24th - Birmingham City (R)
Oh dear what a mess. Birmingham’s slow slide towards League One will finally see them fall through the trap door this year. They’ve been perennial strugglers in recent years and now with a crumbling stadium and weak squad, the Blues face a tough season. That’s despite the fairly ambitious appointment of John Eustace, who almost got the Watford job this summer and is highly rated. But this is the wrong club at the wrong time for him to work his magic.
23rd - Rotherham United (R)
I really really like Paul Warne and admire what Rotherham have done as a club in recent years. But after their third promotion in five years from League One, they still haven’t learnt their lessons. Warne has been relegated three times from the Championship before, they simply can’t compete on a financial level and now Michael Smith and Michael Ihiekwe have joined Sheffield Wednesday. It’s not looking good for the Millers.
22nd - Reading (R)
Only a severe points deduction for Derby County kept the Royals up last term and after a six point deduction of their own, Paul Ince’s sole aim was survival. He achieved that with 15 points in 14 games, but the off the field issues continue and the squad is one of the weakest in the division. Questions still remain over the manager’s quality, and this could be the season Reading pay the ultimate price.
21st - Blackpool
When everything seemed so positive, the rug has been pulled from underneath Blackpool fans. Neil Critchley had taken them on a wonderful journey and established himself as one of the finest young managers in England, so his departure to become Steven Gerrard’s assistant at Aston Villa leaves a giant hole. Replacement Michael Appleton still has a lot to prove at this level and having overachieved last season, this squad could be in a relegation dogfight.
20th - Wigan Athletic
Leam Richardson’s Wigan stormed to the League One title last term but the step up to this level is so difficult. No newly-promoted side has finished higher than 15th in recent history and so survival will mark an incredibly successful season for the Latics. Ryan Nyambe is a great signing from Blackburn and having won the L1 Golden Boot, it will be well worth keeping an eye on how Will Keane adapts to Championship life. They should be fine.
19th - Huddersfield Town
Having last season’s beaten play-off finalists to finish 19th this term would have been a huge shock when the final whistle blew at Wembley, but this has been a disastrous summer for the Terriers. Influential manager Carlos Corberan unexpectedly walked out, Lewis O’Brien and Harry Toffolo have been sold to Nottingham Forest and the loan star Lewi Colwill has returned to Chelsea. Now, Danny Schoefield is left to pick up the pieces with a much weaker squad than last term. They shouldn’t go down, but things could have been so different had they been awarded those two penalties at Wembley.
18th - Cardiff City
You know when you fly around Lidl chucking everything and anything into your basket in case it is decent? That is how I would describe Cardiff’s chaotic summer transfer window. It total, they’ve brought in 13 signings to date, which makes it incredibly difficult to predict how Steve Morrison’s side will get on. I don’t think they are in any real relegation danger and Romaine Sawyers and Callum O’Dowda could be smart signings, but there’s little else that excites me about Cardiff this term.
17th - Blackburn Rovers
I’ll be honest - I’ve no idea what to expect from Rovers this season. John Dahl Tomasson is an exciting prospect as a manager having won two league titles with Malmo but the summer window has been relatively quiet with Darragh Lenihan and Nyambe leaving. But, they still have Bradley Dack who needs an injury-free season and Ben Brereton Diaz remains as one of the most potent strikers in the division. I’ve got them in 17th, but this is a club that could finish much higher if everything clicks into place.
16th - Bristol City
Nigel Pearson’s rocking Robins have all the components to be a top half Championship team, but something still doesn’t feel quite right. The summer business has been good, with Kane Wilson a hugely exciting right-back addition, while Antoine Semenyo and Andreas Wiemann tore teams apart at times last season. But they only finished 17th last term and an improvement would be a success.
15th - Stoke City
I’ve been stung by predicting Stoke to break into the top six too many times - well - not this year. Michael O’Neill had a whole host of injuries to cope with last term as the Potters finished 14th and with Phil Jagielka and Aden Flint likely to start in a back three, I have concerns. The signing of Dwight Gayle however could be a masterstroke - his goalscoring ability in this division in the past has been exceptional. But it could be more of the same for Stoke.
14th - Sunderland
The last newly-promoted side is the one that one the League One play-offs in May, having finished 5th. But since Alex Neil’s arrival they were the best team in League One bar none, and after this long-awaited promotion the sky is the limit for the Black Cats. Ross Stewart will score goals having hit 24 last term, and Jack Clarke is a coup of a permanent signing which speaks of the investment the owners are willing to put in.
13th - Preston North End
If PNE didn’t have Ryan Lowe in charge they’d be much further down this table. But they do. So here they are. The former Plymouth boss is one of the most exciting in the EFL and now in his first full season in charge, Preston can look up the table rather than down. Ben Woodburn could prove an explosive addition while Ben Whiteman can dictate the play and while Troy Parrott is a sensible replacement for Cameron Archer - he’s just not quite as good.
12th - Hull City
Exciting times at the KCOM. New owner Acun Ilıcalı has shown huge ambition this summer, in particular with the headline addition of Jean-Michel Seri of Fulham fame. The Tigers will be hoping their Turkish delights come good as Ozan Tufan, Allahyar Sayyadmanesh and Dogukan Sinik join the party but it again is a whole host of unknowns in English football. Shota Arveladze could be a genius, or he could be sacked within weeks. Hull could finish anywhere from 1st-24th this season, so the safest bet is plonking them right in the middle.
11th - Millwall
Gary Rowett has replaced star man Jed Wallace with Zian Flemming but given the responsibility that Wallace has carried for the London club over the past few seasons, it is difficult to see them improving after his departure. Fleming is hugely exciting and has a phenomenal goal record, and add him to a more than competitive Championship outfit, and Millwall could even break into the top six.
10th - QPR
Michael Beale steps into his first management job with a whole lot of promise. The signings of Jake Clarke-Salter and Kenneth Paal are promising but he is yet to spend a penny this window, as QPR instead look to build by retaining key players Ilias Chair, Rob Dickie and Joe Willock. This could be a very exciting season at Loftus Road, and by all accounts, Beale could well be a gem.
9th - Coventry City
Full disclaimer - I’m a Coventry fan. But there is little bias here for a club that has improved season upon season since getting out of League Two. Keeping hold of the big three is the key, as Callum O’Hare, Gustavo Hamer and Viktor Gyokeres are truly three of the best players in the entire division and Mark Robins looks set to improve on the 12th place finish last term. Their play-off ambitions will depend on the form of the incoming loanees. Jonathan Panzo, Callum Doyle and Tayo Adaramola will play an important part in that back five, but are unknown quantities in the Championship.
8th - Swansea City
Russell Martin has implemented his attractive playing style at Swansea and there’s no doubt they are one of the best teams to watch in the league. Harry Darling is a cracking signing from MK Dons and they still retain the services of Joel Piroe, a man who could win the Golden Boot this year. Yet, too many times defensive errors left the Swans exposed. They will need ironing out if they are to achieve their full play-off potential.
7th - West Bromwich Albion
Having signed two of the Championship’s best players in Jed Wallace and John Swift, there’s a whole lot of excitement coming out of the Hawthorns. Daryl Dike has the potential to be one of the best in the league, but the elephant in the room is Steve Bruce. He underachieved with a Villa side that included Jack Grealish, and I’m not sure he can get the best out of this WBA squad. They’ll miss out on the play-offs.
6th - Luton Town (PO)
The team that have consistently improved season on season under Nathan Jones should have another successful year. Certainties are what I look for in predictions and there’s an awful lot to like about Luton, who should be just as good as they were last term. Elijah Adebayo is a goalscoring menace, and Carlton Morris’ arrival should relieve some of the burden on his shoulders. They narrowly lost their play-off semi to Huddersfield, but they could well get another crack at it this time around.
5th - Norwich City (PO)
The last two times they were playing in the Championship they won the title, but I’m less than convinced by the Canaries this time around. In Tim Krul, Ben Gibson, Kenny McLean and Teemu Pukki they boast a quality spine, but they don’t have Emi Buendia anymore, and the summer signings from last year failed to deliver. Milot Rashica could set the league alight and they should have enough to secure a top six finish, but I doubt there will be another open-top parade around Norfolk come May.
4th - Sheffield United (PO)
Paul Heckingbottom did a terrific job after replacing Slavisa Jokanovic last term and the Blades came within a penalty shootout of reaching the play-off final. All signs point towards this being another terrific season at Bramall Lane after a good summer. Anel Ahmedhodžić should be an improvement in defence while Man City’s Tommy Doyle is a promising addition to the side. The only reason I have them outside the top two, is the loss of star loanee Morgan Gibbs-White. He was outrageously good last term and even though the squad is still strong, they will need to work out a way to succeed without him.
3rd - Burnley (PO)
Vincent Kompany’s Lancastrian revolution has seen a summer of incomings that should change the way people think of Burnley. For so long they were the Premier League cloggers, but now with Scott Twine, Josh Cullen and Luke McNally coming up, they could become one of the most attractive sides in the league. Questions remain over Kompany, but I’m optimistic that he can produce and with this squad that were only just relegated last term - with Ashley Barnes, Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez up front - should be on the brink of the top two. If Kompany is class, they should win the league.
2nd - Watford (P)
Another relegated side with a new manager, but Rob Edwards joins with a big reputation having won League Two with Forest Green last term. The squad is, as the season approaches, insanely stacked in the attacking areas. Ismalia Sarr shone last time Watford were at this level and Emmanuel Dennis, who has produced the goods in the top flight, could score hatfuls. Combine that with Joao Pedro and new arrival Vakoun Issouf Bayo and you have a forward line that can destroy any other team in the Championship.
1st - Middlesbrough (C)
And your champions are… Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough. Again, I like certainties when it comes to predictions and Wilder is the best manager in the league. He improved Boro massively when he came in last term and even though they just missed out on the play-offs, they should produce the goods with him in charge for a whole campaign. The squad is cracking and Darragh Lenihan is a brilliant free signing - the only thing that is missing is a top striker at this moment in time. With plenty of time left in the window, I’m backing Wilder to bring one in and Boro to lift the trophy in May.
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