Andrew Smithson says…
We know that the Championship can be a slog, but there are a lot of clubs in there that are either in a rut or are struggling financially, so I do think we’ll have enough about us to be able to compete.
Some of the League One sides that have been promoted in recent seasons have shown that it is possible to bridge the gap, and when you look at our League Cup performances last year against Blackpool and Queens Park Rangers, they suggest we can do the same too. After all, we’ll enter the divison with a spring in our step, and that can’t be said about everybody else.
Take Birmingham City, for example.
They have had a few dodgy finishes of late, whilst Reading slipped down the table last season as well. Luton Town could feel they’ve blown their chance, whilst Burnley and Watford could go either way after relegation and under new managers.
These are all clubs that are either going backwards or potentially suffering a hangover, and if you go through the table, they’ll be plenty of other teams clubs who have their own worries, or poorer resources and facilities than us.
We cannot take things for granted, however.
We have seen that bigger crowds and modern training grounds do not always mean better results, and so we have to do things right, and spend what money we have correctly. Last season, Rotherham United finished ahead of us despite having a much smaller budget, although they do seem to have a bit of a block when it comes to the second tier, so they could well be another side we look to finish ahead of.
There are some very good players at this level and you have to say that most sides are capable of winning on their day. In Alex Neil, we have somebody that knows what to expect, and whilst the likes of Norwich City and Sheffield United are admittedly well ahead of us, I wouldn’t say we need to be too fearful of anybody.
I know our last crack at this league was absolutely shocking and that we will have to walk before we run, but we can certainly go into next season fairly confident of being able to give it a go.
Derek Carter says…
A quick look at the way the Championship finished this year would suggest that it was ‘three leagues in one’, and at the moment I’m confident we have enough going for us to get to the upper reaches of mid-table, which would suit me fine.
When it comes to teams we should fear, the best place to start is probably those coming down from the Premier League.
Watford have been installed as the early favourites which is no surprise, but I’m not so sure about Norwich and Burnley. The Canaries might struggle to hold on to their better players who stuck with them after their last relegation, and Burnley’s off-field problems could well see them ‘doing a Derby’ and picking up massive points deductions.
Of the rest, the likes of Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Blackburn and Millwall will give us a good game, and despite them being dreadful in Sunday’s playoff final I would expect Huddersfield to be in with a shout next season.
They are all decent enough teams but I don’t think we will fear anyone. That word doesn’t exist in Alex Neil’s dictionary and his team reflects that. It won’t be plain sailing, but I’m sure that with two or three shrewd signings, we’ll more than hold our own.
Onwards and upwards!
Kev Campbell says…
At first glance, it appears as if the top echelons of the Championship will consist of somewhere in the range of six to eight teams, pending summer transfer movement.
Watford, Norwich, and Burnley will surely seek to spend their way back up with the benefit of parachute payments at their disposal. Watford and Norwich seem to be in the best position to accomplish that, as Burnley have an organizational mess to work through before trying to build back towards the top flight.
Others in the promotion chase will most likely include, Sheffield United, Huddersfield, and in theory, Luton, Middlesbrough, and Blackburn. However, I’m not convinced any of that trio are shoo-ins to be competitive in that group.
Elsewhere, the rest of the league seems fairly even and up for grabs.
We’ve got a young and ever-improving squad, a manager with the benefit of a pre-season to get the lads playing a full version of his brand of football, and a transfer window at the ready.
We’ll also have, presumably, a larger purse than previous seasons and the clout our name deserves, in order to lure signings to the North East.
I know it’s a bit optimistic, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see us top-half and surging in the New Year.