Promotion Predictions, Championship Challengers #AidansFootyShouts
With a quarter of this seasons championship season already played, I feel that I am in a position to make some predictions as to who we are going to see eating at the top table next season, so without further fanfare here are #AidansFootyShouts.
The Championship for many is the most difficult league in the world, this is a claim that I agree with entirely. It’s a league where every club on their day can beat everyone else and week in week out we see this happen. It’s a tough league full of some massive clubs, huge sleeping giants; Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forrest, Wolves and Derby County all clubs who could grace the Premiership and in the past have done so. So who’s going to grace the Premier league in 2013/14?
My shout for champions of this notoriously difficult league has to be Middlesbrough.
Tony Mowbary has been quietly transforming Middlesbrough since taking the reigns from Gordon Strachan in 2010. The Boro legend set about steadying the ship, he did so by guiding the side to safety and finishing his first season mid-table at a respectable 12th. Mowbary’s second season saw greater progress with Boro starting the season in great form before falling off the pace slightly thanks to a bad spell around the turn of the year, Mowbary’s men had to settle for 7th place just a point off the Playoffs.
Mowbary’s one and a half seasons at the Riverside thus far have been a great success, improving the Teesiders fortunes by moving the club up the league and also renovating the clubs playing staff moving on high earners such as Kris Boyd and brought in a crop of solid players turning Boro into an exciting team. I feel it is the season for Boro to better last years near miss and win the title.
On the occasions that I have seen Boro so far this season they have, to me, looked like Championship champion contenders. This was particularly illustrated by their performance last Friday against Sheffield Wednesday where they eased to a 3-1 victory extending an unbeaten run to 8 games and making this officially their best start to a season in 8 years. Boro have a solid spine which will be the catalyst to any run to the title, you’ll have to look hard to find a better spine in any team at this level than Steele, Woodgate, McEachran and McDonald. Alongside a strong spine, Boro’s biggest asset is the fact that the goals have been shared throughout the side with 17 players already finding the back of the net. Crowds are up at the riverside but are the good times here to stay?
The second automatic place for me is the hardest to call, in a division where 1st and 15th is separated by just 11 points a good run of form for any side could see their club playing in the Premier League, so this is a spot extremely difficult to call. I am going to stick my neck out and say that the ‘Blue Birds’ Cardiff City will take the second automatic spot.
Cardiff have for many seasons been on the cusp of joining England’s elite, most betting men would have backed Cardiff to be the first Welsh side to join the Premier League. 3 seasons in a row Cardiff have been on the verge of being promoted via the Playoff each year and have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Year after year Cardiff have started the season like a house on fire and time after time ‘The Dragons’ (makes me feel sick calling them that) have fallen away. This year I think it will be different the nearly men’s luck simply has to change at some point doesn’t it?
Currently, 3rd in the league and just 2 points from the summit I really do believe this could be their season. A strong team that includes Hudson, Wittingham, Gunnarsson, Maynard and of course Bellamy managed by the excellent Malkay MacKay must surely mean Cardiff wont ‘do a Cardiff’ again will they?
Now to predict the impossible who will firstly be in the Playoffs and who will negotiate them to gain the right to play the elite of English football?
The four in the Playoffs I predict will be;
Hull City and
Crystal Palace have had a fantastic start to the season but I feel the decision of Dougie Freedman to leave for The Reebok have made Palace’s chances even slimmer particularly when one notes their small but spirited squad which will of course struggle when the inevitable happens and Wilfred Zaha bows to the temptation of the Premier League. I do though feel Palace will be strong enough to finish in the Playoffs.
My tip for Playoff glory is Leicester City, managed by a man I’ve long admired Nigel Pearson who has managed to get the Foxes playing the best football the club have produced in some years. The squad has enough about it with a run of form to solidify a Playoff place and hit form at the right time during the Playoffs to be a match for anyone in the division. Schmeichel and an on fire David Nugent are a match for anyone at this level and should be enough in May to get the Foxes up!
These are only predictions and I will make a prediction here, none of these predictions will be right! The Championship is such a competitive league which makes it such a joy to watch! Anyone could be promoted come May from Birmingham in 19th to Palace leading the pack, everyone is in with a shout of getting to the promised land.
Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)