Trying to predict anything in one of the most unpredictable divisions around is a tricky business – but we tried it anyway….
The new Championship season is upon us. Another season of frantic chaos awaits, probably even more frantic and chaotic than usual thanks to the contracted season.
We have a good idea of the teams that will be at the top and the ones that will be at the bottom, but what about some surprise promotion candidates?
On The Totally Football League Show this week, we discussed who might spring a few surprises this season: Sam Parkin disregarded the last couple of years and Stoke’s relentless capacity to disappoint, but there was some logic in his selection.
“I really like Michael O’Neill: he got 14 wins in 33 games when Nathan Jones only managed two from 15. There was a huge upturn in organisation and motivational skills. I like the signing of Steven Fletcher who had his best goalscoring season for some time last year.
“Everything points towards a much better season from Stoke. They have to improve…but we’ve been burned by them before.”
Adrian Clarke suggested another big boy, but also a pluckier underdog.
“The two I’d chuck in are Millwall and Middlesbrough. Millwall have a very good manager in Gary Rowett who improved the team, they weren’t far away from making the playoffs last season, and they’ve brought in a bit of quality – Troy Parrott, Scott Malone – but more importantly they’ve held onto the players that got them in a good position last season. Their keeper, Bartosz Białkowski, is one of the best in the division. They will be a tough nut to crack, a bit like Cardiff last season.
“Middlesbrough they need to sign players but they have got the right gaffer, no doubt about it, and they’ve got a good front two. If you’ve got a strike pairing who operate happily under a coach – and the early signs are that Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher like working with Neil Warnock – I think it can take you quite a long way.
“They need a new goalkeeper and probably a centre-half too, but the bulk of their squad are young guys on the rise, so they will be better for last season’s experience. I would expect them to be in and around the playoffs.”
Are they right? We will find out in time. Frantically, and chaotically.
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