On Friday night the new championship season will commence. The league is often referred to as one of the hardest leagues in the world, and for me this year is the most difficult one yet because the quality we have in the division has never been as good. Usually the favourites for promotion are the teams who have come down from the Premier League, and the season is no different.
We have Newcastle Utd, a team who have somehow kept their world class manager Rafa Bentiez, a man who has won the La Liga title twice, both the Champions League and the UFEA Cup (now known as the Europa League, which he has also won); along with the FA Cup and the Coppa Italia. The man is the most successful manager ever to manage In the championship. You also need to look at the signings that Newcastle have made, they have brought in Matt Ritchie from Bournmouth who is definitely the best signing that any championship side have made this season. You also have Dwight Gayle, Grant Hanley & Isaac Hayden; all of which have a decent championship pedigree. They may have lost a couple of last seasons first team players in Andros Townsend & Georgino Wijnaldrum, who both left for Crystal Palace & Liverpool respectively, however I don’t believe Newcastle will be too upset as they both sold for a combined total of £38 million, most of which Rafa Bentiez will have at his disposal if he so wishes. In my opinion Newcastle are going to completely run away with the league.
So what about the rest of teams in the division? We have Norwich City, a team managed by Alex Neil who is a young manager that has previously taken Norwich up to the top division. They have also kept most of their squad together. If they sign Ross McCormack from Fulham, they will have the most consistent striker over the last 5 years in the division in their ranks. Norwich are the only team who can really offer Newcastle any real competition.
There is also Aston Villa, a club that has been taken over by a Chinese consortium and has appointed Roberto Di Matteo as manager. However, even with these changes, I don’t feel they currently make the grade to challenge for promotion . I feel they have a lot of rebuilding to do, and a direct return to the Premier League is a step too far this season.
We also have some decent teams already in the division, Derby County have a squad who have underperformed over the last two seasons. However, now with another proven championship manager at the helm in Nigel Pearson, and the quality within their squad, they should be a definite pick for the playoffs.
Sheffield Wednesday surprised us all last season & should kick on and also make the playoffs.
A few other teams I fancy to be up there areBrighton, Ipswich, QPR, Birmingham, and my beloved Leeds, should in or around the top six spots.
All in all, I think the quality of football in the championship will go up this year and throughout the next 9 months we will see that quality more and more.