This concluding week will see the start of the football league season kick-off with the usual anticipation from football fans. This upcoming season in the Sky Bet English Championship will as ever have the expected up and downs throughout the whole division, with teams scrambling to gain the illustrious promotion to the English Premiership will no doubt be the highest number seen in recent years with many clubs feeling they are in a good position to challenge especially for one of the four playoff positions.
Relegation from the division for these clubs is considered disastrous and will leave them lingering in the bottom divisions in England. At this stage of the summer the bookies and many experts believe that Newcastle will be the obvious winners from the division, though we all know the unpredictability of the division and that anything can happen at this level. There will be a host of clubs looking to challenge and gain promotion either in Newcastle’s place or with the club.
The takeover at the Midlands club this summer has given the fans and the people associated with the club renewed hope and a positive outlook for the club. After last season’s fiasco this upcoming season will see the start of a transitional period for the club, building the club from the roots again, gaining an image and more importantly having players that want to play for the prestigious shirt. The appointment of Roberto Di Matteo could give the club a massive lift, especially the players, Di Matteo has a wealth of knowledge and likes to play attractive football, perhaps not always what is needed in the Championship.
The signing of Tommy Elphick from Bournemouth came somewhat of a surprise but gives them much needed experience and leadership. With more business expected between now and the end of August the upcoming season could all depend on who stays at Villa Park. An instant return to the Premier League looks too much to ask for at this stage with the campaign days away from kicking off. (PREDICTION: 8th)
What a job Paul Heckingbottom has done at Oakwell in getting the club promoted to the Championship. When he took over the club they were in a struggle to stay in League One, look at the position they are in now.
The team play good football and have an abundance of pace in their ranks, which could prove to be vital. Importantly the club has held on to players like Sam Winnall who scored 23 league goals last time out, and Conor Hourihane the highly rated central midfielder, while adding the in-demand former Walsall striker Tom Bradshaw and another highly rated central midfielder in George Moncur. Heckingbottom’s Barnsley could cause problems to many of the teams in the league this season especially teams travelling to Oakwell. (PREDICTION: 16th)
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Birmingham is one of the sides this season that looks unpredictable. With one of the best up and coming British managers at their helm in Gary Rowett they could be one of the sides who could challenge for one of the playoff places, however a lack of business so far in the transfer market could halter their progress in some ways.
They have a very honest group of hard working players who will be a match for many of the teams in the division this season, so can they build on what was a fantastic season last time out. James Vaughan, Robert Tesche from Nottingham Forest and Ryan Shotton are the names that have been added to the squad, they might need more to make a push into the promotion picture. (PREDICTION: 10th)
The appointment of Owen Coyle at Ewood Park was somewhat of a surprise this summer given the history he has had with both Burnley and Bolton respectively. What Coyle always has from his career is a tight knit group of players who work hard for each other, and this season they might have their work cut out for them. Adding both Danny Graham and Anthony Stokes to their frontline certainly gives them goals moving forward, but losing Grant Hanley to Newcastle and with future of Irish international Shane Duffy still in jeopardy it might prove to be too much defensively to lose.
With still business in the transfer window to be done, at this stage it looks like Blackburn might just find themselves more in the bottom half of the table than the top half. (PREDICTION: 21st)
Brentford and manager Dean Smith are another one of the clubs where it could be hard to predict how far they could go this season. The departure of club captain Jake Bidwell to division rivals QPR will be a bitter pill to swallow for the club, and with star player Alan Judge missing the start of the campaign it will be important for Smith to keep stability at the club.
The squad still looks to have a bulk of foreign players within it but if Lasse Vibe and Philip Hofmann can re-produce this season they might find themselves with a chance of a surprise push towards the playoffs. The keeper change of David Button to Daniel Bentley signed from Southend shouldn’t cause many problems, and with the signing of central defender John Egan they should be steady enough defensively. A comfortable season might just be what Brentford could classify as a success. (PREDICTION: 14th)
BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION
Chris Hughton’s Brighton proved to be the surprise package of the Championship last season, and with more expectation this season this upcoming campaign could potentially not hit the heights. Hughton is a highly respected manager within the English game and so far his team is expected to challenge this season according to the bookies and experts.
Holding onto some key players might prove the difference for Brighton this season; Lewis Dunk has been linked with numerous Premier League clubs this summer, Anthony Knockaert has recently been linked with Newcastle while Tomer Hemed and Dale Stephens have attracted attention also. The additions of the experienced Steve Sidwell and Glenn Murray could prove important for the club, although no other additions of note has been made at this stage. Brighton will find themselves amongst the challengers for the playoff positions, automatically doesn’t look too realistic at this stage. (PREDICTION: 7th)
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Lee Johnson has done a very solid job at Ashton Gate, and is really looking to build on this for the up-coming season. With a healthy investment so far this summer Bristol City could well be considered a potential surprise package for this season.
The additions of the experienced Gary O’Neil, concluding the permanent transfer of Lee Tomlin while adding the highly regarded Callum O’Dowda from Oxford could really propel the club from the bottom half of the division. Add Icelandic international Hördur Magnússon and goalkeeper Ivan Lucic to the team already there and they look like they could be a real competitive force this season. (PREDICTION: 13th)
Burton is many of the expert’s top pick for relegation and it can be understood why. Manager Nigel Clough will have an extremely difficult task keeping the club in the division this season, and if they could manage to pull this off what an achievement it would be. The club has made investment this summer with the likes of Chris O’Grady re-joining the club on loan, Jackson Irvine moving from Scotland and Kyle McFadzean making a move from the MK Dons.
It looks like a season amongst the bottom three looks on the cards for the club; however they will not be a pushover for any club this season. (PREDICTION: 24th)
Again another of the clubs who had a very productive campaign last time out, that it looks hard to call what this season will hold for the club. The appointment of Paul Trollope this summer could prove to be either a shrewd move by the club or a bad move; with the latter more could be expected. The club has not lost a lot of the core group of players, the likes of Craig Noone, Peter Whittingham, David Marshall and Aron Gunnarsson although with links to several clubs this could all change. The summer incomings haven’t grabbed the attention of fans either, and Trollope could find himself amongst the managerial casualties this season. (PREDICTION: 20th)
With the arrival of new manager Nigel Pearson Derby are expected to right up among the contenders for automatic promotion this season. Pearson has trimmed the numbers of the squad so far this summer without adding much of note so far. Keeping the quality of players that is already in the Derby ranks will be the key job for Pearson and the club between now and the transfer window conclusion, though adding one or two will also be in the back of their minds. From back to front the squad has a wealth of experience and quality so it is understandable as to why Derby is among the favourites to be playing Premier League football next season. The form of Chris Martin, Bradley Johnson, Johnny Russell and Will Hughes will be a key factor this season. (PREDICTION: 2nd)
How Fulham do this season might just hinder on whether they can hold onto star man Ross McCormack. Slaviša Jokanović will have a big season ahead of him, with the changeover of players at the club; he must find the right balance within his squad.
The departures of Moussa Dembele, Alexander Kacaniklic, highly rated Emerson Hyndman and Dan Burn have been eased with the additions of Sone Aluko, Michael Madl, Kevin McDonald from Wolves and Floyd Ayité. Jokanović will need to hit the ground running and improve on last season as Fulham are known not to be shy in changing their manager. Another one of the clubs who will feel they can make a push for the playoffs this season. (PREDICTION: 15th)
David Wagner has had his first full summer with the club and wasted no time in changing a lot of his squad. Huddersfield are going into the campaign almost an unknown as much of their investment has been from the continent and we all know how difficult it can be for foreign players to get to grips with the Championship.
The addition of Danny Ward on loan from Liverpool might prove to be smart business provided he gets the number one spot. The club should have a pretty solid campaign with only really Joel Lynch of note leaving the first team ranks to join QPR. Steady campaign ahead is probably the best prediction for the club. (PREDICTION: 17th)
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How Ipswich finish this campaign will all come down to Mick McCarthy. The club hasn’t supported McCarthy with many funds to improve on his current group of player who at worst should be enough to keep the club within the top half of the division.
However has McCarthy taken the club as far as he can take them, his only investment so far has seen the club bring in four players all of which are 21 years of age and younger. McCarthy might have to invest smartly in loan signings like he did last summer, but again if McCarthy does see out the season expect them to be close to playoffs if not make them. (PREDICTION: 11th)
Massimo Cellino will no doubt be the key to what we can expect from Leeds this term. The appointment of Garry Monk is very encouraging for the Leeds fans and providing he can get the full backing of Cellino and is allowed to make his own signings and decisions, Leeds could finally find themselves amongst the challengers for the playoff places.
The loan signings Matt Grimes and Kyle Bartley from Swansea could provide the team with real quality, and despite losing Lewis Cook to Bournemouth the squad does look stronger. Kemar Roofe is an exciting talent who everyone is looking forward to watching this season. Providing the club stick with Monk they could be on course for a very productive battle. (PREDICTION: 9th)
The run-away favourites to win the division and to gain an instant return to the Premier League and rightly so it has to be said. Keeping Rafa Benitez and giving him full control of what happens at the club has been their best bit of business ahead of the upcoming season. Losing Andros Townsend, Papiss Cisse, Georginio Wijnaldum and Coloccini hasn’t looked to dampen the mood around St James Park, replacing them with the likes of Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Grant Hanley, Isaac Hayden and Jesus Gamez.
No doubt there will be more activity with the club before the transfer window closes both in and out but it is hard to look past Newcastle winning the league this season. (PREDICTION: 1st)
Who Norwich can hang onto between now and the end of August might well determine if the club return to the Premier League for next season and how they do this up-coming term. Losing Nathan Redmond was expected this summer, but so far they have managed to hold onto many of their other big players such as Robbie Brady, Timm Klose and Johnny Howson to name a few. Young Sergi Canos from Liverpool has been their only outfield arrival thus far however and with Alex Neil looking to spend big on Ross McCormack, that deal could play a big role in the upcoming result from the season. (PREDICTION: 3rd)
Forest are another of the clubs where it is hard to make a call on their upcoming season, one factor that could be a major influence for the team is the form and return of goals Britt Assombalonga can produce. The club has been looking for stability now for a number of years and with the Philippe Montanier appointment it is easy to understand why the Nottingham Forest fans might be looking rather anxious going into the campaign. The signing of former Everton striker Vellios alongside Damien Perquis and Stephen Henderson from Charlton, it could be another disappointing campaign for Forest and their loyal fans. Montanier could be one of the front runners for managerial casualty number one. (PREDICTION: 19th)
PRESTON NORTH END
Simon Grayson and Preston will be looking to build on what was a solid campaign last time out. Looking ahead to this up and coming season and it looks like it could be a difficult season for the club. The free signings of Anders Lindegaard, Callum Robinson and Tommy Spurr adds players to the squad, but quality it doesn’t add a great deal. The club hasn’t spent a penny on a transfer fee and it doesn’t seem likely to change, Grayson is a good manager and could be another finding himself on the shelf during the campaign, though it could be through no fault of his own. (PREDICTION: 22nd)
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink will have had a full pre-season with his group of players, exactly what he and the club needed. The club has trimmed the squad size drastically with the departures of Leroy Fer, Clint Hill and Junior Hoilett to name a few. What will this season bring? Well expect a well organised team who play fast direct counter attacking football, they could really be among the group of clubs aiming to make a playoff push or further. The addition of Jake Bidwell from Brentford was shrewd business from Hasselbaink and Jordan Cousins from relegated Charlton will improve the quality on the pitch. They could well be considered a surprise package this season. (PREDICTION: 6th)
The appointment of the highly respected Jaap Stam might just be the best business Reading could have done this summer. The highly regarded coach is making his move into management and with a club who have went under the radar this summer and without massive expectations this season. Stam has manoeuvred the transfer business smartly thus far, selling Tshibola to Aston Villa for just over 5 million looks smart business and bringing in former Chelsea prodigy John Swift.
The links with Rafael Van Der Vaart might be a bit far-fetched but the name of Jaap Stam could well open the door at the Madejski to some top names. They could find themselves one of the surprise names among the group at the top this season. (PREDICTION: 5th)
Another season of struggle would be anticipated ahead for newly appointed Alan Stubbs and Rotherham. Stubbs has trimmed the squad and got himself a tight knit group of hard working players, almost looking ready for relegation scrap already. His knowledge of Scotland has seen him bring in Falkirk’s Will Vaulks who will add much needed steel in the centre of his midfield. He still is too add any real quality to his current group which makes it look an inevitable struggle, with a good manager at the helm though they stand every chance of surpassing expectation. (PREDICTION: 23rd)
Carlos Carvalhal was so close to leading Sheffield Wednesday to the promised land of the Premier League last time out with the playoff final defeat to Hull City, looking ahead to this season though and he looks to have a group of players more equipped to really make that challenge for a promotion charge. Adding quality to the group which included Ross Wallace, Barry Bannan, Gary Hooper and Kieran Westwood was exactly what was needed this time out and Carvalhal has certainly delivered. Signing Steven Fletcher on a free could be one of the best bits of business from a Championship side this summer, while also adding Almen Abdi and Daniel Pudil adds extra quality across the pitch. Expect Wednesday to be up challenging this season. (PREDICTION: 4th)
What a great job Steven Caldwell did last season winning League1 and returning Wigan to Championship life. He has also produced solid dealings within the transfer market; the signings of Nick Powell, Dan Burn and Stephen Warnock shows shrewd business and has given the club a real chance to push on this season. Emyr Huws, Will Grigg and Max Power will prove important again this season and they must replicate the form of last season to give Wigan every chance of keeping their status in the division which they have every chance of doing. (PREDICTION: 18th)
Wolves are another club which at this stage could be hard to call what direction they will go this season. The New ownership of the club and the appointment of Walter Zenga will take the club in a new direction so right now they could be the most unpredictable club to assess.
When Zenga finishes his transfer dealings and providing they have a solid start without anything drastic happening will perhaps be the time to look ahead to what the season may bring. (PREDICTION: 12th)