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West Ham & Leicester for the Championship?

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Paul Fletcher | 11:44 UK time, Thursday, 4 August 2011

It is difficult to look beyond West Ham and Leicester City when picking the two teams to win automatic promotion from the Championship.

"Last season there was not a one clear outstanding team in the division, and I include QPR in that," said Rangers midfielder Shaun Derry, who played 45 league games last season as the London club won the second-tier title.

"I think there are two this year in West Ham and Leicester. Looking at their squads, they blow the rest of the chasing pack away in terms of quality."

The gritty Sam Allardyce and traditional footballing purists of West Ham might not appear to be a natural fit but the former Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn boss has the experience and leadership skills to oversee an immediate return to the top flight at Upton Park.

Realistically the club might lose some of their proven Premier League performers before the transfer window closes but so far pretty much all of their key players remain. In addition, the Hammers have signed two excellent Championship performers in Matt Taylor and Kevin Nolan, who skippered Newcastle to promotion back to the top flight in 2010.

Kevin Nolan in action for West Ham in a pre-season friendly.

Nolan knows the pressure is on to win promotion this season. Photo: Getty Images

"I want to get this fantastic club back to where it belongs," said Nolan in an interview to be broadcast on Football Focus on 6 August.

"There is no doubt about it, we want to be promoted and do it automatically. We have to win promotion to the Premier League, we deserve to be there with the players we have but we have to prove it.

"The fans at Newcastle were fantastic and when I finish here I want to be able to come back and watch a game and hope that the supporters come up to me to shake my hand rather than throw things at me. The expectation levels between West Ham and my former club Newcastle is very similiar."

In many ways, Leicester are the story of the summer in English football. Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, bankrolled by the Thai consortium that took over the club last season, has spent beyond the reach of many top-flight clubs, let alone Championship sides.

Eriksson was busy in the transfer market after his arrival last October trying to fast-track his team into the Premier League. The likes of Darius Vassell, Yakubu, Diomansy Kamara, Souleymane Bamba and Miguel Vitor arrived, although the Foxes finished the season 10th, eight points short of the play-offs.

Undeterred, the Swede is once again spending to succeed. Neil Danns, Kasper Schmeichel, Sean St Ledger, David Nugent, Matt Mills, Paul Konchesky, John Pantsil and loan duo Michael Johnson and Gelson Fernandes have all been brought in as the Foxes make a full-on push for promotion.

"Leicester have not exactly built gradually but have gone all out for one of the top spots," added Derry.

"For me, everything revolves around West Ham but if Leicester can get on their coat tails and stick in there, I think both of them could be a number of points clear at the end of the season."

Beyond the Foxes and the Hammers there are numerous teams who could justifiably expect to push for a play-off place. The appointment of Steve McClaren at Nottingham Forest means there are two former England managers in this season's Championship.

"I'm from Nottingham and I get the impression the fans have taken to McClaren, and when there are 27,000 or so supporters backing the team at home, Forest take some stopping," added Derry.

"Jonathan Greening will be a good signing in midfield. Experience will be crucial for teams hoping to do well. A few years ago there was a strong emphasis on youth but we showed last season at QPR that having the right know-how throughout the side is vital."

In Greening and Andy Reid, Forest have two wily midfielders who are comfortable in possession and should be able to supply Forest's ample array of wide men and strikers.

This time last year a lot of the talk surrounded Gordon Strachan's Middlesbrough. That proved to be a spectacular failure and the Scot quit in mid-October "tortured" by his failure to build a winning side on Teesside.

They have gone relatively unnoticed this summer, with attention focused elsewhere.
However, they won six of their last 11 games last season under Tony Mowbray and look strong providing they can replace striker Leroy Lita, who has just been sold to Swansea.

Another team to keep an eye on is Ipswich Town, who might have lost talented youngster Connor Wickham but appear to have bolstered their squad wisely with the experienced trio of defender Ivar Ingimarsson, midfielder Lee Bowyer and striker Michael Chopra.

"I have got Ipswich in my top six," added Derry. "They are my dark horses, a team that appears to have slipped under the radar."

Birmingham have arguably lost too many important players that have not been replaced since their relegation, while Cardiff's entire forward line of Michael Chopra, Jay Bothroyd, Chris Burke and Craig Bellamy have left the club.

But to discount them entirely would be foolish as the Championship is a league that consistently confounds expectations. Hardly anybody tipped Norwich and Swansea for promotion before last season started, while many had the Swans down as relegation material.

"I tried to put a table together the other day," said Derry. "After my top two it was an impossible task. You could toss a coin with regard to about a dozen teams for the four play-off places."

However, I reckon that one thing is for sure. If West Ham or Leicester do not go up, the men currently in charge of them will be seeking employment.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

 

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    After my top two it was an impossible task. You could toss a coin with regard to about a dozen teams for the four play-off places."


    Thats the beauty of the championship.

    It may not have the money of the premiership but entertainment value its just as good.

  • Comment number 2.

    As a Jack looking at the Championship, fair play, it looks a VERY hard league this season.
    not only have top players arrived at many clubs, but also top managers.

    West ham, Leicester and either Ipswich or Brighton for me will go up, maybe Reading.

  • Comment number 3.

    1. At 08:53 5th Aug 2011, signori wrote:

    Thats the beauty of the championship.

    It may not have the money of the premiership but entertainment value its just as good.

    ______________

    Spot on. The Championship's a much more competitive, exciting and unpredictable league than the Premiership. Shame it's so far behind in terms of finance and glamour.

  • Comment number 4.

    For what it's worth I hope West Ham don't come up - I'd like to see the owners suffer a bit in the Championship, especially Karen Brady...would love to see a big banner in the stands with "YOU'RE FIRED" on it.

    Champs: Nottingham Forrest
    Runner Up: Leicester City
    Play Off Winner: Could be anyone but I'll go with Blackpool.

    My random player (given it seems this is a popular feature) is Alisha Asanovic

  • Comment number 5.

    Don't believe the Sky marketing term, the Championship is the most exciting league in England. Different winner every year and the gap between top and bottom in terms of quality isn't as great as in the top league where you have the billionaire multinational corporations at the top of the league, and everyone else towards the bottom. As a Reading fan I am looking forward to the new season and hope we continue to play the attacking way we've set out over the past few seasons.

  • Comment number 6.

    West Ham I feel will not reach an automatic spot. Their defence is extremely weak and in the Championship, most successful team are built on a solid back line. If the likes of Cole, Noble and Parker perform brilliantly in the first half of the season, then i'm afraid they will be snapped up in January.

    Leicester are much better equipped, and can resist offers for players in January with the financial backing they have. Remember, the season is just over halfway doen in January - there is a long way to go.

    If Reading keep hold of Long, then they will again push for the promotion spots. Plus I agree that Ipswich will be a dark horse, Jewell is starting to shape up a decent side which is now packed with experience.

    Don't rule out Cardiff who may have lost players, but Makay has brought in a lot of decent additions who may need time to gel, but I feel when they do they will be very strong

  • Comment number 7.

    @3

    I disagree. As an Everton fan, I sometimes watch Coventry City at the Ricoh as it is the team my GF Dad supports. Them versus Preston and QPR last year - i'd have sonner watched paint dry.

    You'll never get the standard of play or the atmosphere of the PL in that division. But yes, it is a more level playing field because the players that fill the league are 80% average - with 10% good and 10% poor.

    For QPR to run away with the league supports this. Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Heidar Helgusson are not PL worthy

  • Comment number 8.

    west ham and birmingham will struggle has teams will up their game against them. it would be funny if west ham get relegated to league 1 and move into the olympic stadium and their 1st game is leyton orient at home with leyton orient winning it.

    sven has to win the first few games by big margins or he will be sacked. dont the owners would allow him to lose games after spending £10m+ on premeirship experience players.

    holloway will do a good job at blackpool and have them in the playoffs along cardiff, forest, reading.

    i hope brighton do well as gus poyet has the potential to be a great prem league manager.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am an Ipswich supporter so obviously, my opinion will be a little biased but I do genuinely think that this has to be the season for the mighty blues of Suffolk if they harbour ambitions of not only ever returning to the Premier League but also thus staying there long-term. Jewell certainly improved our away form last season, I think only two or three clubs had better by season's end.

    Unsure about West Ham, I hope Allardyce gets a clean break with the Hammers. He has been on the end of ridiculous sacking decisions at both Newcastle & Blackburn so I want to see him do well.

    My three for going up, in no particular order:

    Ipswich
    West Ham
    One out of Leicester or Forest.

    Cardiff will fail again IMO, and Middlesbrough are not the force they once was. Reading could be in the mix though and I think they'll be darkhorses for promotion this season.

  • Comment number 10.

    "I'm from Nottingham and I get the impression the fans have taken to McClaren, and when there are 27,000 or so supporters backing the team at home, Forest take some stopping," added Derry.

    No mention of Leeds United. If the Whites start winning, 27,000 would be a paltry attendance at Elland Road.

  • Comment number 11.

    "I tried to put a table together the other day," said Derry. "After my top two it was an impossible task. You could toss a coin with regard to about a dozen teams for the four play-off places."

    Only a dozen?

    Agree with what's been said so far - the Championship is far and away the most exciting in the country. But I wouldn't write off anyone for the playoffs at all!

  • Comment number 12.

    5. At 09:20 5th Aug 2011, RoyaltyinTheChampionship wrote:

    Don't believe the Sky marketing term, the Championship is the most exciting league in England. Different winner every year

    ........................................

    Of course there is...the winner get's promoted!

  • Comment number 13.

    Big Sam may not have been our first choice but in many ways he seems to be an ideal choice to get us back in the top flight.

    However, only time will tell as the championship is a fickle mistress. In the past you could pretty much close your eyes and blindly pick any team in the table and have a good chance of getting some money back on a £10 promotion punt.

    Is there a divide in the league? yes some spend more than others but as proved by AFC Bournemouth last year in league 1 , as long as you've got yourself a decent enough starting 11 and try and keep you injuries to a minimum , there is a real chance of going all the way. Just a shame they fell at the penultimate hurdle.

    Anyway back to matters in hand..

    1) West Ham
    2) Middlesboro'
    3) Leicester

    but could equally be

    1) Forset
    2) Blackpool
    3) Leeds

    or ..........

  • Comment number 14.

    Interesting views.
    West Ham could be under pressure and that could impact performances, Leicester I agree should have enough - they seem to have bought well.

    Word of warning though, I think it's a stronger division this year - Brighton and Southampton are teams on the rise and will be play off contenders, Blackpool have retained most of their squad and added to it and could easily be up there challenging whilst you would expect the yo-yo teams like Birmingham to make a solid bid to bounce straight back and I think C Hughton is a decent man to lead them. Forest should be good enough for at least top 6 and throw in the likes of Reading, Millwall and Leeds plus a rejuvenated Ipswich and there would seem to be plenty of quality there.



  • Comment number 15.

    I'm really looking forward to this season, Big Sam seems to be building a good mix between seasoned pros and some good youngsters coming thru e.g. Jack Collinson's fit again. I think we've probably got enough to go straight back up as long as we don't become too complacent, as has been said this looks a very strong league again this year.

    COYI

  • Comment number 16.

    As a Brighton Fan, it is nice to see so many people touting Brighton for a play off spot or as a dark horse, I believe this could be the case and I hope so -, a tough cookie to call - they will need alot of luck to get there as many others too, Middlesbrough were one of my pre season favourites but the release of too many including a number of Strikers may make it too tough for them now, All in all Leicester will be there or there abouts and pretty much a free for all for the rest.

    It is why it is more exciting than other leagues in the world

  • Comment number 17.

    Quote from Kevin Nolan about West Ham...

    "We have to win promotion to the Premier League, we deserve to be there with the players we have but we have to prove it..."

    No, West Ham don't deserve to be there because they got releagted last season! They deserve to be in the Championship because they couldn't cope being in the Premiership. Hope they struggle again this season... they deserve to because of the players they have! ;-)

  • Comment number 18.

    I suppose I have to be honest and up front here and state I am a Leicester City Fan.

    Bit I think Leicester deserve some credit for their spending this summer. New foreign owners, demanding sudden improvement, immediate promotion expected, VERY high profile manager (for The Championship) brought in etc. We've seen this all before so many times and let's be honest, it normally ends up in administration!

    But if you look at the players signed it's a great mixture... Tried and tested Championship standard players (Nugent, St Ledger), up and coming investments (Kasper S, M Mills), Premiership level bargains (Konchesky, Pantsil) and high quality loans (Fernandes, Johnson.)

    Crucially there have been none of the following... 32yr+ former World Cup Winners looking for a retirement home, no-one on stupid wages (no Championship players should be on 40k+), no-one who is trading off good form 5+ years ago but has been on the slide since and no-one who loses most of their value 6 months after being signed.

    There are so many idiot chairmen in the lower leagues who blow their clubs cash on unnecessary glamour signings, past it 'legends' and gamble the club's future on one year going up. The crucial thing with Leicester this season is promotion is expected, but failure to achieve this will not result in any kind of financial meltdown as loan wages will drop off the bill, and all our signings should retain most of the value we paid for them.

    Credit where it's due... This is how clubs that want to move forward AND invest should behave.

  • Comment number 19.

    "I'm from Nottingham and I get the impression the fans have taken to McClaren''.

    Not quite accurate Mr Derry, opinion in the City is very divided about the appointment of McClaren and has only been made worse by the lack of signing a proven LB and a 15 goal striker!

    As a Notts County fan this pleases me and I hope Forest finish 7th on goal difference just to further frustrate the fans!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    No mention of palace as promo contenders.....believe bruv!

  • Comment number 21.

    Could I add, by adding, in addition, additionally, as an added extra...seriously is this journalism? Phone a footballer, write down what they say repeat as own opinion:

    “It is difficult to look beyond West Ham and Leicester City when picking the two teams to win automatic promotion from the Championship.”
    “"I think there are two this year in West Ham and Leicester. Looking at their squads, they blow the rest of the chasing pack away in terms of quality."”

    I mean it's not even a particularly original thought? (he added)

  • Comment number 22.

    Who will win? Unlike the Premier league (yawn, one of four or five teams will win), who knows, could be one of 15 or 16 teams.

    That is the beauty about the Championship and that is why it is the Best League in the World.

  • Comment number 23.

    A lot of people are saying my club West Ham are one of the favourites. We are probably up there. But its going to be a very tough season for us. We have some new good additions in the shape of Nolan, Faye and Taylor. But we still have a few players who were found wanting in the big pressure relegation clashes last season. I have cautious optimism about next season. I'm sure we'll make the top 6. But will it 1st, 2nd or a play off place.

    There are some good sides who capable of a top six place. Blackpool, Leicester, Forest, Middlesbrough, Cardiff, Ipswich, Leeds, Reading amongst others. This season's championship is going to be as intense and exciting as last season's one.

  • Comment number 24.

    Extremely wide open season!

    Ive put teams into groups of who probably are the most likely to go up.
    Group 1: West Ham, Leicester, Forest, Brum,
    Group 2: Ipswich, Leeds, Cardiff, Millwall
    Group 3: Watford, Reading, Boro, Blackpool
    And there are some teams capable of producing suprises like Brighton, Pompy and Coventry and Derby
    Im a Boro fan and I'm just saying what I say at the start of every season, build on last year. We finished 12th so to be pushing for the playoffs would be great but we shall see.

    For the record, I've backed Forest at 12/1 to win the league, and if Boro (wont) cant do it, it would be great to see McLaren do it

  • Comment number 25.

    In my opinion it is nearly impossible to call how will go up as you could make a case for a dozen teams to go up though I do think Leicester will win it

  • Comment number 26.

    Leeds and forest may get 27,000 if they are winning, but what about derby we have more than that when were losing
    I don't think derby are ready for promotion yet, but will finish in the top half
    My top 6
    1. Leicester C
    2. West Ham Utd
    3. Ipswich Twn
    4. Birmingham C
    5. Nottm Forest (hate saying it)
    6. Cardiff C
    And my three to go down
    22. Crystal Pal
    23. Barnsley
    24. Peterborough
    May be wrong but gonna be a good season

  • Comment number 27.

    I reckon much will be revealed after this weekend, seems like some of the best fixture making for the start of a championship season. Mostly even matched teams against each other.

    My top 6 in no particular order
    West Ham
    Leicester
    Reading
    Southampton
    Leeds
    Millwall

  • Comment number 28.

    west ham should stay in the championship where they may actually be in the top half of the league, saves the embarressment of relegation mediocrity in the prem.

    big club, very small achievements.

    i doubt west ham will take any promotional spots next year. prob get lucky in play-off's.

  • Comment number 29.

    Every year you see one or two teams who feel they can buy promotion (last year look at Boro & Cardiff) and at least one of these fail, and the great intangible of team spirit always will carry one team over the line (Barnsley, Bradford, Hull, Blackpool).

    The clubs that are on an upwards curve generally do better in the league (last change of divison was promotion from League 1 than relegation from Prem) yes I know the bounce of Newcastle & West Brom

    Personally feel that Leicester will not achieve promotion so my tips are

    1. West Ham
    2. Ipswich
    3. Leeds - Play Off winners - we all have an element of bias
    4. Bristol City
    5. Leicester
    6. Southampton



  • Comment number 30.

    Quote from Kevin Nolan about West Ham...

    "We have to win promotion to the Premier League, we deserve to be there with the players we have but we have to prove it..."

    No, West Ham don't deserve to be there because they got releagted last season! They deserve to be in the Championship because they couldn't cope being in the Premiership. Hope they struggle again this season... they deserve to because of the players they have! ;-)

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    As a Villa / Premier League season ticket holder I'm glad to see the back of West Ham and their 'top division' claims. NO team is too good to go down (counting AVFC), nor do they 'deserve' to go straight back up.
    Though I'd love to see Ian Holloway back on MOTD each week in 2012/13.

  • Comment number 31.

    West Ham should be favourites for automatic promotion however every team they play will be treating it as a cup final and raise their game by 10%. Leicester again obvious choice but will all the new signings gel? For me the teams that will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season will have big squads with lots of young talent and look no further than Brighton, Reading or Southampton.

  • Comment number 32.

    18 joe g what planet are you on? "no-one on stupid wages (no Championship players should be on 40k+)" the figure should be more like 10k a week when you don't get promoted leicester will go into financial meltdown again especially when the financial fair play rules come into play.Besides which if your not in the top 2 by xmas sven will be gone lol not that i'll be laughing ...... much FTID

  • Comment number 33.

    a few people expecting Leeds to do as well as last year. They've had too many players leave in the close including the likes of Schmeichal. They will struggle this time. Especially if Beccio is poached.

    Reading to carry on where they left off last season and win the league.

    Middlesbrough to get relegated.

  • Comment number 34.

    As a West Ham fan I hope your prediction comes true but I can see that West Ham and Leicester will start slowly due to the pressure on them and both will not be settled teams to begin with. West Ham do not have a player to unlock well organised defences like QPR had with Taarabt and this is a strong organised league.

    It will take time for Big Sam's ideas to feed through to the non-Boltonites so I think it is possible that West Ham may finish in a play-off spot but may be the form team going into them.

  • Comment number 35.

    would be great to see cardiff join the swans in the pl, and you cant look past the miller - earshaw partnership up front which should bring goals, though top 6 will be the aim. as for the rest, you cant look past leicester and west ham for the top 2, while the play off places are up for grabs.

  • Comment number 36.

    I reckon Brighton have a chance of promotion with 'new stadium syndrome', some say it's stronger than 'new manager syndrome'. Having said that, I thought I'd get better odds than 6/1.

  • Comment number 37.

    As a Norwich fan I was as surprised as anyone to see us not just go up last year, but to do it automatically. Keeping an eye on matters this season so far and seeing the teams involved, the money being spent etc, I am glad we're not having to compete in the Championship this season - it is going to be tough for everyone.

    While the stand out teams are clearly West Ham and Leicester (teams I have links to through family and neighbours etc), I don't think anyone can predict or write off anyone else. City and Swansea showed last year that creating a good footballing unit and maintaining momentum can lift you above any amount of money being spent.

    Good luck to all teams in the Championship, especially the newcomers

  • Comment number 38.

    I think West Ham fans are in for a rude awakening.

    I think they will strggle just like Middlesboro did last season

  • Comment number 39.

    No mention anyone of Hull City ?

  • Comment number 40.

    I hope West Ham stay down and end up playing Championship football in the Olympic stadium.

    There management get more media coverage than the entire squad put together, Karen Brady, Gold and Sullivan will be too busy writing columns and telling other clubs how they should be run whilst the team stutters.

    The players they had last season were much better than say Wigan or even Blackburn yet they failed, the trouble is at the top.

    I love the chasmpionship as very unpredictable and the quality and attendances are better than most countries top leagues.

    I hoep Sven does well, i can't help but like a chilled out scandanavian womaniser.

  • Comment number 41.

    The previous post which states that West Ham will struggle like Boro did last year is wrong. West Ham have signed players who have proven they can play & Play well in the English leagues. Boro signed mostly proven Scottish players but untested in England.

    As a Leeds Fan my own team will do well to get to 10th this year, but I think Cardiff flying under the radar will do well with a better manager than last year and some decent signings.

  • Comment number 42.

    Lovely of matt to declare his interests. I have visted both West Ham and Leicester (purely for business) so it would be inoportune of me to comment on either of their chances of promotion.

  • Comment number 43.

    Don't the Welsh have their own league???

  • Comment number 44.

    I think Birmingham city, although in deep financial trouble, will be in the race from promotion. They have a proven championship goalscorer in Marlon King and a fine manager, who has been at this level before. If Scott Dann stays at the club a definite automatic place for promotion.

    I reckon Southampton as the team to really surprise the rest of the championship and make the play-offs. The signing of Jack Cork adds quality to a midfield pack with talent. But this could be down to whether Ricky Lambert can make the same impact as Grant Holt did last season.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 45.

    Would just like to second what southcoast has said. Southampton in the second half of the season looked really strong alongside Brighton and their confidence may well see them replicate a "Norwich"

  • Comment number 46.

    "chilled out scandanavian womaniser" - Excellent!

  • Comment number 47.

    "32. At 11:17 5th Aug 2011, snoopreddog wrote:

    18 joe g what planet are you on? "no-one on stupid wages (no Championship players should be on 40k+)" the figure should be more like 10k a week when you don't get promoted leicester will go into financial meltdown again"

    What are you basing this on? At the end of the season if we're not promoted our loans will leave. Signings like M Mills, Kasper S will retain or increase in value. Other players (Nugent, St Ledger) will stay or retain value. We have no-one on incredibly high wages. We have amongst the highest attendances in the league, our debt is very small and Sven would be gone.

    What exactly is going to cause this meltdown?

  • Comment number 48.

    In terms of the tagline 'most competetive league in the world' i wouldnt necessarily put this alongside quality....what this means is that theres a larger pool of teams from 1st place to about 13 th that anyone can beat anyone in terms of quality, however the teams below them all have something else to fight for whether that be survival or stability then theres another mix of anyone can beat anyone.

    Whats apparent is that theres always going to be more competition as theres always clubs going into the championship and 3 cleabs leaving it so of course its going to remain competative, thats why the premiership is the holy land becuase of the cash and stability of the league.

    did that make any sense at all ??!?! haha

  • Comment number 49.

    The championship is the toughest league in the UK. 46 games with a lot played in mid week and lots of good team scrapping for 3 places...can't wait for Saturday.
    In the mix for me will be Leicester, West Ham, Birmingham, Reading and Forest....oh and my second team Peterborough!

  • Comment number 50.

    Sorry if your team was not mentioned in the article – I’m sure you appreciate it is difficult to fit them all in.



    Here are a few more thoughts from Shaun Derry on various other clubs:



    Reading - “The key for them is to make sure they do not have a mini hangover after their play-off final defeat. At the minute they have kept their firepower. The Championship is all about scoring goals and Sean Long and Noel Hunt can do that.”



    Birmingham – “I am worried for Birmingham – they have lost nine or so players and all of a high calibre. If they can shy away from off-the-field issues they have a good chance but they don’t want owners who fall into trouble. That could have a massive adverse effect on bouncing back. Of the three relegated sides I think they could be the ones who will struggle.



    Brighton – “The key is manager Gus Poyet. He was a coach at Leeds when I was there and he was top class, never carried away with a win or too despondent in defeat, always on a level. Brighton are in a new ground the city will be on crest of a wave.”



    Derby – “I will be interested to see how Derby go on. They are a huge club who have had a poor couple of years. Manager Nigel Clough has had a lot of changes to make, financially, bringing the wage structure down, but fans will be expecting a better season.”



    Leeds – “Like him or loathe him, chairman Ken Bates does back the manager with players. The expectation of fans is massive and I think that Bates will back manager Simon Grayson with new signings.”



    Crystal Palace – “They have been in a really tricky situation over the last two years with their off-field problems. By appointing Dougie Freedman they have put their trust in a man who knows the club inside out. I don’t want fans to put too much pressure on him to reach the top six. They should expect another season of gradually building back a club that 12 months ago was dead on its knees.”

  • Comment number 51.

    I'm quite happy that pundits keep ruling out my team, Birmingham City. It's taking the pressure off them. Realistically, if you forget about the players that have departed and actually look at the quality of the current squad, I can't see how we're being ruled out.

    Likewise, I can't see how West Ham United are so well fancied apart from the fact they are London based. Who is in their defence? Rob Green, will he stay? Scott Parker? Basically, they have signed two decent players in Nolan & Taylor but the rest of the squad is no better than Blackpool's, which is no disrespect to Blackpool - I'm saying that Blackpool should be in for a shout if West Ham are.

  • Comment number 52.

    To go down from Barnsley, Derby, Palace, Southampton Watford

  • Comment number 53.

    Brighton - Dark Horses - assuming, (keeping fingers crossed) Gus remains for the season - They will do well, key signing is Craig Mackail Smith - Lua Lua another who will keep the fans happy, Stats show New stadiums often bring success - to this effect I can't disagree - but with the money being spent by some I have my reservations - in fact I believe it could tun out to be their downfall- as the withdean was a fortress last year and continuity counts for alot.
    1st 4-5 home Games will be the gauge to determine if they truly can be one of the dark horses to force their way into the reckoning

  • Comment number 54.

    Leeds – “Like him or loathe him, chairman Ken Bates does back the manager with players. The expectation of fans is massive and I think that Bates will back manager Simon Grayson with new signings.”

    what!!

    I always suspected footballers lived on a different planet, but this makes joey barton seem normal. Ken Bates has never backed the manager with money to spend; our squad is comprised of free signings and loans. And please don’t run out the claptrap that he is supporting Simon by paying wages, the reason we have missed out on so many players this summer is because we are NOT paying the going rate.

  • Comment number 55.

    "Football Purists" and West Ham is a myth I was hoping would have been finally laid to rest after their insipid show last season. Talk about living a dream of an era long past? (And even then the idea is a difficult one to imagine)

    No club 'deserves' to be anywhere and I would have thought that relegation would have proved that!

    Leicester to win it, Birmingham, Reading, Forest, Ipswich and (sadly) West Ham to make up the numbers

  • Comment number 56.

    Not a two horse race by any stretch...will West Ham have recovered from relegationa and will the fans take to Allardyce and his methods? The great aspect of the second tier is that a dozen teams will go in thinking it could be their year if they get a bit of a run going.

    Leicester to win the title looks a good bet, but it would be a stab in the dark picking two sides to go up with them.

    http://outspokenrabbit.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 57.

    Right here goes - incredibly difficult to call - my prediction

    Champions - Leicester
    Automatic - from - West Ham, Southampton, Forest, Derby
    Playoffs - 3 from above and either Boro, Cardiff, Brighton
    Relegated - Palace, Doncaster, Peterborough

  • Comment number 58.

    I feel Birmingham have been a bit unfairly written off here. Just because we have lost some of our players, that doesn't mean we are entirely incapable of pushing for promotion. A backline of Carr, Ridgewell, Curtis Davies and possibly Scott Dann has to be up there as one of, if not the best in the division. Equally impressive is a midfield of Burke, Mutch (an u-21 international), Fahey and Beausejour, backed up with the likes of the up and coming Nathan Redmond (who I will think will impress a few of those unaware). That's not forgetting the front line of Marlon King, Adam Rooney, Akwasi Asante, and possibly Zigic and Jerome if they stay.

    Maybe not a squad that would get very far in the premiership, but certainly a squad capable of reaching the upper echelons of the championship.

  • Comment number 59.

    I think West Ham will run away with the Championship, but with Leceister, I have a feeling they won't have it in them for automatic promotion!
    However I do think they'll reach the play-offs.

    For me,
    1st: West Ham
    2nd: N Forest
    Playoffs: Leicester, Cardiff, Southampton, Birmingham

  • Comment number 60.

    @ 7

    You'll never get the standard of play or the atmosphere of the PL in that division.
    =====================

    Half of that statement is Rubbish. Agreed, the standard of play is poorer and I have seen my fair share being a pompey fan but the noise is way better than the Prem. With the champ you can at least turn up to a game against any team and fancy an upset. In the prem, that rarely happens. Keep ya prem, I'll go back there when the ref's aren't so biased.

    PLAY UP POMPEY.

  • Comment number 61.

    garethom

    I'm a Villa fan, but one of my best mates is a Blues fan, so I see what you're saying! But I have a feeling that Blues may have a rocky start to the season which may hold them back! The players need to settle and gel, but once they do, Birmingham may become a Championship force.

  • Comment number 62.

    As a Southampton fan I can't remember looking forward to a season as much as this in a long time. We really hit our stride at the end of last season - 11 wins, one draw and one loss from our last 13 games - and crucially we've kept the whole squad together, adding two quality players in Jack Cork and Steve de Ridder.

    Nigel Adkins has been brilliant in fostering a winning mentality at the club. However it's a very different proposition to League 1, and so my top six is:

    West Ham
    Leicester

    Forest
    Birmingham
    Southampton
    Cardiff

    Very tough to call, but I think Big Sam will stamp his authority on what is essentially a Premier League team and win the league.

  • Comment number 63.

    Just to point out Miguel Vitor was signed last summer by Paulo Sousa, not Eriksson. Great player that lad.

    I think City have a cracking chance this year. What Eriksson did last season was remarkable and I think he'll install the right mentality for a real title push.

    Two horse race for me all day long and I think Leicester's strength in depth will just pip it.

  • Comment number 64.

    @12. Of course there is...the winner get's promoted!

    Yeah that's the point. The Premier League top four get "promoted" to the Champions League but by staying in the Premier league the extra revenue allows them to buy the best players from the other teams. Hence the same teams win year after year and everytime teams like Spurs or Villa get good players teams like Man Utd and Chelsea come in and buy them.

    In the Championship the top teams are taken out and if/when they come back they have usually lost most of their best players. Of course there are "big" and "small" teams in the Championship but the difference is the defences aren't as good so there are more chances and teams tend not to park the bus like in the PL against the big boys.

  • Comment number 65.

    I don't think any team will run away with it as I do not see any weak teams so if a team is not playing to its potential it could lose points they may have anticipated picking up. Crystal Palace for example are cited as likely to go down but they won as many home games as Leeds last season.

    Reading, Cardiff and Forest have consistently fared well in this division.

    Blackpool are well managed and should cope without Charlie Adams & DJ Campbell in this league, Malkay McKay is doing well at Watford and with the passionate support behind Portsmouth, Derby (and dare I say Millwall?) you cannot discount these teams.

    Also Ipswich without Norwich to distract them (!) might fare better this season.

    My prediction:
    1st Reading
    2nd Forest
    Play-offs: West Ham + 3 from (Southampton, Brighton, Cardiff, Leicester, Birmingham & Portsmouth)

  • Comment number 66.

    5. At 09:20 5th Aug 2011, RoyaltyinTheChampionship wrote:
    Don't believe the Sky marketing term, the Championship is the most exciting league in England. Different winner every year and the gap......

    Lmao, could that be because the winners are never there top defend the title? you know....having been promoted and all.

  • Comment number 67.

    darn, someone beat me to it.

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm pretty sure some of "West Ham's proven Premier League performers" were only proven good enough to finish bottom!

    Unnecessary cliche. Change has to be the thing!

  • Comment number 69.

    I'd be amazed if Forest are any where near the top of the table this year. We're lost to many players and haven't replaced them. We're lacking a striker, a left back and a central defender to cover the loses of Earnshaw, Tyson, Wilson and Dele.

  • Comment number 70.

    It's nice to see so many comments suggesting Forest have a real chance, but I'm afraid we don't have a strong enough squad and we're severely lacking in depth. McLaren is already a bit miffed that he's been promised full backing and yet he's got no money to bring anyone in, looks like we'll be starting the season with a left winger at full back.

    It doesn't bode well IMO.

    Leicester
    West Ham
    Reading

  • Comment number 71.

    I agree don't think forest will do so well this year they lost loads of players

    Prediction then auto West ham and Leicester

    Play offs

    Reading
    Cardiff
    Blackpool
    Derby

    Relegation

    Crystal Palace
    Doncaster
    Brighton

  • Comment number 72.

    Who's this 'Sean Long' playing for Reading?? That Shaun Derry has his finger on the pulse, knowing all these untried youngsters and tipping them for goals....

    As an Ipswich fan, I think the signing of David Stockdale for the season is huge. Could be the best keeper in the division, play offs definately a possibility

  • Comment number 73.

    I don't think West Ham will find it as easy as some people think, but with Big Sam at the helm, i still think they'll make the play offs along with burnley, ipswich and forest.

    Leicester should win the league with the financial banking they've had - their squad looks extremely strong already and I imagine they'll make a couple more before the end of the window.

    And (yes i'm being biased) but im going for Leeds to push on this year and make it to the prem! We adjusted to the championship well last year scoring tons of goals (but our leaky defence letting us down) hopefully, with grayson adding lonergan from preston in goal, paddy kisnorbo getting back fit, and the arrival of Michael Brown to enforce our midfield, we may just sneak promotion!

    Come on Leeds.. Marching On Together!!

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    West Ham getting promoted with Fat Sam in charge? Do me a favour love.

  • Comment number 76.

    Some 'lestah' fans are deluded (the mark of a true football fan?) about finances. We Forest fans weren't happy to hear our chairman talk this week about spending within the 'financial fair play' limits but Leeds are still recovering from overspending. Leicester have suffered from it in the past. If they fail this season they'll have a budget beyond the statute when fair play rules start (with some high earners on 4 year contracts etc). They'll probably do it but the stakes are high! The Evertonian who called the Championship 10% quality, 10% dire & 80% average could easily have meant last season's 1 horse race Premiership (the relegation battle aside it was very dull).

  • Comment number 77.

    difficult to see beyond the hammers, two quality additions to the club. but west ham always have the ability to go on dismal runs of results, this is because the fans dont back the side unless they are winning, and are scathing of their team during these periods. POMPEY TOP TEN WOULD BE GREAT

  • Comment number 78.

    Ipswichnee (post 72) - woah! My fault that. Shaun Derry said Shane Long. I wrote Sean Long (who I'm quite a big fan of, being a big lover of rugby league). Confused? Me too.

  • Comment number 79.

    My money is on Forest! They have still kept there best players who almost took them up in the last 2 seasons and added 2 great Premier League players who know the Championship as well. West Ham & Leicester will do good but you need a team who can fight it out as well as play good football.

    1st Forest
    2nd West ham

    playoffs Southampton, Cardiff, Leicester, Blackpool

  • Comment number 80.

    Promotion - Birmingham - decent squad, Championship winning manager just two seasons ago, and have bounced back on the last two occasions. Reading - fantastic towards the end of last season, still have Long

    Playoffs - Forest, West Ham, Cardiff, Leeds

    Top half - Coventry, Burnley, Millwall, Leicester, Bristol City, Soutthampton,

    Lower mid-table - Blackpool, Watford, Middlesbrough, Palace, Hull

    Struugle, but safe - Barnsley, Ipswich, Portsmouth, Brighton

    Relegated - Derby, Doncaster, Peterborough

  • Comment number 81.

    so the play off final losers don't even get a mention. disgraceful

  • Comment number 82.

    Great article Paul - In my opinion it's between West Ham and Leicester for the title with West Ham pipping it...they have finally put in some decent signings!!!! This article is a good preview of the Championship!!!

    http://upper90magazine.com/2011/08/05/football-is-back-read-our-championship-preview/

  • Comment number 83.

    ed allen

    Do your home work mate.The Olympic Stadium move, if it happens, is not scheduled to the 2014/2015 season.

  • Comment number 84.

    I think Barnsley might surprise a few teams this season. from what I've seen of the stuff they are playing under Keith Hill, they will be a tricky side to play against.

    Leicester will turn into the new Cardiff. It wouldn't surprise me if they got off to a flyer and them plummeted down the league table. Also I'm a bit surprised nobody has mentioned Hull. They had one of the best away records in the entire football league last season and have got absolutely bags of experience. Anyways...

    Promoted: West Ham, Ipswich, Southampton (playoffs)
    Relegated: Blackpool, Donny, Palace

  • Comment number 85.

    Surprised so many people are forgetting about Reading. Lost the fairly average Matt Mills for an extraordinary profit and replaced him with the equally capable Khumalo. Signing Leigertwood on a permanent deal is massive for us, we only lost two games with him playing last season and were on better form than any other team when we had him playing. A few younger players have really come on and look to be breaking into the first team in the same way Sigurdsson did two seasons ago (Hal Robson-Kanu is scoring goals since switching to striker from left wing and Jordan Obita looks a huge talent at only 17).

    If we somehow manage to keep hold of Shane Long (and its looking more and more likely) then we should be at least matching the squads of Leicester and possibly even West Ham.

  • Comment number 86.

    i also really don't understand why people think derby are going to get relegated we have signed loads of players and we have also just beat Aston Villa 2-0 i think that the ones that think were going to get relegated are forest supports

  • Comment number 87.

    As a Swansea fan, I will still watch the Championship this season, though I am obviously happier to be leaving it behind!

    The reason I will still keep a keen eye on it is because it's the best league in the country. Every team has their own strength, every team has a weakness that can be exploited.

    To those making predictions, I would say the following - don't bother. You just can't call it. The so-called 'experts' had us down for relegation in each of the three seasons we were in there. We finished 8th, 7th and 3rd (promoted). What the hell did they know!

    Don't necessarily assume Leicester's spending means inevitable success. Cardiff tried it and failed, it doesn't guarantee a thing. I couldn't call it next season. There's always one team that comes into it who you would never see coming. That's the beauty of it!

  • Comment number 88.

    How much its great to read an article about who ppl will go up, in this division its a waste of time. Simply put any 1 from the league could go up, or down. Its all about luck, and getting the team to gel at the right time.

    Leicester after spending big maybe in and around, but i dont think they will gel quick enough to run away with it.

    West Ham have had lots of turmoil and will most likely take a while to adjust to the championship, and again will be in and around but wont run away with it.

    Then the talk of forest, in my opinion will not go much further than promotion, why cause i dont rate Maclaren, he was good in mainland Europe but they play football at a slower pace, where its all about defensive structure and the development of play, here its a different kettle of fish.

  • Comment number 89.

    "Spot on. The Championship's a much more competitive, exciting and unpredictable league than the Premiership. Shame it's so far behind in terms of finance and glamour."
    _____________________________________

    No it's not a shame at all. If the Champo had more money and glamour, then it would just be the PL again.

    It's because it's behind in the financial and glamour categories that the Champo is more competitive, exciting and unpredictable...

  • Comment number 90.

    ''7. At 09:25 5th Aug 2011, tomefccam wrote:
    @3

    I disagree. As an Everton fan, I sometimes watch Coventry City at the Ricoh as it is the team my GF Dad supports. Them versus Preston and QPR last year - i'd have sonner watched paint dry.

    You'll never get the standard of play or the atmosphere of the PL in that division. But yes, it is a more level playing field because the players that fill the league are 80% average - with 10% good and 10% poor.

    For QPR to run away with the league supports this. Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Heidar Helgusson are not PL worthy''

    QPR did NOT run away with the league - they finished just 4 points clear. But for a bit of extra luck with some truly awful refereeing (see Reading away for instance), the trophy could easily have had Norwich's name on it.

  • Comment number 91.

    Can I also just point out that the Championship isn't completely unpredictable - money talks, as it does at every level. The two teams who won Automatic Promotion last year were the same two teams who spent the most on player recruitment in transfer fees and agent's wages.

    http://swissramble.blogspot.com/2011/04/norwich-citys-remarkable-transformation.html

    Just because not many of the pundits picked them for Promotion (and let's face it, the media does have a significant bias towards current/ex Prem teams, and a considerable blindspot when it comes to anything outside of Greater London), doesn't mean that the signs weren't there, especially when you consider what excellent managers were at the helm at QPR and Norwich.

  • Comment number 92.

    I really wish people would stop talking about Cardiff losing Burke, Bothroyd, Chopra and Bellamy. Burke and Chopra both had a dreadful season last year and needed pastures new - Conway is certainly better than Burke, and Earnshaw is a decent replacement for Chopra with a smaller ego and more consistency, albeit slightly less talented. Bothroyd was dreadful after playing for England and needed to go (Kenny Miller a decent replacement IMO). And Bellamy is obviously coming back in some form at some point in the coming weeks. While we won't go up this season, we will be a TEAM, which is something Dave Jones could never achieve.
    Predictions:
    West Ham
    Birmingham

    Leicester (experience tells - massive players don't make a massive team; surprised Sven has chosen this route after the Cardiff/Boro debacles)
    IPSWICH
    Reading
    Cardiff

    Can't see Forest as a major threat this season.

  • Comment number 93.

    I think West Ham are champions in waiting. Quite simply they would have not have gone down last season with a half decent manager in charge and if Big Sam was there I would have thought they would be half way (e.g Blackburn/Bolton). However, I certainly dont think the same of Leicester, who I believe has signed far too many players. If Sven sticks to his strongest 11 constantly then they may go up, but I believe a few of their players are mercanarys who simply want a big pay day. I dont understand where the motivation for some of their signings come from (apart from money of course), considering they are likely to be ditched if they get promotion.

    As for my club, Forest, I am cautiously positive about the season. Despite the usual complaints regarding lack of signings, I feel we have a positive summer in the transfer market. Any Forest fan will tell you Andy Reid is 10 times the player Nathan Tyson (possibly ten times the weight too!!) and he is as good as his first spell he will be a superb signing. Greening is a consistantly good player too and I look forward to seeing him in a red shirt. From our departures, Mckenna and Adebola are past it, Earnshaw maybe too (although a legend for Derby goals and big match goals) and Wilson, Bennett etc didnt play last season.

    In my opinion this is a completely wide open league and I genuniely believe anyone out of 19 teams (bar Watford, Peterborough, Coventry, Palace and Doncaster) have a shout at promotion.

    Here goes:

    1st West Ham
    2nd Forest
    --------------
    3rd Southampton
    4th Leeds
    5th Brighton
    6rh Ipswich

  • Comment number 94.

    As a Saints fan, I'm surprised (and pleased) to see so many tipping Southampton for a play-off spot. I'd love to see it of course, but when I look at the other teams in the Championship - it'll be a tough ask.

    However, Saints have a settled squad with two new great signings, a terrific manager & a chairman/board who back the manager. Players like Lambert & Lalana were brilliant last season - it remains to be seen if they can shift up a gear - but you never know - there's a great spirit at the club - look at Norwich last season ...


    Money doesn't guarrantee promotion & whilst both Leicester & West Ham have strong squads & managers, they might just struggle to even make the play offs.

    Leeds settled well last season & could be in one of the auto promotion spots, with both Reading & Derby chasing hard. As for the rest - anybody's guess!

    Can't wait for it to start!

  • Comment number 95.

    West Ham have made some astute signings and under the guidance of Big Sam they should go up. For the other automatic promotion spot it is anyone's guess. Leicester have brought in decent players, but will they gel quickly enough? While Reading have kept their firepower up front and Forest will as usual be up there.

    http://thefulltenyards.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 96.

    Pezza 832,

    Why the hostility? Villa got lucky last year as you guys were not exactly in the top 6 where you? You could quite easily have gone down if one or two of the results had gone against you. Kevin Nolan said West Ham have to prove they are good enough , so yes we have already said that we have to go out try and win and prove worthy of being in the premier league. I would be careful as I can see another season of struggle for Villa unless you bring in some players as you have lost a lot of quality in Young and Stewart Downing. If N'zogbia is good why were Wigan down near the bottom? Also the manager you have got Birmingham relegated (doh!). Good luck you will need it!

  • Comment number 97.

    West Ham will win this league.

    Best manager - Sam Allardyce.

    Best first XI - Green; O'Brien, Tomkins, Faye, Ilunga; Collison, Noble, Parker, Taylor; Nolan; Cole.

    Best young talent - Stech, Spence, Tomkins, Collison, Stanislas, Sears, Tombides, Montano, Hall.

    Strength in depth - Reid, Picquionne, Boa Morte, Hines, Sears, Barrera, Faubert.

    Title will be over by X-mas and promotion secured shortly after!

  • Comment number 98.

    As usual hardly a mention of Burnley!Look out the rest We have a young hungry team :)

  • Comment number 99.

    A lot of people seem to be forgetting the lack of depth in Boro's squad.

    I'd love for them to go up but a few injuries and suddenly the kids will be playing with Lee bloody Miller heading the attack.

  • Comment number 100.

    Glad to see everyone not writing off my club Cardiff completey. We have lost a lot of quality, yes. But we have brought a lot more in to replace them, and, although we won't be right up there, we'll work as a TEAM. also, we'll be more disciplined under malky, which, although he did have a good eye for a bargain, DJ never had, hence the 3-0 losses to boro and reading. BARMY ARMY :)

 

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