It has crept up on us again, fixture lists are out and the football leagues will be back underway in just four weeks. The quality in The Championship is ever-growing and competition is fiercer than ever for promotion as well as a spot in the play-offs.
Last season saw Reading, Southampton and West Ham, who finished in that order respectively, promoted into the Premier League – all three clubs were among favourites to be promoted but West Ham were predicted to arrive first but actually finished third. The top clubs for promotion this season are Bolton, Leicester and Wolves respectively.
Bolton slipped out of the Premier League for first time since 1995 and will be very keen to make their way back to the top flight where they now feel they belong. Up until now the club have been able to keep hold of key players and with Owen Coyle at the helm Bolton will be looking to play strong, authoritative and attacking football. With the crop of players that Bolton have at their disposal they should find themselves in the top six, at the very least, come the end of the season.
According to bookmakers as listed in Sportsbook Guardian, Leicester City have a great chance of being promoted. They finished 9th after a disappointing campaign in the Championship last season but they’ve once again reinforced their squad along with the manager who came in half-way through last season; during his previous stint there he won them promotion from League One and then took them to the play-offs of the Championship in the following season. He will be aiming to do that and hopefully carry his men even further in this coming season. The Foxes will have high hopes for their boys this season but success will be very dependent upon certain star players such as Schmeichel and Nugent to perform to the very best of their ability.
The last time Wolves were in The Championship they finished 1st and gained automatic promotion to the top flight but ever since then they had been flirting with relegation in the Premier League. Wolves owner, Steve Morgan, has brought in Stale Solbakken who has an excellent track record as a manager and will be aiming to implement his winning ways in the midlands.
Other notable candidates for a strong season include Cardiff who come ever-so-close to promotion in recent years but fall at the final hurdles. Blackburn, like Wolves and Bolton, are doing their best to retain the services of their star players to help them return to the Premier League next season. They may have lost their power house, Yakubu, but they’ve been able to bring in Leon Best from Newcastle who will be a very good striker in The Championship as he has already proved his ability to score last season.
Watford have big plans put in place with new owners and a new manager who will be building a very sustainable and effective project, they will be an outside contender to finish in the top six. Blackpool as well as Birmingham had good campaigns and will be looking to build on what they achieved last time round, retention of key players for both clubs will be crucial to how they perform in the upcoming season.
All of the clubs are contenders for a top six finish but with football being the magnificent and unpredictable game that it is could see a dark horse emerge or even a strong favourite rapidly fade away. I, for one, cannot wait and am counting down the days until match week one.