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Season Preview 2013/14
Written by tractordownsouth on Friday, 26th Jul 2013 13:11

I am a young Ipswich fan. Although I support Town I have written this season preview as a neutral as I was not originally planning to post this on the website. I hope you enjoy it!

Last season didn’t go as expected, especially for the relegated Premier League sides, Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves , tipped for promotion and none of them finished near the top two, with Wolves doing the unthinkable and suffering a second successive relegation.

There were surprises in the top two, not just the absence of the relegated sides. Who, at the start of the season, would have tipped Hull and Crystal Palace for promotion? This just proves the unpredictability of the Championship and although this is not the case in the Premiership, that nobody should be immediately written off.

This season should once again be fascinating. There are a few sides who immediately spring to mind when thinking of promotion and relegation but you can be positive and critical with each team as there is definitely no clear winner.

So who are the favourites and the not so fancied teams?

As was the same as last year, many are tipping the relegated teams for a quick return to the Premiership. Of the three, the best placed side for a promotion challenge in my opinion are Reading.

Nigel Adkins has won this league before and has kept the main bulk of his squad from last year. He was appointed too late to make a serious impact and was unable to prevent the Royals dropping back into the Championship. Reading will certainly be up there and competing for the title and promotion.

Wigan have finally been relegated after surviving seven seasons in the Premier League. During this time, they were looked upon as plucky underdogs but Paul Jewell, Steve Bruce and then Roberto Martinez delivered survival until last season when their luck ran out.

Last season, they did win the FA Cup which was a slight consolation and will take part in this year’s Europa League which could derail their league campaign. However, as Martinez has now gone to Everton and taken key players with him and with more expected to leave, it will be a big task for new manager Owen Coyle to secure promotion. I predict a higher mid-table finish.

QPR are the most interesting relegated team. With easily the best squad in the league this year, they look to some as the obvious winners. However, I am unconvinced. Finishing at the foot of the Premier League with a massive wage bill and with a squad of unhappy individuals, Harry Redknapp could not achieve survival.

This year, QPR could finish anywhere. In a financial mess and with a relegation hangover, I do not see them making a return to the promised land, instead I think they will falter and finish mid-table, but if they can sort it out , they could well prove me wrong.

From the other sides, one of the main promotion candidates will be Leicester. After cruelly losing out to Watford in the play-off semi-final last season, the Foxes will be determined to go one better and be promoted. Nigel Pearson has a good bond with his squad, knows the club well and has the complete backing of the fans. I expect Leicester to be in the top six come May.

Bolton and Nottingham Forest both came agonisingly close to the play-offs last year but I expect at least one of them to be promoted. They both started badly but had a late revival after changing their manager. Of the two, Bolton are probably going to have a slightly better season as they are more experienced and have a bigger budget, but Forest will also be challenging at the top end of the table.

Another team who should be up there are Ipswich, who improved dramatically after the appointment of Mick McCarthy and his assistant Terry Connor. The former Wolves management duo have attracted some great talent to the club and the team are on good form. In the past few seasons, Town have been disappointing but there is a renewed type of optimism among the Portman Road faithful as McCarthy has a proven record and could well be a dark horse. I expect them to be in the play-offs.

Competing for the last play-off place will be Watford, Blackburn and possibly Birmingham, if Lee Clark can gel the many new signings he has made. The most likely to grab sixth place is probably Blackburn, providing they can keep hold of Jordan Rhodes.

Watford controversially reached the play-off final last year, after loaning players from sister clubs Udinese and Granada. However, many of these players have now joined on permanent deals and it will be interesting to see how they adapt now there is a lot more expectation after last season’s success.

Birmingham finished mid-table last season and could do better this year as they have made some interesting signings, but, if they don’t gel then they could find themselves sliding down the table.

Leeds are probably one of the more interesting teams in the league. Under Neil Warnock, last year was unimpressive but now Brian McDermott is in charge, who has Premier League experience and won this league two seasons ago with Reading, and they could potentially challenge in the top half. The manager has addressed the issues and midfield and added Luke Murphy to that area, as well as striker Noel Hunt. They have kept hold of top scorer Ross McCormack too, and could sneak into the play-off places.

Of the three promoted teams, Doncaster, Bournemouth and Yeovil, I think the Cherries will make the biggest impact on the division with perhaps an outside chance of a play-off place. Eddie Howe transformed the team last season. He took over a side in the relegation zone and took them to within one point of the title.

Doncaster made a quick return to the Championship after relegation in 2012. Having experience of this division before could be crucial in ensuring their presence in the second tier for another year.

Yeovil could be a surprise package. Tipped for relegation from League One last year, Gary Johnson and his team surprised everyone with a fourth placed finish and then winning the play-off final at Wembley. If they can keep Paddy Madden they will do well. I think all three of these teams will survive, Doncaster just by the skin of their teeth.

Four teams I expect to have mediocre seasons are Brighton, Charlton, Middlesbrough and Derby. The latter three all finished in this position last season, with Charlton ending the campaign brilliantly. If Chris Powell can keep hold of the likes of Johnnie Jackson, then a top half finish is on the cards.

Middlesbrough always frustrate me. For each of the past two seasons they have started fantastically but just after Christmas always seem to falter and finish outside the top six.

Derby have made slight progress under Nigel Clough but have yet to challenge for promotion since they dropped back into the second tier in 2008.

Brighton finished in the play-offs last year but after the absurd sacking of Gus Poyet, they could take a step, and potentially a giant leap, backwards.

Of the remaining six teams, I believe that Huddersfield and Millwall will struggle. Huddersfield have lost star player Lee Novak to Birmingham and lack real quality. They have made some decent additions but perhaps not good enough to survive.

Millwall may regret losing Kenny Jackett to Wolves, the man who brought them promotion and consolidated the Lions as a Championship club. Again, they have made some impressive signings but as Jackett knew the squad well and worked brilliantly with them for almost six years , it may be difficult to adapt. Millwall could survive but it will take an almighty effort.

The last relegation place could be filled by either Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley or Blackpool. Wednesday finished their first season back in the Championship very well but they do not have any star players and certainly will not set the division alight. I think they will scrape survival as Dave Jones is an experienced manager.

Burnley’s survival hopes hang perilously on whether Charlie Austin stays at Turf Moor. He scored 25 league goals last year and is a target for many Premier League clubs.

Blackpool, I feel, will be relegated to League One, just a few seasons after being in the Premiership and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal. They are set to lose star player Tom Ince and his manager and father Paul is not proven at this level and previously failed with Blackburn, despite doing a good job at MK Dons.

That leaves me with only Barnsley. Every year since promotion in 2006, the Tykes have been tipped for the drop but have survived every year. Last year, manager David Flitcroft masterminded a terrific revival to prevent slipping through the trap door. This year, for the first time, I do not believe Barnsley will occupy one of the relegation spaces come May and will finish lower mid-table, not a great finish but an exceptional achievement for a club so often written off.

Although we do not know what will happen, we do know it will be a season full of drama, shocks, surprises and more. My predictions? I am going for Reading and Bolton to be promoted automatically with Leicester, Forest, Ipswich and Bolton to complete the top six.

At the other end, I think Blackpool, Millwall and Huddersfield will be consigned to the third tier. But, in the most unpredictable league in the world, I could be completely wrong and would not be surprised if I was!

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Please leave your comments below.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

tractordownsouth added 13:56 - Jul 26
sorry I realised I made a slight mistake in the penultamate paragraph. It should read Leicester, Forest, Ipswich and Blackburn(Not Bolton) to complete the top six. I put Bolton in the top two with Reading.

HarryfromBath added 14:23 - Jul 26
That is a really sharp and insightful piece of analysis, and I think that you are spot in so many regards.

Most people are comfortable analysing the promotion candidates, but the stand out aspect of these notes is how you have so thoughtfully separated the mediocre teams from the out and out relegation candidates.

While so much of this blog rings true, we can be sure that at least half a dozen teams will over or under perform beyond all expectations. I reckon that much of this will be down to whether the ordinary squad players flourish or wilt.

It will be interesting to dig this out, say, on F.A. Cup Third Round weekend in early January and see how everything is playing out. Thanks for putting up a hugely enjoyable piece of analysis.

RegencyBlue added 14:44 - Jul 26
Watch it Harry, you have competition!

lilcornishblue added 15:48 - Jul 26
Really good i sightful blog. I really enjoyed readig this and that paragraph on ITFC is making me even more excited for the next season on wards and upwards!COYB

grf1g08 added 16:09 - Jul 26
A really good read, probably more interesting than a lot of the pre-season predictions that will be in the papers. Being a bit picky, you say that Nigel Adkins and Brian McDermott have both won the league. Southampton actually finished 2nd the season Reading won the Championship. Living in Southampton i feel that I should point that out, but don't let me take away from a well written piece.

tractordownsouth added 16:30 - Jul 26
Sorry my mistake about Adkins! Thanks for the positive feedback though

Blueray added 16:48 - Jul 26
Good blog, enjoyable read. It's hard to disagree with any of the comments posted, and as highlighted by the blog, it's a ridiculously hard league to predict. I remain quietly optimistic for our chances though.....good manager and a well balanced squad who seem to be pulling in the right direction. Hope springs eternal...

BillBlue added 17:28 - Jul 26
Very interesting, well thought out and nicely expressed too so I enjoyed a good read. Mind you, you are assuming that Reading will recover from the thrashing they receive on he first day of the season!!

GeorgiDoundarov added 20:38 - Jul 26
Agree with all of you - good blog for a rather unpredictable Championship this season! Anybody can say anything and still not be wrong. My say on the predictions is I don't rank Bolton and Blackburn that high but you never know. At the same time as much as all the comments in the blog about QPR are quite valid I just think Harry will do his magic and make them get one of the top two spots. In addition I, as well think (and hope and believe) Ipswich can do top 6 under Mick. As far as the bottom of the league I still think Yeovil will go down as they were not good enough for promotion in the first place. And in this case playing on "muscles" and "high team spirit" will not be enough to survive.
But at the end of the day our own spirit is at the highest since the Joe Royal time so COYB!!!

Middlin added 13:18 - Jul 27
What a great piece of writing ,have you ever thought of applying for a job in newspapers . I for one would like to read more of your incisive rhetoric.
The predictions are just that predictions but so well laid out .
Who would have thought at the start if 2012 that we would be playing Reading, Wolves (well maybe on their 11/12 season) and QPR and also Yeovil (well done to them) As others have said I think we could be in with a chance this year MM seems to have spent well and got rid of the detritus .
Well only 10 months to wait.

jas0999 added 16:53 - Jul 27
A very well written piece. However, I don't believe Blackpool or Millwall will be relegated. There are certainly poorer teams around. I wouldn't be surprised if Charlton have a poorer season, whilst Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday will be down there.

Edmunds5 added 17:21 - Jul 27
Great piece and an enjoyable read which echo alot of my own thoughts about the season with regards to who may do well and who may struggle. I slightly disagree about Blackpool though, I understand why you may think they could struggle as they are quite depleted and have lost and could lose more key players. However I just have a feeling that Paul Ince will make them a bit fresher and that the transition will be quite welcoming for them. Hopefully we will see more blogs on here from you in the future.

Nthsuffolkblue added 21:03 - Jul 27
Agreed, a very well-written piece. I particularly like your analysis of QPR. Spot-on the best squad on paper isn't always everything but if they do sort things out and click they could walk the league. Failure to do so could be extremely costly for them.

I think that, like many Town fans, you over-estimate our chances of success this season but would love to be proved wrong.

tractordownsouth added 07:45 - Jul 28
Middlin, I would apply for a job at a newspaper but I am only 13 years old. I am hoping for a career in journalism when I am older though.

Middlin added 13:35 - Jul 28
Keep up with it .Possibly start now submitting some of your work to local papers and ask for their opinions
You never know you could have a little freelance as a juniors (although from your style it would be hard to spot) point of view

Nthsuffolkblue added 15:09 - Jul 28
You could also try some online stuff. There is an ITFC web-based one at www.twtd.co.uk - speak to someone called Phil Ham. You never know if Radio Suffolk may have some interest especially with away games around your area too.

tractordownsouth added 07:06 - Jul 29
I would really like to help at away games with BBC Radio Suffolk if given the opportunity, however, I live in Cornwall so the closest away game is Yeovil and even that is 3 hours away so it could pose a problem. And I have written some articles about school football tournaments I have played in and submitted them to the local paper. I might show this piece to the sports reporter from the paper.

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