Sunday, 19 June 2011

Early review of English Championship

Following the release of the fixture list on Friday we can now increase our excitement towards the new season just another notch!

Today I will turn my attention to the Championship and look to see if I can find a couple of teams that might be involved in the race for the top spot!

Firstly I will consider the stats for the past few seasons. Last season QPR cam to the front of the pack, boosted by the enigmatic Niel Warnock and the money from the Italian motorsport kings. Despite some nervy moments concerning court cases QPR ended up picking up the league and head to the premiership. QPR finished 14th the previous season, this was the lowest position for a team winning the league in the next season.

Before QPR the previous 6 seasons has seen a team win after either being relegated or failing in the play offs! Using this theory we only have 6 teams that statistically will win the league. That should make things much easier for us knowing this fact! Firstly we need to consider whether there are any sides that meet the QPR profile - ie up and coming with lots of money. Leicester City match the profile and also match the ambition. Leicester are owned by a Thai consortium and managed by the ex England manager Sven Goran Eriksson. Leicester had a reasonable second half to the season and seem all set to have a tilt at premiership football in the near future. The question will be do Leicester have the buying power of the relegated teams? Specifically West Ham and Birmingham? The bookies seem to think that they can and have Leicester as the 6/1 favorites. For me, its still too early to tell whether the money will come in big enough chunks to push Leicester up to the top spot.

More likely are the chances of Birmingham. Here we have a team that only got relegated on goal difference and should have been safe by the end of April. Once the League cup was won in amazing circumstances against Arsenal the team seemed to lose sight of the main focus of avoiding relegation. The resignation of Big Ek last week as he created a move to Aston Villa has not gone down well in either fanbase, however this creates a new opportunity for Birmingham. The last 2 times Birmingham were relegated they got promoted the following season, however they didn't finish as champions. We will need to see who the manager will be before we can decide whether to back Birmingham for the champions spot, so this is a wait and see!

West Ham are probably the big name to arrive in the Championship this season. They have had a dreadful couple of years and will be desperate to get up at the first attempt. They have appointed Sam Allardyce as their new manager. I think this is a shrewd move as Big Sam is a great motivator, and is able to get the best our of players. He also has some very loyal players and Kevin Nolan has already moved across to join the revolution at West Ham. I expect West Ham to go very close assuming there isn't too much interference from the West Ham board. If they get off to a good start I expect West Ham to run away and win this league comfortably. This is a very competitive league but as Newcastle showed a couple of years back, if you can keep the majority of your premier league squad together and have a good manager at the helm it possible to do well at this level.

Blackpool were the third side relegated from the premiership. They were a joy to watch and I hope that Ian Holloway can keep the team together and have another crack at the promotion race, it would be great to see them go up again. The problem facing Holloway is the fact that teams like Swindon,Crystal Palace, Burnley, Hull and until this year Norwich have all tasted premier league wine but have never managed to get back again.

As I said at the beginning the league winnner is expected to come from the relegated clubs or from the clubs losing in the playoffs.

Cardiff have failed in the playoffs for the past 2 seasons and have installed Malky Mackay as their new manager - stripping Watford of a manager in the process! Cardiff will again go close and maybe even get promotion this time around. Reading had an amazing last 1/4 of the season ending with a play off final place against Swansea. They lost that game as we know so need to regroup ready for next season. They are likely to lose 25 goal machine Shane Long so will need to find someone else that can get the goals needed. The manager Brian McDermott is one to be admired and again I don't think Reading will be too far away.

Finally Nottingham Forest were beaten by Swansea in the play off semi final. Forest have since sacked their manager and have appointed Steve McClaren as their replacement. McClaren is a proven manager and has achieved great things in his time abroad and before that at Middlesborough and as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson. He didn't have a great time as England manager, but then no one seems to do well there! McClaren will do a good job on a limited budget but I don't think it will be enough to win the league, perhaps the playoffs is a more realistic outcome again for Forest.

I will hold judgement on my selections here as there is a lot to work out however, the winner will be one of Leicester, West Ham, Reading or Cardiff.

To see the review of League 1 or League 2 click on the links below
To see the reviews for the leagues click on the links below
League 1
League 2

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