We all know that the Championship is possibly the most unpredictable league in the world. Every team truly goes into the league with a great chance of reaching the mega millions that the Premier League has to offer and this season is possibly the most hotly contested season for some time.
Last year saw the favorites Newcastle take the title and were followed to the big lights of the Premier League by Brighton and Huddersfield respectively. The teams who sadly were cut a drift into the quicksand of League One included a big name in Blackburn Rovers along with Wigan Athletic and Rotherham United.
The new additions to this seasons Championship have certainly added undeniable quality. Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hull are all back whilst Bolton, Milwall and Sheffield United are ready to prove they’re not just hear to be an easy three points.
In the window Wolves have spent big, Villa have been canny and Norwich have had a complete overhaul so there is much to look forward to in this fresh new Championship season which will no doubt surprise all of us and that’s why we love it.
So here goes my shot at trying to guess the impossible.
Where better to start than the side I back to finish as the league winners. Middlesbrough. Although they had a very poor season in the Premier League which saw them score less goals than any other team in the league I think they have kept their side together well and have made some notable signings especially in the area of need up top.
The signing of Britt Assombalonga from Nottingham Forest I feel is one of the best buys in the Championship this season. The striker has cost £14 million but for a man who scored just under a goal a game at Forest the man has goal scoring pedigree in this tough league. West Ham’s Ashley Fletcher and Toulouse’s Martin Braithwaite have also joined the club looking to fire the Borough back to the big time.
Other Championship experience has been added in the form of right back Cyrus Christie from Derby County and Jonny Howson from Norwich City. These two signings will help with the experience in dealing with this tough league although the majority of the squad does have Championship experience. Adding to a great window has also seen former West Ham number one Darren Randolph sign for £5m which I think is a brilliant purchase considering he was playing regularly in the top flight last season.
Although yes the names that have been brought in are impressive the reason I have put Middlesbrough as my Champions is the coup of Garry Monk. The former Swansea boss took Leeds far beyond where anyone thought they could go last season with limited resources and there is no doubt that Monk has a lot of managerial quality. I think his tactical awareness and top club experience will certainly help his side cope with the pressure.
Borough have always had a solid defence and I expect with the lack of goals they will concede and their added fire power up top to be pivotal in storming to the title.
Aston Villa: Automatic Promotion
After an awful first season in the Championship since falling out of the Premier League where they finished in 13th place some way off the pace I expect a completely new revitalized attitude from them.
Although they haven’t spent big money this summer they have certainly recruited well bringing in some real quality to their side. Ahmed Elmohamady, Christopher Samba and John Terry have all joined the club on free transfers and will certainly bolster their back line which at times last season was all over the place.
The big coup of Terry is obviously going to put them right up their with the favorites. The former Chelsea captain and five time Premier League winner will certainly add experience alongside a tough no nonsense style of defending which is needed in the Championship. His leadership qualities and calming influence I feel will pay dividend on his team mates around him. Hopefully Villa can get the best out of him and see him start regularly rather than just using him as an off the field leader.
Glenn Whealan of Stoke has also come in to sure up the midfield and his ability to break up the play and shield the defence is going to prove very beneficial to the attacking players in Jack Grealish and loan singing Josh Onomah to play their natural free flowing games.
With Steve Bruce still at the helm Villa are lead by a man who has managed Championship promotion before and his experience of dealing with this challenging league and also his ability to control the ego’s of big name players they have every chance of returning to a league I feel they truly belong.
Wolverhampton Wanderers, Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland : Playoff
So these are the sides that I feel will be competing for the play-offs this season and even looking at it now i’m not 100% convinced in my selections. There are so many good teams that are missing out with the likes of Derby, Norwich and Leeds to name a few.
I think Wolves will make a dramatic improvement from their 15th place finish last season after they’ve made their intentions clear by bringing in some big names from overseas this summer. The signings of Ruben Neves and Diego Jota both from Porto are obviously the standouts.
Both Neves and Jota I feel have enough quality to be playing in the Premier League let alone the Championship and I feel their quality will really shine through.
I feel that in manager Nuno Espirito Santo they have got an ambitious leader who is looking to take the team to new heights under an owner who is certainly not scared to invest in the club to take them back to the top.
Fulham were very unlucky last season just missing out in the play offs after what was certainly an exciting season under Slavisa Jokanovic. Goals were certainly not hard to come by whether it was in the oppositions net or their own, they certainly didn’t hold back last season.
Their fluid open style of play makes them a great side to watch but if they are going to push for the top places they need to work on their defensive stability although I think they back themselves to out score anyone.
I feel the loss of Scott Malone is a big one. The rampaging left back joined newly promoted Huddersfield for £3.3m but other than that there have been no real notable departures. Ibrahim Cisse, Marcelo Djalo and Aboubakar Camara have all come in to the side but I feel the best bit of business that Fulham have done this summer is keeping hold of their manager Jokanovic after strong reported interest from West Ham for his services.
I am looking forward to seeing Ryan Sessegnon continue to grow as a player and really make an impact in this Fulham side this season.
Sheffield Wednesday were very unlucky last season after reaching the play offs and crashing out only on penalties to eventual winners Huddersfield.
I expect them to be right up there again with the front runners as there has been very little change in the squad and they go into the season settled and together as a unit which will look to go one better than last season,
There has been one notable signing in Burnley’s Geroge Boyd who has joined the club on a free which has helped add to the firepower and quality the Owl’s already have up top in Fernando Foristieri and Steven Fletcher.
Wednesday conceded the third fewest goals last season and this was one of the keys to their regular season success and if they can continue to keep it tight at the back they certainly have the fire power to cause trouble at the other end.
Now this is my wildcard shout and as I’m sitting here writing this im wondering if i am feeling okay. Now Sunderland were truly awful last season and with lets just say a very mediocre summer transfer window in which new signings have been a little below standard for me and losing some of their best assets in the likes of Jermaine Defoe and Jordan Pickford i’m truly wondering why I think they will get into the top 6.
Appointing Simon Grayson for me is also a very average move for a club as big as Sunderland. I feel there are much bigger names out there that they could have approached which would have shown real ambition but instead they’ve settled for someone who I think is nothing short of an average manager.
I think that the signing of Aiden McGeady is an interesting one, in his prime he was a brilliant player but now he’s getting older and has lacked first team football he is somewhat on the downward spiral. As for other signings the only other real ones of note see Jason Steele and James Vaughan join but I feel this isn’t the type of quality that Sunderland should be looking to sign.
I was tempted to go with Norwich to finish 6th but with their complete re-haul of their side and a somewhat unknown identity in their manager I thought it was a bit of a risk but now I come to think of it putting a punt on Sunderland isn’t much safer.
Bolton, Burton and Millwall:Relegation
Unfortunately there always have to be the teams who prop up the other end of the table and I think that two of the newly promoted sides will be heading back to where they came along with Burton Albion.
For me Bolton looked impressive last season in winning the League One title however I dont feel that they have a strong enough squad to sustain a place in the Championship.
If they were to stand any chance of staying up I feel they needed a strong transfer window but they have been relativity mediocre on the signing front. Sammy Ameobi has signed on a permanent deal but just this one deal isn’t going to have them competing with some top clubs that are now in the Championship.
I would like to see Bolton do well as they used to be a top Premier League side and seeing their slide has been horrendous. Bring back the days of Big Sam and Jay-Jay Okocha and they might be in business.
Now Burton are a side who I was adiment would go down last season but they managed to surprise me and somehow managed to stay in the league.
I just feel that with their limited resources and lack of funds that their squad just isn’t going to cut it this season and they will face the case of the dreaded second season syndrome.
One signing that I am interested in is a certain Liam Boyce joining from Scottish side Ross County. The striker has scored 55 goals in just three seasons and he Burton will be hoping with firepower like this that he can keep them in the league.
Millwall are certainly the the yo-yo side of the last few seasons and I expect them to be hopping back down again this time.
The club probably have some of the most loyal fans in the league and they will look to be rewarded this campaign however I feel it is unlikely.
Millwall did well to get through the tough play offs but we have seen in recent season that their squad hasn’t been good enough to cope with the added quality that the Championship has to offer.
I do like the signings of Jake Cooper and George Saville who both have a high level of Championship experience and hopefully their influence will spread around the side to see them defy the odds and stay in the league.
It was a tough choice between them and QPR for that last relegation spot but I think QPR will have just enough experience to survive.
By no means am I expecting to do well in predicting this but I’ve tried to be as accurate as I possibly can be but as I’ve said this league is so unpredictable yet I tried to predict it.
It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the teams I’ve put near the bottom make the play off’s and equally have a big club perhaps flirt with relegation. Who knows?
All I know is I’m looking forward to the start of the season and you can see the first game Live on Sky Sports Main Event on Friday 4th August at 7:45pm between Sunderland and Derby County in a game which could lay out the foundations for both clubs seasons.