After our League One preview last week, today we bring you our Championship preview, just before the season starts. Although, why we’re bothering to predict the most topsy turvy league in world football is anyone’s guess…
Winner – QPR.
Teams relegated from the Premier League the season before usually fare quite well in the Championship. QPR will be no exception this season – Harry Redknapp has so far managed to retain the services of the likes of Loic Remy and Adel Tarrabt, which will provide the extra quality for Rangers over other teams in the promotion hunt. Don’t be surprised to see Loic Remy finish the season as top goal scorer for the division either.
Relegation – Millwall, Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday
Millwall couldn’t have had a worse end to the season last year, winning just one of their last ten games. With a new manager in Steve Lomas at the helm, Millwall’s fortunes could go one of two ways – the appointment could provide a much needed spark or it could cause further disruption, which I feel is more likely. Signing Steve Morrison on loan from Leeds has helped Millwall’s strike force but their defence remains relatively unchanged, which was their downfall last season.
One week Barnsley were playing quality football to secure a vital point against (now promoted) Cardiff, but the next week they were so poor they conceded six goals against a very average Charlton team. Like Millwall, no significant changes have occurred at Oakwell, which can only mean we will likely see a similar standard of football from the Reds. I think they will be in for an almighty scrap to avoid the drop.
Again it’s a similar story with Sheffield Wednesday – with big wins over table topping teams like Brighton and Leicester in February and March, the Owls proved capable of playing good football. However, inconsistency proved key in the close of the season which left Wednesday four points off relegation. Like Barnsley, they will need to eradicate the inconsistencies in order to avoid the drop.
Surprise of the season – Bournemouth
Bournemouth’s home record at Dean Court in League 1 was exceptional, scoring 43 goals and conceding only 21. The Championship newcomers have improved their ranks with loan signing Andrew Surman from Norwich and have also picked up experienced full back Ian Harte on a free transfer from Reading. If Bournemouth can recreate the success they enjoyed at fortress Dean Court last year in the Championship this season, I feel a 10th-14th place finish is well within reach.
Player of the season – Sam Byram
Leeds United’s young full back is arguably the best defender in the Championship right now. After his debut season for Leeds, Byram showed his quality against talented players such as Wilfried Zaha and ex England International Matt Jarvis, keeping both players off the score sheet. Byram’s physical yet patient style of defending has drawn interest from Premier League side Man City, who were rumoured to be interested in an £8million transfer for the player. Byram was also named as one of Sky Sports players to watch for the upcoming season.
Winner of the sack race – Dave Jones
I think Dave Jones could be given the chop around Christmas, depending on Wednesday’s position in the table. After only narrowly avoiding the drop last season, the pressure is on Jones to secure the Owl’s championship status again this season. However, if Wednesday are in the bottom three at the midway point of the season, chairman Milan Mandaric may be forced to make a change in the hot-seat in hope of sparking the team back to life. It was a close call between Jones and Steve Lomas from Millwall, but I think on this occasion Dave Jones takes the wooden spoon home.
So there you go, that’s what we think, but what do we know for definite? That the Championship will continue to be the most unpredictable league in world football. Strap yourselves in.