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Can Birmingham, Reading and Derby bounce back?

Paul Fletcher | 06:48 UK time, Thursday, 7 August 2008

We've all seen the images on Match of the Day.

It is the final day of the season and invariably a lovely sunny early summer afternoon. The camera pans to the sight of a supporter, alone now in the empty stand, a tear in the eye, a shattered dream - the brutal and cruel face of relegation from the Premier League.

Birmingham, Reading and Derby all went through it last season.


For hapless Derby, who won one league game all season, the tears had dried months before the season actually ended, with the club's relegation confirmed by the end of March.

Relegation caught manager Paul Jewell in bullish mood, the Rams boss claiming: "The pain we are suffering now, I will repay next season with promotion."

And no one can say that Jewell doesn't have the relevant experience, having won promotion to the Premier League with both Bradford and Wigan.

But will he - or indeed Blues boss Alex McLeish and Reading's Steve Coppell - be able to heal the scars of last season by bouncing straight back?

History suggests it will be very difficult.

Of the 30 relegations from the Premier League between1998 and 2007 only six clubs won promotion the following season - exactly one in five.

And of those 30 relegations the average placing in the Championship the following season was 8.46, outside the play-off zone.

Personally speaking I think the team that intrigues me most is Derby, if only because of the sheer misery of their season-long sojourn in the Premier League.

Jewell, who replaced Billy Davies as boss in November 2007, openly admitted he was planning for the next season months before the old one ended. His claim that it was all about next season almost became some kind of mantra as Jewell faced the camera week after week, defeat after desultory defeat. And having talked the talk, Jewell must now make sure he delivers.

At the end of the season Jewell spoke about the need for a change of culture. The 11 new faces he has brought in should bring with them some fresh energy and enthusiasm while Jewell has assigned every player still at the club with a new squad number. Gimmick or good psychology? Time will tell.

Some of Derby's arrivals look like excellent business. For example, Jewell knows how to get the best out of Nathan Ellington while Rob Hulse should be extremely productive at Championship level.

With Liam Dickinson and Emanuel Villa also at the club, Jewell does not lack strikers and has pledged to select on form across his entire squad. He wants to see hunger and desire from his players but I imagine that what he wants most of all is to see his squad gel. With so many new arrivals, how quickly they fit together will be a crucial factor in whether Jewell can deliver on his promises.

Derby chief executive Tom Glick said late last season that the club's relegation so early in the campaign would give them an advantage over the other two relegated teams. I'm not sure Birmingham or Reading would see it that way.

Birmingham know what it is to bounce straight back, having done so in 2007 under Steve Bruce. But how will McLeish fare in the Championship?

The Scot took his squad to Austria for a pre-season training camp and has been working hard on impressing on them what he wants next season.

According to assistant Roy Aitken, this boils down to getting the ball down on the deck, knocking it around and then pressuring the opposition when they are in possession.

Do that, reckons Aitken, and promotion is attainable.

McLeish has tinkered with his formation in pre-season - deploying James McFadden, Garry O'Connor and Kevin Phillips at the front of a 4-3-3 system - but is likely to settle on 4-4-2.

And I have to say that Birmingham certainly have the ammunition to make an impact.

Lee Carsley, McFadden, Radhi Jaidi, Gary McSheffrey, Cameron Jerome, Sebastian Larsson, Martin Taylor and Phillips are all quality players at Championship level.

Not that this is enough for McLeish, who is looking to boost his squad, with former Arsenal player Quincy Owusu-Abeyie high on his wanted list.

Defender Taylor reckons the squad is stronger than the one that won promotion in 2007 and I'd probably agree. In fact they must surely have the best squad in the division.

But I'm not so sure that everything will be cut and dried for Blues. Will McLeish quickly master his new division? Will the players take on board what he has been teaching them through pre-season? And will the boardroom distractions of the last campaign give way to matters on the pitch?

It should make for compelling viewing this time around.

And finally, there is Reading.

The atmosphere at the Madejski Stadium during the final few home games of their 2005/06 promotion season was triumphant.

I had been there on various occasions down the years but this was different. The realisation that the Premier League was about to become reality had started to dawn on the people of Reading; empty seats were no more, business was brisk in the club shop and there was an all-pervading sense of electricity and excitement. The sound of 20,000 people chanting USA, USA over and over and over again at goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann lent a surreal feel to this particular corner of Berkshire.

That season's sense of momentum carried the Royals to eighth in their first Premier League campaign but their second was a chastening experience, culminating in their relegation on goal difference in May.

The same fans who rejoiced in Reading's promotion showed such affection for Coppell when it looked as though he would walk at the end of last season that the 53-year-old agreed to stay.

And the fact that he is still at the club could be crucial.

He is a low-key manager who hardly courts publicity but he does a nice line in wry humour - note his quip that the FA must have been confused when they sought out Fabio Capello to be England coach - and runs a steady ship.

Coppell took the club to the Premier League and remained a dignified figure during their relegation season. He seems to treat the twin imposters of triumph and disaster the same. Coppell has the respect of his players but showed last season in upsetting Leroy Lita and Sam Sodje that he is not scared to make tough decisions.

The Royals squad is not radically different to that which amassed 106 points in 2006, although is obviously weaker for the recent sale of Dave Kitson, while the likes of Nicky Shorey and James Harper could also yet depart if the right offer is tabled.

On the plus side, a fully fit Marek Matejovsky, who arrived in January, could prove to be a sensation in the Championship. The word is that the club see it as a blessing in disguise that the Czech Republic midfielder was injured during Euro 2008.

Their defence is organised and solid, while Kevin Doyle and Lita are proven goalscorers at Championship level.

It all adds up to three teams who seem to have the belief and quality to win promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt. Or, to borrow from QPR boss Iain Dowie, three teams with bouncebackability.

Last season's Championship was fascinating because the competition was so tight and intense, with plenty of teams in the hunt for promotion. But will one of the relegated trio emerge as the stand-out team in the division this season and really take it by the scruff of the neck?

In fact, could we realistically see all three relegated teams win promotion this coming season? History suggests not - so which of them do you think are best equipped to take the division by storm?


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  • Comment number 1.

    reading should bounce straight back up with the quality in the squad. birmingham could well make the play-offs but it's most possible that Jewell will end the season with egg on his face as i still see Derby struggling!

  • Comment number 2.

    I think Birmingham will win the Championship with ease. Reading might make the play-offs, but I do see further woes for Derby. I think the losers mentality from last season will prevail in a team that does not know how to win and I think they will fighting relegation all season.
    Ipswitch, QPR and Bristol will feature in the play-off frame.

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't think any of the three will bounce back. reading could make it to the play-offs and i'd still love to see them back but i don't think this will happen.

  • Comment number 4.

    Reading to struggle, both Birmingham and Derby in for a shout!

  • Comment number 5.

    My only concern with Birmingham as in 06/07 was the fact they couldnt win 1 game and beat Sunderland to take the Championship. The squad is strong enough an hopefully under big eck they will achieve. Reading should be there and I think Derby should be safely in the play offs - although this is the Championship, anything could happen!!

  • Comment number 6.

    If Birmingham and Reading can keep hold of their top performers from the premiership i can see both going back up. I'm surprised they both got relegated in the first place as i thought there were worst teams, Fulham for one. But there's time for them to lose their stars this summer and in January.

    Derby on the other hand. It will take a while for results to improve for them i'm sure but can see them pushing for a play off spot if Jewell gets the team together. Though if you read the opinions of Watford fans Eliington was impersonating a Pro footballer there. Hulse is still recovering from a serious injury and Commons, although when fully fit can rip teams apart, is very rarely so. But fortunes can change.

    The teams i would think they have to finish above to get promtion are Wolves, Ipswich, Bristol City, Sheffield Utd and Palace. With outside bets being Forest, Norwich, Burnley, Cardiff and Swansea.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hmm Interesting but surely without considering the other likely contenders in the Championship the summation isnt valid. It is going to be a tough season. I think McLiesh lost the plot at Brum, Steve Coppell doesnt have the players and Derby dont have the support to be a continuous Premiership presence.

  • Comment number 8.

    Trufflenewt - Interested to hear why you think Steve Coppell doesn't have the players, considering it looks like we will only lose a couple this summer. But to be honest I think if we fail to go back up this season I will start to worry - I can't see Hunt, Doyle, Lita et al (even Coppell?) staying unless we go straight back up.

    Birmingham to do well, but I can't see Derby doing much this year - they only scraped into the PL in the first place, and a year of getting hammered week in, week out must have taken it's toll surely?

  • Comment number 9.

    birmingham and reading both got the right quality to bounce back though reading have serious problems in the defence.
    during the ending months of the last season i wanted derby, wigan and bolton to get relegated. both wigan and bolton played real dirty football; too defensive and i can bet wigan's ground helped them a lot (for example wigan vs arsenal).
    bir'ham and reading both played wonderful but relegated; i was a bit dissappointed as my arsenal did not win anything too. but i sighed the breath of relief as fulhamaricans survived. Simon Davies was awesome last season.

  • Comment number 10.

    Trufflenewt, Derby do have the support.
    22 thousand season tickets means they will have more sold every week than any other championship club. 30,000 already sold for the Doncaster Game.

  • Comment number 11.

    I believe that Reading and Bristol City will go up automatically. I think birmingham will get into the play offs along with Wolves, Palace and probably Watford, with either Palace or Birmaingham winning. The only other teams I see making a genuine playoff challenge are sheff utd and watford. The rest of the league ie swansea, norwich, plymouth, blackpool, derby will not do much. My only darkhorse would be ipswich as they are an intersting prospect.

    to deathstardb - simon davies awesome last season? i presume thats a joke.

    a bet on reading and city to finish top 2 reaps dividends....

    Arsenal, reading, mk dons and wycombe and celtic to win their respective leagues.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think Derby will be thereabouts for the play offs this season, but have only the same chance as maybe 10 other clubs. I expect us to win more than we lose, which in itself is a relief after last years debacle. I won't be too disappointed if we fail to bounce back, unless it's in the last minute at Wembley of course.

    Brum/Reading have superior players, but that doesn't guarantee anything in this division. However, I have both as favourites for the automatic slots.

  • Comment number 13.

    Birmingham could bounce back immediately, the other two, not so sure,Watford, Cardiff, QPR and Ipswich all look strong!

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't really agree that Birmingham have the best squad in the division. They do have the big name players and plenty of experience, but sometimes a fresh squad of lesser known players who want to prove themselves can be just as productive. Look at Bristol City last season or Reading the year they got promoted. Their players were virtual unknowns.

    Having said that I was quite suprised to see Birmingham and Reading go down last season, they both looked comfortable for most of the season and there were certainly teams in the prem (Fulham, Bolton) who didn't play as good football but just got their act together at the right time. So I wouldn't be at all suprised to see Birmingham and Reading in the top 6.

    As for Derby, for all Paul Jewell's efforts I don't think they will take the league by storm. They have a good squad but if I supported them I would have concerns about the defeatist attitude that the management showed last season, and that some of the signings Jewell made were not particularly effective. He likes to go for experience and proven players, fair enough, but they are under a LOT of pressure, especially after he promised promotion. Good luck to them though.

    As for the other contenders I think QPR, Palace, Sheffield United and Ipswich could be right up there, but to be honest I could reel off a list of another 10 teams who wouldn't suprise me if they made the playoffs!

  • Comment number 15.

    JustALitaBit wrote:
    "...but to be honest I could reel off a list of another 10 teams who wouldn't suprise me if they made the playoffs!"

    And that's what makes the Championship so much fun :)

    There are an awful lot of teams managed by wily old individuals with plenty of Premiership experience between them. Like you said, any number of them could at the very least make the playoffs. Of the relegated sides, I would definitely say Brum look the strongest, but still - you never know.

    Fletch - for your next piece you should find out more about Don Hutchison's magnanimous parting gesture to Luton.

  • Comment number 16.

    I expect Birmingham to win the championship this season. Reading, Wolves, Palace, Watford and Bristol will fight for second place and the play offs, but Derby will struggle to even make the play offs. A few other teams could challenge for the play offs, but I think it will eventually be among those teams mentioned.

    I hope to see a new team make the Premier League, ie. Bristol. The city ought to have a PM team since it is the 7th biggest city in England.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think Birmingham have the best shout of the three. They've got a good squad, plenty of good players to take them right back up. Reading have lost Kitson for a start, and he is a key player for them, and it looks like Shorey is on his way out so another key player gone. Possibly Harper too, also the manner of which they got relegated, also Birmingham, anyone remember when nobody would bet against Bolton, Fulham and Derby being the teams going down? Then as much as Bolton and Fulham played well Birmingham and Reading managed to gloriously fail.

    As for Derby, I think it all depends on the 2nd half of the season, their team needs time to gel and play together in a competetive season and my main concern for them is that by the time they have gelled together, memories of last seasons horrific run will be fresh back in their minds, and they could fall into the losing mindset they had last season. But if they can hit the ground running and get a few results under their belt they are in with as much of a shout as anyone else.

    Nice to see a lot of support for Bristol City on here, refreshing from all the "you're going down this year" comments on the 606 from all the jealous Cardiff fans and gasheads.. I think we will be pushing for promotion this season, if we can beat Blackpool away. Then we've got Derby at a great time because they are looking at wholesale changes in their squad whereas we have pretty much the same first team we put out last year, and we proved then that we are a force to be reckoned with.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think Bham will be favourites, but both Derby and Reading should be in the top 8.

    You've got to think Cardiff, Ips and Preston will be around the play area (albeit Preston didn't have a good season last year I still think they are a decent side).

    Cowboyfromhell89 - I'd be careful of thinking your better than you are. Bristol City had a great season last year (so did Rovers to be fair) but I don't think you'll do aswell next year. I think you might *just* make the playoffs.

  • Comment number 19.

    Of course I have to be careful of that, the general consensus of city fans is that anything in the top half of the table is fine, but being an eternal optimist I just can't settle for anything worse than how we did last year. Also with Maynard we will hopefully get some of the goals that cost us automatic promotion last year (like in the 2-1 loss to Stoke right towards the end of the season). That said I strongly believe we're a team destined for the premier league, whether it be this year or next year I don't care as long as I'm around to see it!

  • Comment number 20.

    I think Birmingham will boss this league, having only lost Kapo, Muamba and Forsell. They have strengthened their squad. The two most recent signings, Augustin? and Quincy? both look good fast youngsters. With the fire power available I can't see another squad come close to them.
    The bookies have been backing QPR for a few months, they obviously have the cash, but have not spent it as yet. So if they spend big in the Jan market they could still force their way into the reckoning.
    Derby are out of sorts, behind scenes issues, players moaning, not a good foundation.
    Reading will be in top 5, but will be lucky to make automatic promotion. Wolves could break thru. Bristol City have peaked, and will find it hard to match last seasons progress.
    My 3 to go up? Birmingham, Wolves and Reading (via play offs)

  • Comment number 21.

    I think many people overestimate Bristol City, they played some great football last year and did very well but may struggle this year as Reading did last year on '2nd season syndrome'. Watford have a good team but no strikers left. Brum look the strongest on paper but they will need to start the season well. QPR have a huge squad but are 1 striker short of having a title winning team.

    All this means that it is all open, Wolves with the top scorer last season have a shout as do Derby, Reading, Ipswich and the list goes on.

    Also I think for the first time the 3 promoted clubs have a playoff shout. Doncaster played some amazing football last season and will want to carry on the momentum. Forest have a capable squad and Earnshaw who is capable of 30 goals at this level and Swansea have arguably the best manager outside the premiership with a very strong if not experienced side.

    Roll on Saturday!!

  • Comment number 22.

    On paper, Birmingham look by far the strongest, most experienced and skillful squad. Commonsense would tell anyone not to bet against them winning The Championship and gaining more points than Readings 106 point haul in 2005.

    As we all know, what's written on paper is usually very different to what happens in reality.

    I still believe Birmingham will win the league, but it will be a lot closer than many people imagine, there are no easy games in this league and there will be many 'top' managers and players left with egg on their faces late on a Saturday afternoon!!

    Sorry Derby fans, but Paul Jewell will be one of them!!

    Bristol City, Reading, Ipswich, QPR and Nottingham Forest to contest the remaining places.

  • Comment number 23.

    deathstarBD it's quite clear you dont no what your talking about at all how can you say Wigan played dirty ? im guessing the eduardo chant got your goat up.

    And how can you also say we played too defensively when we drew 9 nines games, lost 8 and won 8

    We deserved to stay up the way our team performed.

    And is the pitch just another excuse because dont forget we had to play on it too so it was the same for both teams.

    Shut up moaning and stop finding excuses for your team lack of consistency.

  • Comment number 24.

    Good article Paul. It should be another interesting season for the Championship; and I can see all three of the relegated sides in the running for promotion.

    Personally I'm going to predict Birmingham, Derby and Sheffield United to go up, with QPR, Reading, Watford and perhaps Coventry to just miss out.

  • Comment number 25.

    Derby don't have enough support? Absolute rubbish!

    And as for those who think Derby will 'struggle' or 'fail' after last seasons debacle, well, you know how the old saying goes - 'beware of the wounded dog'.

    I think 7/8th may be on the cards but the comment that we don't have the support is a joke.

  • Comment number 26.

    Birmingham to walk the Championship, Reading good bet to make play-offs, with Ipswich in 2nd.
    As for Derby, it could all go wrong too easily, 50/50 whether they make top 6 for me.
    And Forest, QPR and Bristol or maybe Palace also in the play-offs.

  • Comment number 27.

    just a quick point to the blooger called "Trufflenewt"

    how many championship team get 30,000 through the turnstiles this weekend and will average around 28,000 this season?

    thank you and goodnight!!

    UP THE RAMS!!!!


  • Comment number 28.

    I can't really see a single team running away at the top next year. Birmingham City look to have the best squad. But time will tell. It's a tough division to get out of.

    For the life of me i can't see Derby County being in the top two. Or even the play off's.
    For some reason i just see Derby being a mid table side next season.

    Reading may fair better and be around the top six.

    Ipswich Town are a decent outfit and they have just bought David Nugent to play upfront. Ipwsich may prove to be tough opposition. Notts Forest have bought well and they too could feature at the top.

    For an outside punt im going for Preston North End to be promoted next season. Last season on paper was awful, but on their day they are serisously a decent team.

    May three best teams in the Championship would be......

    Ipswich Town
    Preston North End
    Notts Forest

  • Comment number 29.

    Reading have looked very good in pre-season - could realistically have put put five past A.Villa last weekend. They have players to step-up and replace those who have left, or might leave, and a crop of young, eager and hungry academy- produced youngsters. So, with Coppell at the helm, don't underestimate their chance of a swift return to the Prem.

  • Comment number 30.

    Trufflenewt, what are you on about?
    Dont have the support to be a Premisership force?
    That has to be the most ridiculous statement I have heard on here for a long time, we averaged the 11th best attendance in the Prem last yr (over 7 thousand more fans than Brum and Reading) and have sold more season tickets (24,500) than the highest average attendance last season that belonged to Sheffield United.
    I think you get your facts straight.
    With regard to the article however I do think we will struggle, to much change can harm a club and I think Palace, Wolves and Brum will be fighting for the top two spots.
    Biggest club in the division by a country mile.

  • Comment number 31.

    @Trufflenewt Dont have the support to be a Premisership force

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha

  • Comment number 32.

    Looking at the blogs on this site talkin about which teams are going to get promoted from CCC there are not many that have tipped the Blades - this is fine with us Blades as we shall quietly potter away and win promotion. My tip for other two teams will be Birmingham and Wolves with Reading losing in the play off final to Wolves and you Rams coming no where - does not matter who has top attendence's - who plays the better normally gets there.

  • Comment number 33.

    WickerBlade...good to see another diehard Bladesman on board. Commenting on the article it is true that us Blades have been overshadowed by the prem teams coming down. Dont get me wrong im expecting a fine battle this year with all contenders but i strongly feel the blades have the right squad to do it this year, im holding out from automatic but im certain it will be playoffs. Im hedgind bets on B'gham to do really well. I think its great to se Derby fans with constant support, its good for the championship and shows theyr fighting pride...just like us Blades. 'Like a night out in Sheffield....!'

  • Comment number 34.

    Ram1986 - you're not the biggest club in the division by a mile. That's total nonsene i'm afraid. But it's very sweet you clearly believe it. You've got one of the biggest grounds.

    But i think if you look at the attendance of those you quoted, Sheffield United or another good example is Norwich, true tests of the "size" or "stature" of your club is surely measured by the support and numbers travelling when there's nothing to shout about.

    I seem to remember a gate recorded at carrow road of 23,500 when they were 5th from bottom playing bottom of the league feb 2006. And your percentage seasontickets available to sold is AS GOOD no better than a couple of other teams in the division.

    So as i said, it's cute you love your sheep so much, but wind your neck in lad.

  • Comment number 35.

    oh and if mcleish can't get automatic promotion with the squad he has he should never work in management again. Not even in asda.

    reading and derby will both be top 10 I believe, though there's still 24 days of the transfer window to go yet...

    as for the others, usual suspects i reckon will be bothersome to play, wolves, sheff u and the filth.

  • Comment number 36.

    Surely Derby's squad looks the weakest of the three. They'll need to play above their level to avoid the disaster of last season.

  • Comment number 37.

    Reading have something special going for them at the club.but it depends if they can get and keep the momentum going.Having seen Matejovsky at the euros 2008, before he got injured, I think he´ll be very influentual.
    I think the Derby fans were wonderful last season,but, they´re going to suffer I think this year.
    Birmingham are in trouble internally and if they don´t perform well early will struggle with mr Mcleish.

  • Comment number 38.

    Well it's obvious that Birmingham will be the best of the three, and the title should be theirs this year. Reading have lost some of their players but I wouldn't be surprised if they come back. As for Derby, they had 3 seasons to get to the prem and they did it in one. Playoff places would be a decent target.

  • Comment number 39.

    Ipswich have made some good signings this pre-season, i'd have them as a dark horse.

  • Comment number 40.

    Blues for champions for me, they should walk it with the squad they have. Not so easy for the other 2, Reading to finish 2nd Derby for play offs to be beaten though. By who? well any one of 10 if i knew i'd be rich and the bookies would hate me. Dowies gets it right it should QPR. Dont think he will though. One thing for sure ill be suprised if its us happy with a top half finish and Leicester losing in their play off final.

    Craig Cov SBA

  • Comment number 41.

    I feel that Birmingham will win the league with Reading a close second however Derby will be struggling somewhere near the bottom.

  • Comment number 42.

    ..whilst I wouldn't want the pressure of being favourites, I'm baffled that more people don't rate Sheffield United for promotion.

    Blackwell transformed the attitude and tactics left by Robson, and steered a team facing relegation to challenge for a playoff place. If only Robson had left a month earlier. The squad has been strengthened and if, as we all expect, we continue playing the way we did in the last third of the season, we'll be up there all right.

    Who else? Well, I can't see any of the relegated three as clear favourites. They should be there or thereabouts, but Birmingham will need to adjust (McLish is new to the Championship), Reading have lost key players, and Derby just aren't as good as when they won promotion a year ago.

    So, top two? Sheffield United and Birmingham. The playoffs will include Reading and Crystal Palace and it's between those two for the third promotion place.

  • Comment number 43.

    It's hard to call such a tight division, I don't think anyone could have predicted the three teams that went up last year (except West Brom). I do however think Birmingham have more than enough quality to be pushing for automatic promotion and Reading have a very good chance of making the play-offs. Derby on the other hand I just can't see making any real impression and I believe they'll be languishing in the bottom half of the table for the majority of the season.

    However, it only takes a good run of results after Xmas to take relegation fighters into promotion contenders when it comes to the Championship!

    The teams I can see in the hunt for promotion this year are:

    Sheff Utd

  • Comment number 44.

    The Bristol City predictions are just bizarre. They had that classic first season in the Champ where they hit the ground running but will struggle to finish in the top half again.

    Of the relegateds, Reading are the best bet, and Derby has a tough season ahead.

    #20 iancoley: "The bookies have been backing QPR for a few months, they obviously have the cash, but have not spent it as yet."

    This is an odd comment, as QPR have brought in a number of top players from Serie A, the Premier League and some of the Championship's better kept secrets.
    The key for the R's, though, is indeed goalscorers, but if Blackstock starts a season like he finishes them and Agyemang rediscovers anything close to his honeymoon form, there won't be a problem. Vine is a class act as well, as long as he makes a timely return from injury.

  • Comment number 45.

    Can't see Derby doing anything apart form consolidating, it will take them a while to get over the embarrassment of last season, but Jewell is an excellent manager so you never know.

    Reading have a good team with a decent manager, I think they may lose some more important players, but would be surprised if they don't at least make the play-offs.

    Birmingham should get Automatic promotion comfortably this season, players like McFadden, Larsson, Carsley, Philips and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie in the right mind set guided by McLeish will be too much for teams at this level.

  • Comment number 46.

    174 miles it is you who is talking nonsense - you made Ram1986's point for him. When the chips are down? How about last season when we sold out the last 7 home games despite not having won since September, or took 4,000 to Blackburn and 3,500 to Wigan?

    Judging support on percentage capacity is very unwise anyway - Sunderland get 40,000 most weeks yet don't fill their ground, we get 33,000 but fill ours, does that mean we have more supporters? Not necessarily.

    Assuming you are a Norwich fan I agree you are very well supported, but don't throw a figure of 23,500 at us to try and prove it. 3 seasons ago we were one point from Championship relegation yet we AVERAGED over 24,000 that season!

    Not saying we are a bigger club than the likes of Norwich but he was responding to a comment that said we didn't have Premiership support - one of the stupidest posts on here for ages. As mentioned, 11th best Premiership attendance last season despite being the worst team in Premiership history - when Sunderland held the record their attendances regularly dropped under 30,000 whereas ours never did.

    If support is judged on away support then Wednesday are the best without question.

    Anyway, I think Birmingham ought to make the top 2 but remember how WBA finished 4th with the best squad in the division 2 years ago. Reading and Derby should be around the play-offs, while the dark horses for me are Wolves, Sheffield United, Norwich and Ipswich.

  • Comment number 47.

    If anyone deserves a break and a piece of luck, that man is Steve Coppell. One of the nicest men in football, no hysterics, he gets on with job of managing Reading regardless of what fortune brings.
    Hopefully he and his team will be quickly restored to The Premiership

  • Comment number 48.

    Birmingham with QPR or possibly Cardiff for Auto, Reading with Bristol in the Play-Offs, But Derby, sorry can't see them going any were, they will have a job on staying in the championship!

  • Comment number 49.

    I got laughed at last year for tipping Stoke and Hull and believe we will see similar surprises this year.

    My top 6 would include in no order:

    Sheffield United
    Crystal Palace
    Notts Forest

    I think the bottom 2 will include:

    Bristol City (suffering 2nd season syndrome)
    Plymouth or Barnsley

    I also think Reading will start well but fall away as Watford did. Derby will have sacked Jewell by Xmas and Birmingham will have sacked Mcleish by November as I do not think he will be up to it.

    Let's hope for a great season.

  • Comment number 50.

    Reading's academy will surprise many this season! Mark my words!

  • Comment number 51.

    this season for me as a reading fan comes as a good as it gets so many questions to do with the squad who will go who wont.... and this is what i think....
    1st Wolves its about time these sleeping giants finally woke up and did what they should.
    2nd Bristol City yes last season was no fluke they will go up at go 2. then straight back down.
    3rd Crystal Palace... neil warnock will hav another go after the play offs as they will not be up.
    4th Birmingham City... The brummies will not go up either... they have a quality squad but go missing at big times
    5th Reading... The Royals will get to the wemberleeeeeee but it will be tears again i'm afraid.
    6th Ipswich town will be premier league once more... they are knocking and this year will be good for you tractor boys.

    Others For Intrest..
    18th Derby County... They'll stay up just Jewell will walk by novemeber these are worrying times for derby fans... they have bought too many players they will not gel.
    20th Southampton.. My lasting regret southampton will stay up again... but with money running out administration could lie ahead for saints.

    Down and out......
    21st Swansea... they willl go down last day of the season... they will be the far best side out of the 5 chasing to go down...
    22nd Blackpool..... I dont believe they can stay up again.. i hope them all the best but its going to be a real tough season for them.
    23rd QPR.... I seriously think they are trying too hard to get to the promised land. They will sink like a stone then get back to back promotions to get the premeir league.

  • Comment number 52.

    All these three teams are going to do well and will be a threat but I think that there are better TEAMS within this league.

    Burnley on their day could out play and beat any team last year but the squad wasn't strong enough to go the distance. This year might just be a different story. They will surprise with attacking football and are my tip for the prem.
    Nottingham Forest will have the momentum from promotion and will be around the playoffs.
    QPR,s rebuild might just take to long to gel but again if you buy quality you get quality.

  • Comment number 53.

    I think we can probably expect Reading and Birmingham to do a One - Two for the automatic promotion places, but as to what order they cross the finish line is unclear.

    Personally, I would expect Reading to finish in top spot and win the league to almost the same degree of outlandish dominance with which they did a couple of seasons ago. In my opinion, Reading are effectively a Premiership side in the Championship, and not just squad - wise. A fantastic manager in Coppel, a great boardroom (at least seemingly) free of corruption or interfering Directors of Football, and a pretty good academy system. And then if you were to look at the squad, it is not too far not only from the team that one promotion, but the team that looked destined for a UEFA cup spot in it's first season in the premiership. The loss of Kitson and Shorey can be considered negligible when looking at the remainder of the squad.

    Equally, Birmingham have some quality throughout the team, which could see them push Reading all the way. Practically the whole squad has already been mentioned in the article, and McLeish may find that one of his only problems is keeping a hold on some of his most valuable players in January. One of the most pricey squads in the division, they have goalscoring talent and international pedigree scattered in abundance, so expect them to be there or there abouts come the end of the season. Anything less could cost McLeish his job.

    Derby may prove to be one of the most difficult teams to read in history; just when it looked as if there'd be a resurgence last season, they just didn't. Granted, the fact that they went down so emphatically last season wasn't exactly a surprise, but you at least expect a bit of fight; something Derby didn't do until it was far, far too late. Derby were terrible last season, in all competitions, but I think they're going to pick it up slightly this time around. They still have players the likes of Giles Barnes in the side, who didn't have the time to shine last season. Jewell has brought well in Rob Hulse, but needs to get the Wigan form out of Ellington. 'The Duke' was affectionately known for his goalscoring, something West Brom and Watford fans didn't see too much of with his spells in the teams, particularly the latter. Despite this, Derby are not a terrible side, and do have the experience necessary to, at the very least, launch a bid for the play offs.

    Watch out for the other teams with their eyes on the prize, though. The Wolves are gathering, having been a goal, not a point, but a goal, off the play offs. In Bristol, fans will be expecting the same as last season, whilst sleeping giants of old, such as local rivals Norwich and Ipswich, along with Crystal Palace, have it in them to pull a few surprises. QPR's new riches might also have a say in the season.


  • Comment number 54.

    After the season Derby have just had, I would have thought promotion would be the last thing Rams fans would want...

  • Comment number 55.

    An informative and well researched article which would have been enhansed had Fletch felt confident enough to give his opinion on the chances of the three teams mentioned. My own opinion is:
    Birmingham - definately
    Derby - perhaps
    Reading - no way

  • Comment number 56.

    well i think derby will bounce back straight because off the players that jewell has brought in such as nathan ellington he knows how 2 play well in the championship and for kris commons wiv his awesome left foot also hulse who can play well in the championship. so i think that derby will go back up under jewell and then they will probally stay there

  • Comment number 57.

    Dont seem to be many shouts for wolves or sheff utd. Between us and them we have the best 2 strikers in the league (SEB and Beattie).

    Wolves also have the influential kightly ack, who missed 34 games of last season. With him we'd have made the playoffs. As would utd if they'd sacked that clown robson a bit earlier.

    Wolves boast 2 gk's that would walk in to half of the Prem teams sides, two quick pacey wingers, the 25+ goals a season striker in seb and a great team spirit.

    We dont seem to be favoured by many this season, but our trouncing of blacburn and our great pre season has got our fans brimming with excitement.

    Top 6- In No Order
    Sheff Utd
    Bristol City

  • Comment number 58.

    As a Cardiff fan I hope that we can get something out of this season but I will come back to us.

    I think Birmingham have got to be favourites by a mile, they have a good squad and a bit of cash.

    Reading according to my in laws who are season ticket holders at Reading, they may struggle due to the quality of the current squad, they havent signed the greatest of players to make up for who they have lost. And even if they have a decent academy(NOT SURE WHAT PLAYERS HAVE MADE IT FROM THERES it still doesnt bode well trying out 16-18years olds in this division. I think they will finish in top 8.

    As for the Mighty Swansea!! top 18 for them as every fan who has seen there team in this league will know it not easy for all of us fans where most teams can pick up points from each other.

    As for the rest, well Derby will qualify for play offs, Bristol City top 6, Sheff Utd 3rd, As for the rest hard to tell.

    My team in there final season at Ninian, well if we keep ourselves from having to many injured then we could well sneak promotion, we have signed some quality players who could well do the job, Ledley is looking good and our defence still seems organised, we have sold 14000 season tickets in a ground which holds a shade over 20000 so things are looking good, we had a great pre season beating celtic, unbeaten in fact, Im sure the players are full of confidence, and our academy has brought through a few great players now and a few more to come. Im just looking forward to some sun down the city and a few beers before soton on saturday, Hopefully your season will be almost as good as mine.

  • Comment number 59.

    In my opinion, the Blues (Birmingham) are in with a good shout of bouncing straight back this season considering the players they have at their disposal. However, as my beloved Albion proved two seasons ago, individual talent is not enough to get you out of this league.

    We believed that having players with experience in football or the Championship (Hartson, Phillips, Quashie, Ellington) as well as individual talent (Koumas, Kamara, Davies) would allow us an easy ticket back to the top flight. How wrong were we? This could be blamed on both the tactically inept Bryan Robson that took us into the season with these big-time charlies, and the fact that these big-time charlies did not play as a team. Luckily, Tony Mowbray assembled a TEAM the next season (which comprised of virtual unknowns who proved to be real gems) and this team gelled together to fire us to the top flight once more.

    This is not a shot to Birmingham, Reading and Derby at all, but from the perspective of a Baggie, I would like to warn Birmingham, Reading et al. to keep their feet on the ground for now as you may suffer the same misery that we did in 06/07. It's not nice to hold the tag of being the 'Best Team in the Championship' only for you to ultimately fail.

    That all said, I'm sure that this season will be extremely exciting like the last and it'll be interesting to see who is in the running. I'll miss the Championship, that's for certain.

  • Comment number 60.

    To all those idiots who say we are going to struggle in this league, you dont have a clue about football.
    I am not saying we are going to storm this league... far from it. But facts are we aint going to struggle. The squad we have is far too good for that, i think a lot of it is down to what we did last season. People forget that the team that we had got us out of this league, and we have added to that with 12 new players. It is a different Derby County this time round boys and girls.

    Ellington is a gem for us, especially with Jewell as our gaff. 3 goals to his name in pre season already. Hulse is proberbly the best player (in his type) in this league. Been there done it. Then we have Tito Villa who has looked very sharp in pre season, 2 goals and could have had more. Liam Dickinson is a bright young prospect with something to prove. Kris Commons and Steven Davies are very highly rated young wingers with bags of ability, and Paul Green is the next Jimmy Bullard!!!

    As i say, we wont take the league by storm and it may take us 10 games to settle but once we do then i can see us being a good side in this league pushing for the top 6.

  • Comment number 61.

    the brummies defo, mcleish will do the job for us this year, having a chance to influence and add to the team, i appreciate the championship is and will prove to be a difficult league to escape, but i am confident that mcleish can achieve this, personally i dont think reading will this time round, as for who else......i just reckon it wil be exciting stuff to the wire, good luck to all involved, a very biased brummie fan.

  • Comment number 62.

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

  • Comment number 63.

    I always have a quiet chuckle when I hear fans and managers of clubs relegated from the EPL boast about how their "big Club" are going to bounce straight back.

    The championship is a highly competitive league, and as such is littered with the shattered dreams of Ex-EPL teams.

    Watford, Charlton, Norwich, Wolves, the list goes on and on.

    Some have even passed us by ask fans from Notts Forest, Leeds, and Man City, Whatever happened to Bradford?

    I can't see any of the relegated teams bouncing straight back this time because this division is tougher than ever this coming season.

    Birmingham will implode from the top, Derby don't have a defence and reading are mediocre and their best players will start to move on.

  • Comment number 64.

    I suppose the irony is even if all three teams got promoted there all quite poor and derby are no better than they were. So its a vicious circle. Derby are aiming to win promotion so they can finish bottom again in a seasons time. Strange but true!

  • Comment number 65.

    Derby have no defence ?!?

    Alan Stubbs, Martin Albrechtsen, Claude Davis, Tyrone Mears and Paul Connolly are all very good players, especially at this level. You will do well to see a better right wing back in this league than Tye on his day. Our 3 centre backs all have experience, along with 2 of them having pace. Each of them can pass a ball and dont HOOF it! Your judgement is slightly wrong when you say we have no defence mate.

    Come to think of it, i cannot think of a single player in Burnleys defence. Oh Wayne Thomas is it ????? What a player he is haha!!

  • Comment number 66.

    My top six are Birmingham
    Shef. Utd
    One things for sure, This is going to be the most exciting division to watch,and the size of a quality squad is going to be important. Who is on the bench that can come on and turn a game. That is why I have included Forest !! Alan

  • Comment number 67.

    Birmingham have a very good squad and they're my bet to win the league . As for the 2nd promotion place there are quite a few teams that I fancy but I'm going to stick my neck on the line and say watford will take that . as for the playoffs , yet again theres a few teams capable . As much as I would like to see them do well , I can't see Bristol City repeating last seasons form. Reading, Sheffield utd, Cardiff, Crystal Palace, QPR and Derby all to be fighting for play off spots . As for a dark horse , watch Notts Forest . Its going to be a very entertaining season in the championship ! .

  • Comment number 68.

    Birmingham City really are terrible, after Robbie Savage left i didn't think Birmingham City could cope with the premier league and sure enough they got relegated not long after, low an behold the same has happened again Steve Bruce leaves and Brmingham get relegated, their only saving grace is the fact that they have Sebastian Larsson and Kevin Phillips, if these two play well next year they may make the play off' places. Reading have lost Nicky Shorey but they still have Matejovsky and the amazing Hahnemann they could make the play off placesbut i'm not too sure about them. Derby are great to be honest, they had full capacity nearly all last season although they were in pretty dier predicament, they have two quality experienced forwards along with the likes of Robbie Savage they could be in with a shout of going straight back up. In my opinion Wolves, QPR and Coventry will be the one's to watch, Nottingham Forest will be a surprise package this year, reminiscent of Bristol City of the previous campaign.

  • Comment number 69.

    Trufflenewt put that derby dont have the support 2 b a continuous prem team but derby do have the support. derby will be going up along with reading and palace. and hull wigan and west brom will b cuming down
    derby till i die

  • Comment number 70.

    I see Birmingham as being there or thereabouts, Reading in the play-offs and Derby to struggle. Watford? that really is sticking your neck out. They were woefull in the last quarter and have now had to sell players and have left no time to buy. They are 4 to 1 to go down. Bristol City on the other hand have invested in a young up and coming striker - their main problem was lack of goals last season as Trundle failed to make the step up in class- and they still finished 4th. I see them reaching the play-offs again along with Ipswich, Reading Wolves and Palace. Birmingham and Sheffield Utd to go up auto.

  • Comment number 71.

    has got it right cant really add to his comments! Stoke got promoted not by playing fancy football like Blues and Reading will try but by muscling the opposition aside. (They need a major change in players and tactics to survive) Derby support? Its the money they bring in,or not as the case may be they dont have the population locally to support a PL side. All the big clubs are attracting foreign benefactors. Without investment Derby is doomed. They wont get the big investment because they are not popular outside the East Midlands.

    Sorry but its true!

  • Comment number 72.

    Your talking pants about Derby's support Trufflenewt.

    From Wikipedia:

    "Statistically, the club had the 12th highest average attendance in the country, despite only having the 15th largest club ground, and were also 8th in the table for percentage of ground occupancy."

    The last 7 home games were sellouts - 33,000 plus - If the likes of Wigan, Bolton, Fulham, Boro can survive in the Prem on lesser gates - then so can Derby.

  • Comment number 73.

    I see Derby finshing at least in the top 4 maybe 1st. Just because Derby had a hard time last season doesn't mean they can't achieve promotion this season. Players like Nathan Ellington, Przemyslaw Kazmierczak, Martain Albrechtsen, Rob Hulse and Kris Commons will be exciting players for a league where anybody can beat anybody. The new signings from yesterday, Andrejs Pereplotkins and Aleksandar Prijovic, I

  • Comment number 74.

    Birmingham have the quality players to bounce back and they will be deeply disappointed if they fail to achieve, so I would put my money on automatic promotion for them. My other two predictions are Sheffield United and Bristol City. Sheffield Utd finished well last season and will start the season with optimism. Bristol have strengthened their strike force in the form of Nicky Maynard and will again rely on their sturdy defence to protect the goals which undoubtedly he will score this season.

  • Comment number 75.

    the championship is a very difficult league to predict due to the fact that every team starts the season thinking they may be able possibly get a play off place, look at the end of last season virtually the whole league had something to play for on the last day. I'm a Derby supporter and I think that teams will look to put in good performances against us, and the other relegated sides, to use as an indication of how far their team has come, and where they could possibly go. I don't think squad size and money plays much part in the championship; more passion, heart and determination. The teams that have an abundance of these qualities usually does well; do Derby, Birmingham or Reading have these, only time will tell.

    As a Derby supporter I must admit i'm looking forward to a hard, interesting season ahead, in a league which is probably the best in the country for its excitment and competion. Best of luck to all teams, lets have another interesting Championship season.

  • Comment number 76.


    Agree wholeheartadly with you, as a fellow Ram, I couldn't call anything in this league. I would imagine that we will finish mid table (ish). Anything else after the debacle of last season will be a bonus!
    Looking forward to the start of the season, wish everyone,(even you Red Dogs!) ;-) all the best for the forthcoming season.
    May the best team win,and let the game,and the banter begin!)

  • Comment number 77.

    I find it quite amusing that a lot of people have tipped forest to be this years "surprise package"... not very surprising if everyong knows eh lads... and i fear most of you are basing that on past teams such as Bristol City coming up from league one and doing the same.

    Personally as a forest fan i can see we have a very good squad, and I believe we are more than capable of a top half finish, injuries are key... and we only have one fit striker for the season opener! Top half for sure, maybe even challenging for a playoff spot, but please no promotion, we will only do a derby, we need time to build, couple of years at least.

    I think birmingham will get promoted and i hope wolves and maybe reading follow them. As for Derby.... yer gonna struggle to stay up lads even if ya do fill yer stadium :D

  • Comment number 78.

    I reckon they are all in with a fighting chance, though Birmingham may possibly have the edge with the better players.

    All 3 managers are very experienced and capable of winning the league but McLeish may be disadvantaged as he doesnt have the same experience at club level.

    Derby have signed about 13 players this summer and i wonder if they will all be able to gel in time, also I havent even heard about a lot of these players so I dont know how capable they really are.

    I feel that Birmingham will gain Automatic promotion, Derby will be pushing for 4th place and maybe with a bit of luck gettign automatic promotion, and Reading will be right in the playoff final.

    But it is best to remember that it is not a three horse race, there are about 4 or 5 other candidates for promotion that could affect the title race.

  • Comment number 79.

    The championship has become the most interesting and sometimes the most exciting league in the country. But as many of the comments have alluded to, it's also becoming a "no-win situation" league too. If clubs coming down don't go straight back up, the writing seems to be quickly on the wall. Charlton, Coventry, Southampton, Watford (who were a certainty for many last year and are now a distant 6-1 to make it!) are examples who should have Birmingham, Derby and Reading biting their nails, as much for the financial problems they have found themselves lumbered with as much as losing players and momentum. And if any of the clubs could go straight back up - good as some of the signings have been - what are the realistic chances of staying there? The gap between the Premiership and Championship is nearly unbridgeable which is good for the excitement in the second league, but not great for the game as a whole. WBA have made it yes, but there is a good reason why they are among the favourites for relegation before it's all kicked off. And if all three promoted teams do fall out of the Premiership at the first hurdle - and surely it's a halfway decent bet - what then? Teams in the lower half of the Premiership who keep being held up as candidates for relegation (the likes of Fulham signing the likes of Andy Johnson!) are nevertheless strengthening their position and it is only going to get harder for the promoted three year-on-year. Sunderland and possibly Wigan might be saviours for the three this year but they would both claim they have got some strength in depth to survive. Sad to say but the Championship - even on its own - may need to chase bigger TV money using the argument that it's the only way to keep Championship aspirations in touch with the Premiership. Birmingham, Reading and Derby to make it!

  • Comment number 80.

    The Championship is by far the most open and competitive league in English football. No one will win this one 'by a mile'. I think Derby and Reading will struggle. I see only Birmingham being in with a shout of promotion. My main doubt for them is that McGleish still needs to prove himself in English football. If he gets Brum up, he will certainly have done that. Could be a great season. No wonder the Championship is the 4th most watch league in Europe.

  • Comment number 81.

    birmingham look strong, i would expect them to win promotion.

    i worried about reading as they seemed to lose all their team spirit, it was that that did for them in the end but i think we will give them a leg up on sunday by turning up with no players,

    it would take an astonoshing turnaround for derby, what is it 13 new players? i can't see them gelling in time to be a force in this particular division, and they've still got enough players left from last season that will never recover mentally, those players are damaged goods, loser spawn for life

  • Comment number 82.

    My Championship Predictions

    1. Birmingham – Boast the strongest forward line in the division, so expect plenty of goals from the Midlanders, who might have to play 3 up front - with such talented strikers as Kevin Phillips, Cameron Jerome, Garry O’Connor and James McFadden; who can also play in midfield. Goals from the middle of the park could come in handy too with the likes of Gary McSheffery and Sebastian Larsson remaining at the club and with the addition of defensive midfielder Lee Carsley, coupled with an already strong defence, the Blues should run away with the title.

    2. Sheffield United – Only just missed out on the play-offs last season and that included half a season with highly criticised Brian Robson at the helm. Current boss Kevin Blackwell also has the luxury of plenty of attacking options, with Darius Henderson replacing Rob Hulse who went to Derby, adding to an already strong forward line of James Beattie, Jon Stead and Billy Sharp – who flattered to deceive last season, but is a player I feel can make a breakthrough this season. Blackwell has made some decent signings in Greg Halford and David Cotterill and with an already solid core of Kenny, Naismith, Killgallon and Tonge, I expect Sheffield United to be challenging for a top two position.

    3. Reading – Steve Coppell is a manager who can be relied upon to deliver the goods at this level and with a Reading team that hasn’t seen many absentees (only Dave Kitson and the impending departure of Nicky Shorey), they can challenge for an automatic promotion place, but just missing out – Kevin Doyle should net his fair share of goals, but can Leroy Lita and new signing Noel Hunt manage if he gets injured?

    4. Wolverhampton Wanderers – For me, Wolves have a strong core in their team, in goal, Wayne Hennessey has been touted as a future premiership star and I can see why, with plenty of clean sheets last season. Richard Stearman has been added to the defence and this should ease Wolves fans ‘worries that they are short in the centre back position. I like the flair that Wolves possess with Elokobi and Foley at full back and Kightly and Jarvis on the wings and up front they have plenty of variety with last season’s top scorer Sylvain Ebanks-Blake providing them with power, pace and finishing, whilst new addition Chris Iwelumo will play as a target man and Andy Keogh will work tirelessly down the channels to get assists for his team mates. I think the squad is strong, but I’m a little sceptical of Mick McCarthy’s ability as manager.

    5. Queens Park Rangers – Money, Money, Money. QPR have come into serious money, but I’d dare to say that their signings have been solid, rather than spectacular. Kaspars Gorkks was a star performer in the Blackpool defence last season and should be a decent capture, whilst the signing of Real Madrid “wonderkid” Dani Parejo could prove exciting in midfield along with creative talent Akos Buzsaky. Upfront I wouldn’t call them prolific, but I expect Briatore and co will spend seriously in the January transfer window to catapult the club into the play-offs.

    6. Ipswich Town – Their home form was sensational last season and if they can keep that up and prove harder to beat away from home, then they should be challenging for a play off place. Again they have been rumoured to have money, which I think they will spend in January and their most notable signing to date for me, would be Kevin Lisbie from Colchester, who scored plenty in a struggling team last season. Watch out for young forward Danny Haynes as he gets an extended run in the first team.

    7. Norwich City – I think Norwich will be the surprise of the season and could challenge towards the top six, but will ultimately miss out. Last season, Glenn Roeder did a great job steering the club from danger and signing some good youngsters on loan. This time around, Arturo Lupoli has signed and could create a good partnership with Jamie Cureton (if he manages to stay injury free unlike last season), whilst they’ve shipped out overpaid pansy Darren Huckerby, they’ve done good business by replacing him with Wes Hoolahan from Blackpool, who is younger, hungrier and equally as creative. In defence, ex-pomp*y player Dejan Stefanovic has joined and his previous teammate at Fulham Elliot Omozuzi has joined on loan – a young defender with good potential.

    8. Bristol City – I can’t see them proving to be one season wonders, as unlike previous examples Luton and Colchester, they’ve managed to keep hold of their better players. One thing that will go against them, is the fact that they are no longer a surprise package, however with Gary Johnson (who I rate highly) in charge and the signing of striker Nicky Maynard from Crewe, I think they have the quality to challenge in and around the top six.

    9. Derby County – Have completely changed the squad from last season with a whole host of new signings, which could mean a while in getting used to each other. I think this season will be a season of consolidation for the rams, after their disaster season last year, but the signings of players such as Albrechtson, Commons, Hulse and Ellington, along with the quality of player like Giles Barnes, means that they won’t be far off the top six.

    10. Crystal Palace – Neil Warnock is a great manager at this level and did an excellent job last season, but I don’t think he’ll add to his record of getting teams into the playoffs. He has done well to bring in midfielder Nick Carle from Bristol City to replace soon to be outgoing Ben Watson, but with the departure of Clinton Morrison, it is hard to see where regular goals will come from. Watch out for youngster Victor Moses, though.

    And the rest...

    11. Burnley – Have lost Kyle Lafferty and this could prove to be a big loss, however have bought well in highly rated striker Martin Patterson from Scunthorpe and talented Manchester United midfielder Chris Eagles. I can see them adopting a direct style of play, which could see them doing well in the division this season.

    12. Coventry City – Aren’t in a great financial position to bring in players, but the signing of Kieran Westwood is a good one as he proved himself to be on the better goalkeepers outside of the premiership last season, also Clinton Morrison and Freddy Eastwood should get the goals that will se Coventry finish solidly in Chris Coleman’s first full season in charge.

    13. Nottingham Forest – Only just promoted from league one, but by no means relegation favourites. They have bought well in Andy Cole and especially Rob Earnshaw – who is proven to score plenty of goals in this division. Guy Moussi is a player I’ve great things about from the Forest fans, so it’ll be interesting to see his effect on the team.

    14. Cardiff City – The FA cup finalists from last season have done well to retain the services of highly rated players Joe Ledley and Roger Johnson and despite managing a decent deal to sign Motherwell striker Ross McCormack on a free transfer, I can’t see the team being prolific scorers and may have to play Paul Parry as a make-shift striker, if injuries to McCormack and fellow new signing Jay Bothroyd occur.

    15. Charlton Athletic – Alan Pardew is facing a lot of pressure from the fans at the Valley and I can’t see things getting any better for the London side. They’ve had to ship out a few players this summer to help with finances and haven’t really replaced them to my knowledge. That said they still possess a decent enough squad with the likes of Darren Ambrose and Andy Gray to finish in a solid mid-table position.

    16. Swansea City – Could do well under the guidance of manager Roberto Martinez. In Ferrie Bodde they have one of the championship’s more sought after players and goals from Jason Scotland and some of the unknown (to most) Spanish players that he’s brought in, could surprise a few people.

    17. Watford – Watford are in a bit of a minor crisis at the moment and after losing Marlon King in the January transfer window, they’ve now lost Nathan Ellington, Danny Shittu and Darius Henderson; in a bid to reduce their wage bill. They ended last season poorly and I can see this season continuing their poor form – it’s hard to see where goals will come from, Tamas Priskin as their only recognised striker.

    18. Southampton – As a Southampton fan, this is me being at my most pessimistic. A lot of pundits are tipping us for the drop, but I can’t see this happening. We have a new Dutch set-up, which is largely unknown to most English football fans and we’re in financial trouble too. This means we’ll be relying heavily on youngsters this season, however what people may forget is that we have arguably the strongest academy in the division and most of our youngsters have been playing together for 3 or 4 years in a winning team, they know how each other play and this could prove to our advantage, especially as most teams won’t know much about our younger players. The return of Michael Svennson in defence is huge for us and if he can stay fit, this will prove to be like a new signing. Young midfielder Morgan Sneiderlin signed from France and he’s looks very impressive in pre-season and will be pulling the strings at the heart of our 4-2-1-2-1 system. Although we’ve hardly had many departures (Safri and Viafara so far, plus a few others that we’ve released), expect to see Skacel, Saganowski, Rasiak/John to follow, as we look to reduce our wage bill – this could be very problematic in the goal-scoring department as we may rely too much on young striker David McGoldrick. I can see us playing fast paced exciting football, which could see us vulnerable on the counter attack (that should be Ok though as most teams in this division lump it forward anyway and are unaware how to play fast counter attacking football), but our new system and the fact we’ll be playing players who have little championship experience, means that it really is a hard to predict where we will finish and I am being quite cautious at the moment.

    19. Sheffield Wednesday – Have pretty much the same squad that struggled last season, so I can’t see them drastically improving.

    20. Preston North End – Who will score the goals for Preston? (Hang on, I remember saying that before we lost to them 5-1 last season ha-ha) I think they’ve enough in them to stay up, the signing of Ross Wallace on loan is a decent one, but perhaps they should have signed a striker...

    21. Barnsley – Again, goals could be a problem, as they rely too much on Brian Howard in midfield. They’ve signed Iain Hume who is a decent capture and I think he can breathe a sigh of relief in May, as he personally avoids a second successive relegation (after last season with Leicester)

    22. Plymouth – have lost most of their key players in recent times. After losing Sylvain Ebanks-Blake and David Norris in January, how will they cope a whole season without them? They’ve just lost influential left winger Peter Halmosi too. I can see Plymouth being a surprise relegation team, as a team low on confidence from losing their best players and strike-force of Steven Maclean, Rory Fallon and Jermaine Easter, simply doesn’t deliver the goods. Sorry.

    23. Blackpool – They did well last season, but it’s hard to see where they can push on, especially after losing Wes Hoolahan and Kaspars Gorkks. They’ve also signed Jermaine Wright and Adam Hammill (Saints fans will know what I mean!!). Sorry.

    24. Doncaster – Did well to get promoted, but I simply don’t know enough about Doncaster to make an educated prediction on where they’ll finish. I think they will go down, but only have them bottom as I can’t think of anyone else realistically finishing bottom. Sorry

  • Comment number 83.

    I think everybody is forgetting actually how much cash was made in the premiership last year this was the first year of the big money sky deal. twenty five million pounds is what you are supposed to have got for playing there last year with big incrases also in parachute payments as well. If you were a well run club in the championship i.e learnt your lessons from the likes of our relegation debacle in 2004 (our first fifteen point tally), or leeds or even man city not to mention ITV digital then relegation should be nothing more than dissapointing as opposed to financialy crippling. The three clubs now have at their disposal financial rescources very few relegated clubs have had in the past, also a half decent transfere market to off load better players if they have too. If they are not their amongst it from the off then serious questions have to be asked about the setup and or managers.

  • Comment number 84.

    Royals fan here...

    It's gonna be tough for all us relegated teams.

    I think Brum look the strongest out of the three. Spent a bit of money and have acquired themselves some good players. Think Derby'll do ok but they really were poor last year. We were poor also and still managed to beat them comprehensively on the last day. They've got alot to do. They'll be ok, mid table I reckon but won't go up.

    As for us Royals... No idea. We've lost a couple of good players ie Kits, Shorey and Little. Although saying that we've got Marek Matejovsky who's proven class (thank GOD he got injured at the Euros!) and I think Cisse and Kebe will excell at Championship level. Proven scorers with Doyle and Lita/ Long. I think we'll be ok but I'd be happy with the playoffs.

    It's gonna be BLOOMIN 'ard!


  • Comment number 85.


    Not sure if this is the right place for this comment but here goes.....

    Can someone at the BBC tell me if there will be a "The Predictor" version for the Premiership matches this season that I've seen promoted for the SPL already?


  • Comment number 86.

    Birmingham and reading to bounce back up by automatic promotion and derby to finish higher mid table

  • Comment number 87.

    where r all the argyle fans?

    i think that we r bein very very underestimated. OK so last season for a long time it did look like that we would get something out of it. That defeat to pompey in the FA cup stil hurts - such a blatant penalty! but what goes around comes around i guess. I dont think that we will be as strong as last season but Sturrock has made a few clever signings - for example, weve just signed a 19 year old from manchester utd for 6 months. Maybe we wont be up 2 play-off standard this season but we wont be far off we wont go down i can promise you all that. Our players are probably unknown to a lot of you but we do have a lot of talent and a lot of passion. I just hope that the fans really get behind the lads this season and that starts tomorrow against wolves.

    1st - birmingham

    2nd - ipswich

    3rd - wolves

    4th - QPR

    5th - reading

    6th - sheffield united

    Argyle will finish mid tableish

    22nd - Barnsley

    23rd - Bristol City (no way will they have a gd season again)

    24th - Doncaster

  • Comment number 88.

    Re #68:
    duffman1990, are you Robbie Savage in disguise?

  • Comment number 89.

    birmingham and reading to go back up, thought birmingham might have to do it via the playoffs. QPR and Ipswich to fight those 2 for the places.

    Derby to finish bottom half of the table

  • Comment number 90.

    Birmingham will have no excuses for not getting promoted again with the squad they have.

    Derby should make the playoffs as well but Reading will struggle if they lose Shorey and Harper.

  • Comment number 91.

    I think Birmingham will win the Championship with Reading coming second. QPR, Charlton, Sheff United and Coventry will make the playoffs

  • Comment number 92.

    personally as a royals fan i fink we have the strength and believe in the squad to win the championship.birmingham will provide a steady fight as 2 will sheff united and crstal palace.
    Bristol city for relegatio they had a fluke of a season and wont get any luck this time around,

    cmon urzzzzzzz

  • Comment number 93.

    Derby fan here....

    We certainly are getting talked about a lot in this....

    A few things,

    First one, how anyone can say Forest have a chance and we don't is cleary mad? I'm not saying this because of our rivalry, Forest are a decent side, but they certainly haven't got a better chance than us...

    Jewell has got two unfashionable sides up before, Wigan and Bradford, doubt his credentials at your peril...

    And finally, our fans, are amonst the best in the world let alone the league..

    174miles (or whatever your name is) don't talk rubbish about Norwich or whoever, we have more ST holders than any other club averages in this league, we took 6,500 to Blackburn two months after we'd been relegated and we will sell out our ground week after week despite the embarrasment of last season...

    Part of me is glad your all ready for us to fail, because come 3pm we have the chance to prove you wrong, we might not get it right straight away, because they need time to gel, but come May, we'll be in the mix and some of you will have egg on your face!

  • Comment number 94.

    As a derby fan last season was a nightmare. I'm looking forward to this season, the CCC is so much more exciting, we could go up or we could go down....who knows, that's what makes it so good.

  • Comment number 95.

    Thanks to all those who think forest will do well, i agree (the only person on here who slated us is a sheep fan). Can i remind some people that is not "Notts Forest" its Nottm or Nottingham forest, Notts refers to the county and we wouldnt want that :)

    On a serious note, i think Birmingham and Reading will go back up with derby around 8th. Ipswitch may get the last spot. Forest will just miss out on the play offs (I hope, i dont want forest to be promoted and beat the sheeps worst ever season records in the prem)

  • Comment number 96.

    Thanks for all the comments - some really interesting stuff.

    And saintrich - that must be the most comprehensive answer I have ever seen (comment 82).

  • Comment number 97.

    i reckon birmingham will win da league
    nd bristol city second yea cum on bristol
    in da playoffs will b norwich watford reading and QPR nd reading will win
    derby wil finish 13
    i dnt no who will be relegated

    bt Bristol city will win da FA cup

  • Comment number 98.

    Is it possible to request to be added to the list of football blogs on the right-hand side of this blog. Many thanks!

  • Comment number 99.

    evry1 who doubted argyle shuld think twice nxt time b4 they slate us. wat a performance we gave against a very strong wolves side. our side stil isnt complete sturrock has sed he wants 2 or 3 more players in but graham stack wat a goalkeeper on a free transfer he got man of the match made some top quality saves. jason puncheon looked very lively wen he came on and we just seemed to gel. i dont think we wil go up but were not a bad team believe me. didnt see ebanks-blake all game he had a shocker haha


    wheres your handbag ebanks?

    UP THE GREENS! bring on ther eading we'll be there cheerin u on again

    wel dun 2 the argyle fans we rely got behind them 2day lets hope 4 a strong season

  • Comment number 100.

    174miles wrote: derby r no way the biggest club------

    we have the biggest fan base in the championship by a mile and probably the biggest bank balance overall. And this is just the championship. we were the best supporters in the pl lst season so who else gets any where near to us to being a bigger club than us???????

    As2 the article i think that birmingham wil b in play-offs, reading wil run away with the league easy and 4 us mighty rams i think we should b aiming 4 play-offs but we may just finish outside maybe 7th or 8th. Forest will never challenge 4 play-off wot a load of rubbish nd i can also see norich being ther nd abouts at the end of the season.

    CUMON YOU RAMS!!!!!!!!!!
    THE RAMS R GOIN UP!!!!!!!


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