It’s highly likely that the 2010/11 nPower Championship football league will be more competitive than last season: Newcastle United became the sixth club in the last 20 seasons to win the Championship the season after being relegated from the Premiership.
Middlesbrough – another club with recent Premiership experience – are current favourites. Manager Gordon Strachan has bought in Kris Boyd from Rangers; if Boyd reproduces his outstanding goalscoring record in the Championship, he could be play a vital part in Boro’s promotion bid.
Although the clubs relegated from the Premiership shouldn’t be entirely written off, Burnley look the best equipped for a serious promotion challenge: Chris Iwelumo’s arrival from Wolves looks like a shrewd investment. Both Hull City and Portsmouth have off field issues that could hinder their efforts to make an immediate return to the top tier.
Two of the teams that reached the play offs last season should challenge for promotion places. Nottingham Forest were outstanding at home last season and Leicester City – where former Swansea City boss Paolo Sousa replaces Nigel Pearson as manager – look capable of maintaining their form from 2009/2010. Cardiff City’s prospects are unclear, but they should still be capable of a top ten finish, a prospect that both Ipswich Town and QPR will be hoping to achieve.
It’ll be interesting to see how the new arrivals from League One will perform. Champions Norwich City return after one season but may have to settle for a mid table finish; Leeds United will probably lead the division in attendance numbers, but their season may depend on how well new signing Billy Paynter adapts to the Championship. Millwall should avoid relegation but may have to be content with a bottom half finish in their first season at this level since 2005/2006.
A number of teams look as if they may struggle. Scunthorpe always seem to be punching above their weight but selling Gary Hooper to Celtic leaves The Iron without a proven goal scorer. Barnsley need to improve at home, Crystal Palace entered administration but eventually owed their survival to an outstanding away record that culminated in a win at Sheffield Wednesday on the last day of the season.
However, every club in the nPower Football League Championship will start on equal terms when the season starts on the evening of Friday August 6th, when Watford travel to Norwich City (7:45pm kick off, live on Sky Sports 3).