Last season’s Coca-Cola Championship race was closer than ever. After Watford sprinting off to what seemed like an uncatchable lead, they began to leak goals and points come the Autumn. And by Christmas it seemed like no one team was able to keep the lead.
Whether seen as a very tight exciting league or a scrappy league without any real outstanding talent, the addition of the three relegated Premiership teams – Reading, Derby & Birmingham, along with the three teams promoted from League One – Swansea, Nottm Forest & Doncaster, it looks likely to be another close call between many teams pushing for Premiership promotion who, with a few bad results, turning their sights to a relegation battle.
So who are my favourites for Premier League promotion?
I expected QPR to have made a few top signings by now, thinking their owners are gagging for promotion; and the appointment of Ian Dowie as manager may turn out to be a level headed choice, but it certainly isn’t going to attract any big name stars.
I’m not sure what is happening at Reading, though it looks like they are going to lose Nicky Shorey to the Premiership, along with striker Dave Kitson, who will be a big loss.
Both Derby & Birmingham are my favourites for promotion. Not only have they added to their squads but both have relatively new managers that appear to have written off last season before it had finished, so as to concentrate on gaining promotion this season and starting afresh.
Both teams are going to be lead by strong attacking options. Derby have splashed out on the striking partnership of Rob Hulse (from Sheffield United) and Nathan Ellington (loan from Watford), while Birmingham will have quality striking options as they have brought in Marcus Bent (Charlton) and Kevin Phillips (WBA) to fight for places with James McFadden, Cameron Jerome and Garry O’Connor.
Birmingham look like they have the strongest squad in the league, especially with the additions of Lee Carsley (from Everton) and the Dutch under-21midfielder Kemy Agustien on a season-long loan from AZ Alkmaar.
The Coca-Cola League season 2008/09 begins this Saturday at 12.45 when Birmingham take on Sheffield United and have the chance to go top from the very start.