A look ahead to next season with some of those big clubs in the Championship that are set to struggle
Here is my latest look ahead to the new season and what might transpire in the Championship. Up until this point, I have been fairly straightforward with my discussions on the teams that may do well and some players to watch.
Football always is full of discussion and different opinions, but I’d like to think that my opinions from the first two articles aren’t too controversial.
If you read them and found them a bit safe and were looking for something a bit spicier that will lead to plenty more debate then this is the article for you. This is certainly not safe and I’m sure supporters of the clubs involved will have plenty to say on it.
Let’s be clear though, this isn’t a straight relegation piece and the theme is purely that they won’t be challenging for promotion and of course, these are all clubs of significant size. I’m sure one or two of these teams will actually end up doing well – but I thought I would risk it anyway!
So, with that out of the way, let’s get stuck into my selections…
At the time of writing, Sunderland still haven’t appointed a new manager after the resignation of David Moyes at the end of this season. Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes is the runaway favourite for the job – but if he does take over, then the job on his hands will be massive. First of all, the wage bill will have to be reduced and that will lead to several top players moving on.
That process has already begun with Jermain Defoe taking the opportunity to move to Bournemouth. Funnily enough, the main reason to fear for the club is largely because of their long association with the Premier League. Teams have found out to their cost, such as Aston Villa and Norwich this season, that players equipped for the Championship are vital.
The other thing about Sunderland is they have been a team in decline for a number of years just surviving in the Premier League each season until the last one. Comparisons with Wigan and Aston Villa come to mind here – so I’m expecting next season to be a transitional one for them. Although a good appointment could make all the difference, it seems there is just too much to do for an instant Premier League return – so, for this reason, I’m tipping them for a season of struggle.
2. Hull City
Hull City are another club that are currently without a manager – but the new man is expected to be Russian coach Leonid Slutsky. The club have also been relegated from the Premier League this season and will have aspirations of making an instant return. However, I don’t see this happening for them.
Going back to last summer, the team were in real disarray after winning promotion back to the Premier League after Steve Bruce walked out. Mike Phelan was appointed but they were in no way ready for the new season with some panic signings towards the end of the window. All in all, they looked like a poor Premier League team and then key players such as Robert Snodgrass were sold in the January transfer market.
Phelan left the club and Marco Silva came in. It appears they then hit the goldmine with him and all of a sudden it looked like they might survive. In the end, though that wasn’t to be and Silva has now left to become the new manager at Watford. Therefore, the club are back in disarray again and it gets very hard to keep bouncing back to the Premier League with each relegation – so I’m predicting a prolonged stay in the Championship for them.
3. Ipswich Town
Ipswich Town have been in decline for a number of years now and another season of struggle in the Championship seems to be ahead. Looking back at their performance this season, the club finished only four points above the relegation zone. The attacking record of scoring just 48 goals was the fifth worst in the league – suggesting that firepower is a problem.
Their top scorer this season was Tom Lawrence who managed nine strikes for the campaign and he was also the most creative with the same number of assists. However, Lawrence was only on loan for the season which is all part of the problem. Other strong performers were both defenders in the shape of Christophe Berra and Adam Webster. Berra has already left the club and Webster is likely to generate attention this summer so may not be at Portman Road next season.
Without much genuine quality to rely on, especially in attacking positions, it’s likely to be another tough season for Ipswich. The club will do what they can in the transfer market but they aren’t likely to have much to spend unless they can raise funds through player sales. So again, they are likely to be looking at loans, free transfers and bargain buys and the success of those may make the difference between sustaining their place in the Championship or dropping to League One.
There is no doubt that Wolves have aspirations to get back to the Premier League given the new ownership and general size of the club. However, I’m not sure the way they are going about it can possibly work so another season mid-table in the league may well beckon.
Let’s go back to last summer here and consider the appointment of Walter Zenga.
That appointment purely and simply was a complete joke and any manager that has been in charge of so many clubs should have been a huge red flag. It was absolutely no surprise to me that the move didn’t work out.
Paul Lambert came in and did a very credible job in very difficult circumstances – winning 42% of his games was very decent. Clearly, the smart thing to do would have allowed him to carry on what he started.
After all, Lambert has significant experience managing in both the Premier League and Championship with Aston Villa, Norwich City and Blackburn Rovers. Instead, the club have decided to appoint former Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santos as their new head coach. Nothing against Santos personally as he certainly is a top coach. However, I would worry about the mentality of going from managing Porto to the incredibly competitive Championship. Of course, it could work out great, but I’m predicting it won’t and Wolves will rue the day they decided to dispense of Paul Lambert.
5. Queens Park Rangers
I have to admit that I don’t have a great deal of time for Queens Park Rangers (QPR), they are certainly in a mess right now but it is largely of their own doing. The spending that took place in the Premier League was nothing short of reckless and clubs that didn’t have the same level of backing would have surely gone out of business.
QPR obviously did survive, but it’s going to be a long road back to the Premier League if they manage it at all. Last season was tough for the club as they finished just two points above the relegation zone. In all honesty, it’s hard to create much of an argument for a significant improvement to that this season. Of course, there is some quality in the squad but it doesn’t compare well to the best teams in the Championship.
I don’t want to start on Ian Holloway because he is a likeable manager that always provides some excellent comedy value in his post-match interviews. However, the fact that he is the manager of QPR says quite a lot about where they are as a club. Obviously, Holloway has had success in the past but he clearly isn’t the current hot thing in football management. I would also question if he has the skills to get a team into the top six of the Championship. Therefore, I’m not expecting any great shakes from QPR in the coming season.
6. Nottingham Forest
It’s hard to comprehend that it wasn’t so long ago that Nottingham Forest were one of the biggest names in English and European football. However, the club have fallen on harder times despite their impressive history. They were in League One not so long ago and only narrowly avoided relegation back to that level on goal difference this season.
Forest now find themselves in a situation where they can’t hold onto their best players with Oliver Burke and Henri Lansbury being recent departures. Britt Assombalonga was one of the real highlights of the season scoring 14 goals from 20 starts and he may well seek pastures new this summer.
Mark Warburton is the manager at Forest now and he has done well in the Championship before with Brentford. However, given where they were this season it would take a major shift in the squad for the team to be challenging next season – that doesn’t look like happening in the short term. Warburton may get the best out of them in the long-term, but in terms of next season, it looks likely it will be more midtable obscurity.
This completes the content section for this article, hopefully, it has been as enjoyable of a read as my previous ones. I know this one is more controversial, but perhaps this will mean a livelier debate with different opinions. The teams mentioned aren’t designed to be the bottom six of the league – because obviously, there is a big club focus here.
The nature of the Championship means there are always surprise packages and it’s a tough league to predict. So, with that considered, I don’t expect to get all of these predictions right – but it will certainly be interesting to look back at the end of next season to see how close I was.
Keep an eye on my profile page because there will be more content like this to come from me. Championship clubs don’t get as much coverage as Premier League teams so it’s nice to be able to bridge that gap a bit. Whatever happens, when the season begins, it’s sure to be another great one! You can check the Championship betting odds here.