2016/17 Sky Bet Championship Preview Part One

It’s less than a month before the start of the new Sky Bet Championship season and so without further ado here’s the first part of our annual preview.

All prices were taken from the Oddschecker website on 1st July 2016 and will inevitably fluctuate throughout the season.

Aston Villa

Manager: Roberto Di Matteo (June 2016)

Relegated from the Premier League

Last 10 games: (Premier League) 0-1-9

Promotion: 7/2

Relegation: 30/1

Historically Villa have a decent record of winning promotion back to the first tier of English football after relegation (two of three times after WWII) but this is not the late 1980s and the Championship is not the same as it was when Di Matteo was in charge of WBA in 2009/10. Questionable morale at the end of last season plus adjustments on and off the field mean that they’re more likely to be Fulham than Newcastle but there seems to be money in the bank and they should avoid relegation, even though they’ll be rightly targeted as one of the big boys and the derbies will be extremely competitive.

Barnsley

Manager: Paul Heckingbottom (June 2016)

Promoted from League One via the playoffs

Last 10 games: (League One, not including playoffs): 5-4-1

Promotion: 28/1

Relegation: 3/1

It’s a great story (bottom of League One in December, recovering to win the JPT and the playoffs), but let’s not forget how underwhelming The Tykes were the last time they won promotion. Barnsley scored as many goals on the road as they did at him last season, but gung ho attacking sides normally find the Championship difficult and Bristol City and MK Dons definitely did last season. Barnsley should have some momentum going into this season, but I can’t see anything other than another bottom half finish this season: they’ve not finished in the top half of the second tier since 2000.

Birmingham City

Manager: Gary Rowett (October 2014)

Last 10 games: 1-5-4

Sixth season in the Championship

Promotion: 9/1

Relegation: 50/1

Approaching the longest spell at this level since the mid to late 1990s, the Blues are at something of a crossroads this season. Gary Rowett has arrested the decline that came precariously close to relegation to League One a few seasons ago, but City need to kick on this season and challenge for the play offs at the very least. Looking at how they ended last season, I’d wonder if changes might be made at Christmas if Blues aren’t within striking distance of the top seven: that price for promotion is a bit optimistic.

Blackburn Rovers

Manager: Owen Coyle (June 2016)

Fifth season in the Championship

Last 10 games: 3-3-4

Promotion: 16/1

Relegation: 9/2

Uh oh. Lowest league position since 2013 combined with the appointment of a manager who talks a good game yet hasn’t done much at this level indicate that Rovers could be in trouble this season. Other than a very poor start Rovers were never really struggling last season, but the only team they beat twice was Rotherham, they only picked up one point from six against Bolton and only five teams scored fewer goals – and three of them went down.

Brentford

Manager: Dean Smith (November 2015)

Third season in the Championship

Last 10 games: 7-1-2

Promotion: 10/1

Relegation: 8/1

There was never going to be a repeat of the 2014/15 season at Griffin Park after the board replaced Mark Warburton with an unknown Dutchman, but after Marinus Dijkhuizen’s departure in September after just nine games, Dean Smith steadied the ship and the Bees eventually only finished nine points behind Sheffield Wednesday. Should be back to something like the team that did so well a couple of seasons ago but probably not good enough for the playoffs – Brentford lost 12 of the 16 games they played against the teams that finished above them.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Manager: Chris Hughton (December 2014)

Sixth season in the Championship

Last 10 games: (not including the playoffs): 7-3-0

Promotion: 7/2

Relegation: 50/1

The most improved side in the Championship last season, but having failed to negotiate the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons you have to start wondering if the next step for Brighton is a gradual decline rather than Premier League glory. It’s clear why Albion didn’t win automatic promotion last season: a dismal period around Christmas combined with an inability to beat the other contenders. Should be close again, but I don’t think they’ll be able take the next step: however, I was wrong about them last season and so you never know!

Author: Mike Roberts

A football fan since the 1970s, I take my inspiration from the standard of writing that made Shoot! magazine streets ahead of anything else back in the day. I'm also a complete and utter stathead, which I blame on being exposed to American sports at the end of my teens.