The battle for promotion from the Championship was closer than ever last season, and many teams have strengthened greatly since in order to try and pull away this time around – a lot easier than it sounds. After being relegated from the Premier League last season, Hull City, QPR and Burnley will be looking to join the race to go up which is headed by the last two beaten play-off finalists Middlesbrough and Derby County. Bristol City stormed to the League One title last season so will be hoping to make a big impact, as will fellow newly promoted sides MK Dons (in their first ever Championship campaign), and Preston North End, who are back in the second tier following four years away. The Lilywhites are one of the favourites for the drop though, along with Rotherham and Huddersfield Town. There have been four managerial changes in pre-season following the sackings of Steve McClaren at Derby County, Neil Redfearn at Leeds United and Stuart Gray at Sheffield Wednesday. They have been replaced by Paul Clement, Uwe Rosler and Carlos Carvalhal respectively. The other switch in the dugout is Marinus Dijkhuizen, who replaces Mark Warburton at Brentford.
1. Hull City
3. Derby County
4. Queens Park Rangers
6. Wolverhampton Wanderers
7. Ipswich Town
10. Blackburn Rovers
11. Leeds United
12. Nottingham Forest
13. Sheffield Wednesday
15. Cardiff City
16. Birmingham City
17. Brighton & Hove Albion
18. Bristol City
19. Bolton Wanderers
20. Charlton Athletic
21. Preston North End
22. Huddersfield Town
23. MK Dons
24. Rotherham United
Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 29th July 2015)
To win division
- Derby County – 6/1
- Middlesbrough – 13/2
- Hull City – 10/1
- Brentford – 12/1
- Burnley – 14/1
To gain promotion
- Derby County – 15/8
- Middlesbrough – 21/10
- Hull City – 11/4
- Brentford – 7/2
- Wolves – 4/1
To get relegated
- Rotherham – 7/4
- Charlton Athletic – 11/4
- Huddersfield Town – 3/1
- Preston North End – 7/2
- Birmingham City – 7/2
- Benik Afobe (Wolves) – 4/1
- Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn Rovers) – 12/1
- Chris Martin (Derby County) – 14/1
- Ross McCormack (Fulham) – 14/1
- Andre Gray (Brentford) – 14/1
Club by Club Guide
- Last season: 10th
- Nickname: The Blues
- Stadium: St Andrew’s (30,016)
Manager – Gary Rowett
The difference that Gary Rowett made at Birmingham when he was appointed last October is not talked about enough. When he came in, the Blues were 23rd and they finished the season in superb form to end up in 10th. A former St Andrew’s player and fans favourite meant that he was always going to be a popular choice, and he is giving supporters hope that they can return to the top division again.
Star Player – Demarai Gray
One of Birmingham’s best bit of business this summer was handing 19 year old Demarai Gray a new three year contract. The highly rated winger’s impressive performances, including a hat-trick in the 6-1 thrashing of Reading last season, attracted the interest of Tottenham, Liverpool and other Premier League clubs. He will be looking to have another excellent campaign this time around, which may leave the Blues unable to refuse offers from the top division.
My Prediction – The Blues needn’t worry about relegation as they did in the opening months of 2014-15, but it’s hard to decide whether they really can push for promotion. Even with Rowett in charge, Birmingham were poor away from home last season and they could be hit hard if either Gray or Clayton Donaldson leave for bigger things. 16th
- Last season: 9th
- Nickname: Rovers
- Stadium: Ewood Park (31,367)
Manager – Gary Bowyer
After two stints as caretaker boss, Gary Bowyer got the job full-time at Ewood Park in May 2013, and in his first full seasons with Rovers, he has guided them to 8th and 9th in the division. Now the fans are expectant, and will want him to deliver at least a play-off place. Also guided the Lancashire side to the FA Cup Quarter-Finals last season where they look Liverpool to a replay.
Star Player – Jordan Rhodes
The main man since Blackburn were relegated three years ago, Jordan Rhodes has 74 goals in 143 games for the club, a tally which has unsurprisingly earned him a huge amount of interest from other clubs. Rovers have managed to keep hold of him so far, and it is critical that they do so again, as their hopes of promotion are mostly resting on the Scottish striker’s clinical nature.
My Prediction – As aforementioned, if Blackburn lose Jordan Rhodes, it is unlikely that they will get anywhere promotion. Even with the goals of the 24 year old and Rudy Gestede, it could their shaky defence which lets them down again, but the top half should be a very achievable goal. 10th
- Last season: 18th
- Nickname: The Trotters
- Stadium: Macron Stadium (28,723)
Manager – Neil Lennon
After winning three successive Scottish Premier League titles with Celtic, Neil Lennon took his first coaching role in England when Bolton appointed him last October. He started very well at the Macron Stadium taking the Trotters from bottom to 14th, but the season ended with just one win in 11 games and an 18th place finish. He is a good man manager though, and appears to get the best out of his players.
Star Player – Josh Vela
Normally a centre midfielder, Josh Vela was moved to right-back when Neil Lennon arrived at Bolton, and his impressive displays and tactical brain earned him a move to his natural position, where he also shone and earned high praise for his technical ability despite being just 21 years old. Reports suggest that Liverpool are keeping tabs on the youngsters, who came runner-up in Bolton’s 2014-15 Player of the Season poll.
My Prediction – Personally I’ve never been convinced by Neil Lennon, and Bolton’s poor performances towards the end of the last campaign show that they probably aren’t ready for a Premier League return just yet. With Adam Le Fondre gone following his loan spell, it’s hard to see where the goals will come from. 19th
- Last season: 5th
- Nickname: The Bees
- Stadium: Griffin Park (12,763)
Manager – Marinus Dijkhuizen
Whoever took over from Mark Warburton was always going to have a lot to live up to, but Marinus Dijkhuizen has been coined a ‘perfect fit’ by the Brentford board. He may not have any previous experience in England, but the 43 year old did lead Excelsior out of the Dutch second tier after just half a season in charge, before ensuring they remained in the Eredivisie last season.
Star Player – Andre Gray
Signed from Luton last season, Andre Gray proved an instant success in the Championship. By scoring 18 goals in all competitions, the 24 year old ended up as Brentford’s top goal scorer and won the Championship Player of the Month in November along the way. The striker has attracted interest from the likes of QPR and Hull during the summer, but Dijkhuizen has managed to keep him at Griffin Park, much to the fans’ delight.
Prediction – Brentford surprised a lot of people by finishing in the play-offs last season and proved their is real quality in their squad. Marinus Dijkhuizen has made some very good signings, and if he can adapt to the English game, Bees fans could have a lot to cheer about again this season. 5th
Brighton & Hove Albion
- Last season: 20th
- Nickname: The Seagulls
- Stadium: The Amex Stadium (30,750)
Manager – Chris Hughton
A winner of the Championship with Newcastle United in 2010, Chris Hughton was appointed Brighton manager at the end of 2014, but was unable to turn around a poor season which had begun with Sami Hyypia in charge, resulting in a 20th place finish. After a summer where he has been able to make the squad his own, he will be keen to push higher up the table.
Star Player – Tomer Hemed
One of Hughton’s eight new signings so far, Tomer Hemed arrived for £1 million from UD Almeira. He scored eight goals for the Spanish club last year, but couldn’t prevent them for getting relegated. He also has 10 goals in 15 games for the Israel national team, so fans will be excited if he can prove prolific in the Championship.
My Prediction – It can only really get better for Brighton following a dismal 2014-15 campaign, but they are unlikely to go straight back to fighting for promotion. Chris Hughton may have made a lot of signings, but none of them stand out top quality additions. 17th
- Last season: 1st (League One)
- Nickname: The Robins
- Stadium: Ashton Gate (13,414)
Manager – Steve Cotterill
It was a hugely successful season for Bristol City last year as they won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and stormed to the League One title. Steve Cotterill’s brilliant tactical knowledge was a key part to that, and he won two manager of the month awards along the way. He’s greatly experienced and has earned his chance to manager in this division again.
Star Player – Aden Flint
A rock at the back and clinical going forward are not usually two phrases that you associate with the same player, but that’s exactly what centre-back Aden Flint is. Along with helping Bristol City concede the fewest goals in the league last season (38), he also chipped in with 15 goals in all competitions. This included the opening goal at Wembley in the Football League Trophy final, a goal in their promotion sealing win over Bradford, and a hat trick in their final day romping of Walsall.
My Prediction – Steve Cotterill has worried many fans by making just one signing so far, and although their squad was too good for League One last season, they certainly won’t challenge for a successive promotion as it stands. Relegation shouldn’t be a worry either though. 18th
- Last season: 19th (Premier League)
- Nickname: The Clarets
- Stadium: Turf Moor (21,401)
Manager – Sean Dyche
The ‘Ginger Mourinho’ shocked everybody by getting Burnley promoted in 2013-14, and although he couldn’t keep them in the Premier League, the Clarets board have kept faith in him and trust him to send the Lancashire club up again. Even with a minimal budget, Dyche gets the best out the resources available and has become a huge fans’ favourite at Turf Moor.
Star Player – Tom Heaton
Despite the fact that Burnley were relegated last season, Tom Heaton still managed to keep nine clean sheets in between the sticks, including against both Manchester clubs. The 29 year old was rewarded with an England call-up earlier in the summer, but will want to get back to the top tier as soon as possible. Heaton was key to promotion last time around, conceding the least goals in the division.
My Prediction – Sean Dyche will hope that new signing Jelle Vossen will be able to fill the gap left by Danny Ings, who joined Liverpool in the summer. If he can, you wouldn’t bet against Burnley challenging for promotion again or at least the play-offs. 8th
- Last season: 11th
- Nickname: The Bluebirds
- Stadium: Cardiff City Stadium (33,280)
Manager – Russell Slade
Slade was deservedly given the chance to manage in the second tier for the first time by Cardiff when appointed last October. He managed to steady the ship after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s disastrous spell in charge, but fans remain unconvinced by the 54 year old. His first full season in charge will be a hugely important one.
Star Player – Sammy Ameobi
Sammy Ameobi featured 25 times for Newcastle last season, so it was a surprise to many that he was loaned out to Cardiff, but the Bluebirds should take full advantage. The 23 year old, who can play out wide or upfront, is highly rated and full of pace. He could really grow as a player at Cardiff, and help them fight for promotion in the process.
My Prediction – With their squad, Cardiff shouldn’t be finishing mid-table in the Championship, but I think they will do so again, much to the disappointment/frustration of their fans. Unfortunately, I don’t think Russell Slade is cut out for this level and who knows what havoc Vincent Tan could cause throughout the season. 15th
- Last season: 12th
- Nickname: The Addicks
- Stadium: The Valley (27,111)
Manager – Guy Luzon
Having previously managed Belgian top division side Standard Liege, Guy Luzon joined in January after Bob Peeters’dismissal and managed to string together a few wins to drag Charlton away from danger. He’s now had a summer to make the squad his own and will be hoping to impress or feel the wrath of owner Roland Duchâtelet, as many before him have done.
Star Player – Simon Makienok
Even if he doesn’t impress, Simon Makienok will still stand out, mainly because of his 6ft 7in frame, which will make him an ideal target man for Charlton. The 26 year old is on a season long loan from Palermo, and does have goal scoring pedigree, previously scoring 36 goals in 80 games for Brondby in the Danish league, which is probably a similar standard to the Championship. If he gets service, Makienok could be clinical.
My Prediction – The jury is still out over Guy Luzon, whilst despite the fact Charlton have made six new signings, all are unknown quantities and unproven in England. They could work out brilliantly to help the Addicks challenge for the play-offs, but more than likely it will be lower mid-table finish for the London club. 20th
- Last season: 8th
- Nickname: The Rams
- Stadium: The iPro Stadium (33,597)
Manager – Paul Clement
He may have a very good CV on paper, having coached at Chelsea and Real Madrid amongst others, but this is Paul Clement’s first ever managerial role. The appointment could work out brilliantly and Derby will reap the benefits, or the former PE teacher may struggle and revert back to being part of the backroom staff in 12 months time. Fans will be hoping for the former.
Star Player – Andreas Weimann
Paul Clement has brought in a huge wealth of attacking talent this summer, and Andreas Weimann from Aston Villa might be the best of the lot. Despite appearing in 33 out of a possible 38 matches in the Premier League last season Tim Sherwood deemed him surplus to requirements, and the Austrian moved to Pride Park for £2.75 million. In my opinion, he’s far too good for this league and could tear it apart.
My Prediction – Derby have one of the best squads in the Championship, and are still hurting from play-off final defeat in 2013-14 and missing out on the top six on the last day of last season. They are determined not to suffer heartbreak, but I think they will just miss out on automatically going up. 3rd
- Last season: 17th
- Nickname: The Cottagers
- Stadium: Craven Cottage (25,700)
Manager – Kit Symons
A former player of the club, Kit Symons was quite a popular choice for the manager’s role after Felix Magath’s dismissal last September. Although he hasn’t had the desired impact just yet, he did manage to save the club from potentially an embarrassing successive relegation. The 44 year old says that the “club that is very close to my heart”, so there’s no doubt he will do everything he can to get the Cottagers back up the division.
Star Player – Ross McCormack
After moving from Leeds United for an astonishing £11 million last summer, Ross McCormack gave Fulham a return of 19 goals in all competitions. He was central to the club’s turnaround under Kit Symons and was even given the captain’s armband on a few occasions. There’s no doubt that the Cottagers will need him in prolific form again to stay out of trouble.
My Prediction – Although Fulham have got some of the bigger earners off their books in Bryan Ruiz and Hugo Rodallega, both were key to the turnaround last season. The players that remain need to learn from their mistakes, and they are unlikely to struggle again. Promotion might be too far yet though. 14th
- Last season: 16th
- Nickname: The Terriers
- Stadium: John Smith’s Stadium (24,500)
Manager – Chris Powell
Largely a popular choice when he was appointed last September, Chris Powell turned around a rough start to the season for Huddersfield without setting the world alight. He guided Charlton to the League One title in 2012 and then a 9th place finish the following campaign, so Terriers fans will hope he can have an equally positive effective on their club in his first full season in charge.
Star Player – Jacob Butterfield
Voted Huddersfield’s Player of the Season in 2014-15, Jacob Butterfield was hugely influential in the middle of the park and will hope to be again. His six goals and eight assists meant that he contributed to just under 25% of the Terriers’ goals last season. Able to start attacks by himself or play killer passes, Butterfield is even beginning to become a leader in the center of the park.
My Prediction – Last season, Huddersfield conceded the fourth most goals in the division (75), and only stayed up because of their attack. They cannot continue to rely on Nahki Wells and co otherwise the worst case scenario is relegation. It’s a possibility that is looking more and more likely as they’ve lost Connor Coady to Wolves and not spent much on bringing players in. 22nd
- Last season: 18th (Premier League)
- Nickname: The Tigers
- Stadium: KC Stadium (24,500)
Manager – Steve Bruce
Many people felt as though Steve Bruce should have kept Hull City in the Premier League, but the Tigers’ owners have kept faith in him, and with good reason too. He has been promoted from the Championship three times, once with Hull and twice before with Birmingham City. This means he knows what it takes to get out of the division, and this is probably the best squad he has ever managed at this level.
Star Player – Michael Dawson
One of multiple players far too good for the Championship, Michael Dawson joined Hull from Tottenham last summer and had a very good season to be named the club’s player of the year. A commanding presence at the back, Hull could have been relegated long before they were if it wasn’t for Dawson’s performances and leadership. Another strong season from the Yorkshireman could see the Tigers back in the big time.
My Prediction – With the quality that they have in their squad, Hull really should get straight back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. At the moment the squad is quite small, but a few more additions and this side with the experienced Steve Bruce at the helm have got to be big favourites for the title. 1st
- Last season: 6th
- Nickname: The Tractor Boys
- Stadium: Portman Road (30,311)
Manager – Mick McCarthy
Having taken over the club when they were in the relegation zone in November 2012, Mick McCarthy has transformed Ipswich into promotion contenders in the space of two seasons. He has won promotion from this division with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sunderland, and will be hoping to add success with the Tractor Boys to that list after losing in the play-offs last season.
Star Player – Daryl Murphy
Whilst many predicted Jordan Rhodes to be the Championship’s top scorer, Daryl Murphy came out of nowhere to claim the award, hitting the back of the net 27 times for Ipswich last season. It meant that the 32 year old was subject to interest from numerous Premier League clubs, so fans were relieved when Murphy committed his Portman Road future with a new two year deal.
My Prediction – Ipswich haven’t particularly strengthened last season’s squad, but did sell promising defender Tyrone Mings to Bournemouth for £8 million. However they didn’t spend much last summer but still made the top six, so Mick McCarthy will have set his sights high again. 7th
- Last season: 15th
- Nickname: The Whites
- Stadium: Elland Road (37,914)
Manager – Uwe Rosler
Leeds have had four managers since this time last year, and Uwe Rosler was appointed following the end of last season after being out of job since being sacked by Wigan last November. He rejected offers in his native Germany in attempt to land another job in England, so must have been pleased when The Whites came calling. He reached the play-offs in his first season at the DW, so does have Championship pedigree.
Star Player – Alex Mowatt
There’s plenty of young English talent in Leeds’ squad, and Alex Mowatt might be the most exciting prospect of the lot and was the surprise package last season, scoring nine goals and getting two assists from out wide. The 20 year old’s impressive performances meant that he won the Fans Player Of The Year Award and also the Players Player Of The Year award at The Whites’ 2014–15 season awards ceremony.
My Prediction – Leeds are nearing closer and closer to getting back to the Premier League, which they have not played in since 2004. They should finish higher than last season and possibly even flirt with the play-offs but not quite make them, which will definitely be a step in the right direction for a club who has felt the full force of ownership troubles in recent years. 11th
- Last season: 4th
- Nickname: Boro
- Stadium: The Riverside Stadium (34,742)
Manager – Aitor Karanka
Having worked under Jose Mourinho, 41 year old Aitor Karanka looks like a very promising young manager and instantly made himself a fans’ favourite at the Riverside by reaching the play-off final last season, the closest Middlesbrough have ever got to a top flight return since their relegation in 2009. With a full campaign under his belt, Karanka has more knowledge of the English game wants to go one step further than 2014-15.
Star Player – Stewart Downing
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic said that he didn’t want Stewart Downing to leave Upton Park, but couldn’t stop his desire to return to his hometown club. Boro signed the 31 year old for £5.5 million and gave him a five year deal, in the hope that he can re-capture the performances he has previously impressed the Riverside faithful with. Between 2001 and 2009, Downing made 234 appearances for the club scoring 22 goals and could spearhead their promotion charge.
My Prediction – The signing of Stewart Downing has sent shockwaves throughout the division and proves that Middlesbrough don’t want to suffer heartbreak again this season. They might miss the goals of Patrick Bamford though, but the rumoured signing of Jordan Rhodes would easily fix that problem and complete an already strong squad. 2nd
- Last season: 2nd (League One)
- Nickname: The Dons
- Stadium: Stadium:mk (30,500)
Manager – Karl Robinson
At 34 years old, Karl Robinson is the youngest manager in the Championship as well as the third longest serving manager in England’s top four divisions. After guiding MK Dons to promotion to the second tier for the first time in their history, he has been handed a new long-term deal. Robinson has rejected managerial offers from clubs at this level in the past, so it will be interesting to see how he fares.
Star Player – Dale Jennings
Despite making a 2011 switch to German giants Bayern Munich at the tender age of 18 after consistently impressing in League One for Tranmere, Dale Jennings has never really shown his full potential. Torn ligaments in Germany have certainly hindered his career but, if Jennings regains his form after signing for MK Dons this summer, he could light up Stadium:mk this season.
My Prediction – MK Dons have the smallest budget in the division and we have seen how that has affected clubs in the past in a negative way. They’ve signed a lot of players with a point to prove which may or may not work out for them, but I can see them struggling and perhaps even going straight back down to League One. 23rd
- Last season: 14th
- Nickname: Forest
- Stadium: City Ground (30,576)
Manager – Dougie Freedman
Following the sacking of Stuart Pearce in February, Nottingham Forest decided to appoint Dougie Freedman, who has previously had spells in charge of Crystal Palace and Bolton. He’s not had overriding success at any club yet, but was handed a two year contract extension in April to suggest that the Forest owners are happy with what they have seen so far.
Star Player – Michail Antonio
An inspired signing last summer from Sheffield Wednesday, Michail Antonio played every league game under both Stuart Pearce and Dougie Freedman, scoring 14 league goals in the process – an impressive total out wide. The 25 year old won the club’s Player of the Year award and unsurprisingly interest from the Premier League has followed, but as of yet no one has met Forest’s asking price.
My Prediction – Despite a good manager and some good players, it’s difficult to see Forest competing with some of the top teams this season. How Assombalonga performs upon return in the new year will be crucial, as will hanging on to Michail Antonio, which looks unlikely right now. 12th
Preston North End
- Last season: 3rd (League One)
- Nickname: The Lilywhites
- Stadium: Deepdale (23,404)
Manager – Simon Grayson
By beating Swindon in the play-off final at Wembley in May, Simon Grayson achieved a fourth promotion from League One and gave Preston their first success in the lottery in 10 attempts. He has never done quite so well in the Championship, but he is well liked by the Lilywhites fans, as when he was appointed in February 2013 the club were facing relegation to League Two. Quite the turnaround.
Star Player – Jermaine Beckford
After signing for Preston on loan during the second half of last season, Jermaine Beckford scored 18 times in 31 appearances, including a hat-trick in the play-off at Wembley. Simon Grayson acted quickly to snap up the striker on a permanent deal after he was surprisingly released by Bolton, and hopes he can show signs that he was once a Premier League striker.
My Prediction – Simon Grayson has brought in some good players, but on the whole, most of the squad are largely untested in this division. Grayson himself has never set the Championship alight himself, but will be confident that his side can stay up, which I agree with, but they’ll be involved in the scrap for survival. 21st
Queens Park Rangers
- Last season: 20th (Premier League)
- Nickname: The Hoops/The Rs
- Stadium: Loftus Road (18,000)
Manager – Chris Ramsey
Still a relative unknown quality, Chris Ramsey doesn’t have the best managerial record. Caretaker manager for the final 15 games of last season, he recorded just three wins, as QPR finished bottom of the Premier League. However he was given the job full-time and is highly respected in the game, having spent 10 years at Tottenham as Head of Player Development.
Star Player – Charlie Austin
As I write, Charlie Austin is still somehow at QPR, despite a mountain of interest from numerous top-flight clubs. If they manage to keep hold of him until the window shuts which currently seems highly unlikely, he will easily be one of, if the not the best, player in the Championship this season. The striker scored 18 Premier League goals last season and notched 17 when the Hoops were promoted from this division in 2013-14.
My Prediction – As I’ve said, Charlie Austin is central to QPR’s promotion plans. Even if he does leave, then there’s still quality in the squad with the likes of Leroy Fer and Jamie Mackie so the play-offs shouldn’t be beyond them if Chris Ramsey can prove his credentials as a manager. 4th
- Last season: 19th
- Nickname: The Royals
- Stadium: Madjeski Stadium (24,161)
Manager – Steve Clarke
After managing Premier League West Brom in his first ever managerial role, Steve Clarke was appointed by Reading following Nigel Adkins’ sacking last November. In the league, he couldn’t do anything to turnaround a dismal campaign, but the Scot guided the Royals to their first FA Cup semi-final since 1927 before they were cruelly beaten by Arsenal. Clarke is well-respected and well-connected in the game.
Star Player – Michael Hector
Reading have one of the finest youth academies in the Championship, and Michael Hector is one of the best graduates in recent years, having his breakthrough campaign last season following numerous loan spells away from the Madjeski Stadium. His performance against Arsenal at Wembley particularly caught the eye, and the 23 year old centre-back has been away with Jamaica this summer, who finished as runners-up in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
My Prediction – Trying not to be bias here, I definitely think that Reading have improved from last season and won’t flirt with relegation again. There’s a lot of players in the squad who perform inconsistently, but if Clarke can get them at their best for the entire campaign, the play-offs are a possibility. A top half finish is a more realistic aim though. 9th
- Last season: 21st
- Nickname: The Millers
- Stadium: New York Stadium (12,021)
Manager – Steve Evans
One of the most passionate yet controversial managers in the league, Steve Evans achieved his goal of keeping Rotherham up after guiding them to a surprise promotion from League One in 2013-14. Just the season before he had taken them up from League Two, having also achieved successive promotions with previous club Crawley Town.
Star Player – Matt Derbyshire
Goals win games and Rotherham need someone to find the back of the net regularly to escape danger this season. Once touted for big things at Blackburn, Matt Derbyshire signed for Rotherham last summer and scored nine goals to help keep them up. He’s got a lot of experience in the Championship, which will also prove to be crucial in the scrap at the bottom.
My Prediction – As you’ve probably guessed, I’m touting Rotherham for another relegation battle this season. They only stayed up last season because the three teams below them were so horrendously poor, and with the three teams coming up being relatively strong, the Millers’ fate might inevitable by Christmas. 24th
- Last season: 13th
- Nickname: The Owls
- Stadium: Hillsborough (39,732)
Manager – Carlos Carvalhal
Fans were upset to see Stuart Gray let go given the great job he did with Sheffield Wednesday last season, but in has come Carlos Carvalhal, who has previously managed in his home country Portugal, Greece and Turkey, with his biggest roles being with Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas. The vastly experienced boss has brought a host of foreign players with him as Wednesday’s owners look to back him for promotion.
Star Player – Kieren Westwood
Signed on a free transfer last summer, Kieren Westwood was one of the Championship signings of the summer. Relegating Chris Kirkland to playing predominantly cup matches, the Republic of Ireland international played 44 times for the Owls last season and kept a very impressive 17 clean sheets, equaling the club’s record. Westwood’s performances earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year, whilst he was also named Sheffield Wednesday’s Player of the Season.
My Prediction – It’s genuinely difficult to know what to expect from Sheffield Wednesday this season. It could go absolutely brilliantly or become a complete disaster. The manager is experienced and some of his signings look good, but it all depends on how he and his recruits adapt to Championship life. For this reason, I’m going to put the Owls somewhere in the middle. 13th
- Last season: 7th
- Nickname: Wolves
- Stadium: Molineux (31,700)
Manager – Kenny Jackett
Appointed following Wolves’ relegation to League One in 2013, Kenny Jackett revitalised the football club. First, he won the third division in emphatic style with a record 103 points before guiding them to a very respectable seventh place finish in their first campaign back in the Championship. This has earned Jackett’s management high praise from Wolves fans and pundits alike.
Star Player – Benik Afobe
Starting last season on loan at MK Dons from Arsenal, Benik Afobe made a permanent switch to Molineux in January and has been an instant success. He scored 13 times in 21 league games, giving him a goal tally of 32 for the entire campaign. It led to a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England Under 21 squad for the European Championships to replace the injured Saido Berahino. Although it ended dismally, the tournament will have given Afobe a huge amount of experience.
My Prediction – With the attacking talent in Wolves’ squad it’s hard to not see them challenging for the play-offs like they did last season. Kenny Jackett is definitely the right man to take the club forward and I think that they could sneak into the top six, especially if they become more consistent, which was their 2014-15 downfall. 6th