Well here we are again folks, the start of a brand new football season. It`s the time of year where everyone thinks their team has a chance, and the teams that begin with A, or in the Championship`s case B, can sing ‘we are top of the league`. Vital Reading cast`s an eye over our Championship rivals and predicts how the league table will look come May 2010.
1st West Brom – Despite the departure of Tony Mowbray, I still fancy the Baggies to come straight back up and I think they will just nick the title from Middlesbrough, in Roberto Di Matteo`s first season as manager at the Hawthorns. Simon Cox will score goals at this level, and despite the departure of Paul Robinson they will still be solid defensively.
2nd Middlesbrough – Despite losing Stewart Downing and goalkeeper Ross Turnbull to the lure of the Premier League, they still have excellent young players and the likes of Danny Coyne, Mark Yeates and Leroy Lita will give them the experience of the football league.
3rd Nottingham Forest – This could well be the tightest race for the play offs in many years, and Forest`s summer spending will see them go from relegation contenders to promotion hopefuls in just one season. Billy Davies has taken Derby out of this division before and has the experience to do the same at the City ground.
4th Sheffield United – Last season`s losing play off finalists will surely be back for more this season despite losing start defender Kyle Naughton. Ched Evans has joined from Man City and the number of season`s pro`s in the squad make me think they will go one better at Wembley this time.
5th Preston – Made the play offs last season by just one goal from Cardiff but have lost captain Paul McKenna to Nottingham Forest. However they have added Paul Parry and squad still looks strong enough to finish in the top 6 again.
6th Bristol City – Didn`t live up to expectations last season but have added some much needed strength in depth with the likes of Lewin Nyatanga and Paul Hartley. If Danny Haynes can score the goals that they will miss with Dele Adebola`s departure then they will sneak into the plays offs.
7th Peterborough – Mark my words – Peterborough will be this season`s surprise package. There impressive strike trio of Aaron McLean, Craig Mackail Smith and George Boyd will adjust to life in the championship with ease and whilst they may just miss out on a play off spot, Darren Ferguson`s side will further enhance their reputation.
8th QPR – Spent big on South American Alejandro Faurlin, and have also secured the season long loan deal for Adel Taarbat from Spurs. With the ability to out buy most clubs in this division they will be a force but cannot see them getting into the play offs without a decent striker.
9th Reading – Brendan Rodgers first season at the Madejski Stadium will surely be one of transition. We have signed a couple of good player in Matt Mills and Ryan Bertrand but with the departure of Kevin Doyle, I don`t think we have a striker yet who can score enough goals to get us into the play offs.
10th Cardiff – New stadium`s do not bring instant success as we found out over 10 years ago. After chairman Peter Risdale released funds in the summer to sign Michael Chopra and defender`s Mark Hudson and Anthony Gerrard, Dave Jones will be expected to deliver at least a play off place but the likely departure of last season`s top scorer Ross McCormack could see them fall short.
11th Derby – Nigel Clough has managed to clear quite a few players out of a heavy squad he inherited when taking over half way through last season, and has been able to bring in a number of his own players including Dean Moxey from Exeter and Jake Buxton from his old club Burton. Have more than enough to finish in mid table but perhaps not enough to get in the play offs.
12th Ipswich – Roy Keane has added a very Irish feel to the squad at Portman Road including defender Damien Delaney from QPR. His arrival at the end of last season saw a very decent finish but can he sustain it over the course of a season and repeat his success at this level with Sunderland a few years ago.
13th Leicester – Won League One at a canter last season and have added well to the squad including Richie Wellens who has experience with Doncaster of coming, and staying, up at this level. Top, of the lower half of the league, sounds like a fair assessment of where they will end up.
14th Swansea – Losing manager Roberto Martinez to Wigan will hit them hard but they have replaced him with Paulo Sousa who was at QPR last season, and experienced at this level. Have much the same squad as last season but the departure of striker Jason Scotland unfortunately means they won`t repeat last season`s high finish.
15th Coventry – Scott Dann and Danny Fox will be big losses to the squad after both were sold this summer but the addition of Sammy Clingan should see them in mid table as long as Freddie Eastwood bangs in the goals.
16th Crystal Palace – Freddie Sears and Darren Ambrose are a couple of great additions to a squad that finished in mid table last season but a current transfer embargo restricts Neil Warnock`s ability to add to his squad. Can see them hovering in mid table all season.
17th Sheffield Wednesday – They have managed to hold onto their better players and a few notable additions, including Darren Purse, should see them safely clear of a relegation battle.
18th Plymouth – Every season they make a couple of modest additions but work ethic within the team, and decent home form, always see them safe. Will have enough again this year to stay clear of the bottom three.
19th Blackpool – Defender Shaun Barker will be a big loss, after he departed to Derby, but shouldn`t be in any real danger of relegation. Charlie Adam has signed permanently after an impressive loan spell and with Ian Holloway at the helm it is sure to be a fun ride!
20th Watford – With Tamas Priskin set to join Ipswich and Tommy Smith constantly linked with a move away, they could struggle to score goals. Can`t see anything but a season of struggle ahead but will survive.
21st Doncaster Rovers – Last season`s surprise package, many tipped them to go straight back down but were comfortably in mid table. However with Matt Mills joining us and Richie Wellens going to Leicester, they have lost the spine of their team and don`t appear to have much money, so are restricted to free signings. Will be in trouble.
22nd Newcastle – I bet you were thinking I had forgotten about them didn`t you? Don`t understand how they are one of the bookies favourites, they have no manager, a chairman who doesn`t want to be there and a whole host of underperforming players. I don`t think successive relegations are out of the question.
23rd Barnsley – Fell away massively in the second half of last season and haven`t strengthened the squad at all. Can`t see them having enough to avoid relegation I`m afraid.
24th Scunthorpe – Struggled at this level two seasons ago, and last season`s League One play off winners won`t find things easy this time around. Can`t really see who will score the goals to keep them up despite having a half decent defence – and if you don`t score goals you won`t win games.