Welcome to the second part of my Championship predictions for the coming season, if you haven’t read it already please take a look at part 1 here.
The Suffolk club parted ways with Mick McCarthy after five and a half years in charge, to the surprise of many in the national media but the reaction of most fans was one of relief. His replacement is Paul Hurst from Shrewsbury, a man with a strong track record in the lower leagues but this is his toughest assignment to date. As well as the obvious long-term aim of promotion, he has been tasked with producing a more entertaining team and reconnecting with a disillusioned fanbase – and he has to do all this on one of the lowest budgets in the league. He has brought in a number of players from the lower leagues while battling to keep hold of Martyn Waghorn and Bartosz Bialkowski. A mid-table finish with signs of progress is a realistic aim for this season.
Leeds stunned the division by appointing former Argentina and Chile manager Marco Bielsa as their new manager. This already looks set to be one of the most exciting narratives ahead of the season – Bielsa is hugely respected in South America and continental Europe but he has never coached in England before. It’s been a surprisingly quiet summer so far but in the last few days they have confirmed the arrival of Barry Douglas from Wolves, the left-back who played a big part in their promotion campaign last season. More signings are expected, with Matej Vydra heavily linked. Whatever happens at Leeds this season, as long as Bielsa is there it’s certain to be exciting.
Last season was an underwhelming return to the Championship for Boro, as they struggled to find consistency and goals despite the money spent on strikers. Tony Pulis replaced Garry Monk and took them to the play-offs but they were edged out by Villa, and with parachute payments ending this season the pressure is on. They have strengthened the back line with Aden Flint and Paddy McNair, but other than that it’s been a quiet summer. Winger Adama Traore has unsurprisingly been linked with a move away, if they can keep hold of him they’ll be in good shape for an automatic promotion push.
Neil Harris’ side were one of the surprise packages of last season, surging up the table after Christmas and even briefly threatening to break into the top six. This was done despite working on one of the league’s smaller budgets, so a repeat of last season’s success is unlikely. The only permanent signing so far is defender Murray Wallace from Scunthorpe, with Ben Amos joining on loan from Bolton, though they have been linked with a move for Barnsley’s Tom Bradshaw. This is only Millwall’s second season back in the second tier, so a mid-table finish would be a success as they look to establish themselves once more at this level.
The Canaries underwent a major overhaul last season, bringing in Daniel Farke as they looked to emulate the success of David Wagner at Huddersfield, but they finished in the bottom half and showed no real signs of progress as the season wore on. They were heavily reliant on James Maddison for goals, who has subsequently joined Leicester for £22m, while Josh Murphy has also departed for the Premier League. Former Ipswich man Jordan Rhodes has joined on loan as he looks to revive his career, while Tim Krul should be a good replacement for Angus Gunn. The loss of parachute payments have forced the club to tighten the belts, so the pressure is on Farke to get the best out of the players at his disposal.
Forest have been one of the busiest clubs in the transfer market, apparently adopting a similar strategy to Wolves in an attempt to return to the top flight after 22 years away. Joao Carvalho and Diogo Goncalves have arrived from Benfica, the former for a fee of over £13m. They have also brought in Lewis Grabban, Costel Pantilimon and Jack Colback, while Michael Dawson returns to his childhood club. A number of players have left the club as part of a major overhaul,while stalwart Chris Cohen has unfortunately been forced to retire. Aitor Karanka knows what it takes to get out of the Championship so Forest fans will fancy their chances of at least reaching the play-offs.
Preston North End
Alex Neil’s first season in charge at Preston was a definite success, despite losing Jordan Hugill to West Ham in the January transfer window. Their 7th place finish was achieved in spite of a small budget, and with the amount of money being thrown around in the Championship at the moment they’ll do well to match that this campaign. Greg Cunningham to Cardiff is the only major departure this summer, which has helped to fund the signings of Ryan Ledson and Andrew Hughes from Oxford and Peterborough respectively. On paper they lack of bit of quality in key areas, so they will hope that their strong team spirit and momentum will carry over from last season.
Queens Park Rangers
Ian Holloway’s second spell at the club unsurprisingly came to an end after an inconsistent season of bobbing around in mid-table, though with their budget a promotion push doesn’t look to be a realistic aim. Steve McClaren has taken over the mantle, a man with experience but an inconsistent record in this division. Alex Smithies has departed for Cardiff and Jack Robinson turned down a new contract to join Forest, with only one player joining the club – Toni Leistner from Union Berlin. The club’s settlement with the EFL over Financial Fair Play regulation breaches will only make McClaren’s job more difficult as he looks to deepen his squad ahead of what could be a difficult campaign.
So here is how my predicted league table is looking so far:
- Aston Villa
- Derby County
- Nottingham Forest
- Leeds United
- Bristol City
- Preston North End
- Ipswich Town
- Norwich City
- Hull City
- Birmingham City
- Blackburn Rovers
- Queens Park Rangers
- Bolton Wanderers
The third and final part of my predictions will be tomorrow, including the three sides relegated from the Premier League…