Welcome to the 2016/17 season, a season that starts with some new branding so the Football League has an easy twitter hash tag so it isn’t deemed too irrelevant by football fans around the globe. Good luck if you’re attending a game and trying to see the number of the opposition player though.
So without further ado, let’s try get out pundits’ hat on and make some educated guesses on where the 24 Championship teams will finish this season. (Please note we are in no way affiliated with rent-a-gob Ian Holloway who has caused outrage with his daft Championship predictions – I mean Brentford, 22nd? I’ll have some of that cider he’s been drinking.)
Note: Before we get a stack of abuse, The Red Terrier would like to declare that he threw this together whilst eating his tea and watching ‘Stranger Things’ on Netflix… But it’s OK, despite taking little interest in what’s going on outside of HD1, he glanced at the Betfair Championship preview, so have no fear… He's not going to Holloway this.... Much. Well.... A little bit...
To predict how teams are going to do, we're going to try and follow some form of basic heuristics to see how well they could potentially do, it’s crude, but hey the episode only lasts for 47 minutes.
So Aston Villa… A grand old club who finds itself in the Championship after a prolonged strangulation of procession by their previous embittered emperor Randy Lerner. Imperialism was indeed his aim, yet in the end served as a comedy footnote to those on the blue side of Birmingham.
Villa the prime example of what happens to a club when they pay outrageous wages to bang average footballers. Did anyone ever expect the likes of Habib Beye and Karim El Ahmadi to be star players in a once secure Premier League side?
Right enough filling… How are they going to perform…?
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. Well, after smashing the Birmingham Golden Mile for the last 12 months, Gabriel Agbonlahor is on the shit list of every Villa fan. Add to that a lack of competitive action for Libor Kozak, all of the eggs looked like going into the baskets of Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede. However, possibly prompted through his wroth of Ian Holloway, the new Chinese owner has splashed the cash to land Ross McCormack – the best striker at this level over the last 3 seasons (bar Jordan Rhodes - he's the man).
Do they have a magician? POTENTIALLY. If he is allowed some space to develop, Jack Grealish has the potential to cause a number of problems for Championship defences.
Do they have a solid defence? PARTLY. Tommy Elphick should complement the likes of Okore, Richards and Bennett, although the loss of Ciaran Clark is not welcomed.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. Although, some of them appear to be on the wane somewhat and a little maligned by Villa fans. I’m looking at you Joleon Lescott and Alan Hutton.
Do they have a good manager? YES. One of two Champions League winners in this league – daft! Roberto Di Matteo is one of the more impressive appointments over this summer, and his lack of Championship experience should be tempered by his assistant Steve Clarke, who was unfortunate to find himself out of work after a steady job at Reading.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? GAINING. The Villa fans have been a little downtrodden over the years, although the recent takeover by Dr Tony Xia has intrigued some and now they are starting to flex some financial muscle some traction is gaining.
TRT: 6th - The Championship is a tough league, and I think Villa will find this out on a number of occasions. The new owner looks like he’s going to try and spend a little renminbi, which should help galvanise a disenfranchised supporter base. With Ross McCormack, he could be the difference between a middle of the road finish, and a jolt at the playoffs.
GM: 8th - Villa will be the new *insert former Premier League club of a decade ago who wasted money and experienced some financial issues*. They’re unlikely to challenge for promotion, unlikely to see two relegation's on the bounce.
It seems like an age ago since chants of “Yorkshire” echoed around the John Smith’s Stadium as both Town and Barnsley celebrated Peterborough getting relegated on the final day of the 2012/13 season. Seriously, does anyone actually like Peterborough?
Anyway, last season saw ‘The Blackarses’ go from the coal pits of despair, to a brass band laden final stanza in front of the Town Hall - think Brassed Off meets a night out in Blackpool. Two visits to Wembley, two wins, and an epic run from November onwards have seen ‘The Tykes’ rise back to a level they’ve spent most of their recent history struggling at.
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. With 37 goals in 2 season in League 1, it’ll be interesting to see if Sam Winnall can bridge the gap between the divisions, and provide the fire power to keep Barnsley stationed in the 2nd tier. Should he fail, then new signing Tom Bradshaw might not be a bad fall back, the Welshman has snaffled 40 League One goals in the last two seasons and like Winnall, is improving.
Do they have a magician? SORT OF. Adam Hammill can often be a clown or magician, depending on what’s going on inside his head… Perhaps no longer quick enough to terrify Championship defences like he once did, Hammill still has an array of tricks and a decent delivery. If Hammill goes paramental again, then Connor Hourihane can also provide quality from the middle of the park.
Do they have a solid defence? NO. With 54 goals conceded in League one last season, Barnsley’s defence can hardly be referred to as miserly… Alfie Mawson is a quality, improving centre back though, and should Barnsley keep hold of him he will be a key player.
Do they have strength in depth? NO. Having lost 4 of the 11 that started at Wembley, Barnsley haven’t been overly active in the transfer market. Should they have a spell of injuries, then you would presume that they may be a side to struggle with the new loan rules.
Do they have a good manager? UNPROVEN. Lee Johnson left midway through their promotion charge, but Paul Heckinbottom was able to steer The Reds home. Now in full time charge and tasked with building a new side for The Championship, Heckinbottom is pretty inexperienced, but last season should stand him in good stead.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. A double Wembley salvo has seen optimism at its highest for some time amongst Barnsley fans.
TRT: 20th – Despite the lack of depth and a rookie manager, Barnsley’s current hubris and goal output should see them to safety. Just about.
GM: Once again it will most likely go down to the wire for a side who will be constantly looking over their shoulders. The acquisitions of Tom Bradshaw and George Moncur look positive though. 21st
Under the stewardship of Gary Rowett, Birmingham have become one of those sides that you just hate to play against. Compact, defensive and difficult to break down, The Blues have finished 10th in the last two season on the back of being as tight as a mouse’s ear. Which in truth, probably belied the talent that they were able to put on the pitch. Rowett, though, from the outside seems to be a progressive manager with an identity, the perfect ingredients for a team going in the right direction.
Do they have a goal scorer? NO. With Donaldson possibly on the decline, The Blues (on paper at least) don’t seem to have a striker who could net 20 goals this coming season. Well James Vaughan could if managed to keep fit but there's more chance of Margot Robbie marrying David Jason.
Do they have a magician? POSSIBLY. David Cotterill is a solid if unspectacular wide man, but the main outlet could be Diego Fabbrini. If the Blues are to improve this season, then big things are needed from the 1 cap Italian International.
Do they have a solid defence? YES. Brum concede just 1 goal per game on average, and have some handy and experienced players within the backline. The signing of Ryan Shotton should strengthen this further.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. Birmingham are still possibly a striker light, but they do have a couple of experienced options all over the pitch – this should prove useful over the course of the season.
Do they have a good manager? YES. Probably the best pound for pound manager in the league is Gary Rowett – he has excelled in getting the best out of a resolute Birmingham side through sheer hard work and organisation. The Blues would be loath to lose their man, but should he keep this side in the top 10 again, then eventually someone higher up may start to ask for him.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NOT REALLY. With two mid table finishes under their belt, and with another expected, morale is probably where it should be amongst Birmingham fans. On the plus side, the club are starting to spend a little money again after the dark days of Carson Yeung, and they have the City derby against Aston Villa back. But on the flip side, not much is expected in the way of progression from 10th.
TRT: 8th – Without investment in a goal scorer, Birmingham may struggle to make it three top 10 finishes in a row, in what looks to be a stronger Championship. However, there seems to be money floating about which should allow Rowett to tweak a squad of which are masters at eking out wins.
GM: If the quality summer signings and the lack of any real investment into the squad are anything to go by then stagnation and a fall is inevitable for the blue half of Birmingham. If Birmingham were to match their points haul from last season, that would be quite an achievement. 15th.
There is a Bollywood Blockbuster in this story somewhere… Indian chicken farmers take over football club, raise hopes and expectations with Ronaldinho, but end up appointing village idiot and lose their Premiership status and two thirds of season ticket holders. Will this be a victory against all odds story? Well, probably not…. The Venky’s and Blackburn supporters continue to withdraw investment slowly, and something bad has been looming on the horizon for quite a while. Is this the year where everything implodes for Blackburn?
One things for sure It’ll be very interesting to see how the former Premier League champions (have you ever met a Rovers fan that hasn’t pointed that out?) will cope with the loss of Jordan Rhodes for a full season.
Do they have a goal scorer? NO. It has been commented in the past that the goals of Jordan Rhodes have kept Blackburn in this division. Now tasked with following in those unenviable shoes are Danny Graham and/or Anthony Stokes. In truth, Graham had a bit of a flurry at the end of last season, where his 4 goals in 4 games did somewhat mask his previous 3 in 27 (for Sunderland and Blackburn). Can he score the goals to keep Blackburn’s head above water? Since leaving Swansea in 2013 he has scored 16 goals in 101 games. He’ll need to get more than that next season. Stokes has never really done the business in England, but after a semi successful spell in Scotland, it will be interesting to see how he does.
Do they have a magician? POTENTIALLY. Blackburn may look towards their midfield for a saviour this season. Elliott Bennett, Ben Marshall, Liam Feeney and Craig Conway are all decent wide options at this level, and should they be able to supply a steady stream of chances for Stokes and Graham, they may yet be able to score enough goals to survive.
Do they have a solid defence? NOT REALLY. Blackburn were tough to break down under old manager Paul Lambert, but much of this was due in part to Grant Hanley. However, the talisman has been sold and so has solid left back Tommy Spurr. Much will fall on the shoulders of the experienced Elliott Ward, and fellow centre back Duffy.
Do they have strength in depth? NO. Owen Coyle has inherited a depleted squad and has been desperately trying to boost the numbers. Blackburn seem to lack some serious depth at the back and up front, and may look to bridge that gap with some players from their academy.
Do they have a good manager? NO. Well I guess the answer is subjective to be fair, I asked a Burnley fan for his opinion and was told “Good manager, but massively egotistical bell end”, and it’s the ego that sticks. Coyle did a fantastic job at Burnley and in his early days at Bolton. But since then, seems to have become a bit of a pompous twat in his latter jobs. (I apologise for the words, but having being raised in Kirklees, one does not have the breviloquence to know any better - RT.) Anyway, fans of Bolton, Wigan and Houston seem to be in accordance that Owen Coyle isn’t up to much.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NO. Only those Blackburn fans who have masochistic tendencies will be getting their jollies out of supporting their club at the mo. Petitions against the new manager, against the board and at last glance a record low in season ticket sales, things are not good at Ewood Park. If they get off to a poor start, then things would really hit the fan.
TRT: 23rd – Should Owen Coyle not suitably strengthen their squad, and charm the locals, then this could be a long season should injuries and/or lack of finances bite. On paper, the starting XI looks good enough to finish higher, but from the outside looking in, there is a real black cloud hanging over the club, and it looks like it could start pissing it down in East Lancashire.
GM: Another club destroyed by foreign ownership and have wasted millions on poor players. Will be another season of mid-table mediocrity over at Ewood Park. 16th
Ah, the team who always remind you to rewatch Aaron Sorkin’s Moneyball. Brentford went the way of statistics and algorithms to sign players but their foreign imports such as Phillipp Hofmann and Marco Djuricin failed to get to grips with Championship football.
There seems to be a little negativity around the Bees from the national media who’re doing their Championship previews, but I’m not sure I subscribe to it. Brentford looks to be a well-run club, with a driven and positive owner. Surely these ‘expert’ and ‘ex-pro’ pundits aren’t just singling out the smaller clubs for the old relegation tag? Let’s see…
Do they have a goal scorer?YES. A fully fit Scott Hogan could get quite a few goals over a full season. Doubts may remain over his fitness, and if he does succumb to a re-occurrence of his knee injury, then Brentford may be a bit short up front, although Lasse Vibe offers good support.
Do they have a magician? YES. Alan Judge has a hammer of a right foot, and was the top assister in the league last season. The jury is still out on whether they will keep the mercurial Irishman, but with his technical execution, Judge should preside over many set plays to keep Hogan and the like in action.
Do they have a solid defence? NO. Brentford try and play an expansive and attractive brand of football, which can often ‘leave the back door open’. This lead to The Bees conceding 67 goals last term, the 8th highest in the division. The defence was weakened when they lost keeper David Button to Fulham and Jake Bidwell to QPR, but they do have some good individuals still there, in the shape of Harlee Dean, and new signing John Egan should prove to be another good bit of lower league business.
Do they have strength in depth? NO. Should Brentford lose Hogan for an indefinite amount of time, then they start to look a little light up top. They do have an abundance of good midfielders, but also look a little light at the back if they have an injury blip.
Do they have a good manager? YES. Dean Smith proved himself to be one of the better managers in the lower leagues at Walsall, and built up the club from relegation survivors, to one that genuinely challenged for automatic promotion in League 1. So far at Brentford he has developed steady results and has a good win ratio of 41%
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. 8 wins in their last 10 league games has given Brentford a good platform to build upon for the upcoming season.
TRT: 15th – I don’t get the panic in the national media… Well I do, they’re often clueless and never do any real research. Brentford look slightly weaker than last season, but once again they’ve trawled the lower leagues, and in my opinion signed a few gems in Egan, Bentley and Sawyers. They may have a few rough spells should injury and suspension set in during busy periods, but if they get on a roll, and have a free injury run, then they should exceed this prediction.
GM: If Alan Judge can return from his horrific injury sustained at Ipswich then Brentford may be a force to be reckoned with. Outside shot the play offs? Money’s on mid-table. 11th.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Now Poyet has done one, The Seagulls are one of those clubs that the majority of people have a soft spot for. They’re like the Prince Harry of the football league, just less ginger. A friendly and decent bunch of supporters, but still suffering the disappointment of losing out last season to Middlesbrough in the race for 2nd, Hull City (ipso facto) in the playoff promotion race, and as runners up to Bradford in the Pretendance Awards.
P.s is there any other way of getting to Brighton via train that doesn't involve going on Southern rail? Asking for a friend.
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. Tomer Hemed scored 17 times last season, but the real coup for The Seagulls could be the return of Glenn Murray. A natural finisher, Murray’s natural instinct could make the difference between automatic and playoffs.
Do they have a magician? YES. Anthony Knockaert is an absolute wasp at this level, an absolute pest with a real sting. Directly contributing to 11 goals in 20 appearances, Knockaert is one to keep an eye on. If you manage to silence him, then Biram Kayal is also very creative in central midfield.
Do they have a solid defence? YES. It comes as no surprise that a team managed by the pragmatic Chris Hughton was the 4th most miserly Championship defence last time out. Lewis Dunk and Bruno Saltor are two of the best in their position in the league, and key players for Brighton.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. Not a mammoth squad by any stretch of the imagination, but Brighton have enough quality in the squad to ride through a crisis of injury, suspension or form.
Do they have a good manager? YES. Chris Hughton is a proven manager at this level, excellent since joining Brighton to add to the grand jobs he did at Newcastle and Birmingham.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NOT QUITE. Despite a 14 match unbeaten run, things didn’t quite go well for Brighton in the playoffs as Brighton stuttered at the last. A good early start would remedy that though.
TRT: 5th – Proven manager, proven Championship players, proven promotion challenger.
GM: 4th - If they hadn't drawn so many they'd have gone up last time round. Suspect they will fall short again to side with parachute payments and big sugar daddies.
Bristol City are like the boy who cried wolf… Attempts to improve themselves with a big domestic signing such as Andre Gray, Henri Lansbury and Zac Clough never seem to go through despite the twitter fanfare. So when City do get linked with a big name again, many just roll their eyes with a resigned ‘not this again…’. But Bristol City do seem to have genuine ambition, but at some point they’re going to have to pay the piper or continue to be an also ran.
However, where big ambition will get them is questionable, especially when their fans are going on local TV to complain about a £1 stealth ticket tax. Football fans love a good moan don't they.
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. 20 goal strikers are hard to come by, but Bristol City have found one in Jonathan Kodjia. The Ivorian grabbed 20 last season, and with Lee Tomlin supplying the bullets, he could go again.
Do they have a magician? YES. One good domestic signing that Bristol City did get over the line was that of Lee Tomlin. A proven Championship no10, Tomlin with a 1 in 3 goal scoring record has the ability to pull any Championship defence apart on his day.
Do they have a solid defence? NO. The Robins conceded the 4th highest amount of Championship goals last season, but have gone to plug the gaps over the summer by signing Hordur Magnussen and Adam Matthews.
Do they have strength in depth? NOT REALLY. Bristol seem to have a fairly decent starting XI, but it could only take an injury to Kodjia and Tomlin to derail them. A little more quality in centre midfield though, and they could be set.
Do they have a good manager? YES. It’s only an opinion but I’ve quite liked what I’ve seen of Lee Johnson so far. A solid job at Oldham was proceeded by a blip at Barnsley, but unlike many modern managers, Johnson was able to turn this around and shape Barnsley for the success they experienced last season. He has made a pretty good start to his Bristol City career, and should he keep improving he may pop up on the radar of other clubs.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. With a good finish to last season and the completion of Ashton Gate, there has been a feel good factor around the red side of Bristol which has seen an uptake in season tickets.
TRT: 14th – I think there will be both good and bad spells this season for Bristol City and there is a possibility here for an outside bet should they really click. However, looking at the squad, I’m not sure they have as much quality cover as what they will need when injury/suspension/rotation etc kicks in. A late surge to see them claim a top 10 spot.
GM: 17th - If Bristol lose Lee Tomlin for large parts of the season they may be struggling big time. Strength in depth will catch them up at some point during the season.
‘Awwww Burton Gor Bless em’ coo the patronising London-centric media. It seems if you’re north of Watford and don’t have City status, then you get the same old patronising clichés. Following hot on the ‘backwater’ heels of ‘Burnsley’ who’re currently being congratulated for indoor plumbing, electricity, and reaching the Premier League, Burton are getting the same treatment on a smaller scale. It is though, a great story and will be an interesting one to see how their season develops.
The reality is though most sides will look at their squad and think are any of them good enough to be in our team. Most sides will say no or come out with the phrases "who is he" or "that's where Lloyd Dyer ended up".
Do they have a goal scorer? NO. Ex Town academy player Lucas Akins hit 12 goals last term for Burton, but he’d have to raise his game to make that sort of dent this season – which is not to say that it’s impossible of course! Chris O’Grady has also joined on loan, and did quite well in an against all odds Barnsley team circa 2013, but has failed to do much since.
Do they have a magician? NO. Losing Mark Duffy will have been a bit of a blow. The tricky right winger waded in with 8 goals and 9 assists last season, and I’m not sure if they’ve replaced him sufficiently at this present moment.
Do they have a solid defence? POTENTIALLY. What Burton are, is a solid unit who defend, and work hard as a team. Ben Turner was a top centre back in this division a few years ago, and combined with Kyle McFadzean and tightest defence in League 1 last season, it looks like Burton could be quite the obstinate bunch.
Do they have strength in depth? NO. The Official site (not the best source of news) only lists 16 players at present.
Do they have a good manager? NOT REALLY. Experienced, and possibly a safe pair of hands, Clough has generally underwhelmed since leaving Burton for Derby in 2009.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. Two promotions in 2 years – you don’t get much more momentum than that.
TRT: 24th – Freedom from expectation could play a big part in their survival bid, but I just think it’s a case of too far too soon for Burton. They’ll be a tough nut to crack at times, and I think they’ll turn over some more established clubs, which no doubt the southern media will label as a giant-killing.
GM: 23rd - The only thing saving them from the wooden spoon will be a Warnock-less Rotherham. They'll chance their arm like Yeovil did for a while but the lack of quality will cost them in the end.
Do you remember when Cardiff changed their home kit to red because it was a lucky colour? You know the season they got relegated from the Premier League...
As a casual observer from time to time, Cardiff like too many other UK clubs, seem at the mercy and whim of colourful, yet at times batshit crazy owner, who perhaps is becoming a little bored of his toy. Is that fair? Harsh? I’m not sure, but the raft of expensive signings has slowed down since Vincent Tan took over his ‘red army’ and charged towards the Premier League.
Do they have a goal scorer? UNSURE. Anthony Pilkington top scored with 9 last season, which was part reason for Cardiff’s failure to reach the playoffs. Kenneth Zohore and Lex Immers don’t strike me as prolific, so much will be hoped for of new signing Frederic Gounongbe.
Do they have a magician? YES. In fairness Cardiff have several players who they can call on to create opportunities. The experienced Peter Whittingham, Joe Ralls, Craig Noone and the aforementioned Pilkington can all contribute in attacking areas.
Do they have a solid defence? MIDDLING. Cardiff were 11th in the Goals Against column last season, which to be fair is surprising considering some of the quality defenders they have at their disposal. Jazz Richards has arrived from Fulham, but I’m not convinced that he’ll help improve this area much. A change to a back 5 appears to be in the offing however, and an extra man at the back could help fill some holes.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. Cardiff are very well equipped in defence and midfield, and although possibly light up top, the squad looks a relatively strong one.
Do they have a good manager? UNSURE. Slade felt the noise, so the owner Vincent Tan has turned to a Trollope for this season. Paul Trollope cut his teeth at Bristol Rovers for 5 years and did a fairly decent job, and more recently was part of the Wales backroom at the Euros. However, Trollope has no Championship managerial experience, so this one seems to be a bit left field – which as a part time hipster, I like!
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? POSSIBLY. Welsh football is currently experiencing a period of self-appreciation after The Euro’s and Cardiff fans will hope to ride that wave into the new season. Cardiff themselves only won one of their last seven games at the end of the season, but there is a little optimism around Paul Trollope and a possible ‘Welsh 532’.
TRT: 11th – There might not be a lot of experience in the backroom, but there is a wealth of it out on the pitch, and players like Whittingham become invaluable over 46 games. Having said that, they’re a quality proven striker short for me.
GM: 10th - Lack of goals will be a killer for a squad that has got distinctly more average under Vincent Tan, especially when Slade took over.
What’s t’craic here? I’m not sure if Derby have got this back to front a little. This time last year they let an inexperienced manager go loco in the transfer market, yet appoint a proven one and we’ve not heard a little bo peep from them at all this summer… Although, when you look at their squad, perhaps Pearson was the final piece of the jigsaw. I mean spending £35million in the summer of 2015 and being a way off automatic promotion either means your recruitment is dire or your manager is... for their fans sake I hope it was down to the latter.
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. Chris Martin is an absolute beast at this level, 15 goals and 10 assists last season in what was perhaps an average season for him. Nigel Pearson should get the best out of Martin, but if he doesn’t then Ince, Russell, Blackman and several midfielders can weigh in.
Do they have a magician? YES. Pick one from Will Hughes, Jacob Butterfield, Tom Ince, Johnny Russell or Craig Bryson. Derby are littered with quality creative players.
Do they have a solid defence? YES. The 5th tightest defence in The Championship last season
Do they have strength in depth? YES. They easily have 2 decent players for each position.
Do they have a good manager? YES. 2 promotions (1 to the prem) and 2 Championship play off campaigns under his belt, Pearson is as proven as Derby could have got.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NOT REALLY. A disappointing playoff defeat still looms over Derby, but the new manager could inject a little life into the supporters, and maybe a transfer or two.
TRT: 4th – Despite the lack of transfer activity, Derby still have one of the better squads in the division. It’s a squad that might need a little time to adjust to Pearson’s ideas, and that might just mean it’s the playoffs and not auto’s this season.
GM: 2nd - I mean they have to do it this season don't they? Otherwise the money will surely start drying up at the iPro.
Michael Jackson statue and neutral supporter section…. Still carn’t speyk.
Ever since they reached the Uefa Cup final with the Owl in charge they've been on a downward spiral. Players leaving left right and centre, terrible ownership and some iffy managers too. As I type my knee's hurting - do I put an ice pack on it or cheese? Help, I'm confused.
Do they have a goal scorer? NO. With Ross McCormack signing for Villa, I don’t think there are any more serious goals in the side at first and second glance. Cauley Woodrow may be the saviour and had an OK time in the England Under 21 tournament win in Toulon but will get bag double figures? Doubtful.
Do they have a magician? YES. McCormack would have been in this section as well, but fortunately for Fulham they still have a good outlet in Tom Cairney. Cairney scored 8 goals and created 58 chances last season – stats a potential new striker would enjoy seeing.
Do they have a solid defence? NO. The third leakiest defence last season, which is a surprise, when you consider that it homes the likes of Tim Ream and Richard Stearman. David Button who is a decent keeper has arrived from Brentford, and should form a trio which should concede less than the 79 they did last season.
Do they have strength in depth? A LITTLE. Fulham’s squad seems to get smaller season on season, but they still have some competitive options in defence and attack.
Do they have a good manager? YES. I rate Jokanovic, a good manager that develops players, whilst getting them to play some attractive football. But with attractive and expansive football without McCormack and Dembele, Fulham may leave themselves open. Jokanovic will carefully need to manage the risk and reward factor so that Fulham are not outgunned.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NO. A poor season last year, and the loss of their talisman doesn’t constitute a happy place to be. Yet, the fan previews I’ve read from Fulham fans expect their charges to be in the top 6 – bit baffled by that to be honest.
TRT: 22nd – Team finishes previous season in 20th, loses best players, yet fans expect playoffs minimum… I’m not sure this has a happy ending. I’m going to stick my neck out and say a Fulham relegation will be the shock of the season. It shouldn’t, but could very well happen.
GM: 20th - Another year of struggle for the Londoners. Haven't got the players or the stability. Will be constantly looking over their shoulders trying to avoid having to play in the EFL Trophy in 17/18.
For some reason even those who claim to know about the football league have failed to see what is going on in Huddersfield. 13 new signings, an exciting identity and style, 15,000+ season ticket holders, a chairman with renewed vim and vigour…. Somethings about to go wrong isn’t it!?
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. Nahki Wells was the 5th highest scorer in the division last season with 17 goals. Whether they have the goals in other areas to back him up is the main worry.
Do they have a magician? POSSIBLY. There are several players who have the possibility to be Town’s creator in chief. Rajiv Van La Parra and Joe Lolley struggle for consistency, whilst Jack Payne and Kasey Palmer are unproven. It could be that Town will miss the guile of Jamie Paterson, although Aussie International Aaron Mooy looks like he could adequately fill the void and be the playmaker that Town will need in order to do well.
Do they have a solid defence? NO. The 6th worst defensive outfit last season, but Town have made moves to strengthen this area. Schindler, The Hef, Lowe and Stankovic have all come into the club, but are all unproven at this level. Joel Lynch will be a miss.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. One of Town’s failings last season was that at times players were blowing out of their arses due to their high pressing game. Town now have 2 players genuinely competing for every position which should provide some good rotation options, even if at this stage they may be a striker short.
Do they have a good manager? YES. I love this bloke, and nothing can dissuade me otherwise! Aside from relegation… Maybe.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. Despite a ropy end to the previous campaign, the large number of signings and season ticket drive has contributed to a sanguine status among Town fans.
TRT: 12th – Town look to have made some genuine improvements on the field, and I’m quite excited about the potential partnerships at centre back and in the double pivot. What stops me from predicting a higher finish, is that I don’t think we have the proven consistency that Jamie Paterson brought to our attacking trio behind Nahki, who himself has a question or two hanging over a longstanding knee issue. Should we however sign a quality forward prior to the window closing, then this could be our best season since the turn of the millennium.
GM 14th - This year is the year of transition. There are still too many average players with not enough end product in this squad and Town lack another option up front to change the game. The major worry is too many fans will be expecting more than what will actually be delivered. Patience required.
A team engineered specifically to deliver a high tractive effort at slow speeds, with the purpose of utilising direct hauling. Most commonly, they provide power and traction to mechanise agricultural tasks. Ok ok… This is a description of a Tractor, but whilst on the subject of identity I thought this was pretty spot on!
Do they have a goal scorer? POSSIBLY. Darryl Murphy enjoyed a real purple patch in 2014/15, but struggled to replicate that form for the majority of 2015/16. His 10 goals were a disappointment considering his plundering of 25 the season before. Brett Pitman is another who has been good for 10+ goals in the last 3 seasons, but The Tractorboys may need a few more if they’re to improve upon last season’s 7th place.
Do they have a magician? NOT REALLY. Built upon a tenacious and hard-working defence and midfield, Mick McCarthy’s direct style often needs no mercurial midfielder.
Do they have a solid defence? MIDDLING. The 11th tightest defence last year is an experienced one, but one starting to become susceptible to pace, especially the ball over the top.
Do they have strength in depth? MOSTLY. It looks like Ipswich have most of their bases covered, and some good academy products help in padding out an experienced squad.
Do they have a good manager? YES. Experienced, organised and dour. I just get the feeling that the locals are starting to tire of Big Mick’s pragmatic approach, and this could be one position that may attract some criticism this season.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NOT REALLY. I’ve seen one or two dissenting voices re the manager already and 2 wins in the final 8 of the season probably hasn’t helped.
TRT: 13th – Consistency can often be a good thing, but after 3 solid seasons, perhaps things will became a little more predictable at Portman Road and dare I say, stale.
GM: 18th - Lack of real investment into the side and a one dimensional style of play will be the end of the road for McCarthy I feel this season. Get the feeling they will struggle.
Ageing, looking tired, an over-inflated sense of self-worth, with a history of rumoured backhanders and crazy decisions. And I’ve yet to mention the owner. Garry Monk is an interesting appointment but how long will the former Swansea boss last with Captain Crazy steering the bad ship at Elland Road? Christmas dinner's on Stan Ternent if he sees in 2017.
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. For the outlay they paid, Leeds will be glad that Chris Wood contributed with a goal record of around 1 in every 3 games. If he receives the right service, he will look towards 20 for this season.
Do they have a magician? POSSIBLY. Kemar Roofe is the big money purchase of the summer, and the League 2 player of the year should, in conjunction with Stuart Dallas, provide the bullets (or nails) for Wood.
Do they have a solid defence? QUESTIONABLE. Marco Silvestri always seemed to be a bit of a match winner for Leeds, so I’m not sure if a declining Rob Green is a bit of a downgrade? Kyle Bartley should be a steady loanee, but Leeds fans still seem to want an addition to him at the back. 58 goals against last season suggests that they’re not a million miles away.
Do they have strength in depth? POSSIBLY. Despite losing Lewis Cook, Leeds do look to have some good options in midfield, although less so at the back and in direct competition to Wood.
Do they have a good manager? UNPROVEN. I’m going to be controversial and say that, whilst Garry Monk is exciting some of the media and locals, he is still relatively unproven. Riding on the coat tails of some good work by Laudrup, he secured a top finish for Swansea in his first and only full season as a manager. However, as things turned sour Monk seemed to lose the plot, and whilst launching into a continuous tirade against referee after referee, The Swans looked to be heading down, and with that, Monk lost his job. It will be interesting to see how he handles some adversity and pressure at Leeds.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NOT REALLY. The owner still continues to divide the masses, and campaigns against him continue (and funnily enough quieten down when he’s spending money) from some of the supporters groups. If Leeds are to have a successful season they need to unite at some point, otherwise in-fighting and squabbling could harm their chances.
TRT: 9th – Despite the split in the fan base, and the accusations levelled at the owner, Leeds do seem to steadily improve their team year on year under the Italian madcap maverick. This season’s side has creativity, a couple of match-winners and a little experience. However, they’re probably short in one or two areas to make a concerted and long standing charge for the top 6 over the course of a full season.
GM: 9th - They'll fall short of the play-offs again. A better prediction will be the meltdown of several fans after the odd heavy defeat, Cellino going through another manager and someone pointing out this would never happen in Don Revie's day.
If you listen the media and the locals, Newcastle are going to piss it this season… And they’re probably right. The players they are selling were the inconsistent flair ones who couldn't hack it week in week out and they've managed to use that money to good use so far.
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. Pick any one of Mitrovic, Gayle or Perez. They should all score goals this season – even Adam Armstrong is a wildcard possibility.
Do they have a magician? YES. Pick any one of Sissoko, Gouffran, Perez or Matt Ritchie. Serious squad envy here.
Do they have a solid defence? YES. Decent under Rafa in the prem, The Geordies have strengthened the backline by signing Blackburn captain Grant Hanley. It may not prove to be such a key issue given their quality going forward anyhow.
Do they have strength in depth? SHIT YES. An abundance of players for Rafa to pick from, he could probably field another team from his u23’s which would finish in the top 10. Serious squad envy continues.
Do they have a good manager? YES. Not only a good manager, but a Champions League winning one. Mind you he still looks like a fat Spanish waiter.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. Unusually for a relegated side, Newcastle fans are full of beans (or Pan Heggarty) for the upcoming season. There's seemingly no fog on the Tyne, just yet...
TRT: 1st – To be fair, they should waltz this.
GM: 1st - If Newcastle don't go straight back up then there is something deeply wrong at that club. Well there is Mike Ashley but you know what I mean.
Perennial yo-yo’ers seeking to yo back up to the big league. Will Ed Balls' side balls it up or will Delia be giving it the big one with Stephen Fry at the end of the season. I think we all want to see the later, especially after some champers.
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. No stranger to banging goals in at this level, Cameron Jerome returns to The Championship once again, and he along with Scotsman Steven Naismith should keep Norwich in the goals.
Do they have a magician? YES. Probably more so than any other side in the league. Norwich can call upon the creativity of Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Brady, Graham Dorrans, Sergi Canos and potentially Alex Pritchard should that transfer go through.
Do they have a solid defence? YES. The likes of Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Turner and Ryan Bennett have all previously excelled at this level.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. Ridiculous strength in midfield, although Norwich fans are still asking for another striker to be brought in.
Do they have a good manager? YES. It’s good to see Norwich sticking with Alex Neil after he got them promoted last time. Neil is one of the LMA’s young hopes, and he’s shown up well since moving down from Scotland.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? TENTATIVE. Norwich fans still seem to be hung up on needing another striker. But in Jerome and Naismith, they should be ok for now, although I would expect there may be another before the end of the window.
TRT: 3rd – The signing of Pritchard could be a masterstroke by the manager. Not only does it add a quality player to their ranks, it has also stopped a potential move to Brighton, who would have been a lot stronger had they secured him. Playoff winners.
GM: 3rd - While they have pretty much kept the same squad together, Nathan Redmond aside, they have also stregthened in certain areas. Only issue for me is a really good striker - Jerome misses far too many sitters.
I’ve not idea what’s going on here, they’re getting bought out, they’re not getting bought out, they’re buying, they’re not buying… It all seems to add to a period of uncertainty. The main issue with uncertainty is that it spreads too, if the players aren't with the club all hell could break loose.
Do they have a goal scorer? POSSIBLY. If he can get back to full fitness, then Britt Assombalonga is a potential 20 a season striker.
Do they have a magician? YES. Despite being constantly linked with a move elsewhere, Henri Lansbury is still at the club and if utilised correctly, can be a quality performer.
Do they have a solid defence? MOSTLY. The 9th best defence last time out, Forest’s problems weren’t so much as keeping the ball out, as getting it in at the other end.
Do they have strength in depth? POSSIBLY. The owners have been withdrawing funds at the City Ground, but the former champions of Europe still have several strikers and defenders to call upon.
Do they have a good manager? UNPROVEN. Philippe Montanier looks to be an intriguing appointment, having previously managed in France and Spain. However, I couldn’t find that much info in his record via a 1 minute google search, so for me he is still a little unproven, especially at this level.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NO. Confusion and no real sign of boardroom leadership leads me to think that there could be a few dark clouds looming on the horizon.
TRT: 19th – It’s not a question of player talent, but the lack of direction and funds at the top, make me think this won’t be an easy season for The Tricky Trees.
GM: 22nd - The last year or so at the City Ground has been a farce. No real team building, no direction, nothing. That for me is heading in one direction. Relegation.
Preston North End
Pound for pound Preston’s 11th place finish was probably the best achievement in The Championship last time out. This was a victory for Simon Grayson’s consistency and organisation, and even more surprising considering that they looked like one of the worst sides to visit HD1 last season. However, the main questions that'll be asked is have they developed as a side from last time out, if not the lower echelons of the division may be looming.
Do they have a goal scorer? NO. Midfielder Daniel Johnson was last season’s top scorer with 8 goals. Joe Garner’s 6 goals was probably a disappointment seeing as he scored 27 in their promotion season. Can Beckford still cut the mustard at this level too?
Do they have a magician? POSSIBLY. Paul Gallagher had somewhat of a Championship renaissance last season, and between him and Daniel Johnson, they provide enough quality into the box for the rest to attack.
Do they have a solid defence? YES. The 6th best defensive record last season, PNE’s defence on paper looked a bit League 1 with Tom Clarke and Paul Huntingdon at the back. However, they moulded into a very tough unit, and this is one which has been improved further by the signing of Tommy Spurr.
Do they have strength in depth? POSSIBLY. PNE have a lot of striker, but none of them really looked like breaking into double figures last season. Centre of midfield looks a little light, but the rest of the squad looks well covered.
Do they have a good manager? THINK SO. Grayson always seemed to be a bit hit n miss at Leeds, Blackpool and Huddersfield, but he’s done a consistently good job at Deepdale. Is he due a blip?
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. Preston’s best finish for 10 years should have provided the supporters with a lot of pride last season, especially when you factor in the relative budgets.
TRT: 16th – It’s always tougher second time around, and the lack of a goal scorer makes me think that Preston might struggle for back to back top half finishes.
GM: Second season syndrome will hit and the lilywhites will struggle this time round. Nobody really stands out from their squad and that may be the major issue for them. 19th.
Queens Park Rangers
After a few crazy years at QPR, realism and consolidation seems to be the order of the day. As the club grounds its feet, it should be something that sets the club up well to move forward. Questions still remain over Hasselbaink as a manager and whether he is the right man to lead them forward.
Do they have a goal scorer? NO. Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips have moved on, meaning that Tjaronn Chery was the only player still at the club who scored 10 goals last season.jo
Do they have a magician? YES. The aforementioned Chery is a player with a lot of intelligence, and he has good movement and technique, which is difficult to defend against.
Do they have a solid defence? YES. QPR have improved upon a defence that conceded only 54 goals last season. The signings of Joel Lynch, Jake Bidwell and Jordan Cousins are good pieces of business, and should help create a mean defence. Jack Robinson is also back from a long injury layoff.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. A fairly strong squad and plenty competition for places. That is always healthy.
Do they have a good manager? POSSIBLY. Jimmy Floyd did a great job at Burton, but his start at QPR is less conspicuous. He looks like he’s working on a settled and solid side, which should stand them in good stead.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NO. Only 2 wins in their last 8 of last season has set expectations to be quite low this time around. However, QPR’s results look quite solid in pre-season with a win over Watford catching the eye.
TRT: 10th – I don’t expect them to consistently pepper the playoffs, but QPR look quite a well organised and set side to me. Defensively they have a number of good options, as they also do in midfield. They do though lack a goal scorer, and it could be that which holds them back. Although, Connor Washington has improved quite a lot since joining from Peterborough and he could surprise a few next season.
GM: 12th - Something about QPR thinks they will surprise a few people this season. Plenty of Championship experience running through the side, it's just whether they can find a creative spark in their team to push them forward.
They may have foreign investment and have hired a manager who is definitely a leader but Reading are somewhat in transition and Japp Stam has already told fans not to expect any sort of play-off push this season. Players are leaving left right and centre and time is running out to gel a side together.
Do they have a goal scorer? NO. Having lost the not so prolific Hal Robson-Kanu and Matej Vydra, Reading don’t look to have a forward that will get into double figures this coming season. Joseph Mendes is a new signing and hope, but his previous record doesn’t scream ‘prolific’.
Do they have a magician? POSSIBLY. On their day Garath McCleary and Danny Williams can be effective players at this level, but I’m not sure that they have a consistent creative force now that Ollie Norwood has gone.
Do they have a solid defence? MIDDLING. Reading only conceded 59 goals last season, although they will have to do this without the experience of Anton Ferdinand who has left on a free.
Do they have strength in depth? NOT REALLY. A once strong, fresh out of the Premier League squad, now seems to be a smaller and inexperienced one.
Do they have a good manager? UNPROVEN. Jaap Stam enters his first managerial job after being an assistant at Ajax and Zwolle.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? NO. A 17th place finish and losing a couple of players, you could forgive the Reading fans for being a little flat at present. However, the ones I have spoken to are quite impressed with Stam and are expecting a top 10 finish.
TRT: 18th – An inexperienced manager and shrinking squad could either make for a romantic story of triumph, or more likely a disappointing season.
GM: 13th - I have a gut feeling Stam will surprise a few this season, he just need to make some more headway into the transfer market and build a strong defensive unit - if anyone can, he can.
Neil Warnock held the great escape last season and gave a side purpose and direction. However, his departure means another new era in the form of former Everton centre-half Alan Stubbs. You know the one that wasn't quite as good as David Weir. Truth be told, if the millers survive another year in the second tier, it will be an amazing achievement.
Do they have a goal scorer? NO. Matt Derbyshire top scored last year with 8, but he has moved on, and Rotherham will look to ex Terrier Danny Ward to improve on his 4 goals last season.
Do they have a magician? NO. Although the signing of Jake Forster-Caskey could be an interesting one. Danny Ward again may be key, topping their assist charts last time out.
Do they have a solid defence? NO. 71 conceded last season was one of the worst in the league, and Rotherham haven’t improved their backline this summer.
Do they have strength in depth? NO. One of the smallest budgets in the league doesn’t lend itself to much strength in depth.Any major injury crisis and Rotherham could fall way behind their rivals.
Do they have a good manager? UNPROVEN. Alan Stubbs seemed to do a reasonably good job at Hibernian over the last 2 years but is just cutting his teeth for the first time south of the border. Let's face it he could've chosen a better club to start at!
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. Neil Warnock took Rotherham on an incredible run, and secured a very unlikely Championship survival. Rotherham need to ride that into the new season.
TRT: 21st – Everyone is predicting Rotherham to go down, and I can see why. Not much quality nor strength in depth should mean a monumental struggle. However, they have survival experience, and from day 1 Rotherham know exactly what their modus operandi is. If Alan Stubbs proves to be a duff appointment, I could see Steve Evans riding back into town on a white horse to keep them up at the death.
GM: 24th - The definition of relegation fodder. Hardly any improvements to the squad and losing their biggest asset, the manager. I just cannot see Rotherham surviving again.
They’re way too massive for us to write about…. All we can say is they will still be the dominant force in Sheffield come May 2017.
Do they have a goal scorer? YES. They’ve actually got about 4 players who can comfortably find the back of the net… Gary Hooper, Fernando Forestieri and Lucas Joao are all very capable in front of goal.
Do they have a magician? YES. Love him for his skill factor or loathe him for his synchronised cheating, Fernando Forestieri is a genuine class act. 15 goals and 6 assists bely the other factors he brings to the Sheff Weds team. Hopefully he gets back from the Olympics in time for the start of the season, Wednesday will need his triple pike.
Do they have a solid defence? YES. The joint 6th best defensive team last time out has been strengthened with the signing of Daniel Pudil.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. Strength all over the park, and a number of genuine alternatives in midfield and up top.
Do they have a good manager? YES. Carlos Carvalhal was a bit of a left field appointment at the time… Out of work for 3 years due to a legal dispute, but very popular and active prior. He’s set about reinventing the style at Hillsborough and has created a very effective outfit.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. A couple of good signings in Fletcher and Abdi have seen the expectations raise after last year’s playoff final defeat.
TRT: 2nd – Carlos had a dream blah blah, build a football team etc etc… To be fair, he seems to be building a good one, and one that is possibly a centre back away from a sustained promotion assault. I think he’ll be backed to make the right additions, and Sheffield Wednesday have the momentum and quality to go one better than last year.
GM: 5th - Just shy in a couple of areas for me to be a side capable of challenging automatic promotion. However, I like what they re doing and I think Steven Fletcher is one of the signings of the summer so far.
We’ve just about forgotten the Will Grigg song, but here come The Latics to remind us again… "More and more, he'll just score more and more". Well we'll just have to wait and see!
Do they have a goal scorer? POSSIBLY. Despite being ablaze, Grigg scored 28 times last season. He’s never really had an opportunity to do it at Championship level, but is coming towards some peak years, so you would expect him to now make the leap.
Do they have a magician? YES. Nick Powell has had a rocky few years, but the ex-Crewe no10 performed quite well for Wigan at this level last time out, and they will expect more than he produced at Hull.
Do they have a solid defence? POSSIBLY. The third tightest defence in League 1 last season. Jake Buxton should add a little quality to it, and Stephen Warnock some experience, although I’m not a big fan of Dan Burn who has joined from Fulham.
Do they have strength in depth? POSSIBLY. Wigan seem to be quite well stocked with midfield and defensive alternatives, but they may need to add to their striking options to keep Grigg fresh. Or on fire...
Do they have a good manager? UNPROVEN. Gary Caldwell did a quality job in his maiden season, but with just that 1 campaign under his belt, remains a little inexperienced. He does though have plenty playing experience at this level.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. That damn song, along with a convincing promotion season should carry Wigan through to this season.
TRT: 17th – Wigan could possibly push on further, but I’ve gone with a conservative estimate for now. They should have too much quality and momentum to be involved in a relegation scrap anyway.
GM: 7th - My surprise package for this season. I think they are riding a crest of a very good wave and if they get one or two more additions right they will be knocking on the door for the play-offs.
The latest club to be bought by The Chinese. The Fosun group have purchased Wolves and so far have said some very encouraging things. Perhaps the good times could return to Molineux? More likely it'll all go tits up and they'll be back in League One.
Do they have a goal scorer? POSSIBLY. If they can keep him fit, Nouha Dicko has the ability to score 15+. Still haven't really replaced Afobe's goals though.
Do they have a magician? YES. Last season was a breakthrough one for talented winger Jordan Graham, he will be missing with a knee injury until October time, but should he come back and regain fitness, he will be a very tough player to stop. James Henry is also a good creative player.
Do they have a solid defence? POSSIBLY. 58 goals last season wasn’t too bad, and a backline consisting of Mike Williamson, Danny Batth and Kortney Hause should be resolute enough.
Do they have strength in depth? YES. Wolves have a lot of competitive options in defence and midfield, but could possibly do with a front man to finally replace Benik Afobe.
Do they have a good manager? UNSURE. Kenny Jackett was quite a solid manager, and Wolves have rolled the dice a bit with Walter Zenga. His record looks a little sketchy on paper, so I’m not sure how this will go.
Do they have momentum or a feel good factor? YES. The takeover has brought a lot of optimism amongst Wolves fans who’re excited with what the new season may bring.
TRT: 7th – I was impressed with what The Fosun Group had to say, and although I don’t know much about Zenga and these Portuguese players who’re incoming, some good times could be on the horizon. I’ve gone for an improved finish of 7th, based on money available, but I think this year may come a little early to prepare themselves for a promotion charge.
GM: 6th - If the new owners pull of some of the transfer coups that have been suggested then Wolves could well be mixing it in the top six. Many questions need answering though but if they get it right I expect a promotion push.
So there you have it - a more educated and comprehensive look at the Championship season than rent-a-gob Ian Holloway will ever be able to give. Enjoy the season and don't hold us to any of these predictions.