The 2012/2013 season is upon us and as ever, the Championship promises to be one of the most competitive leagues in Europe. The three sides relegated from the top flight will be among the favourites and the sides promoted from League One will look to the likes of Norwich and Southampton as inspiration for back to back promotions.
About 18 of the 24 sides in the division will have eyes on attaining a top six spot while for a select few, survival is the aim of the game from the big kick off. The Championship is the fifth most watched league in Europe, with good reason, and here Footy Matters casts an eye over how we think each team is going to do.
Huddersfield were ultimately rewarded for the rather bizarre sacking of Lee Clark as Simon Grayson achieved another promotion as a manager. The Terriers won the play-offs and have since been very active in the transfer market adding defenders Joel Lynch and Anthony Gerrard, midfielders Oliver Norwood, Adam Clayton and Keith Soutern and versatile attacker Sean Scannell. Added to 40 goal striker Jordan Rhodes, who remains at the club despite interest in the Scotland international, Town will be aiming for more than a season of consolidation.
Key signing: Sean Scannell, a winger or striker, had stagnated somewhat at Palace. If he can start fulfilling his potential, Huddersfield will be very potent in the final third.
After sacking a club legend in Nick Barmby, Hull City’s owners had to make a statement of intent and in hiring Steve Bruce, they succeeded in just that. Hull were close to the play-offs last term, but a lack of incisiveness in certain games meant they ended up short. Nick Proschwitz has joined to spearhead the attack and support Matty Fryatt who scored 16 goals last season. In addition, Bruce has also recruited his son Alex, Ben Amos and speedy winger Sone Aluko while creative midfielder Robert Koran has signed a new deal at the club.
Key signing: Son Aluko has joined from Rangers and the direct running winger could cause a number of Championship full backs nightmares.
The Tractor Boys had high hopes of promotion this time last year, but a shaky defence was their Achilles heel. Paul Jewell emerged from a period of pressure with his job intact and the side showed enough improvement to give him another summer to plot a top flight push. Ipswich have focused their attention at the back in pre-season, signing goalkeeper and Town fan Scott Loach from Watford as well as Luke Chambers on a free transfer from Nottingham Forest. Much will depend on whether Michael Chopra can rediscover his Cardiff form otherwise Jewell may have to dive into the transfer market again.
Key signing: Luke Chambers, much sought after defender after he left Forest, will be key in establishing a strong spine to an often flaky side.
An on-off takeover saga has consumed Elland Road this summer, but despite this backdrop, Neil Warnock has had an active transfer window. Midfielder David Norris joins forwards Luke Varney and El Hadji Diouf and the latter pair look to form a potent attack with last season’s top scorer Ross McCormack. It is in defence where Warnock may have made his most astute purchase by bringing in Lee Peltier, who has joined from Leicester. The experienced manager already has seven promotions to his name and could be plotting another despite the loss of Robert Snodgrass.
Key signing: David Norris will add energy and box to box drive to a Leeds midfield often over run last season.
Heavy investment last summer did not result in the promotion push expected, but Nigel Pearson will be hoping a quieter summer results in a more settled side. The Foxes have added non-league scoring sensation Jamie Vardy, defender Zak Whitbread as well as Ritchie De Laet and Matty James from Manchester United to their ranks as Pearson has his sights firmly set on challenging for automatic promotion. He bemoaned their lack of consistency last season and it could be that again which sees them fall short of the top two spots.
Key signing: Jamie Vardy; watched by many Championship clubs last season, Leicester won the race to sign him for a record non-league fee.
An understated summer for Tony Mowbray as he looks for his ‘Boro squad to regroup and sustain a promotion push this season. Midfielder Grant Leadbitter has joined from Ipswich to provide some more bite, leadership and energy into the midfield while Mustapha Carayol comes in to provide more guile in the wide areas. The defence has also been strengthened with the addition of George Friend, signed from Doncaster, who can play both centre back and left back while Mowbray has retained 18-goal forward Marvin Emnes.
Key signing: Grant Leadbitter, former Sunderland midfielder, could provide the muscle sometimes lacking in Middlesbrough’s midfield.
A season of struggle ended with Millwall hitting a stunning run of form and finishing comfortably away from the drop zone. Kenny Jackett owed much to the loan signing of Harry Kane for the resurgence of his side and there will be some concern at the New Den that he has not yet been replaced. Andy Keogh was also signed in January and he will need to maintain his form from the end of last season if Millwall are to avoid another scrap at the wrong end of the table while much rests on the shoulders of last season’s top scorer Darius Henderson.
Key signing: Danny Shittu adds experience and strength at the back for Millwall.
A summer takeover, a new manager and a new core to the side; Forest fans have had quite a gripping summer away from Euro 2012 and the Olympics. The appointment of Sean O’Driscoll is a marker for the approach of the new owners; and one of the football league’s most underrated managers has a chance now to challenge at the right end of the league. A revolving door at the training ground has seen Adlene Guedioura, Greg Halford, Danny Collins, Dan Harding, Simon Gillett, Daniel Ayala and Simon Cox join as the club look to return to the big time. However, with that number of changes, this could be a season too soon.
Key signing: Danny Collins has joined from Stoke and will be key to providing the leadership and organisation needed at the back for a club in transition.
But for a blip towards the season’s end, the Posh avoided the relegation scrap they were expected to be involved in and the challenge this season for Darren Ferguson’s side will be much the same. Integral to their side but remaining on the transfer list, George Boyd and Paul Taylor pose their greatest attacking threat. Youngster Joel Newell will look to have more influence this season under the watchful eye of Premier League scouts, while new signing Danny Swanson will also look to provide a spark in an attacking midfield position. ‘Keeper Bobby Olejnik has arrived at London Road, looking to provide stability in an area where Peterborough struggled last term.
Key signing: Danny Swanson was signed when it appeared one or both of George Boyd and Paul Taylor would leave. As the pair remain, it will be interesting to see how the three link up.
Wednesday returned to the Championship at the second time of asking and with Dave Jones at the helm, they will look to carry that momentum into this season. Former England international Anthony Gardner joins Michail Antonio, Rhys McCabe and striker Nejc Pecnik at Hillsborough as the Owls signal their intent. In Jones, they have a manager well versed in this division and experience of a sustained promotion push and so Wednesday fans can look forward to a season of promise. The question is whether they have enough goals to maintain a play-off push.
Key signing: Anthony Gardner joins from Palace and if he can stay fit, he will bring organisation and calm leadership to the back four.
Watford, under Sean Dyche, ended last season tailing off after a run of promotion-esq form and he was rewarded for this with the sack after the Pozzo family took over. Gianfranco Zola took the reins and immediately stamped his mark on the squad, adding six players on season long loans from other clubs owned by the Pozzo family. The pick of these is forward Matej Vydra, a Czech U21 international while defender Fitz Hall and former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia have joined the Hornets on a permanent basis. Their success this season will be based on how quickly Zola gets to grips with the Championship and gels a group of new players.
Key signing: Matej Vydra is the most exciting of their loan signings; his development will be interesting to track as he gets to pace with the English game.
Wolves will be fancied by many to make an immediate return to the top flight after a season filled with mistakes on and off the pitch. Stale Solbakken has since joined the club as manager, a bold appointment in the Championship and while he has added to his squad, how Wolves do this season depends very much on how they recover from the loss of Michael Kightly and whether they can hold onto Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis who both have Premier League suitors. Solbakken will need to adapt quickly to the Championship; it’s an unforgiving league where a manager’s know-how of the division is key to success.
Key signing: Bjorn Sigurdarson; an exciting attacking midfielder, his craft from midfield could open up most defences at this level.
Tags: Championship, Huddersfield Town, Hull City, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Leicester City, Middlesborough, Millwall, Nottingham Forest, Peterborough United, sheffield wednesday, Wolves