The forthcoming nPower Championship season looks likely to be as exciting as previous seasons with several clubs in contention for the two automatic places.
Reading, Leicester, Millwall and Ipswich all finished strongly last season, while Leeds United and Nottm Forest will both be targeting a return to their former glories with a return to the top flight, next year. Also in the mix will be Blackpool, West Ham and the League Cup winners Birmingham after they all faced relegation from the Premier League.
The fortune of the three relegated teams will no doubt rely substantially on retaining their best players and adapting to life in the Championship. Blackpool are the only one of three to keep their manager, but it looks likely that Ian Holloway is going to lose his captain and star asset, Charlie Adam to either Spurs or Liverpool. I think Blackpool will suffer from having such a great season in the Premiership that began so well but by January had lost its wheels.
After losing Alex McLeish to Black Country rivals Aston Villa, Birmingham have in my opinion made a fantastic appointment in Chris Hughton who was unceremoniously sacked by Newcastle after he steered them to promotion as champions in the 2009/10 season.
Hughton has said that he is knows he will lose some of his best players and he expects to revamp the squad before the new season. Defenders Scott Dann, Roger Johnson and goalkeeper Ben Foster are among the players linked with transfer rumours.
The West Ham owners sacked Avram Grant less than one hour after they were relegated in May and in Big Sam Allardyce have appointed a manager with plenty of man-management experience and getting the most out of his squad on a shoe-string budget, but less experience of the Championship than both Holloway and Hughton. West Ham is destined to lose some of their top players as long as other teams agree to match the big wages West Ham is currently offering the likes of England internationals Scott Parker, Robert Green and Matthew Upson. But he has already made the signing of the summer with the acquisition of Newcastle’s Kevin Nolan who has chosen to drop down a division to link up once more with Big Sam.
Furthermore, Steve McLaren’s appointment at Nottm Forest is an interesting one. McLaren is known for his coaching abilities and youth policy which is a great fit with what Forest wants to achieve by re-focusing on their youth academy. That said they have allegedly made an approach for out-of-favour Sunderland midfield playmaker and former City Ground favourite Andy Reid. McLaren is also keen to keep out-of-contract duo Rob Earnshaw and Guy Moussi.
Before the transfer merry-go-round has really started, it’s a bit premature to be betting on the teams who will be promoted just yet. That said, I believe with Big Sam Allardyce and Sven Goran Erikson, given backing from their respective owners, will be able to entice good players to West Ham and Leicester respectively to block any holes left by outgoing players and in doing so look likely to be among the favourites to achieve automatic promotion in what promises to be another thrilling Championship season
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