Image Credit: Lufc83
The Championship is back again as 24 teams dream of getting to the top flight with all of the riches that come with it. The season gets underway tomorrow when newly-promoted Luton Town host Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough, so now is the best time to look at each of our competitors and predict with 0% accuracy about how the league will look after 46 games (for reference, I said 16th placed Stoke would win the league last year). Here’s how I think the league will finish in reverse order.
24th - Charlton Athletic
After a more than unpredictable Play-Off Final against Sunderland, Charlton return to the second tier. Lee Bowyer has done a great job in spite of the adversity (I wonder if the Charlton youth players are allowed water this year? One can hope). Unfortunately, contender for worst owner in football Roland Duchâtelet has still not left and only £200k spent on transfers doesn’t instill much confidence. As good as Bowyer is, this is going to be a tough season. It will take several miracles (or Duchâtelet leaving as fast as possible) to keep Charlton in the second tier. As a Leeds fan, I’ve been through several owners like him and I truly sympathize with the proper fans, best of luck, we’ll all celebrate when he leaves.
23rd - Reading
Reading barely survived last year and I don’t see this season being better, Reading are so uninspiring that I’m putting them down for the drop.
22nd - Wigan Athletic
Wigan have lost the cornerstone of their defence in Reece James and their creative maestro in Nick Powell. They have made some signings like Antonee Robinson and David Marshall, but they’re still worse off and I’m struggling to put Luton, Barnsley, Millwall or Birmingham in their place. Their the last man standing and therefore, are my pick to fill the final relegation spot.
21st - Millwall
Last season’s 21st was unsurprising. I said Millwall needed players and they have done that, they may have lost a lot of big players on free transfers but have done well to bring in Connor Mahoney and my favourite Matt Smith (I miss him more than his talent should allow me to). There are worse teams in the Championship. I do think Milwall can just avoid the drop again.
20th - Barnsley
Boing boing Barnsley are once again back in the second tier, finishing 2nd in League One last season. Head coach Daniel Stendel is seemingly proving that any team wanting to do well should follow the example of Huddersfield and hire an unknown manager with little experience in Germany. They’ve signed some players who add quality but nonetheless miss Championship experience, whilst having lost Adam Davies and Ethan Pinnock to Stoke and Brentford respectively. Barnsley will struggle in their return to the second tier and will be in the mix for relegation, but there are worse sides, they have a chance of staying up.
19th - Luton Town
Luton were last at this level in 2006/07 (and I'd rather not talk about that season), they have recovered brilliantly since their 30 point deduction and National League days. It’s also always nice to go to Kenilworth Road, one of the more unique stadiums in the league (to get into some parts of the stadium, you have to walk over peoples back gardens).They’ve made some impressive signings (Galloway and Butterfield stand out), but I’m worried about them losing James Justin and Jack Stacey. There’s definitely talent in this squad, maybe it’s because I like them (for their comeback) but I really do think Luton can survive the drop.
18th - Birmingham City
If you recall my Championship review in June, I congratulated Gary Monk for steadying the ship at Birmingham. That didn’t last long did it. Monk has gone, supposedly after a disagreement over recruitment strategy which has left his former assistant at Birmingham, Leeds, and Swansea in charge, the incredibly likeable Pep Clotet. I wish him all the luck in the world, and he’s going to need it. Birmingham have lost Che Adams and Jota to the Premier League, their big signing is young Croatian Ivan Sunjic who should be very good at this level. I love Pep Clotet as much as any Leeds fan who preferred him over Monk. On paper, there are worse teams at this level and I, therefore, think they can just about survive.
17th - Queens Park Rangers
QPR have got younger this year and brought in manager Mark Warburton, who specialises in youth (and annoying me). They’ve lost Luke Freeman but kept Eze and brought in a lot of new young faces.
16th - Preston North End
It’s been a quiet offseason at Deepdale, except for midfielder Ben Pearson promising to stop getting booked so that his mum comes back to games, and their friendly against Bolton being cancelled after the latter club’s financial issues continue to get worse. Preston have lost Callum Robinson to Sheffield United and have only brought in uninspiring transfers such as David Nugent and Patrick Bauer. Preston have also got worse in my opinion.
15th - Swansea City
Swansea’s COO has been saying that they can return to the Premier League under their American ownership. The Championship now is a league that you usually have to spend to get out of (yes I know Cardiff and Huddersfield didn’t but they are the exception and not the rule). Swansea have not been doing any of this spending. Losing Dan James and (inevitably) Oli McBurnie is going to be a big blow and new boss Steve Cooper will have to do incredibly well to be as good as Graham Potter.
14th - Sheffield Wednesday
Steve Bruce did a lot for the Owls last season, but as soon as a better opportunity arises, he again resigns to take the new job. Sheffield Wednesday have rightfully reported Newcastle over the hiring as a breach of poaching rules. Lee Bullen, who has been with the club for a long time, is currently caretaker manager. The owls have not spent any money on transfers, which is surprising as the club has just sold the stadium to themselves for £38m (how this is still allowed is beyond me).
13th - Hull City
I don’t know if the Allams want to invest in Hull, but I do know that former manager Nigel Atkins resigned because he didn’t like the amount of resources he was going to receive (more bad owners). Hull have done well to get Grant McCann in as manager who did well with Doncaster Rovers last season. The other reason for Hull fans to celebrate is that whilst the new signings might not be brilliant, they’ve kept Bowen and Grosiki, their best players from last season. (Also want to mention that kit which is up there with Huddersfield’s kit for best of the season).
12th - Blackburn Rovers
Blackburn did well last year to finish as the best of the promoted sides in 15th. They’ve made shrewd signings including Sam Gallagher (who was on loan last season) and Bradley Johnson (who probably called his new team Blackburn United) but have lost goalkeeper David Raya. Still, good business for a side on a limited budget.
11th - Nottingham Forest
Well, it's definitely been an interesting summer at the City Ground. After reportedly facing a squad mutiny, O’Neill has gone almost as fast as he came. The new manager is Sabri Lamouchi, a man who has managed the Ivory Coast and Rennes in the past. As well as that there were rumors that owner Fawaz Al-Hasawi had stolen one of the club’s FA Cups. They’re not able to spend but have at least done well in bringing Albert Adomah and Muric from Man City, they have lost Ben Osborn though.
10th - Middlesbrough
The biggest win of the offseason at the Riverside was the departure of Tony Pulis. A man who makes football as exciting as watching paint dry. It was a very interesting choice to give the role to former player Jonathan Woodgate and he’s been saying the right things in pre-season. What concerns me is not the manager but the squad. Middlesbrough relied heavily on their defence last year, yet have lost Aden Flint to Cardiff. They’ve also not brought in a striker, so they need to hope that Assombalonga and Fletcher can play up to their potential. The biggest worry though is squad depth. There are currently 18 players in the first team and too many questions to make Middlesbrough a Play-Off contender.
9th - Derby County
STOP CRYING FRAN… Oh, he’s gone. How he got the Chelsea job is still beyond (yes I know it’s mostly his status from his playing days, shut up). Derby seem to have got themselves a good replacement though in former Barcelona and PSV player Phillip Cocu. I said they were a few transfers away last year, but the signings of Shinnie and Dowell alone do not inspire too much confidence. They are the first of the teams I would consider Play-Off contenders, but I’m still not sure about them.
8th - Cardiff City
Welcome back lads. There was little hope of Cardiff staying in the top flight last year as they were just a strong Championship team. Turns out that does help at this level. Neil (or Colin) has done this so many times he could get promotion in his sleep, the additions of Aden Flint and Will Vaulks only further bolster the squad. We might soon have the boing boing bluebirds. The Play-Off picture is packed though, hence only eighth. Cardiff could again prove me wrong but I think they’re also just on the outside right now.
7th - Bristol City
More progress made at Ashton Gate, they’ve lost Lloyd Kelly for £13m to Bournemouth but spent that money wisely on Tomas Kalas, Jay Dasilva, and Daniel Bentley. They finished 8th last season and with an improved squad, could make some noise this time around. The Robins were very solid last season and have made the right moves this season, the Championship is stronger though, they’re right in the Play-Off picture, but I think they’ll just miss out.
6th - West Brom
Slavan Bilic is back in football and this time with the Baggies. West Brom have had an impressive window, with Zohore, Sawyers, and Ajayi being the standout signings. Even with the loss of Craig Dawson and Jay Rodriguez, West Brom can be optimistic for the upcoming season and I think they’ll just make the Play-Offs.
5th - Huddersfield Town
Well, most of their offseason has been in marketing (I wrote an article on why their marketing campaign for the new shirt was genius, which can be read here https://nouse.co.uk/2019/07/19/huddersfields-kit-marketing-was-genius). Jan Sieward is another relatively untested manager and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the Championship, good transfers have been made on a limited budget (especially Reece Brown from Forest Green) and there have been few losses.
4th - Leeds United
The white smoke rose, VAMOS LEEDS CARAJO, Bielsa is back for another year after a successful first year and the next Amazon documentary around the corner. Keeping El Loco is the signing of the season for Leeds. I said last year that they needed to spend on players as well though and unfortunately, I’m not entirely convinced, yes Helder Costa and Ben White are good signings but are they enough? (Oh, and happy 100th Birthday, have a grey and pink away kit). I don’t care what everyone else says, I don’t think they’ll be close to winning the league and Play-Offs should be the aim.
3rd - Stoke City
I’m worried about making any big claims about Stoke after being burned by them last season. They’ve made some exceptional signings including Nick Powell (on a free), Adam Davies and Tommy Smith to name a few. They haven’t lost any of their big names (which you could see as a positive or a negative based on last season) and Nathan Jones has adapted to the league well. I hope that me giving them this prediction doesn’t come back to bite me but they should be in the promotion race … emphasis on should.
2nd - Brentford
Last year I said that Brentford needed to keep hold of their main players to have any chance of progressing into the Play-offs, they may have lost Esri Konsa and Daniel Bentley, but have kept Watkins, Maupay and Canos. As well as this, they have added with Pontus Jansson, David Raya and Ethan Pinnock being some of their captures. If Brentford can play all year like they did at home last year, they’ll be right in the race. The Bees have the squad now, if Thomas Frank can continue to improve as a manager and bring this squad together, then they’re big contenders for promotion to the Premier League.
1st - Fulham
It’s not what you spend but how you spend it, Fulham exhausted the bank last year with £100m of signings and have therefore not spent a penny this year, but have arguably done more for their squad with the loan signings of Cavaliero and Knockaert, with minimal losses, they might have the strongest team in the league on paper. There are no excuses, Scott Parker has to make this work and fast, if he does, they can win the league.