All entries for Friday 04 August 2006

August 04, 2006

Championship Prediction 06/07

The Championship is a notriously unpredictable league. As such I have attempted to predict the outcome of the 2006/2007 season. Enjoy.

(1) Southampton

With a whole host of quality recruits and a manager to match Soton will be a force to be reckoned with in the Championship this season. Without doubt they will play good football, and if they hit their stride early there could be no catching them. In true George Burley style they will dispatch the better teams with ease, but their season could hang on their ability to break down the battlers.

(2) Sunderland

Relegated from the Prem with a record low points score it’s been all change on Weirside with Niall Quinn becoming chairman and then manager as well. Nevertheless Sunderland retain much of the squad with which they got promoted two years ago and Quinn could prove to be a managerial natural.

(3) Leeds United

Came close last year when dodgy tactics cost them in the playoffs, but massive home attendances have allowed them to splash the cash again over the summer. Transfers have been a bit slapdash with Livermore bizarrely arriving from Millwall only to head straight on to Hull, but the squad easily has the quality to mount another promotion.

(4) West Bromwich Albion

On paper West Brom have the strongest squad in the Championship this season. However they also have Bryan Robson in charge. By combining the two the Albion look to be sure–fire playoff contenders.

(5) Leicester City

Could be the surprise package of the season. Vastly underachieved with Craig Levin in charge. If Hume and Fryatt can hit it off up front Leicester should have enough elsewhere to sustain a playoff challenge.

(6) Norwich City

Only one summer signing in the shape of Man City’s Lee Croft, however there should be goals galore from a side that possesses both Robert Earshaw and Darren Huckerby. Boss Nigel Worthington though with start to feel the pressure if they have another slow start.

(7) Birmingham City

Have been spending big money, but the shock of being back in the Championship could hit the Blues hard. Jerome is a solid signing, but will the players relegated from the Prem last season be up for the fight?

(8) Ipswich Town

Swapped boss Joe Royle for rookie Jim Magilton and have been suspiciously quite in the transfer market. Nevertheless the squad is strong and with a few minor additions will go places. Despite having signed no forwards expect more goals than last year, especially if Forster and Lee stay fit.

(9) Derby County

After last years nightmare there is new hope at Derby with a new board and a new manager in the former of the talented Billy Davies. Steve Howard has been recruited to grab the goals and Idiakez is still a class act. Squad maybe a little too thin to reach the playoffs this time around.

(10) Crystal Palace

The £8.5m sale of Andy Johnson to Everton has provided new boss Peter Taylor with plenty of spending money, however it remains to be seen whether Taylor can prove himself at this level.

(11) Coventry City

Could reach the playoffs, however the decision to sign butterfingered former Norwich and Ipswich goalie Andy Marshall could prove fatal for their chances. Elliot Ward and Colin Cameron are stronger additions however , and providing the Sky Blues can hold onto Gary McSheffery they should do well.

(12) Stoke City

Despite a lack of obvious class Stoke will probably do unfeasibly well this season with Tony Pulis back at the helm. He is a specialist at mid–table finishes and after last years Dutch disaster Potters fans will be happy with a season of safe mediocrity.

(13) Luton Town

Losing star men Steve Howard and Kevin Nichols could prove damaging for Luton, however they should still have enough quality in the likes of Feeney, Coyne, Brkovic and Vine to finish well.

(14) Burnley

After losing Akinbyi to Sheffield United last Christmas the Clarets found results hard to come by. Andy Gray and Alan Mahon arrive at the combined cost of around £1m, but expect a similarly inconsistent season.

(15) Cardiff City

Cardiff’s success last season was based on the flair of Cameron Jerome and Jason Koumas backed up by the signing of experienced Championship campaigners. This time around Jerome and Koumas are potentially both gone and manager Dave Jones has brought in a lot of untested players. Accordingly they will finish considerably lower.

(16) Hull City

Phil Parkinson takes over from Peter Taylor and has made some decent signings, especially the highly promising Dean Marney from Spurs. Despite this it will still be a tough season for the Tigers.

(17) Preston North End

A lot of star names left Deepdale over the summer as did manager Billy Davies. For the coming season a lot depends on whether Nugent stays. If he does they’ll probably finish safely in midtable, if not nine months of struggle awaits.

(18) Wolverhampton Wanderers

As with Preston, Wolves have lost a lot of players over the summer, as well as manager Glen Hoddle. Not too many people will miss the former England boss, but new manager Mick McCarthy will have to make some significant signings if Wolves are to avoid dicing with the drop.

(19) Plymouth Argyle

Tony Pulis did well get so many wins out of a relatively weak Plymouth side last season. Unfortunately for the Pilgrim’s he is now gone, but new manager Ian Holloway should ensure that there is never a dull moment at Home Park. Whether he can ensure them enough points though, remains to be seen.

(20) Barnsley

Back in the Championship after four years away and despite coming up through the playoffs the Yorkshire side have bought shrewdly. Togewell and McIndoe will add to the squad, but the loss of former Leeds star Steve McPhail to Cardiff is a big one. Nevertheless of the promoted teams they probably have the best chance of survival.

(21) Southend

They stormed League One last season and have managed to hold onto all their stars and, most importantly, their manager Steve Tilson. If Freddie Eastwood keeps scoring they might just have enough to stay up.

(22) Queens Park Rangers

Turmoil in the boardroom, a rookie manager, awful form – the omens do not look good for Rangers. Manager Waddock has trawled the globe for new signings. Some of them need to pay off.

(23) Sheffield Wednesday

Paul Sturrock performed miracles last season to keep a very poor Wednesday side up. This season will be another struggle especially as England international goalkeeper Scott Carson will not be returning on loan. The Owl’s squad is also very light on decent strikers and as everyone knows scoring potential is essential in the Championship.

(24) Colchester United

With key men Neil Danns and Liam Chivers departing for Birmingham and Preston respectively and manager Phil Parkinson jumping ship to Hull, Colchester could be in for a very hard season. Another side with no obvious goal scorers.

What a signing!

Have our local side Aston Villa gone and pulled the transfer masterstroke of the summer? Certainly capturing the most wanted man in English football is no mean feat. I bet Villa fans can barely believe it – Martin O'Neil, a man who has turned down Newcastle and been touted as a replacement for Sir Alex at United is their new boss. Obviously Villa's location close to his home had something to do with his decsion to go fro a seemingly lesser club, but personally I think it's a marriage made in heaven. As Rob pointed out last month Villa have virtually unlimited potential and I think O'Neil has spotted that. Whereas at United, for example, he would have been under the shadow of Fergie, at Villa he only has to worry about the legacies of people like John Gregory. And of course if Ellis sells out as seems likely, he could have quite a bit of cash to splash, which can only be a good thing.

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