Rating The Runners And Riders
It's been four years in the making, a rocky road to bid for the chance to compete for the ultimate glory. Some people doubted it would happen, qualifying was tough and there's been a big debate about who's in and who's out of the team but now it's upon us. No, not the Olympics stupid, it's much more important than that - Forest are about to start a season in the Championship!
With the season around the corner it's time to take a look at what we're up against in a run down of the team's we'll battle against over the next 46 games....
Barnsley - Last season they struggled to stay in the league and were possibly hindered by an energy-sapping cup run. Tough, difficult to beat but not spectacular. Prediction - relegation dogfight/lower mid table.
Birmingham - Possibly the best side in the division, the Blues are bound to be challenging for honours. They've lost Muamba and Forssell but the squad is laced with top class experience and has been boosted by new boys Phillips and Carsley. If they can hang on to McFadden they will cause every side a threat at this level. Prediction - automatic promotion.
Blackpool - Will look to continue to punch above their weight yet again this year. Grayson has done a fabulous job at Bloomfield Road but the loss of Hoolahan may affect them. Prediction - relegation dogfight/lower mid table.
Bristol City - Came so close to reaching the promised land of the Premier League in an excellent first season. Under Johnson they are still 'more than the sum of their parts' but they might have to guard against 'second season syndrome'. Prediction - play off contenders.
Burnley - Probably summed up by striker Akinbiyi - not pretty, unfancied, not the most talented but tough to knock down and never gives you and easy game. Prediction - mid table.
Cardiff - Another side that shone in the cups last season, they seem to have veered from being on the verge of financial oblivion to being on the verge of the big time for a while now. Some talented players and a canny manager at this level make them no pushovers but seem to lack an extra ability to lift them above this league. Prediction - mid table/play off contenders.
Charlton - There will be pressure on Pardew to deliver after their challenge faded badly last year. Lots of attacking talent but Pardew will need to keep them all happy and find some consistency. Prediction - play off contenders.
Coventry - If Eastwood can realise his rich potential he could fire them to contention and the signing of Clinton Morrison for the fans dream 'Clint Eastwood' ticket would make them even more dangerous. The loss of Mifsud might be a blow and they'll need to break the 'start well, go on a bad run, sack manager, just survive' time warp they're stuck in. Prediction - play off contenders.
Crystal Palace - A chance for us Trickies to renew acquaintances with our 'good friend' Mr Warnock. They almost 'did a Palace' last time and with Warnock's nous and some strong players they'll certainly be in the running. Prediction - play off contenders.
Derby - Jewell's made a fair few summer signings for the dirty sheep in a bid to throw off the hilarious 'form' from last year's wonderful season-long humiliation. Will the signings click? I hope not. Prediction - should be promotion contenders but if dreams can come true Jewell will repeat the excellent work of Mr Gregory and they'll struggle.
Doncaster - O'Driscoll's done a great job to mould a fine side that play attractive football. Haven't upset the apple cart by making many signings but if they can continue to play as they did there's no reason why they shouldn't surprise a few at this level. Prediction - mid table.
Ipswich - The Tractor Boys seem to have an endless conveyor belt of brilliant youngsters to keep their side afloat. Dangerous going forward but I'm not sure I fancy them over 46 games. They ar, however, the type of side that could go on a run and be difficult to stop. Prediction - play off contenders.
Norwich - Signed a few midfielders (including our Sammy) but lost the old heads of Dublin and Huckerby from last time round. Look to have a very strong squad this year but there's something about Roeder that makes me feel they'll be decent but never anything more. Prediction - play off contenders.
Plymouth - No-one fancies an away game there and Sturrock seems to understand how to be successful at Home Park. Strong yet unspectacular. Prediction - mid table/outside play off bet.
Preston - Firmly established Championship outfit that should get plenty of goals with Hawley and Mellor up front backed up by some able midfielders for this level. Prediction - mid table.
QPR - Their newly found wealth has seen them splash the cash on some signings and live the dream of every millionaire football fan - appoint Iain Dowie as boss! Could take time to settle and are being overrated in some circles but should be challenging come May. Prediction - play offs.
Reading - Coppell quietly fashioned a formidable outfit from this division last time and while Kitson has jumped ship they should still retain enough quality in the squad and have enough promotion know-how to do well. Prediction - automatic promotion.
Sheff Utd - The Blunts made the laughable mistake of thinking Brian Robson was a football manager last year but unfortunately Captain Marvel won't be around to scupper their chances again. Experienced and solid with Beattie/Webber/Stead/Sharp providing a deadly goal threat they should, unfortunately, do well. Prediction - play offs/automatic.
Sheff Wed - Struggled last time around but Laws inspired a survival bid and with a limited budget will look to build on that. Talented but vulnerable. Prediction - mid table.
Southampton - It will be interesting to see how their new look management team adapts to Championship football. They have a decent looking strike force with John/Rasiak/Saganowski but could leak a few goals too. Prediction - mid table.
Swansea - The runaway League One champions won't find life so easy at Championship level. A talented and flexible team has grown quickly under Martinez but goals may not be so easy to come by this season. Prediction - lower mid table.
Watford - Boothroyd's side started like a bullet train last year but inexplicably transformed into a Regional Railways clapped out old banger to Skeggy mid way through the season. Solid and experienced, if they can stay consistent they should challenge. Prediction - play offs/chance of automatic.
Wolves - Another old foe that should be a tough test this term. Vokes and Iwelumo have been added to the already strong bank of forwards but they can't all start. Prediction - play off contenders.
It's quite an eye opener to consider just how many teams should have a legitimate shout of the play offs this year. Just as last season was tight, unpredictable and exciting this should be too and looking at the standard of opposition has re-affirmed my belief that mid table wouldn't be too bad for us!
Roll on August 10!
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