2017/18 Preview Part IV

Here’s the last part of our club by club preview for the Sky Bet Championship season, which starts on Friday with two games, including the televised clash between Sunderland and Derby (Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event, 7:45pm GMT).

All odds were taken from the Oddschecker website on July 1st 2017: as part of the ‘What To Expect Post’ on Friday, I’ll be taking a look to see where the pre-season money has gone as well as the usual badly thought out predictions 🙂

QPR

Manager: Ian Holloway (November 2016), third season in the Championship

Last 10: 2-1-7

Promotion 12/1, relegation 7/2

It’s one of those scenarios that seems to happen at every level in British football almost every season: a previously successful manager returns to scene of earlier triumph and completely fails to recreate the glory days. Last season Rangers fell out of the top half of the table for good after ‘Ollie’ was appointed and Blackburn – who were relegated – finished with a better goal difference: QPR lost seven of their last eight games and with that in mind I’ll be surprised if Holloway isn’t working for Sky Sports again on Friday evenings before Christmas. There’s a good chance that Rangers will be involved in a relegation battle whether that happens or not.

Fun fact: last season QPR only won once at any of the clubs based north of Wolverhampton.

Reading

Manager: Jaap Staam (June 2016), fifth season in the Championship

Last 10: 6-2-2 (including playoffs; I’m counting the PO final as a draw)

Promotion 9/2, Relegation: 14/1

Over the last decade beaten playoff finalists have only won promotion at the end of the following seasons on three occasions, so I wouldn’t count on The Royals to add to that list even though their form at the Mad House was outstanding – only Brighton were better in 2016/17. Their defensive record on the road last season was horrible: only Rotherham conceded more on their travels and that indicates to me Reading are due a regression to their average performance since they won promotion. Eleventh it is then.

Fun fact: Reading lost nine of their 12 away games to the other sides who finished in the top half of the table. Only two of those defeats were by one goal.

Sheffield United

Manager: Chris Wilder. Promoted As Winners of League One, last season at this level was 2010/11

Last 10: 9-1-0 (League One)

Promotion 9/1, relegation 11/2

The Championship has become a lot tougher since the Blades last played in the competition more than half a decade ago and with Chris Wilder being untested at this level, those factors could combine to cause a nasty surprise for fans expecting a walk in the park. United will have momentum going for them at the start of the season, but it’s worth remembering they won only three of their ten games against the top six clubs in League One last season and only earned one point against Fleetwood Town.

Fun fact: Sheffield United have never finished in the top half of their new division in the seasons following their previous three divisional title wins.

Sheffield Wednesday

Manager: Carlos Carvalhal (June 2015), sixth season in the Championship

Last 10: 6-2-2 (including playoffs)

Promotion 7/2, relegation 40/1

Consecutive disappointments in the playoffs leave Wednesday at something of a crossroads coming into this season: it’s hard to see them recovering from a playoff hangover bought on by a penalty shoot out defeat in a local derby and it’s possible that they may even take a couple of steps backwards this season. One of the better sides in the division, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement for promotion: they went missing in March – one win in seven – and if they’re going to take the next step under Carvalhal, more away wins against the better sides should be a priority. With the benefit of hindsight, blowing a last minute lead at Fulham in November arguably cost them dearly.

Fun fact: the last time Sheffield Wednesday finished above Sheffield United in the second tier was at the end of the 1958/59 season.

Sunderland

Manager: Simon Grayson (June 2017), Relegated from the Premier League

Last 10: 1-1-8 (Premier League)

Promotion 11/2, relegation 14/1

Despite the eminently sensible decision to poach Simon Grayson from Preston, it’s hard to see Sunderland being anything other than this season’s Aston Villa: a former Premier League club that hasn’t played at this level for a while and will take at least a season to get used to the idea that they’re a big club that everyone wants to beat.

Fun fact: At the end of August 2006, Sunderland were in the bottom three of the Championship. They went on to win the title by two points.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo (May 2017), Fourth season in the Championship

Last 10: 5-1-4

Promotion 5/1, relegation 14/1

Molineux was not a happy place last season: Kenny Jackett shouldn’t have been sacked, Walter Zenga shouldn’t have been appointed and credit should be given to Paul Lambert for at least steadying the ship before he also got the boot. Apart from Rotherham, no other club lost more home games and only Wigan and Rotherham scored fewer goals in front of their own fans. Similar to Barnsley in that their away form was far better than their home form: the defence conceded two fewer goals away from home. If some of the gaudier pre-season predictions are to be fulfilled, turning Molineux into a fortress is vital, but mid table anonymity under yet another manager that’s untried in this country seems likely.

Fun fact: despite playing in three different divisions over the last decade, Wolves have only recorded two top half finishes in the Championship during that period.

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.

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