English Championship: 09-10 Preview

Bradley KingCorrespondent IAugust 5, 2009

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Aron Gunnarsson of Coventry celebrates his late equaliser with team mate Shaun Jeffers during the pre season friendly match between Coventry City and Everton at the Ricoh Arena on August 2, 2009 in Coventry, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Because of my lack of knowledge of League One matters, the Football League season preview continues with The Championship.


The Strugglers

Two out of the three teams from League One have a strong chance of staying up- but Scunthorpe aren’t one of them. They are hardworking, cohesive and organised but the unification of the squad is undermined by its lack of depth. Manager Nigel Adkins has done a fantastic job to get the Iron back into the Championship, but he will have to work further wonders if they are to stay there for another season.

Barnsley have managed to survive three seasons in the Championship while causing minimum damage to it. After securing survival on the final day of last season, Tykes fans will be praying that they won’t be left biting their fingernails in May of next year. However with the loss of key men such as Heinz Muller and Denis Souza, anything but a long battle against relegation is unlikely.

Plymouth were the only side to finish below Barnsley and survive in the last campaign. The club will be hoping that changes in the boardroom coincide with improved performance on the pitch. Argyle scored fewer goals than any of the bottom three last season, and manager Paul Sturrock has looked to address this by drafting in Bradley Wright-Phillips from south coast neighbours Southampton. However, after 22 goals in over 120 games for the Saints, the chances of him improving Plymouth’s goals for column seem low.

After a season which many at Pride Park will want to forget, Derby will be looking to stake a claim for the playoffs in 2010. But a poor run towards the end of last season coupled with the lack of quality brought in could see Derby struggle. Much will depends on how Nigel Clough copes with his first full season of league management.


The Surprise Package

Coventry finished in a safe enough 17th position last season and will be looking to push on and threaten the top six positions in 2009-10. In Chris Coleman, they have a top class manager who was unlucky to lose his Premiership job at Fulham a couple of years back. His most exciting signing is undoubtedly left winger Michael McIndoe, who has signed from Championship rivals Bristol City. His flair should provide a spark to the side. The squad looks a little light at the minute, but with a couple more bodies Coventry shouldn’t be underestimated.

After being promoted last year, Leicester’s primary aim will be to secure Championship football for next season. However, on the back of a fantastic season for players such as habitual goal scorer Matty Fryatt and promising full back Joe Mattock, Leicester may be looking at a higher finish. Wayne Brown will add solidity to the back four, while at £1.2million, former Doncaster midfielder Richie Wellens could prove to be the heartbeat of the side.

Could this season be the one for another two ex-Premier League sides to return to the Promised Land? Nottingham Forest have a new manager in Billy Davies who worked wonders at Preston and Derby. Davies has overhauled the Forest squad, signing nine players and disposing of fifteen resulting in a much cleaner, trimmed squad. Few would bet against Forest being in the mix come May.

Meanwhile, Sheffield Wednesday have been quietly going about their business. The Owls have managed to claw onto Marcus Tudgay despite Burnley’s advances as well as making a few more shrewd buys, including ex-Wolves midfielder Darren Potter. The return of Premier League football to Hillsborough might not be too far away.


The Favourites

Sir Bobby Robson’s recent untimely death prevented him from seeing the Championship unfold this year. However, two of his former teams will be amongst the favourites to take the title.

Tractor boys’ manager Roy Keane has trimmed his squad of the deadwood, and brought in quality such as Damien Delaney from QPR and winger Lee Martin from Manchester United. The back four look solid enough and in Richard Wright, Ipswich have one of the top goalkeepers in the division. David Norris and Colin Healy will feature in a workman-like midfield while in Jonathan Walters, Jon Stead and Pablo Counago, they have three quality strikers. With transfer money still available to spend, Ipswich will certainly become a force to be a reckoned with.

Apart from Ipswich the three promoted teams stand out. The mass exodus from relegated teams that usually happens hasn’t occurred just yet. The pain Middlesbrough will suffer as a result of Stewart Downing’s departure will be cushioned by the continued progress of winger Adam Johnson. Likewise, the temperamental Mido has been ousted in favour of bringing Leroy Lita to the Riverside. There are bound to be more ins and outs, but this is a career defining season for Gareth Southgate- and he is no stranger to pressure.

West Brom are arguably the best placed to regain Premier League status. But with managerial upheaval at The Hawthorns, it will be interesting to see how the squad respond to new manager Roberto Di Matteo. Signing the prolific Simon Cox could prove to be a masterstroke. Cox scored 29 league goals last year and was the top scorer in all four English divisions. Fans will be hoping he can do the same for West Brom in the Championship as he did for Swindon in League One.

Newcastle continue to be in complete disarray. Still without a manager, Chris Hughton continues the duties of the first team for now. With the boardroom also in limbo, transfers are difficult to complete and no new players have been drafted in so far. But if a quality manager can be brought in along with a couple of quality players, there is no reason why the current squad cannot storm this division. They have certainly got the supporters backing.