The Championship starts this evening – one of, if not – the most competitive league on the planet. Here is my Preview, with my best pick for each bet – Winner, Relegation, Promotion and Top 6:
Manager: Gary Rowett
Odds: 7/2 – Relegation
Transfers In: John Toral, Maikel Kiestenbold, Tomas Kuszczak, Alex Jones. Jacques Maghoma
Transfers Out: 12 Released
Birmingham could be set for a totally different season. They ended up 10th in the 14/15 campaign, but have not improved and could still lose the likes of Demarai Gray. He and John Toral could make the difference this season, with both bagging 6 last season for their respective teams, but performances and assists from both even more vital! I see a relegation scrap, but ultimately survival
Manager: Gary Bowyer
Transfers In: Danny Guthrie, Bengali Koita, Sacha Petali
Transfers Out: Rudy Gestede (£6m), Tom Cairney (£2m) + 9 Released
Blackburn could also struggle this season having lost two of their best players, and a chance their best player could go. Jordan Rhodes scored 21 in 45 last season in the league, and along with the departed Rudy Gestede lead them to 9th. If both go, they are knackered. A season of hovering mid-table beckons.
Manager: Neil Lennon
Transfers In: Stephen Dobbie, Derik Osede, Ben Amos, Lawrie Wilson, Yven Wasi, Jordan Cossey, Gary Madine
Transfers Out: 13 Released
Bolton have two main players who they missed for much of last season. Zach Clough, who scored 6 in 10 games as well as Max Clayton – a Crewe Alex academy lad, who was also injured. Eidur Gudjohnsson has left, Emile Heskey remains. They will not get near the playoffs, but could push for a top 12 finish if their key players stay injury free this time around.
Manager: Marinus Dijkhuizen
2014/15: 5th, playoff loser
Odds: 6/4 (Top 6), 4/1 (Promotion), 14/1 (Winner)
Transfers In: Andreas Bjelland, Philipp Hofmann, Josh McEachran, Yoann Barbet, Akaki Gogia, Lasse Vibe, Jon Holldack, Ryan Williams, Konstantin Kerschbaumer
Transfers Out: Stuart Dallas, Jon Douglas + Will Grigg (7 Released)
New boss Marinus Dijkhuizen has made some impressive signings – Vibe, McEachran and Hofmann the most so. Vibe has scored a hatful in the Swedish Leagues, while McEachran was chased by Real Madrid at one point when at Chelsea and Hofmann is still a German Under 21 international who is scoring a lot of goals for them! They have let Jon Douglas, Odubajo and Stuart Dallas go, who were all key players last season but each manager must have a happy squad and those three wanted out and were running down contacts – so rather than lose for free, they get a fee! I really fancy them for the top 6 again @ 6/4 – excellent value!
Manager: Chris Hughton
Odds: 9/2 (Relegation
Transfers In: Tomer Hemed, Gaetan Bong, Liam Rosenior, Nikki Maenpaa, Bobby Zamora, Vahid Hambo, Jack Harper
Transfers Out: 9 Released
Hughton has made some astute signings this summer – and most impressively Jack Harper, the Irish wonderkid at Real Madrid who only really failed because of fitness issues. He comes in currently injured and should be back in a month or two – but is an excellent prospect! Big Bobby Zamora has come in after his release by QPR, and should be good at this level. They are among the favourites to go down, but I think Hughton will do a good job and get them safely into midtable.
Manager: Steve Cotterill
2014/15: League One Champions
Odds: 8/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Ryan Fredericks, Jonathan Kondila
Transfers Out: 3 Released, 1 Sold
City come up as champions, but have a tiny squad. They have only brought in two so far and have a lot of frailties. They may be 8/1 to be relegated, but if they do not pull some out of the magic bag soon they will be doomed in my opinion. The squad is not that good in the first place, with as few as 17 or 18 players there at the moment. Finances may be an issue. At this moment in time, they are a fantastic price to be relegated.
Manager: Sean Dyche
2014/15: 19th (Relegated, Premier League)
Odds: 2/1 (Top 6), 5/1 (Promotion)
Transfers In: Jelle Vossen, Matt Lowton, Tendayi Darikwa, Chris Long
Transfers Out: Danny Ings, Kieran Trippier + 7 released
Burnley have kept together the main core of the squad, and bar the in-demand English players, the rest have stayed. They have a main strength – which is the depth of their squad. @ 2/1 they are good value for the top 6, and with Vossen, Barnes and Vokes up front, goals should not be an issue. I quite fancy them to go straight back up through the playoffs!
Manager: Russell Slade
Transfers In: Sami Adayi, Sammy Ameobi
Transfers Out: 1 sold, 7 released
Cardiff have the makings of a very good squad. They will be in a battle for the top 6 in my opinion, but may well fall short. Eoin Doyle is their key striker – the ex-Chesterfield man scored 32 in 69 league games in League One, and 5 in 19 so far for Cardiff. After a full pre-season he should be a lot better, and with the squad they have, I see them doing well this season!
Manager: Guy Luzon
Odds: 13/2 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Naby Sarr, Patrick Bauer, Josh Staunton, Simon Makienok, El-Hadji Ba, Cristian Cebellos, Zakarya Bergdich, Ahmed Kashi
Transfers Out: Joe Gomez (£.5m) + 11 released
Charlton are another with low odds for relegation, but in my opinion with a manager like Luzon they are good for another season in mid-table. With Igor Vetokele and Simon Makienok up front (the new-boy has scored 36 in 80 for Brondby in the last 2 seasons) as well as a midfield threat in talented youngster Cristian Cebellos (Spurs) – they are a lot better than some think (the bookies, clearly…). Won’t get near the top 6, nor the bottom 6. Fancy them to have a decent season!
Manager: Paul Clement
Odds: 11/2 (Winner), 7/4 (Promotion)
Transfers In: Tom Ince (£4m), Darren Bent, Andi Weimann, Alex Pearce, Scott Carson, Jason Shackell
Transfers Out: 10 Released
Derby have a fantastic chance this season after Steve McClaren blew it late on in the last. With about 10 games to go they were 2nd, but conceded over 20 in the last 10 to end up 8th. With new manager Paul Clement, fresh in his first managerial role – Derby have signed well. Ince (11 in 18) and Bent (10 in 15) return after spending time with the Rams last season. Add the likes of Andi Weimann to the contingent already in the squad, like Will Hughes, Craig Bryson, Chris Martin and Johnny Russell – and you have quite a squad. I expect them to romp this league, and return to the Premier League for the first time since they were relegated with just a few points in the entire season
Manager: Kit Symons
Odds: 6/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Tom Cairney (£2m), Jazz Richards, Sakari Mattila, Andy Longergan, Jamie O’Hara, Ben Pringle, Luke Garbutt
Transfers Out: Patrick Roberts (£5m), Bryan Ruiz, Konstantin Mitroglu (Loan) + 10 Released
Fulham look doomed to stay in this division, or lower – for years to come. They have sold off their best prospect in Patrick Roberts to Man City, and brought in a mix of failed Premier League youngsters and solid Championship/League One players. Ross McCormack is their only hope in terms of strikers – 17 in 45 last season and is getting older, so the £12m they paid last summer or the one before looks a little too much. They have some talented players – Thomas Eisfeld and Alex Kacaniklic are both very capable of being a match-winner on their day, but unfortunately the rest of the squad is a pic n’ mix of average to poor standard players who are at their level right now. Will not go down, but mid-table is as good as it will get in my opinion.
Manager: Chris Powell
Odds: 10/3 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Kyle Dempsey, Jordi Hiwula, Dean Whitehead, Martin Cranie, Jason Davidson
Transfers Out: Conor Coady (£1m), 8 Released.
Huddersfield are among the top two favourites to go down with the bookies – despite owning a very handy squad. Kyle Dempsey has come in from Carlisle, and looks a bright prospect. Jordi Hiwula, a highly rated Man City youngster – has been released and joined up with Chris Powell’s side. He scored 9 in 19 for Walsall at the back end of last season. Nakhi Wells is the key man really – he managed 14 in 37 last season, and with some luck could hit 20 in this campaign. For me they will be in a relegation scrap, but should avoid actually going down. 16th-20th.
Manager: Steve Bruce
2014/15: 18th (Premier League)
Odds: 1/1 (Top 6)
Transfers In: Sam Clucas, Ryan Taylor, Chuba Akpom, Isaac Hayden
Transfers Out: Chester, Brady + Ince (£20m) + 9 released
Hull have streamlined their squad, offloaded the lads who wanted to go into the Premier League (and Ince who wanted to go to Derby) and signed some good players. Akpom looks a talented and a half – if he finds his feet quickly and extends the loan to a season he could hit 20 no problem! Clucas was great for Chesterfield, while Ryan Taylor offers a wealth of experience and knows Steve Bruce well from his time at Wigan. Robert Snodgrass could be very important this season – he managed 41 in 193 for Leeds a few years back, and 14 in 74 games for Hull – but for both teams his assist ratio was incredible! Free kick taking ability 2nd to none. He is the man for them this season – and 1/1 is value for top 6!
Manager: Mick McCarthy
2014/15: 6th – playoff loser
Odds: 11/4 (Top 6)
Transfers In: Jonas Knudsen, Giles Coke, Josh Yorwerth, Jonathon Douglas, Brett Pitman, Larsen Toure, Ainsley-Maitland Niles.
Transfers Out: Tyrone Mings (£8m), 11 Released
Ipswich have an excellent front two – they have signed Brett Pitman, who bagged 46 in 95 in his time with Bournemouth. Daryl Murphy scored 27 in 45 last season. With a lot of competition this season their odds for the top 6 have drifted significantly, but to be fair last season they were a similar price and managed it fine. Jon Douglas is an astute signing, proving to be one of Brentfords’ top players last season. I see them putting in a solid fight for the top 6, and potentially making it if a few others slip up, ala Derby last season.
Manager: Uwe Rosler
Odds: 7/2 (Top 6)
Transfers In: Stuart Dallas, Lee Erwin, Charlie Horton, Ross Turnbull, Chris Wood, Sol Bamba
Transfers Out: 9 Released
Leeds have three key youngsters – Lee Cook (18, midfielder), Sam Byram (21, Right Back/Wing) and Alex Mowatt (20, Midfielder). With so many foreign imports there, it would be easy to get overexcited, but these three are Premier League quality. Cook is only 18 and pretty much first team! Byram is turning into a young, English Gareth Bale – started as a right back, but being converted into a winger. Mowatt was voted players’ player of the year, fans player of the year and Yorksire Posts’ player of the year in the 14/15 season. Top talent, and you never know – could lead Leeds back to the Premier League this season
Manager: Karl Robinson
2014/15: 2nd (League One)
Odds: 4/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Sergio Aguza, Cristian Benavente, Sam Gallagher, Dale Jennings, Matt Upson, Simon Church
Transfers Out: 3 Released
MK Dons always seem to get a good striker on loan. They had Patrick Bamford season or so ago, then got Benik Afobe last season, and he scored 18 goals for them. This season they have Sam Gallagher from Southampton – can he repeat what the other did? Other than that – a Real Madrid duo have joined in Aguza and Benavente. Both talented, the latter a Peruvian international. Will be interesting to see how they get on this season. Their squad on the whole looks average – they could be under threat to be relegated. 4/1 is high, but there is usually a side that goes straight back down. Bottom 8 for me.
Manager: Aitor Karanka
2014/15: 4th, Playoff Final loser
Odds: 11/2 (Winner), 7/4 (Promoted)
Transfers In: Stewart Downing, Jack Stephens, Tomas Kalas, Alex Baptiste, Diego Fabbrini
Transfers Out: 7 Released, Tomlin £3m
Middlesbrough have effectively lost 3 strikers. Lee Tomlin has just gone for £3m, Patrick Bamford is now at Palace and Jelle Vossen went back to Genk. Downing is a huge signing – coming back home after a few years with Liverpool and West Ham – a good deal, and he may well have found his level again as he was poor in the Premier League over the last 2-3 seasons. They have an immensely strong defence and midfield, with the likes of Adomah, Carayol, Kalas, Gibson, Stephens, Ayala and Wildschut – but unless they get a good striker I think they won’t get anywhere near Derby.
Manager: Dougie Freedman
Odds: 3/1 (Top 6)
Transfers In: Jamie Ward, Matt Mills, Ben Hamer, Dani Panillos
Transfers Out: 7 Released
Britt Assombalonga is key for Forest, but its a shame as he is out for another 6 months or so. Without him, it’s down to the likes of Fryatt, Blackstock and Antonio to fill the goals void. Henri Lasbury is looking like a key figure in midfield – the ex-Arsenal man has 21 in 100 league games. Poor squad, will finish in a similar position to last season.
Manager: Simon Grayson
2014/15: 3rd (League One, playoff Winner)
Odds: 7/2 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Jermaine Beckford, Will Keane, Paul Gallagher, Marnick Vermijl, Greg Cunningham, Jordon Pickford
Transfers Out: 9 Released
Key to their chances of survival this season is Joe Garner – who last season scored 26 in 40 games. The squad on the whole is average, so they will be in and around the relegation fight. I’m 50/50 on their chances of survival – I think either them or Bristol City will go back down.
Manager: Chris Ramsey
2014/15: 20th (Premier League)
Odds: 2/1 (Top 6)
Transfers In: Massimo Luongo, Tjaronn Chery, Sebastian Polter, Ben Gladwin, James Perch, Paul Konchesky, Jamie Mackie, Oscar Gobern
Transfers Out: 21 Out, either sold or released
QPR still need to get rid of the higher earners. A lot of their old squad has gone, and Charlie Austin may well add to that for between £12-15m. Too many new players is not brilliant – last time Redknapp brought a new players the wind changed, and fluked it in the final of the playoffs. Phillips, Onouha, Perch and Hoilett are experienced at this level, which will really help. Don’t think they will come straight back up this time.
Manager: Steve Clarke
Odds: 5/1 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Orlando Sa, Lisandro Semedo, Ali Al-Habsi, Paul McShane, Jonathan Bond
Transfers In: 11 Released
The key for Reading is their defence. Their forward line is poor, but at the back they are decent. Anton Ferdinand, Paul McShane, Chris Gunter and Andy Taylor make up their back four – or at least are in their squad and are comfortable at Championship level. Relegation battle lies ahead, but I feel they will just about get out of it.
Manager: Steve Evans
Odds: 13/8 (Relegation)
Transfers In: Tom Thorpe, Greg Halford, Grant Ward, Emmanuel Ledesma, Aidy White, Chris Maguire, Lewis Buxton, Joe Mattock, Joe Newell
Transfers Out: 13 Released
Rotherham were lucky to escape the clutches of relegation – but won’t this time. Very poor all over the pitch, and @ 13/8 – fully expecting them to go down this time around. Simples.
Manager: Carlos Carvalhal
Odds: 11/4 (Top 6)
Transfers In: Marco Matias, Lewis McGugan, Jack Hunt, Modou Sougou, Lewis Price, Ross Wallace, Alex Lopez + 4 more
Transfers Out: 13 Released
Marco Matias looks a cracking signing. 17 in 33 for Nacional over the last couple of seasons. Sougou played for Marseille for the last 2 seasons. 95% chance of another similar season, but I can see the sneaking very close to the top 8, so you never know!
Manager: Kenny Jacket
Odds: 13/8 (Top 6), 4/1 (Promotion)
Transfers In: Conor Coady, Jed Wallace, Sheyi Ojo, Sylvain Deslandes, Adam Le Fondre
Transfers Out: 7 Released
Wolves have two excellent forwards. Benik Afobe scored 13 in 21 at the end of last season once signed on a permanent deal. Nouha Dicko has scored 28 in 56 – so a deadly looking partnership. Sheyi Ojo and Coady are good additions, and Jed Wallace looks a real steal! Wolves for the top 6 @ 13/8 is value!!
That’s another down! Here are my best four tips for Relegation, Promotion, Winner and Top 6:
Winner – Derby @ 11/2
Promotion – Derby @ 7/4
Top 6 – Wolves @ 13/8 (Brentford @ 6/4)
Relegation – Rotherham @ 13/8