Tales from not-the Top Flight

The Championship starts tonight friends as Sunderland host Derby County. While I could sit here and make fun of Darron Gibson’s pub antics, or indeed the fact that he spells his first name wrong, we better get down to the business of predicting the rest of the Championship table. On Monday I had a go at the bottom half so here is who will finish in the top twelve, at least in my relatively humble opinion.

12th – Brentford

Brentford are a very shrewdly run club. They buy low, sell high and always seem to do relatively well in the league. If they keep star man Jota then the bees might be able to push even higher up the table but it looks likely he could leave before the transfer window ‘slams shut (there is no other way a transfer window can be shut of course.)

11th – Cardiff City

While Neil Warnock does give a bit of a ‘drunk uncle at a wedding’ type vibe the man is an expert in getting out of the Championship. While I don’t expect Cardiff to get too near the play-offs they have a decent squad and will definitely be an awkward team to face. Warnock will give off some hilarious interviews and while the blues won’t be back in the Premier League they will have a solid season.

10th – Birmingham City

Speaking of throwbacks ‘Arry Redknapp will be leading his ‘triffic players back up the table this season. Birmingham had finished 10th under Gary Rowett’s guidance and while Gianfranco Zola almost took City down to League One expect Harry and his ‘great bunch of lads’ to be back on the periphery of the play offs. They’ve made some decent signings but might need an extra creative player to get nearer the top six. Niko Kranjcar anyone?

9th – Leeds United

Leeds are a bit of an unknown this season. Manager Garry Monk left for greener pastures (guess who I support) and now the relatively inexperienced Thomas Christiansen has come in. They’ve signed a load of players, many of whom we haven’t heard of in this country. They could be class, they could be awful. Regardless, I see Leeds staying around the same place as they were last season on the edge of the play offs. New ownership always brings uncertainty so I’m having a tough time saying how well Leeds will do. But hey, they will take 15,000 to Barnsley away, so we might as well just hand them the title.

8th – Jorge Mendes FC

Jorge Mendes FC are a brand new club formed by super agent Jorge Mendes. They have brought in some quality foreign talent such as Ruben Neves and have even hired the old Porto boss. I think it’ll take a while for this brand new team to gel but when they eventually do it will be very exciting. I could see them being promoted next season. In the meantime Jorge Mendes will be making an absolute bucket load of cash, which is always reassuring.

7th – Norwich City

Hire Huddersfield’s director football? Check. Hire the Dortmund reserve team manager? Check. Its not hard to see who Norwich are trying to emulate this season. In a similar vein to Leeds and Jorge Mendes FC its quite hard to see how Norwich are going to do this season but they have a very solid squad so top 10 should be their minimum ambition.

6th – Reading

Reading – not exactly the most exciting club in the world – had a very good season last time out, losing on penalties in the play off final. That is obviously a heart breaking defeat but luckily their manager, Japp Stam, doesn’t have a heart so they should recover fairly quickly. Given all the big signings made by other clubs I find it hard to believe they’ll finish 3rd again, but the Royals should be back in the play offs.

5th – Derby County

Derby are sort of the Arsenal of the Championship. They are always ‘there or there abouts’ but usually conspire to screw everything up. Gary Rowett is a talented young manager and he has signed some experienced heads despite losing some star players. I could see Derby winning the play offs, actually. They will be tough to beat and with Chris Martin up front, he could fire them into paradise. I’ll get my coat.

4th – Aston Villa

Villa have been spending a fair bit this summer but their recruitment strategy is based all around experience. The combined ages of Villa’s four summer signings is well over 120 with of course John Terry being the stand out. While I could make the obvious jokes that Terry is over the hill, will probably sleep with his teammates wives and is a generally reprehensible person, but I’m not going to. Steve Bruce knows how to get out of this division but the reason I’m not backing them for a top two finish is their defence is so slow it will be exposed at times.

3rd – Fulham

Fulham certainly played the best football in the Championship last season and I expect them to get even better this year. My only reason for not putting them in the automatic spots is that the manager occasionally likes to moan about transfers but apart from that the most middle-class team in the Championship have a great chance of being in the top class next season.

2nd – Sheffield Wednesday

I’m calling it this is Sheffield Wednesday’s year. Now before I start sounding too much like a deluded Liverpool fan here is why. They already have a very capable and settled squad with a manager who gets the Championship. They have made a smart acquisition in George Boyd and have been in the play offs for the last couple of years. Rather like when Brighton went up last year there is a sense of inevitability around Wednesday and I think this year could actually be the year.

1st – Middlesbrough

Am I biased? Yes but its not like I’m the only one backing Boro to win the league. Building on a solid defence Middlesbrough have spent a heap of money on the attack and as a fan I am very optimistic for this season. Garry Monk is a promising manager and I genuinely believe we have built a squad equipped to win the Championship. One drawback is that Paul Merson has agreed with my prediction, and we all know how accurate he is. Anyway its the hope that kills you.