With the Olympics filling our summer it feels like the new football season has crept up on us. Well it has – with the first game this weekend. Needless to say we here at TGT are looking forward to the new season. Like an excited puppy we want to share our joy by giving everyone a preview and more importantly our predictions of who will be at the top of The Championship come May.
As a few big-guns were casualties of the drop from the Premier League last season, we’ll start with them and their chances of bouncing straight back up:
Bolton Wanderers – Relegated last season in 18th after an 11 year stay in the Premier League. Coyle, the man who took them down, is still at the helm and will be looking to gain promotion at the first time of asking. Their most notable signing has been Keith Andrews from Ipswich Town. Coyle will be hoping he can make an instant impact – although they have managed to keep most of their Premier League squad together. This is reflected in their odds to win the league which are best priced with Ladbrokes at 8s, making Bolton the pre-season favourites.
Wolverhampton Wanderers – Finished last season in 20th with a very leaky defence. Like Bolton, Wolves have managed to keep most of their squad together and have some real quality with the likes of O’Hara, Fletcher and Jarvis. However, time will tell if they can hold on to these players. Wolves are priced at 10s to win the league with Ladbrokes and Wanderers fans can expect them to be there or thereabouts come May.
Blackburn Rovers - After the strange decision to sack Allardyce and put Steve Kean in charge the Venky owners found their new club in 19th position in May and facing a season in the second tier of English football. Kean has managed to stay at the helm but how long he stays there is a different matter. A poor start is very likely to cost him his job. Danny Murphy could be a key signing as he is arguably too good for this level. There have also been a lot of rumours regarding the signing of Jordan Rhodes who could add some needed fire-power, whether this comes to fruition, only time will tell. Coral are best-priced for Blackburn to win the league at 13s. However a better bet could be promotion which is priced at 5s with Coral.
Although these three are bound to be favourites to gain promotion there are a few clubs who are likely to cause a stir this year:
Leicester City – Very close to promotion last year and have managed to add to their already talented squad. Pearson is a good manager who should be able to push Leicester on to the next stage and get promotion. Beckford will be a key part of this promotion push and if he is scoring they should be there or thereabouts. Ladbrokes have the best price for Leicester to win the league – at 9s.
Cardiff City – Craig Bellamy returning to his boyhood club, when he is clearly still of Premier League quality (as shown in the Olympics), is a massive boost to the Welsh club. If they can manage his fitness he could well fire the bluebirds into contention for promotion. Cardiff are best priced at BetVictor to win the league with odds of 13.
Birmingham City – So close last year after finishing fourth but beaten by Blackpool in the Play-off semi final. Peter Lovenkrands should offer some potency up front as he is too good for this level, but they must keep him fit. Birmingham will no doubt have a solid season and be around the play-off positions. Lee Clark is a talented young manager who should do well. Stan James have Birmingham priced at 7.5 to achieve promotion this season.
These are my predictions for top six this season. Next I will run through the three recently promoted clubs and one or two others who could struggle:
Sheffield Wednesday – They just managed to avoid the dreaded play-offs by winning on the last day of season. Michail Antonio looks like he could be a star for the future and Wednesday’s season could depend on his form fitness. We will have to see if the squad can make the step up to The Championship first time of asking. With odds of 11s at Coral for relegation it looks like the bookies fancy the Owls to stay up.
Huddersfield Town – Gained promotion through the play-offs after a tense penalty shoot-out with local rivals Sheffield United. Simon Grayson is a good manager with experience at this level after a stint with Leeds United. He should be able to keep the Terriers up but much can depend upon keeping their 40-odd goal striker Jordan Rhodes. BetVictor have Huddersfield priced at 6s for relegation.
Charlton Athletic – League One champions last year under the stewardship of Chris Powell. They are an extremely solid team who will be difficult to beat. If they can get some goals at the other end they could do well. Much will rely on the form of Bradley Wright-Phillips. William Hill are best priced if you fancy them for relegation with odds of 7.5.
Barnsley – Regular strugglers of The Championship who always seem to pull off the great escape – will this be a season too far? Their season will mostly depend upon Mido who often blows hot and cold. If he can score some goals and get a run of games they could survive. However, the bookies don’t fancy their chances with Barnsley being favourites for the drop at price of 2.5 with BWin.
Burnley – Like Barnsley, regular strugglers and predicted to struggle again. After the loss of Rodgriguez to Southampton they could really struggle for goals and could definitely be facing the drop. Bet365 have them priced at 8 for relegation which in my opinion is quite high as they will definitely struggle for goals.
So there we have it, a little taster to whet your appetite before the big kick-off this weekend. Everyone will be (obviously) glued to Soccer Saturday and will get the start they want from their team. Add to the discussion below the line.