Last season the Championship was the fourth most watched(attendances) football league in Europe, behind only the Premier League, La Liga, & the Bundesliga. They are likely to build off those attendance numbers now that Newcastle have joined their ranks.
In the Championship the top two teams are automatically promoted to the Premier League, while teams 3 through 6 enter a playoff, with the promotion winner also being promoted. These three teams are replaced by the bottom three teams from the Premier League. Also the bottom three sides in the Championship are relegated to League One and replaced by three League one sides (the top two and playoff winner). So joining the Championship this season are relegated Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion, & Middlesbrough along with promoted Leicester City, Peterborough, & Scunthorpe. To help me with this preview I have enlisted The Score's Thomas Dobby. All of Dobby's thoughts will be in italics that should make it easy to tell us apart. Here are our thoughts on the 2009/2010 Championship Season.
It all depends on if they can keep a lot of their players from last season, but as it stands, they are a very strong Championship side. Downing is gone, and that will hurt but there are still plenty of Premiership- caliber players in the squad. Very good chance of bouncing straight back up.
West Bromwich Albion
WBA dominated the Championship in 2007/8, took the majority of the squad to the premier league and got relegated. I think that they have a good team and will be able to gain promotion, I don't think that many premier league clubs will come for their players as last year showed that they are not premier league quality. The challenge for WBA will be next season if they abandon their current squad and yo-yo existence between leagues and try to stay in the Premier League.
2nd Place, Automatic Promotion
West Bromwich Albion
I worry a little about their inexperienced manager, Roberto Di Matteo, but it was time for a change after their very disappointing season under Tony Mowbray in the top flight. Di Matteo did a nice job with MK Dons in his first foray into management last season, guiding them to the playoffs. It may be another case of too soon, though (ie Paul Ince). But West Brom are a very strong Championship side, as seen 2 seasons ago, when they ran rampant over the division. A lot of that core still remains. Very good chance of jumping straight back up. One of those teams that are a bit too good for the Championship, but not good enough for the premiership.
I believe that Roy Keane is a quality manager and at the moment seems to be comfortable in Ipswich. The team responded well to him at the end of last season. He led Sunderland to Championship victory in 2006/7 and I think that he will enjoy a similarly effective run in charge of the Tractor Boys.
The Playoff teams
Sheffield United*, Cardiff, Preston, Ipswich
*Win play-offs this time!
Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Derby, Queens Park Rangers.
I think that Boro will get off to a great start, but I think that they will eventually end up selling some of their squad, and this disruption to their team will see them drop into the playoffs. With the Blades it will be interesting to see how Ched Evens does, also to see if Paddy Kenny is suspended as that could have a large impact on the squad. With Derby & QPR I have a feeling that these two will sneak into the playoffs likely towards the last weekend.
Won 1 game after February last season, and if they start with that sort of form, it could be a very long season at the Ricoh. Their FA Cup run didn’t help their league form last season, but Chris Coleman, and the Sky Blues could be in deep trouble.
Yet another new manager- a 37 year old at that! Malky Mackay takes over a team that had a really nice run to survive last season. Won’t be as fortunate this year.
May be a bit out of their depth after coming up from League 1
I see more heart ache for Magpies fans. They are in the midst of a takeover mess, without a manager, and a squad full of overpaid players who don't want to be in the championship. Newcastle showed no fight in trying to avoid relegation last season, unless there are massive changes at St. James's I think that it will be back to back relegations for the Magpies.
I think that Dobby hit the nail on the head.
They exceeded expectations last season and finished 14th, they have sold a few of their best players and I see them going down this year.
Points of Interest
*How will Nigel Clough and Roy Keane fare at Derby and Ipswich respectively, with a whole season at the helm?
*Will QPR’S money be enough to see them challenge for promotion? They were disappointing in 08/09.
*Swansea were last year’s sexy team, but after missing out on the playoffs, and losing their manager Roberto Martinez and top striker Jason Scotland to Wigan, how will they respond?
My prediction is they finish about 8th, just out of the playoffs once again.
*Could another Ferguson join the top-flight? Sir Alex’s son Darren manages high-flying Peterborough who, with a little bit of luck could push for the play-offs, and back-to-back promotions.
*The obvious: What will become of Newcastle? It was a stunner when they were relegated, but do they have the mettle to come straight back up? I don’t think so…it may be another long season for the Toon Army. I predict a mid-table finish for the Magpies.
*How will Cardiff adjust into life at their new stadium? I think it will take a little settling in and look for the Blue birds to gain promotion next year.
*Who will hold onto their players? The August and January transfer windows will have a huge outcome on the Championship season. Last year Sheffield United sold striker James Beattie and narrowly missed out on promotion. If you are serious about promotion you have to be able to hold onto your best players through the transfer window.
*Who will be the loan wizards? Some clubs can build a squad out of other teams players and make a strong push for promotion. It will be interesting to see who excels at bringing in the right players on loan.
So there you have it, a Championship preview. The season gets underway tomorrow with a match between promotion rivals Middlesbrough & Sheffield United. Thanks to Thomas Dobby for his insightful input.