Aug. 04, 2017
Championship Predictions 2017/18 (Part 1/4)
After three months of waiting, fans of English football’s Championship need wait no longer, as the 2017/18 season is now just hours away.
Perhaps as competitive as it ever has been, the nation’s second division is traditionally one of the most challenging to predict, and yet that is something I have given a go in this special four-part series, kicking off with the bottom six.
Birmingham City's St. Andrews Stadium
24th - Millwall
Having scraped into the League One play-offs and into sixth place on the final day of the 2016/17 season, Neil Harris’ Millwall then had striker Steve Morison to thank, as the club’s fourth all-time leading scorer netted an 85th minute winner at Wembley to secure his side’s promotion back to the Championship.
Manager Harris has since added to his squad, bringing in the likes of George Saville and Jed Wallace from Wolves, alongside recent acquisitions Ryan Tunnicliffe and Jake Cooper. However, although those players bring Championship experience, there remains a question mark over whether the squad has enough quality in depth to compete at this level.
And Millwall’s immediate form will be viewed by the masses, as they travel to Nottingham Forest in one of two fixtures kicking off the new season on Friday 4 August.
23rd - Queens Park Rangers
QPR were one of several clubs who suffered a disappointing season last time out, eventually finishing in 18th position, just two points above the dreaded relegation zone.
And, having experienced an equally frustrating summer in the transfer market, their chances this time out are looking even more ominous than before.
Manager Ian Holloway will be as aware as anyone about the importance of improving a squad that was simply below par last year. However, having made just one signing – that of Josh Scowan from Barnsley – thus far, supporters may be fearing the worst ahead of the new season, which begins with a tough test against Jaap Staam’s Reading.
It could be a difficult season for QPR and manager Ian Holloway
22nd - Burton Albion
As well as Nigel Clough and his Burton side did to retain their Championship status last season, they will again be among the favourites for the drop.
Importantly, Clough has kept much of his squad from the previous campaign together, including – at least for the time being – Australian striker Jackson Irvine, the only Brewer to have netted double figures for the club last time out.
Further, the son of legendary boss Brian has also added a great deal of experience at this level in the form of Jake Buxton and Stephen Warnock from Wigan, who will be joined at the Pirelli Stadium by the talented Luke Murphy following a successful spell on loan from Leeds United since January.
Expect as much fight from this side as any in the division, however the lack of attacking threat could be Burton’s undoing.
21st - Birmingham City
Another club to have retained their status at this level by just two points last season, the 2011 League Cup Winners have been going only one way in recent years, and that is backwards.
Persuading temporary boss Harry Redknapp to sign a permanent deal with the club was perhaps a step in the right direction, however their moves to strengthen a squad that lacks both quality and depth this summer has been just the opposite.
As the majority of clubs continue to strengthen for the coming season, Redknapp has voiced his concerns over his own lack of activity, most notably with the lack of options he has upfront. The Blues have relied too heavily on Lukas Jutkiewicz for goals of late, and although the club has added well to its defence and midfield, their options remain limited further forward.
Supporters have every right to be excited about the permanent additions of Craig Gardner, David Stockdale and Marc Roberts, however.
20th - Bristol City
A strong start to the 2016/17 season ensured that a drastic dip in form would not hurt Bristol City more than it did, as the club secured a 17th place finish.
Another reason for The Robins enjoying a relatively comfortable final few weeks was the exceptional Tammy Abraham, with the 19-year-old netting 26 times for The Robins to finish behind only Chris Wood as the division’s second highest goal scorer.
Boss Lee Johnson will be only too aware of how damaging Abraham’s absence will be for his side this season, exemplified by the record £5.3 million the club has paid for former Angers forward Famara Diedhiou.
Attracting central defender Nathan Baker from Aston Villa is another promising signing, as is Mark Little from Championship rivals Bolton.
Tammy Abraham's loan spell with Bristol City has come to an end
19th - Bolton Wanderers
The job former Braford City boss Phil Parkinson has done in just a year at Bolton should not be underestimated, guiding the club back to the Championship after just a year in the third tier of English football.
Having conceded just 36 league goals last season, it was the side’s solid defence that ensured the club would edge third-place Scunthorpe out of the automatic promotion places.
With Gary Madine and Josh Vela named top scorers for the club last season with just 10 goals apiece, Parkinson’s side will need to carry more of a threat if they are going to push on this time out, a requirement that would appear to have been met.
The former Bradford City boss acted quickly to bring in Sammy Ameobi, Adam Le Fondre and Will Buckley on permanent deals, and they will be competing for places with the exciting Adam Armstrong, who joins on loan from Newcastle.
Come back to see who have been ranked 18th-1st in parts 2-4 of my 2017/18 Championship predictions.