. Prediction: 14th
Crystal Palace Dougie Freedman has done an admirable job at Palace since taking over but this year he faces his toughest challenge. The sales of key trio Scannell, Ambrose and Clyne will be a slap in the face of loyal Palace fans and only heaps the expectations on young Wilfred Zaha. Losing such a large chunk of a team’s spine can be catastrophic and it may see Palace slip down into the third tier. Prediction: 22nd
Where do you think the above teams will finish? Are the predictions close?
image: © joncandy