The pies have been ordered. The programmes printed (hopefully without any spelling mistakes this time). The shelves stocked with this seasons kit. Its here. Preseason is over and Football proper is about to begin.
On the eve of the 2016/17 Championship season, like so many football fans and pundits alike, I am willing to put my neck on the line and try to predict the season. From the relegation threatened to promotion chasers, the surprise package to top goal scorer.
With the Championship looking set to claim a stake as one of the best leagues in the Europe/World, the 2016/17 has the potential to be the most competitive in recent history.
The line-up is star studded; Newcastle, Aston Villa and Norwich headline, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton are all chomping at the bit to play a big part too, with a whole host of clubs fighting it out for the surprising cameo role. From Huddersfield to Bristol, QPR to Ipswich and everyone in between, the race for a place in the Premier League is on.
For some, Championship survival is the aim; Rotherham, Burton and Barnsley are favourites to prop up the league table. All 3 clubs appear to suffer from a lack of finances, support or quality, but could prove us wrong with what they do have, a fighting attitude, optimism and faith.
Without any further ado here are my predictions:
Winner? Newcastle United. I can’t see this going any other way. They’ll have to be cautious of a bumpy start but with Rafa Benetiz as the manager, an investment exceeding £30m and a weekly home ground in excess of 70,000 it’s hard to see any other team winning the league.
2nd place? Derby County. The Rams will be looking to build upon their disappoint last time out. If they can let Pearson handle the on-pitch affairs they have the quality in their squad to hit the big time.
Playoffs? Sheffield Wednesday – some great off season signings will surely see them back in the play-offs come May. Brighton and Hove Albion – The Seagulls will be flapping their wings furiously to stay in touch with the leaders. The remaining two positions will be filled by the “form teams” and could be any one of the following; Norwich, Aston Villa, Leeds, Ipswich and dare I say it Huddersfield.
Bottom three? Rotherham United – I fear that they’ve got it all to do again this year and without Warnock it’s going to be even tougher. Burton Albion – the smallest club in the championship in regards to finances, fan base and ground capacity and I think this will show come game 46. With the third place being filled by one of the other newly promoted sides – Wigan or Barnsley.
Surprise Package? Huddersfield town. Ok, perhaps a little biased but who cares. Having only just survived for the past few seasons the clubs aim and investment suggests they could thrive this season. A good squad with a real attacking threat and a more robust defence I’m expecting a significant improvement in league position.
Top Scorer? A tough one to call this year as I suspect the championship will be a very high scoring season. Take your pick from Dwight Gayle, Newcastle. Ross McCormak, Fulham. Britt Assombalonga, Notts Forest. Nahki Wells, Huddersfield Town. All have goals in them.
Overall Verdict? Exciting football, loads of goals, shock results, Managerial sackings. It will have it all and I am genuinely fascinated as to how the season will play out.
As per the norm in football, I will look back at this in May and the results, will no doubt, suggest I am an idiot who knows nothing about football.
46 weeks of Football. I cannot wait.
Ooh to be a…