The Championship: Season 2018/2019
The Championship is one of the hardest leagues to be involved in and is a real slog.
Watching Wolves dominate last season was a rare occurrence and was very much down to Jorge Mendes and the influx of some high class Portuguese players.
The 46-game season looks even harder to call this year with the three clubs dropping down (Stoke City, Swansea City and West Brom) all holding an advantage in terms of parachute payments.
The arrival of Marcelo Bielsa makes it fascinating to watch Leeds United and the likes of Middlesbrough and Aston Villa, who reached the play-offs last season, cannot be discounted either.
A fascinating Championship campaign awaits!
Favourites for promotion: Stoke City 5/1
The current bookies favourites to gain promotion are Stoke City.
They’ve had a good transfer window under new manager Gary Rowett who has vast Championship experience.
They may have lost Xherdan Shaqiri to Liverpool and Ramadan Sobhi to Huddersfield but the money gained has been reinvested well.
Nigerian World Cup star Oghenekaro Etebo should bolster their midfield. As should James McClean who’s joined from West Brom. Adam Federici has also joined on a free transfer with Benik Afobe signing on loan with an obligation to buy.
Also, Tom Ince, who they bought from Huddersfield, was brilliant in the championship for team such as Derby and Hull and could provide that star quality that the majority in this division do not have.
Arguably the best piece of business they’ve done is tying down Joe Allen. The Welsh international signed a new long term contract despite Stoke’s relegation.
The futures of players like Jack Butland are still yet to be resolved but you’d imagine he will leave before the window closes.
Amongst the favourites for promotion: Middlesborough 11/4
Last season, Boro lost out in the play offs but are looking good and could go one better this season.
Middlesbrough’s two big money signings so far are Paddy McNair and Aden Flint as Tony Pulis tries to build the team in his image.
Crucially though, the only two first team players they’ve lost are Fábio da Silva and Antonio Barragán. Both had fallen out of favour under Pulis anyway.
It’ll be keeping the current squad together that will be crucial.
Key players like Ben Gibson, Britt Assombalonga and Adama Traoré have been linked with moves away but if they can keep those three in particular they will be in with a good shout of promotion.
However, Adama does look likely to be moving to Wolves. He has a £16.5 million release clause and Boro have said he won’t leave for less.
Amongst the favourites for promotion: West Bromwich Albion 11/4
Last season was a disaster for West Bromwich Albion and their fans. The 18-game Alan Pardew era yielded just 1 win and 8 points leaving the baggies with just 20 points.
Darren Moore came in and, although he couldn’t save the club from relegation, he won 11 points in his 6 games in charge. This included wins over Tottenham and Manchester United as well as a comeback 2-2 draw with Liverpool.
This was enough to land him the job full time to try and get Albion back at the first attempt.
Moore has made 2 good signings thus far. They have been a new goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone has joined from Manchester United after impressing on loan at Villa last season. Also, Kyle Bartley has signed from Swansea City to add experience at the back.
However, there have been numerous high profile departures. Gareth McAuley, James Morrison, Claudio Yacob and Ben Foster have all left on free transfers. Jonny Evans and James McClean have also left but they did bring in transfer fees of £3.5 million and £5 million respectively.
They’re also in negotiation with Newcastle over the sale of Salomón Rondón. However, this could see Dwight Gale go the other way and, despite struggling in the top flight, Gayle has proved he is a top quality championship striker and this could be a brilliant deal for The Baggies.
These players who have left have been key for Albion over recent seasons and, with the current squad they’ve got, it would be a surprise if they bounced straight back up.
An outside bet for promotion: Nottingham Forrest 3/1
Despite a lowly 17th place finish last season, Nottingham Forrest’s transfer activity has put them amongst the favourites for promotion.
They’ve brought in the likes of João Carvalho from Benfica, Hillal Soudani from Dinamo Zagreb and Tobias Figueiredo from Sporting. Also through the door is Bournemouth’s Lewis Grabben, Costel Pantilimon and experienced centre back Michael Dawson. Dawson is back at the club where he started his career.
They’ve also made some loan signings from some of Europe’s biggest club. Nottingham Forest went to Monaco and loaned Gil Bastião Dias as well as Diogo Gonçalves of Benfica. Jack Colback has also returned to the club on loan from Newcastle.
In Aitor Karanka they have a manager who knows how to gain promotion from the Championship which could be invaluable.
Wolves gained promotion last season with lots of Portugese starlets, can Forest do the same?
Tip for promotion: Leeds United 7/2
Amazingly, Leeds United will kick off this season with one of the most highly rated managers in world football at the helm. Marcelo Bielsa.
He’s previously managed the likes of Argentina, Chile, Athletic Club and Marseille. Bielsa is now preparing for his first season in England’s second tier.
Bielsa is at a club though that are unable to splash the cash. He’s used the loan market well so far, bringing in Lewis Baker and Jamal Blackman from Chelsea.
They’ve also signed Patrick Bamford from Middlesbrough. Amazingly, he’s now played for 9 different clubs already despite only being 24, so he’ll look to make Leeds his home.
If Leeds are going to push for promotion, they are going to need to sign a few more players but with a vastly experienced man at the helm, who knows how far they can go.
The favourites for relegation
Rotherham United 6/5 Bolton 11/8 Ipswich Town 3/1
Both Rotherham and Bolton survived in the championship by the skin of their teeth last year and are widely expected to struggle again.
Rotherham are arguably the smallest club in the Championship and every season they survive is an achievement but a lack of investment this summer could see them beaten by the drop.
Bolton themselves have been in financial turmoil. Last season the players threatened to go on strike as they weren’t being paid and the financial problems continue.
They’ve brought in 7 new players, all on free transfers, and after surviving in the last minute of the last game last season they might not be so lucky this season.
Ipswich are the interesting one in my opinion. Their fans voiced their disgruntlement towards the end of the Mick McCarthy era, fans were booing the side even when they were winning.
However, McCarthy did a very good job keeping the ship steady on a tiny budget and new manager Paul Hurst could struggle.
Ipswich are my outside tip to be beaten by the drop this season.