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Boro banking on Scottish connection

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Paul Fletcher | 10:13 UK time, Friday, 6 August 2010

West Brom and Newcastle contested a 1-1 draw on the opening day of last season as they began their quest for an instant return to the Premier League.

Nobody was quite sure how they would respond to their demotion from the top flight, especially the Magpies, who had endured a traumatic time on and off the pitch, but both clubs adapted well to life in the Football League. So well in fact that they ended the season as the top two sides in the division.

Middlesbrough, who had been relegated alongside Newcastle and West Brom, fared less well. After sacking manager Gareth Southgate in late October, when they were fourth in the table and one point adrift of top spot, Boro eventually finished in 11th place. Their fans will hope that the chain of events set in motion with the appointment of Gordon Strachan as Southgate's successor culminates in promotion at the second time of asking.

Middlesbrough boss Gordon StrachanStrachan hopes to be drinking to success at the end of the season

The former Celtic boss has presided over a radical overhaul of his squad, with numerous arrivals from Scotland. The key one is surely Kris Boyd. The 26-year-old is the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer with 158 goals - and he found the net 101 times in 143 games for Rangers before heading south.

Boyd, surely the stand-out signing in the Football League, joins Scott McDonald, who joined from Celtic in January, and Leroy Lita at the club, ensuring Boro have plenty of artillery. They also boast highly rated midfielder Kevin Thomson, signed from Rangers in July, and defender Steve McManus, who has made his loan move from Celtic permanent.

"The SPL breeds players with character," said Strachan, who is clearly banking on the influence from north of the border to provide the steel required to win promotion.

Nottingham Forest boss Billy Davies, one of six Scottish managers in the Championship, said of Boro's transfer activity: "I am never envious of anybody but you can see by the players that Middlesbrough have signed their intentions for the coming season."

Davies, a shrewd and experienced manager, would no doubt like to boost his options as he looks to build on last season's play-off semi-final appearance. James Perch and Joe Garner have left, while David McGoldrick is out injured. Forest's transfer acquisitions committee in charge of bringing in new players had not signed anyone until Thursday's arrival of full-back Ryan Bertrand from Chelsea on a six-month loan deal.

"I'm standing at the bar waiting to be served," added Davies. "I can only do what I can with the squad I have got and right now it is weaker than this time last year. We should target the play-offs again but to do that I have recommended we require between three and five stellar signings. To challenge for automatic promotion, we will need more."

The feisty Scot is bewildered and, I would suggest, less than thrilled to discover most bookmakers have his team as second favourites to win the title.

"When we talk about favourites, we have to be specific," he said. "I would like somebody to assess and compare the quality, depth and quantity of our squad against Portsmouth, Hull, Burnley, Middlesbrough, Leicester, Cardiff, Swansea and various other teams. When they have done that, I would like them to tell me why we are so highly rated."

I still expect Forest to be challenging at the right end of the table. Hull and Portsmouth have financial problems, making it difficult to predict how well placed they are to push for an instant return to the Premier League.

"I think Portsmouth might surprise a few people," said BBC Football League pundit Steve Claridge. "They have certainly got the spine of what could be a really good side at that level. They have got David Nugent and Tommy Smith up front, both proven performers. Then there is midfield duo of Hayden Mullins and Michael Brown - again both good players at Championship level. In addition, they've got Marc Wilson and Ibrahima Sonko at the back. There is a nucleus of a team that might surprise a few."

I was surprised to see Nigel Pearson leave Leicester for the Tigers but he has said that, despite a small squad at the KC Stadium, he is confident of challenging for an instant return and I think he has made a good signing in James Harper from Reading.

Pearson did a sound job at the Foxes, taking them out of League One and into last season's Championship play-offs. It will be interesting to see how replacement Paulo Sousa, with his emphasis on passing football, does in his stead.

David James at his unveiling as a Bristol City playerBristol City pulled off a surprise signing in David James

Two more intriguing appointments are those of Steve Coppell at Bristol City and Aidy Boothroyd at Coventry. Coppell has won promotion to the top flight on three occasions and the dry-witted 55-year-old is a calm and competent manager, while the signing of England goalkeeper David James is a signal of their ambition. Boothroyd has also won promotion to the top flight, with Watford in 2006, and Coventry fans can expect a more direct approach than the system favoured under previous boss Chris Coleman.

Burnley did not succumb to the temptation to pay inflated prices for high earners on long contracts when they were in the Premier League. The Clarets arguably arrive back in the Championship in better shape than they left after their one season in the top flight. The major question mark is over manager Brian Laws. Can he replicate the promotion feats of previous boss Owen Coyle?

Cardiff look equipped to challenge again after losing last season's play-off final, especially with the club poised to sign Jason Koumas on loan, while Ipswich will hope to avoid the disastrous start that undermined their last campaign.

Then there is Reading. They improved considerably under Brian McDermott in the second half of last season, while Gylfi Sigurdsson is the shining light of a series of talented young players at the Berkshire club.

Leeds kick off their Championship campaign with Saturday's match against Derby live on BBC One. Simon Grayson's team have lost striker Jermaine Beckford to Everton but, like fellow promoted sides Norwich and Millwall, will be hoping to cause a surprise.

Norwich defender Russell Martin, whose side won League One last season, is confident the Canaries can make their mark. "There is always a surprise package, Blackpool being the best example last season," he told me. "We will be looking to give it a really good go."

I have heard it suggested that, with the sides dropping down perhaps not as strong as in previous years, this season's Championship will be an open and intriguing competition. But Forest boss Davies told me: "The Championship will never change. It does not matter who comes into it, up or down, every club knows they are one step away from the golden egg of the Premier League."

I know I have not mentioned every team here but if you feel your side has been overlooked and is definitely worth a mention, please tell me why.

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

And don't forget, you can watch all the goals from the Championship this season on the BBC Sport website. To whet your appetite, here's our pick of the best goals from the 2009/10 Football League campaign.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I can't wait for the new season. I think Leeds might struggle withour Beckford.

  • Comment number 2.

    Bit Forest-heavy there Fletch!!

    What are your thoughts on Forest's far superior rivals - the Mighty Rams, how do you think we'll fair this season?

  • Comment number 3.

    Another review of the season ahead that only mentions ex Leeds players! FACT we are a better team without the scatter-gun striker now at Everton and that will be reflected in a top 8 finish and a more collegiate style of play.

  • Comment number 4.

    Derby will do well to finish top half, most likely around 16 - 18th. Very similar to Leeds I predict. Both teams are steady enough in defence to not be relegated, good in centre midfield, but lack a bit of width and firepower in my opinion.

    I'm not sure how any player leaving could lead to a 'collegiate' style of play. What exactly is this? The only word I can think of even close to this is cohesive?

    Entry: col·le·giate
    Pronunciation: \kə-ˈlē-jət, -jē-ət\
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin collegiatus, from Latin collegium
    Date: 15th century

    1 : of or relating to a collegiate church
    2 : of, relating to, or comprising a college
    3 : collegial 2
    4 : designed for or characteristic of college students

  • Comment number 5.

    #4 oh dear me, someone with no life....the term relates to all pulling together in the same direction, in a collegiate manner....

  • Comment number 6.

    MK Ram - panic not. I'm off to the Leeds v Derby match on Saturday and will be blogging afterwards. There will be plenty of Derby chat in that, especially after I've seen first-hand this new formation you've been playing.

    What do you make of Billy Davies' comments - "I'm at the bar waiting to be served". I spoke to him for about 15 minutes and he must have said it three or four times. I thought they were pretty funny.

  • Comment number 7.

    No mention of Sheff Utd Paul, plenty of Blades fans are optimistic for the new campaign as long as we can bring in a couple of defenders (hopefully starting with Stephan Jordan today).

    Simmonsen is a quality keeper, Nyron Nosworthy at the back with Chris Morgan, Leon Britton is one of the best signings of the Championship I think, and take into account that Nick Montgomery, Stephen Quinn and Richard Cresswell have all re-signed contracts this summer.
    Up front, if Ched Evans fires, he could be good, while Cresswell (15 goals last season, despite joining in November, and missing a month through injury) and new signing Bogdanovich should ensure plenty of firepower.

    Your thoughts?

  • Comment number 8.

    The reason you have not mentioned Barnsley is because you are a typical BBC prat of a pundit.

    Say no more.

  • Comment number 9.

    @Gav_Mango

    As a leeds fan i think (injurys permitting) we are good enough to secure a top half finish, dont really agree with your comment about lack of width either, probably got one of the best wide players (either side) in the league in robert snodgrass and then we also have max Gradel, lloyd sam and sanchez watt plus davide somma can do a job on the wing if needed, where defineitly not short of width.
    There no denying we will miss beckfords goals but i think we will cope, becchio has flourished in pre season playing up front on his own with the wide players feeding him. I also think billy painter could do a great job for us once he is fit again, im feeling positive!

  • Comment number 10.

    Feel Norwich could spring a suprise, have made a couple of decent signings in Surman and Jackson from Gillingham. Title has to be Middlesboroughs to lose though, Bristol City to be a suprise package. Although in this league on there day anyone can beat anyone!
    Prediction
    1- Middlesbrough
    2- Bristol City
    Playoffs- Cardiff, Burnley, Sheffield United, Norwich
    Relegation- Scunthorpe- no hope now Hooper has gone, Crystal Palace and Watford.

  • Comment number 11.

    Interesting to see very few pessimistic fans out there this year in any of the leagues. I think that shows how wide open the leagues are and with a bit of luck, any team can make a push for promotion.

    I can not see any team running away with the championship this year and there are no stand out teams.

    I think it will be interesting to see how Middlesborough do with a majority scottish league team! When Norwich tried that approach it cost us our place in the league (kind of!).

  • Comment number 12.

    Hey Fletch !

    Im suprised you havent mentioned Swansea. Billy mentioned us, but you didn't. Considering we occupied a top 6 spot for about 4 months, only to lose it on the last game of the season, and having lost only one of our stalwarts (Leon Britton), is the lack of mention a reflection of journo's expectations for us again. I see The Independent has us down as relegation fodder - just like last year.

    I hope so. We hope so. We love proving you all wrong.

    BUCK RODGERS BEEDLY BEEDLY BEEEDLY BLACK AND WHITE ARMY !

  • Comment number 13.

    As a Newcastle fan, having seen all the teams last season I thought the best sides we played were Blackpool, Forest & Derby.

    The latter who literally stuffed us out of sight at Pride Park, however, I thought they would of made some significant signings to push on this season which I dont think they have.

    For this season I think Boro will be difficult to beat with Boyd up front, Derby can be up there if they find some consistency.

    Norwich scored lots of goals last season & could be up there this time. Doncaster could be the surprise team 'doing a blackpool' and finishing in the top 6.

    All in all it's a great league where you could find a case for at least half the teams to challenge at the top.

    My predictions for the league therefore are:-

    Champions - Boro
    2nd - QPR
    Play Offs - Forest, Norwich, Doncaster, Burnley

    Relegated - Scunthorpe, Barnsley & Watford

    Good luck to all 24 teams this season!

  • Comment number 14.

    Hey Fletch. Why have you overlooked the mighty Sheffield United? Surely an interesting story might unfold if Kevin Blackwell does as he says and decides to play proper 'football' as a change. The signings of Leon Britton and Bogdanovic look promising too.

  • Comment number 15.

    Both predictors have shown their ignorance. This isn't to say that Watford won't get relegated, but the bookies NEVER, EVER get the bottom three right.

    The fact is that we've got two proven strikers, three proven midfielders, five proven defenders, two proven goalkeepers and the ability to scout Arsenal's youngsters on a daily basis. If we were to get Lansbury, or the likes of Northern Ireland international Michael Bryan can step up, we can really go places.

  • Comment number 16.

    Post 15. Interesting comments...who do you count as your 'proven players'. A quick look through your squad and the only proven players I can see are Scott Roach, Lloyd Doyley, Martin Taylor, John Eustace, and maybe Don Cowie and Scott Severin. Two proven stirkers and five proven defenders?!

  • Comment number 17.

    Not even a passing glance at Swansea City who have finished just outside the playoffs for the past two seasons! I have to say i'm really disappointed by this!

    We've our entire squad from last year together (apart from Leon Briton) and we've got a manager in Rogers who will return us to a more attacking style which will suit us.

    Add to this the addition of former Dutch U21 midfielder Kemy Augustien, current Welsh international left back (albeit maybe one for the future) Neil Taylor and the proposed signing of forward Scott Sinclair from Chelsea then I think we in for another good season.

    Plus there is a striker on his way according to Huw Jenkins and Rogers!

  • Comment number 18.

    Norwich fan here, think we can definately break the top half but I think talk of a top 6 are too far. Leeds will be better without Beckford, (saw him at the Norwich vs Everton friendly where he was awful), they could be a dark horse for the top 6. Sheff Utd will do well as will Reading. I think Coventry will drop, Bothroyd didn't exactly work wonders at Colchester. At the top, how can anyone compete with the spending power at Boro, if theyr'e not 1st or 2nd it will be a disasterous year for them, and I think Forest are as good as last year, they just need to win away more and they'll be in there.
    My Predictions:
    1. Boro
    2. Forest
    Play-offs - Burnley, Bristol City, QPR & Sheff Utd
    Relegated - Barnsley, Coventry and Scunthorpe.

  • Comment number 19.

    Stone5y - do tell me more. I saw some stats the other days that suggested Swansea made more passes than any other Championship team last season. However, that hardly translated into goals - are you sure that will change this time around?

    And your new manager - are you happy with his appointment? He had a tough old time at Reading.

    Thanks to the Sheffield United fans - I think they could do well, but then again so could quite a few teams. Do you genuinely feel you could go all the way and win promotion?

  • Comment number 20.

    Leeds could do OK, but this will be a very open division once again.

    With the right boss and parachute money in hand, my tip is Burnley for at least the play-offs. Boro', even with WGS, can only hope for the same, at best.

  • Comment number 21.

    My other tip, which would dismay the Gasheads I know, is Britol City, only due to the Coppell factor.

  • Comment number 22.

    as a forest fan i have been bitterly disappointed by our lack of activity this summer. it is widely accepted that we didn't have enough strength in depth or quality to get over the finish line last season and we respond by sitting on our hands all summer? echoes of last time we made the chmpionship playoofs.

    i think we have three or four players who will struggle to replicate last seasons form and probably one or two that will cling on to the 'playoff hangover' excuse. we could be suprise strugglers unless we get some proper business done before the transfer deadline

  • Comment number 23.

    I see a few people are tipping Bristol City for a good season. I cannot blame them as I rate Steve Coppell very highly while Nicky Maynard is obviously a good striker and the signing of David James is something of a showstopper.

    I think it will be an open division in which teams who can avoid a long run of poor form will be there or thereabouts. I asked a few managers this week what they thought was the key ingredient and they all said consistency (though obviously good players help).

    It will be interesting to see how Preston go on. They had major cash problems over the summer but they have been smoothed over for now. There is not much cash for Darren Ferguson and a lot of players have left - but it is his first full season at the club and I'm keen to see how his remodelled squad does.

  • Comment number 24.

    Leeds will be top end of the bottom half. Beckford not a huge loss as long as Becchio and Paynter can perform similar to last season. Think Reading will do well and very surprised that no one in the premiership as snapped up Sigurdsson yet.

    Kris Boyd will be too strong for Championship defences... must be paid a hell of a lot to join Middlesbrough. Must have been Premiership interest. Gotta be looking at them and Forest for top two then playoffs is once again not very predictable. Gonna be a great season

  • Comment number 25.

    'After sacking manager Gareth Southgate in late October, when they were fourth in the table and one point adrift of top spot'

    please can people stop using this as though as shorthand to claim sacking southgate was the wrong move. at the time boro were only 2 points off 10th place (or something along those lines) and were VERY lucky to be where we were in the table. had southgate stayed we would have been even worse off at the end of the season (let's not forget he took us from 7th in the prem in november to relegation the season before - and he signed Marcus Bent)

    gibbo will be proved right this season

  • Comment number 26.

    Tilney, Whilst I respect that you have your opinion, Coventry to go down? really? I know we have disappointing season after disappointing season, but for the first time in a long time I really do think theres not a chance of us getting relegated without some serious bad luck. I'm not expecting a play off push, but mid-table is where we should be, with perhaps an outside shot at the play offs if injuries go our way.

    Boothroyd did a good job at Watford and whilst he didn't work any miracles at Colchester, he's came here, identified where we need players, strengthened where needed and signed some decent to good players for those positions cheaply, as opposed to some of his predecessors tactics of signing whatever players they choose regardless of whether we need a 6th centre back or not whilst playing a RB at LB... At the end of last year we were in dire need of a LB, RB, Backup on the wings, strikers and perhaps one more CM for depth and a bit of pace in the team somewhere. In come O'Halloran, A full Irish international at 21 years old for LB, Richard Keogh, a star of league 1 last year at RB. Gary McSheffrey, a local lad and a hero during his last spell at the club for LM/ST, Roy O'Donovan, Quick, and local so will have the passion for the club hopefully at RM/ST. Clive Platt and Lukas Jukietwnjencdjshfnshjdjswiehbfz up front, A veteran who doesn't lose out in the air and a young player, nice physically and good potential, and of course Lee Carsley, The extra depth in central midfield, A veteran who knows what to do and not afraid of the tackle, as well as the captain figure we need.

    Basically my point is that last season we were lacking all these things last season and still avoided the drop. We lost no-one big over the summer, with perhaps the exception of Clinton Always-offside-or-standing-still-complaining Morrison, who despite is goals, was only key due to our lack of other decent strikers. So now we've strengthened well, mid-table mediocrity beckons. But anyway, my predictions:

    1: Boro (I just can't see past them)
    2: Bristol
    3-6th: Sheffield, Cardiff, Hull, Portsmouth
    With Burnley, Ipswich and QPR just missing out and Forest perhaps getting there with some decent siginings.

    Relegated: Scunny, Barnsley, Palace

    Also Fletch, you mentioned Coventry a little during you're blog, but what do you think of our chances and our signings?

  • Comment number 27.

    Scott Danns Four Million (post 26) - the honest truth is that I'm not really sure.

    I worry slightly about how the existing players will take to the style of play that Aidy Boothroyd will want. Having said that, some of you signings are excellent. If Carsley's legs are still good for another season then he could really be important, while if McSheffrey can find the form that opened chequebooks the last time he was a Cov player, then you could certainly threaten at the right end (as you looked like doing at one point last season before really falling away).

    What do you think of Carl Baker? I would really like to see him do well. A real bag of tricks.

  • Comment number 28.

    i think boro will be a let down lets face it the standard of Scottish football is terrible these days just because Boyd scored a bucketful in Scotland it doesnt mean he will do any good outside of that pub league

  • Comment number 29.

    As a scunny fan I'm not overly hopefull with having lost Hooper, Hayes and McCann. Also peterborough and Plymouth were v poor this season but the teams who havd replaced them look strong.
    But having spent most of my life in the 4th tier we are all just enjoying the ride.
    As for the rest of the division I think it's wide open which will make for a great league, unlike the Premier League and it's same winners!!!

    Good look to all teams, New Season New Hope!

  • Comment number 30.

    Fletch, I suppose when a new manager comes in thats always the worry. We didn't have a free-scoring pre-season, 4 goals in 7 games I think, but at the same time we only conceded once, and even that was to West Brom, which says to me the attackers haven't quite come together like the defence has (although that said for a long time now we've been better at the back that up top) so as long as we're keeping a fair few clean sheets, we should be ok, hopefully the attackers will come together and adjust as the season goes on so we'll be a stronger outfit by the end of the year.

    Boothroyd seems to like tough tackling central midfielders which works for the team because we have 4 of them, Carsley, Deegan, Gunnarsson and its brought Michael Doyle who looked more than certain to be on his way out under Coleman, back into contention, which is good because hes a great bulldog to have in the middle of the park. Clingans our other good CM and whilst he isn't as tough as the others, he still sits deep and has a decent passing range as well as a good shot. So in terms of adjusting its only the forwards and wingers that really have a question mark hanging over them, and even then most of the players in those positions are Boothroyds signings anyway.

    On Carl Baker, under Coleman, Baker was mostly used on the right, but against West Brom, Boothroyd prefered Gunnarsson on the right of midfield, and when he had to go off, injured after 11 minutes, replaced him with Bell, then later took Bell off for a trialist we have apparently offered a contract to, Florent Laurent. And thats without O'Donovan who is another can-play right wing in the fold. Baker did play, coming on for the last 20 minutes for Eastwood, playing just behind Platt up front, which I believe is actually his favourite position, so perhaps he will shine more this season being utilised in his best position rather than being forced out wide, but I doubt he'll be a regular. Last season, he seemed a bit slow to be playing on the wing, and a bit weak despite being above 6 foot, but there are few I've seen trickier in the championship and he can go round any and everyone in the league on his day. That said, he hasn't quite mastered when to pass and does lose the ball on occason because he'll just try one player too many, rather than make a simple pass. As for his goal-scoring, he didn't look too likely to replicate what he managed at Stockport, but again that could just be because he was forced out wide.

    As for falling away last season, It simply fitted the pattern we've always had. Start strongly, faded by christmas, revival around February to April somewhere, terrible by the end of the season.

  • Comment number 31.

    Why are Barnsley most peoples tip for relegation? Excellent manager who took us from dead certs for relegation to near play off material. This summers seen major improvements in the playing squad, a fitter squad and very good pre-season performances.

    I'm not saying we'll get promoted but I think we could surprise a few people.

    It's not a criticism of just this blog but it would be quite nice for pundits to realise there are 24 teams in the league this season not just the 6 or 7 that are constantly covered.

  • Comment number 32.

    Fletch - truth is its very hard to tell if the likes of Hull, Burnley, Sheff Utd, Swansea, Leicester, Forest, Cardiff etc. will do well. I have chosen these teams because they were up there last season, and those coming down. Boro have been ignored for obvious reasons, while Bristol + Norwich + Reading may sneak in, the above will be the main people fighting for the playoff spots.

    While all fans of the above teams would place them in the playoffs, truth is not many of the fans will be able to tell where their team is.
    Hull - New manager, lower budget, how hard has relegation hit them?
    Burnley - Lost Fletcher, Brian Laws yet to convince
    Sheff Utd - Several new signings, new style of play, will it work. Thin squad
    Forest - Not really strentghened, they havent progressed, merely stood still, will this mean they can still challenge?
    Cardiff - Big problems off the pitch, lost Ledley, a lot of uncertainty
    Leicester - Sousa will change things, but new signings haven't really convinced. Not sure they've gone foward, and may be midtable
    Swansea - New manager, lost Britton, hard to tell where they are!

    For the above teams, its impossible to analyse where they are at, other teams will be hoping to sneak up on the above bunch therefore

    Reading - Finished last season on a high, kept hold of valued players. Not a lot of talk about them, and they will like it that way, may come out of nowhere!
    Bristol City - Rich chairman has gone all out for promotion! Wonder if they will have to sell one or two players....Maynard injured at the minute as well.
    Norwich - Suprise package for me. Playoff contenders for sure
    Leeds - No-one, repeat no-one will look foward to the trip to Elland Road. Can't see them being playoffs, but midtable for sure

    To be fair though, I reckon 20 teams could press their case why they should be in the playoffs. Very hard to tell where everyone is though!

    Gotta love the Championship!!!!

    Up the Blades!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Don't know what Strachan is playing at, nearly all the players he signed couldn't get regular games for their club - McManus,Flood and Robson were not regulars, MacDonald had started to be pushed to the side when Mowbry took over, Boyd was used very little in big games by Rangers and only Thompson was a regular starter, why does he think a team of SPL squad players will get his team to the Premiership is beyond me.

  • Comment number 34.

    I think Boyd may just help Middlesbrough get promoted. May just help.

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm surprised nobody has given QPR a mention, we've made a few signings this summer & I think Warnock has brought in players he wants as opposed to what he inherited from last year's joke of a season. Most signings have been British so maybe he wants to create a solid spine to the team. For the 1st time in ages we seem to have some stability so I think we're a decent shout for a play-off push. What do you all think??

  • Comment number 36.

    Post 16.

    Two proven strikers: Danny "anonymous" Graham and Troy "cheap" Deeney.

    Five proven defenders: Today's back four and Severin (although he will be gone by the end of the month).

  • Comment number 37.

    Why does everyone seem to ignore Leicester?
    We will be up there again, Sousa's style suits the Foxes, Hobbs and Fryatt have been pleased, he's reignited DJ Campbell and has a team that has adapted well from Pearson to his style.
    I can see us being up there....but Mr Fletcher your few words on Leicester really was poor.
    Also we are looking likely to be taken over so thats all good news.
    I Dont see Middlesbrough doing well, Leicester have had some Scottish players a few seasons ago and it didnt work so I cant see it happen at the Riverside.
    Boyd scored for fun in the SPL, he will find it hard in the more 'competitive' league but the team I am fearing the Most is Nottingham Forest.

  • Comment number 38.

    Swansea dont even rate a decent mention then eh?

    As for Davies, if he cant see why spending more than 20 other teams combined last season highlights Forest as favourites then he is blind.

  • Comment number 39.

    As a Boro fan, I'm starting to worry about this tag as favourites,as we always seem to fail to deliver when we're favourites!
    Despite the doubts I would be extremely disappointed with anything other than promotion.Despite us finishing 11th last season,Strachan had us going in the right direction,and with the signings he's made we should continue on that further.The spl may be a "pub league" but Boyd has outscored Henrik Larsson at that level, which isn't easy whatsoever.As for Robson, Mcdonald and McManus they have brought much needed experience and id disagree with them being squad players as they all played regularly under strachan at celtic,playing against the likes of barca,milan and man ure in the champs league.They all stopped playing during mowbrays' reign there,which didn't exactly go well did it...
    The main worry for me is the goalkeeper,Brad Jones has pulls off good saves but makes too many mistakes that cost us,so rejecting an £2million bid off Liverpool seems pretty strange,but as long as he's in a boro shirt i'll support him but the same cannot be said about the idiots that boo him before a game! Also I'm not too sure how Mcdonald and Boyd are going to work together,but hopefully that's just the usual "boro fan negativity" and they'll prove me wrong by getting double figures each. As for the other teams Bristol,Cardiff,Reading,Forest and Sheffield United to be the other teams to beat,with Donny and Barnsley to be suprise packages,but I honestly couldn't choose who'd would get promoted as the championship is so unpredictable and on paper plenty of teams seem capable of a good promotion push

  • Comment number 40.

    37: At least he actually talked about Leicester. That's two paragraphs more than he gave the team that currently top the division ;)

  • Comment number 41.

    Thanks Paul, as you say you couldn't mention every club, I support Palace, reborn following Admin.
    We survived last season on the last day at Hillsborough, despite a 10 point deduction and an amazing disallowed goal at Bristol City, plus our Manager walking away with a handful of games left!
    We now have a new board, new manager, George Burley, still have our best players and have added a few more.
    The Championship is the most difficult league to predict, you can be beaten 10 times and still be Champions. As you point out re Boro, teams sometimes panic and sack managers too early. This season Boro will show how the SPL compares to the Championship.
    The teams coming down last year were exceptional, I think the teams coming up this year will do better than those coming down. Palace could be Champions! Why not?
    Glad All Over?

  • Comment number 42.

    Well "fairground" (no. 28), no-one's ever said that before have they? The standard of Scottish football's not so good is it? Cos your lot really did well in the world cup didn't they? Let's be honest, you don't have the faintest idea of what goes on in the Scottish game and probably care even less, so best just keep quiet on the whole subject eh? From someone who does know the game north of the border I would be amazed if Kris Boyd doesn't score bucket loads of goals. Whether the whole team manages to gel I don't know but it certainly won't have anything to do with rubbish like saying they have come from a pub league. Get some new patter mate!

  • Comment number 43.

    I am in Japan but have good memories of watching Championship games when living in London.

    I think Coventry could surprise a lot of people this season. Boothrpyd and Carsley are leaders that the team needs to put a good run together and both mcsheffrey and the Polish lad could make a good partnership up front.

    The other automatic spot I see going to Forest. They play the kind of no-nonsense scampering football which you need to get out of this league. The squad looks a bit thin, but they have a good midfield.

    The play-offs? I think the 3 relegated teams plus Middlesbrough will fight that out.

    Relegation? Any three of Cardiff (points deduction?), Leeds, Palace, Millwall, Norwich & Leicester.

  • Comment number 44.

    "The SPL breeds players with character," said Strachan
    ----------------------------

    It's just the quality that's lacking!!

  • Comment number 45.

    Why are Boro being labelled as the favourites? Ok, they have signed Boyd and Bailey but no one else of much class - just ordinary scottish players. And then even Boyd isn't guaranteed to be a success, just look at McDonald for the example, brilliant at Celtic and hasn't really done it for Boro. This league is totally unpredictable and no one are favourites. I still expect them to finish in the top 3 though.
    And Bristol City, just because they got David James doesn't mean they are going to get automatic promotion. I expect them to do well but with Maynard out for a bit, i think they will start the season slowly.
    Also, about Norwich, these people saying they are going to be the dark horses etc. i'm not quite sure. Ok they are very good going forward and i am sure they will score loads of goals but at the back they look terrible. Individually they are decent players, but as a unit just don't look good at all. Their defence hasn't been great for a few years now and it was Forster who kept them from conceding many goals last season, but Ruddy just doesn't look like he is very commanding and can organise the defence. Tonight there defence was awful and desperately needs to improve. I know its only first game and all that but if they don't sort it out they could be in for a long season. I can still see all the promoted teams staying up, Millwall having it the hardest, and Leeds without Beckford will finish in bottom half.
    I thought Watford looked decent tonight but not sure if they will be able to keep it up throughout the season.
    My top 6:
    1. Nottingham Forest
    2. Burnley
    -------------------------
    3. Middlesbrough
    4. Reading
    5. Leicester
    6. Bristol City
    Just missing out - QPR, Cardiff, Sheffield United, Doncaster
    A few more quality signings and i think Forest will be unstoppable. Not saying that just because i am a Forest fan, you just have to look at our squad to see the quality even without the quantity!
    Bottom 6:
    19. Norwich
    20. Derby
    21. Millwall
    ---------------------
    22. Watford
    23. Barnsley
    24. Scunthorpe
    I can't see Scunthorpe staying up without Hooper and Hayes up front. Selling your best players will not help you at all, especially if you don't bring anyone in good enough to replace them. Would love to see them stay up but don't think it is going to happen. Sorry. :(
    Also Fletch, what do you think of Forest's new signing - Ryan Bertrand?

  • Comment number 46.

    Same every year.

    "We'll finish in the top half. Maybe even the play offs".

    Sorry chaps. All 24 teams cannot finish in the top half.

    Some of you need to trim down your expectations!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 47.

    In my opinion Boyd was a bad move for Middlesborough to make, until very recently he hadn't scored a single goal against a side in the top half of the SPL, a league where the general standard is league 1 at best. I think Leeds are better equiped for the Championship than Norwich, who had a habit of coming back from a losing position many many times, a luxury they won't be afforded at this level. Leeds on the other hand were running away with the league before a combination of overconfidence and exhaustion let them down badly. My predictions for these teams are that Middlesborough will finish comfortably in the play-offs, Leeds will be pushing in 7th or 8th while Norwich will finish lower mid-table, but won't be too worried about relegation.

  • Comment number 48.

    I think Middlesborough will do well but I predict that Reading will get automatic promotion, or form after christmas last season would have put us up in the top 4 and as long as we keep Sigurdsson who I believe to be the best player in the division we do very well.

  • Comment number 49.

    simon21 - what utter nonsense.

    In fact, I'd go so far to say that you made up that statistic about Boyd.

    His scoring record against ALL the teams in the SPL was impressive (apart from Celtic). If you'd care to try and back up such a baseless claim then give us all a laugh...but then I'd have to prove you wrong.

  • Comment number 50.

    less well???

  • Comment number 51.

    To the people saying the quality of the players signed from the SPL is bad, most of the signings Strachan has made are from Rangers and Celtic, who between them, in the last 7 year have been in two Eufa cup finals and been in the last 16 of the Champions league 3 times, never mind how many championship sides can achieve that, how many premier league sides can do that?

    I dont think you can compare past ventures by championship sides buying SPL players because how many of those sides bought as many old firm regulars as Strachan does? Not to mention Strachan has far more knowledge of the SPL than most managers in England do.

    Look at players like Charlie Adam, he was hardly a Rangers regular and he became a vital part of getting Blackpool promoted, and no disrespect meant to Charlie Adam, but Kevin Thomson, Boyd and Robson are all much better players than Charlie. Robson has already proven himself to be a good player at Boro. Thomson will be a fantastic signing and Boyd will scare for fun in the Championship, maybe not the EPL, but thats probably why Strachan signed him on a 2 year contract.

    Boro will be a force to be reckoned with this season.

  • Comment number 52.

    As a life long Boro and England fan it is difficult to accept half a team of players (and manager) who you know would "support Scotland and anyone England were playing". I'll buy a kilt though if they get us up!!!

  • Comment number 53.

    No mention of Leicester in people's predictions. We've lost 0 players and have improved the squad. DJ Campbell back in the side. 5th last season, 3 points off 3rd. I fully expect a play off place once again, at least. Good performances in pre-season. Very excited.

  • Comment number 54.

    I know it's early days. Even so, possible justification for people tipping Leicester for a top-half finish but not promotion?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_div_1/8881475.stm

  • Comment number 55.

    as a norwich fan, i am really looking forward to seeing how we fare this season. our defence is indeed a bit of a concern, but we have brought in some good signings over the summer, and in Paul Lambert we have probably one of the best managers in the league. i'm feeling optimistic!

  • Comment number 56.

    benbridgeman: Saying Paul Lambert is one of the best managers in the league is not really a claim that can be made yet. He hasn't yet been tested at this level, was brilliant in league one but does not necessarily mean he will be great in the Championship. I'm sure he could do well but we will need to wait and see first. Colin Calderwood did well to steer us out of league one but could not cut it in the Championship. It is a bigger step up than some people realise. But once you get promoted it is every fans natural instinct to think they are going to do fantastically well in the next level but it is rarely the case. Staying up should be everyones main aim for the first season but it is so hard not to aim higher for fans and manager alike. And to concede 3 goals against Watford is quite worrying considering you will come up against better attacking teams and better strikers in this league, no disrespect to Watford. I am sure you already know this though but just don't raise your expectations too high or you may end up disappointed. Saying that though, i bet the mood at Bristol City has just plummeted as well. Getting David James and a decent manager and then conceding 3 goals at home to Millwall! haha.

  • Comment number 57.

    I hope Middlesbrough do badly this year, there was absolutely no logic in sacking Southgate when they were 3 points off top place and playing ok. Now look at them. I feel for the fans, but the board need a kick up the backside to teach them a lesson for that mistake. As for the fact they are making a Scottish connection- who cares. Reading made an Icelandic connection, Yeovil had a Latvian connection, Arsenal had a French one, Liverpool had a Spanish one. And last time I checked they all performed beyond their clubs expectations while they had those connections.

  • Comment number 58.

    Fletch,
    Your stuff is always top class. Hope you haven't made a misjudgement in being (relatively) optimistic about Pompey's chances, however. Still feels things could get worse before they get better, a cathartic purge to rid ourselves of all the missteps of the past 55 years way overdue.
    See you're biting your tongue regarding the outlook for PNE. Even money Ferguson out by Christmas? Then you won't have a team OR a manager. Sad really.
    And Billy Davies is a whiner, always someone else's fault. But you know that . . . .

  • Comment number 59.

    @29 - Another Iron fan here. Like what you said - it's great to be a Scunny fan at the moment as virtually anything is a bonus! Having spent years watching them in the 4th Tier never showing any ambition to get anywhere the last few years have been a blast. Staying up last year was incredible!

    We have lost Hooper, which was always going to happen, but Adkins is a canny manager and I feel (perhaps ever too romantically) confident about the season ahead. Great start against Reading on Saturday, so bring on the rest of the season. Looking forward to the double over Hull ;-)

  • Comment number 60.

    i was really dissapointed with the low crowd at glanford park to see palace. even by our standards, the iron are a good entertaining team at home and really put on a good show most of the time. at the championship level that's a great achievement. palace seemed a team with limited attacking options. it was dood to see edgar davids. he was willing his team on and what he did was solid but i think he is limited from lack of fitness and they could get the same with younger and cheaper players. think we will struggle but confident team spirit will keep us in the mix for a mid table which would be fantastic for scunthorpe. was impressed with norwich - very solid and had the organisation to grind out away from home.

 

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