Hot off the press: Local journalists assess their side's chances ahead of the Championship's big kick-off

Jermaine Beckford

Jermaine Beckford

First published in Sport
Last updated

THE waiting is nearly over for the start of the Championship season.

But which sides will enjoy a successful campaign and which ones are destined to miss out?

We asked local football writers up and down the land to assess their team’s chances of promotion for the new campaign.

Our very own Wanderers expert Marc Iles kicks off the feature with his predictions of their chances, and who he thinks will be joining the Whites on their quest for a Premier League place.

WANDERERS

Chances: Whether Jermaine Beckford steps up to be ‘the man’ or Dougie Freedman finally finds a replacement for Lukas Jutkiewicz – success all hinges on whether the Whites get it right up front this season. Freedman has added an air of organisation and solidity to midfield and defence and at times, a lack of creativity is evident. But it has been the lack of an end product that has really killed Wanderers in the last two seasons in the Championship. Good strikers don’t grow on trees, especially with Freedman’s budget, but I sense the play-offs are beyond the club unless a solution to the goalscoring problems can be found.

Key player: Mark Davies - at his best and fully fit, there aren’t many better than Davies playing outside the top flight. Sadly, the former Wolves midfielder has rarely manged to fit both descriptions. Davies can score goals and Freedman is willing to tailor his system to suit but the 26-year-old has to win his battle to stay fit first.

Automatic promotion: Derby have pieced together a great squad and I think they will go one better than the play-offs this year. Fulham and Cardiff will push them very close.

Play-offs: Cardiff, Norwich, Brighton and Bournemouth (I would love to be proved wrong and have Wanderers in either of the two lists above, though).

 

BIRMINGHAM

Colin Tattum (Birmingham Mail)

Chances: After escaping relegation at Bolton on the final day, Lee Clark has overhauled his squad again, taking into account the crippling financial situation at the club. With such a mess off the field (owner Carson Yeung is in prison and potential takeovers have stalled), Birmingham are aiming for mid-table but avoiding a repeat of a desperate relegation scrap would represent success.

Key player: Clayton Donaldson.

Automatic promotion: Cardiff, Derby.

Play-offs: Norwich, Wigan, Fulham, Forest.

 

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Paul Wheelock (Lancashire Telegraph)

Chances: Having finished last season unbeaten in 12 games and just two places and two points outside the play-offs, Rovers fans are confident of a top-six finish this time round. Much will depend on whether Rovers can marry their genuine attacking threat with a more solid defence.

Key player: Grant Hanley.

Automatic promotion: Derby, Wigan.

Play-offs: Blackburn, Watford, Forest, Cardiff.

 

BLACKPOOL

William Watt (Blackpool Gazette)

Chances: Blackpool’s prospects this season are about as clear as mud at the moment after a traumatic summer at Bloomfield Road. A row between manager Jose Riga and chairman Karl Oyston left the club with just eight players two weeks before the start of the season. Expect a slow start from the Seasiders, then who knows?

Key player: Jacob Mellis.

Automatic promotion: Wigan, Fulham

 

BOURNEMOUTH

Neil Perrett (Bournemouth Echo)

Chances: Following their exploits last season when they finished 10th – the club’s highest placing in the second flight in its history – the Cherries should have enough to avoid second-season syndrome and could again spring a few surprises.

Key player: Dan Gosling.

Automatic promotion: Derby and Wigan.

Play-offs: Fulham, Ipswich, Forest, Bournemouth

 

BRENTFORD

Jake Murtagh (GetWestLondon)

Chances: Bees boss Mark Warburton insists his side are not there just to make up the numbers after winning promotion from League One. Their slick style of play is well suited to the Championship and a mid-table finish is certainly not beyond them.

Key player: Adam Forshaw.

Automatic promotion: Cardiff, Norwich.

Play-offs: Brighton, Wolves, Derby, Wigan.

 

BRIGHTON

Andy Naylor (The Argus)

Chances: Sami Hyypia, Brighton's third manager in as many seasons, has two tough acts to follow in his first managerial post in England. Gus Poyet and Oscar Garcia guided the Seagulls into the play-offs and the expectations of the biggest fan-base in the Championship will be high.

Key player: David Stockdale.

Automatic promotion: Wigan, Derby

Play-offs: Blackburn, Norwich, Middlesbrough, Wolves.

 

CARDIFF CITY

Terry Phillips (Wales Online)

Chances: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is ready to attack the Championship – and has competition for places among his forwards. The Bluebirds are among the favourites to go straight back up and they will challenge, but my feeling is that they will be a play-off team this season.

Key player: David Marshall.

Automatic promotion: Derby, Wigan.

Play-offs: Wolves, Forest, Cardiff, Bolton

 

CHARLTON ATHLETIC

Richard Cawley (South London Press)

Chances: Investment by owner Roland Duchatelet has raised expectations that Charlton will not be embroiled in matters at the wrong end of the table but a number of their new faces – Igor Vetokele, Yohann Gudmundsson and Yoni Buyens – are untested in the Championship.

Key player: Igor Vetokele.

Automatic promotion: Derby, Fulham

Play-offs: Brighton, Ipswich, Bournemouth, Middlesbrough.

 

DERBY COUNTY

Steve Nicholson (Derby Telegraph)

Chances: Derby are seen as serious contenders for another top-six finish. Being priced as one of the favourites in the promotion race is an unusual position for them to be in, so, can they handle the expectation? They are there to be shot at.

Key player: Chris Martin.

Automatic promotion: Norwich, Wigan.

Play-offs: Fulham, Cardiff, Bolton, Derby.

 

FULHAM

Jake Murtagh (GetWestLondon)

Chances: Manager Felix Magath will be hoping to bounce back from relegation at the first attempt but there is a concern Fulham could go into freefall after a massive clear-out at the Cottage. Fulham will be relying on Ross McCormack to score the goals to get them up.

Key player: Ross McCormack.

Automatic promotion: Cardiff, Norwich.

Play-offs: Brighton, Wolves, Derby, Wigan.

 

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Doug Thomson (Huddersfield Examiner)

Chances: Consistency, and keeping star striker James Vaughan fit, are key to Town’s hopes of improving on last season’s 17th-placed finish. Town have shown they can mix it with the big boys of the second tier but consistency has been a problem.

Key player: Nahki Wells.

Automatic promotion: Wigan, Forest.

Play-offs: Derby, Cardiff, Fulham, Bournemouth.

 

IPSWICH TOWN

Stuart Watson (East Anglian Daily Times)

Chances: Experienced and no-nonsense boss Mick McCarthy has turned Ipswich around. They may still lack a little bit of quality in key areas, but the Suffolk club will look at Burnley’s success last season and believe that spirit, organisation and hard-work can overcome star names and big budgets. Top-six dark horses.

Key player: David McGoldrick.

Automatic promotion: Norwich, Derby.

Play-offs: Cardiff, Fulham, Wigan, Forest.

 

LEEDS UNITED

Phil Hay (Yorkshire Post)

Chances: Two words – who knows? We’ve had multiple signings from abroad, none of whom have played in the Championship before, and we’ve got a head coach who is – with the greatest of respect to David Hockaday – an obscure name in Football League circles and a risky appointment. The play-offs are a long shot.

Key player: Marco Silvestri.

Automatic promotion: Fulham, Wigan.

Play-offs: Derby, Cardiff, Watford, Middlesbrough.

 

MIDDLESBROUGH

Philip Tallentire (Middlesbrough Gazette)

Chances: Boro will challenge at the top end of the table if they avoid serious injuries. An ambitious summer rebuild should result in Aitor Karanka being able to field a team that is tight at the back but potent in attack.

Key player: Kike Garcia.

Automatic promotion: Wigan, Middlesbrough.

Play-offs: Brighton, Derby, Norwich, Wolves.

 

MILLWALL

Toby Porter (South London Press)

Chances: Despite finishing strongly last season the Lions are second favourites to go down. Ian Holloway’s insistence on team ethic will be crucial in how they fare. Fans have fairly low expectations but the manager has a habit of guiding underdogs to promotion.

Key player: Ricardo Fuller.

Automatic promotion: Derby, Forest.

Play-offs: Brighton, Fulham, Ipswich, Millwall.

 

NORWICH CITY

Paddy Davitt (Eastern Daily Press)

Chances: Much depends on keeping key men on the payroll beyond the end of the summer transfer window. City is debt-free after three years of Premier League money and under no pressure to sell, but the likes of Leroy Fer, Nathan Redmond and Gary Hooper continue to be touted with exits.

Key player: Wes Hoolahan.

Automatic promotion: Fulham, Derby.

Play-offs: Norwich, Brighton, Wigan, Cardiff.

 

NOTTINGHAM FOREST

Paul Taylor (Nottingham Post)

Chances: Forest have a change of manager, but no change in their ambitions. The goal, under Stuart Pearce, is the same as the one that faced Billy Davies – to get the club back into the top flight. In truth, they are probably still two or three new signings away from being top-two contenders.

Key player: Andy Reid.

Automatic promotion: Fulham, Wigan.

Play-offs: Norwich, Forest, Derby, Reading.

 

READING

Charles Watts (Reading Post)

Chances: Expectations are low at Reading this season, the bold predictions of this time last year are long gone. The ongoing ownership saga continues to leave the club in limbo, and with experienced stars like Adam Le Fondre and Jobi McAnuff leaving and Garath McCleary and Danny Williams already sidelined by long-term injuries, a mid-table finish looks all they can hope for.

Key player: Jem Karacan.

Automatic promotion: Cardiff, Norwich.

Play-offs: Derby, Forest, Fulham, Middlesbrough.

 

ROTHERHAM UNITED

Paul Rickett (Rotherham Advertiser)

Chances: It's a whole new ball game. Promoted twice on the bounce under Steve Evans they face a meaty challenge. But Evans’ relationship with chairman Tony Stewart, the lighting millionaire who galloped to the club’s rescue five years ago, continues to flourish and their intention to establish the Millers in the second tier is clear.

Key player: Craig Morgan.

Automatic promotion: Cardiff, Wigan.

Play-offs: Derby, Reading, Blackburn, Forest.

 

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

Dominick Howson (Sheffield Star)

Chances: The delay in Hafiz Mammadov's takeover of Sheffield Wednesday has seriously derailed Stuart Gray’s bid to revamp his squad. Unless Wednesday quickly sign another four to five quality players, a third successive bottom-half finish beckons.

Key player: Chris Maguire Automatic promotion: Cardiff, Norwich.

Play-offs: Derby, Wigan, Blackburn, Forest.

 

WATFORD

Frank Smith (Watford Observer)

Chances: Watford have built a squad this summer to challenge for automatic promotion. All bar two of their signings having previous experience in the top two divisions of English football – including former Spurs and Brazil goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, Championship-winner Lloyd Dyer and the 2013 Championship Player of the Year Matej Vydra.

Key player: Matej Vydra.

Automatic promotion: Watford, Derby.

Play-offs: Wigan, Cardiff, Brighton, Ipswich.

 

WIGAN ATHLETIC

Paul Kendrick (Wigan Observer)

Chances: If Uwe Rosler’s Latics can avoid the kind of injury crisis that ultimately derailed their promotion bid last term – and keep the vultures away from the likes of Maloney, McManaman and McArthur – Wigan should be there or thereabouts.

Key player: Shaun Maloney.

Automatic promotion: Derby, Wigan.

Play-offs: Norwich, Fulham, Forest, Cardiff.

 

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

Tim Nash (Express and Star)

Chances: Wolves might be coming up to the Championship from the league below but their aspirations are high. Although he has only made two signings, head coach Kenny Jackett says he is aiming for a second successive promotion. Wolves will find it much tougher than last season but the momentum of their record-breaking title-winning campaign will carry them a long way.

Key player: Kevin McDonald.

Automatic promotion: Derby, Brighton.

Play-offs: Norwich, Fulham, Wolves, Ipswich.

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