|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!
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