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Opinion: 1) Middlesbrough 2) Wolves – The 2015/16 Championship prediction

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As the new Championship season bears down on us, FLW reporter Charlie Firth looks at who will finish where over the next year….

It is set to be another rollercoaster of a season

It is set to be another rollercoaster of a season

Birmingham

Some interesting and well done moves in the transfer market from Gary Rowett this year, only spending money on one out of five players. Jaques Maghoma could be their best signing, whereas Maikel Kieftenbeld could be one to watch.

Brummy have also done well in keeping Demarai Gray and Clayton Donaldson, who should hope to impress even more next year. However, I don’t see them having as strong a year as 2014/2015, without getting too hot under the collar over relegation.

Predicted finish: 15th

Blackburn

It’ll be a gutting blow for Blackburn to see Rudy Gestede make his merry way off to Aston Villa, but if they can replace him with someone with equal attributes, Jordan Rhodes could forge a new partnership with whomever it may be.

However I think with the likes of Cairney and Gestede leaving, and with question marks still hanging over the futures of Jordan Rhodes and Ben Marshall, Blackburn could considerably struggle this year.

But, if they leave this transfer embargo business behind them and actually purchase a few players, they could go and have a terrific season.

Predicted finish (at the moment): 18th

Bolton

Personally, I think Bolton did well to keep their head above relegation last year, but I just can’t see them avoiding the drop zone. Their financial situation, which has seen them only sign free agents this summer, has left them in a poor, poor position.

There just aren’t enough goals in their side, and though Zac Clough may be a bright youngster, I can’t see him giving enough goals to keep the Trotters afloat.

Predicted finish: 23rd

Brentford

It remains to be seen how well Brentford new management method will work, but they’ve certainly made some outstanding moves in the transfer market for a club who was in League One but two years ago.

The signings of Lasse Vibe, Josh McEachran and the hilariously named Andreas Bjelland are real eyebrow raisers. They do, however,  need to make sure they keep the likes of Andre Gray and Moses Odubajo, key names in their success last year. Never the less, I think they’ll make the play offs.

Predicted finish: 4th

Brighton

Some smart signings in the window from Chris Hughton, and certainly Tomas Hemed and Sam Baldock already seem to be forging a formidable partnership together, which could make a huge difference to their season.

I don’t see the Seagulls scrapping for promotion, and neither do I see them fighting relegation, but some of the pieces are there for Chris Hughton, I think another year and they’ll be up there.

Predicted finish: 16th

Bristol City

Bristol are my tip to be the surprise package of the season, after storming League One the season before. They have a strong squad, despite their lack of transfer activity, although I’d back only signing Jonathan Kodjia to shine.

Strikers Kieran Agard and Aaron Wilbraham, as well as Joe Bryan and Luke Freeman will all be relied upon to perform, but I think they will, and I predict big things for Bristol City.

Predicted finish: 11th

Burnley

Some very smart moves in the window from Sean Dyche, and despite losing key trio Danny Ings, Kieran Trippier and Jason Shackell I think they’ll do well. The question will be whether Dyche can get Jelle Vossen firing, who disappointed at Middlesbrough last year.

However the signings of Matthew Lowton, Chris Long and Tendayi Darikwa are impressive and I think they’ll all perform very well in the Championship. Though they’ll be up there, I don’t think they’ll go up automatically.

Predicted finish: 3rd

Cardiff

I can slowly see Cardiff moving down the table this year after summer of pretty much emptiness. The spending is being cut in Wales and therefore their transfer activity has been bleak.

The only notable signing has been Sammy Ameobi on loan, but bar that its been a summer of clearing out for the hardy Bluebirds, and after a disappointing year I don’t see it getting much better.

Predicted finish: 17th

Charlton

I don’t see much quality in the ranks at the Valley, and despite sealing a contract for Jordan Cousins, I think psychologically it was a big blow seeing Joe Gomez walk out the door.

Unfortunately, like the bookies, I think the Addicks will sink back down to the mire of League One, as they don’t have enough goals in their side and I don’t think their defence is much to look at either.

Predicted finish: 22nd

Derby

I worry that Derby fans and pundits alike underestimate the loss of Steve McClaren at Derby. Despite the car crash end to last season, he still turned them from a team on it’s way down the table to one competition in a play off final in a matter of months.

Be that as it may, some of the signings Paul Clement has made are very impressive, for instance Jason Shackell, Darren Bent and Tom Ince. I think they could go either way, but I’d tip them to finish in the play offs. Just.

Predicted finish: 5th

Fulham

You have to take your hat off to Fulham this summer, you really do. They learnt from their mistakes from last year and made sure every signing they’ve made is British. On top of that, they’re players of real quality.

Signings like Ben Pringle and Jamie O’Hara on free transfers are smart ones, and others such as Tom Cairney, Jazz Richards and Luke Garbutt add real quality to their ranks.

Add to that the impending deals for Lewis Dunk and Dwight Gayle, and they’re in for a very good season.

Predicted finish: 7th

Huddersfield

I’d put Huddersfield down for another uneventful, indifferent season. Although clever signings like Dean Whitehead, Kyle Dempsey and Jason Davidson are smart, I don’t feel it’s enough for them to do anything special.

But if they can keep the likes of Nahki Wells and James Vaughan fit (and at the club), I think they could perhaps do a bit better then I’ve predicted.

Predicted finish: 19th

Hull

I do fear for Hull this year, the windows closing fast an their squad does look rather depleted. But looking at their business so far, it looks good. They aren’t going about looking for foreign talent, they’re going for players proven in England, which is good news.

My one complaint is the needless sale of Tom Ince, and despite their being a lot going on in that saga, I reckon Steve Bruce will rue the day he let him go. If they get their act together before the window’s end, they can have a very strong season, but for now:

Predicted finish: 6th

Ipswich 

I just don’t think Ipswich will ever leave the Championship, whether it be to the Premier League or League One. They’re just your bog standard Championship side. Despite a good season last year I doubt they can repeat their escapades.

Their signing of the summer so far seems to be signing Daryl Murphy up, but again I wonder if he can continue scoring, given his hazy form before last year. Midtable.

Predicted finish: 9th

Leeds

It just never seems to happen for Leeds, does it? After a decent season last year I think they’ll better what they did before, after a summer of very pleasing recruitment.

I think a lot will depend on whether Chris Wood gets goals. Their defence is seemingly solid, the addition of Sol Bamba being a competent one, a very talented midfield, but up front remains a question mark.

Predicted finish: 13th

MK Dons

Despite my admiration for Karl Robinson’s work at Milton Keynes, I just can’t see them staying up, I’m afraid. Team up inconsistent summer signings, such as Simon Church and Dale Jennings with a horrifying end to preseason, and it doesn’t look great.

I also don’t see a replacement for key man Dele Alli, although Real Madrid man Sergio Aguza could possibly be his replacement. Sam Gallagher could be another key component in their survival hope, but he isn’t proven at senior level.

Predicted finish: 24th

Middlesbrough

I was amazed not to see Boro go up last year, but it looks like they’ve managed to hold on to most of their squad and have relatively the same to choose from.

The signing of Stewart Downing, though financially a worry, a stunning acquisition. Their only problem is goals. Patrick Bamford was their star last year, and though they’ve bought in Christian Stuani, can he do it in the Championship.

But if they continue to pursue, and if they eventually sign, Jordan Rhodes, that wins them the league. A goalscorer of Rhodes’ credentials in front of playmakers such as Middlesbrough’s- it could be over 30 for him next year.

Predicted finish: 1st

Nottingham Forest

Dougie Freedman’s initial spell of good form towards the start of his Forest career quickly diminished towards the end of last year, seeing them finish with a very mediocre season.

Despite a transfer embargo still hanging over there heads, they’ve done well to keep hold of their stars, such as Henri Lansbury and Michail Antonio. However, if they do lose players like this at the end of the window – and don’t replace them properly – they’ll have a horrible season.

Predicted finish: 8th

Preston

After finally making a return to the second tier last year, Preston have been rather quiet in the window, their best bit of business probably being tying Joe Garner down to a new contract.

But despite bringing in Paul Gallagher and Jermaine Beckford in permanently, they’ve done precious little to upgrade last yyears squad, and that’s a worry. But I back Garner to fire them to safety, and I think it’ll be a decent year.

Predicted Finish: 20th

QPR

I don’t back QPR this year. I think another crushing Premier League relegation will continue to lower confidence. On top of that, they were just awful in the Premier League, and that’ll carry down into the second tier, I reckon.

They’ll almost certainly lose stars Charlie Austin, Leroy Fer and perhaps Matty Phillips, and I don’t think their replacements look particularly inspiring, although Tjaronn Chery looks a talent.

Predicted finish: 14th

Reading

Despite a horror season last year, Reading have played the window very well and bought in some impressive signings. Paul McShane, Stephen Quinn and Ali Al Habsi all on free transfers are top captures, as well as the bargain of Jonathan Bond for £250,000.

However, they still need more goals. It remains to be seen as to whether Orlando Sa will fire, whilst there’s also question marks over Dom Samuel’s Championship ability. Simon Cox seems to have lost his edge, Pavel Pogrebnyak has been hit by injury, and despite a terrific preseason, doubt continues to hang over Nick Blackman.

Predicted finish: 12th

Rotherham

One again the pundits scream Rotherham relegation, but after survival season last year, they’ve added some terrific players over the summer. Aidy White, Lewis Buxton, Chris Maguire, Joe Mattock and Emmaunel Ledesma are all very good, competent Championship  players and add huge quality in depth up in Yorkshire.

There seems to be a good feeling about the club, and once again I back them to beat the drop, but I could be very, very wrong.

Predicted finish: 21st

Sheffield Wednesday

Another side who could storm it or go down in flames next year, it remains to be seen if Sheffield Wednesday’s new set up will work. Although new signings Lewis McGugan and Ross Wallace are very good, can Jonatas Centeno, Lucas Joao and Marco Matias perform in the Championship?

Either way, the Owls have a decent squad, and I think they’ll finish in midtable this year, and perhaps gun for promotion the season after.

Predicted finish: 10th

Wolves

Wolves are my underdogs for automatic promotion this year. Despite the heavy loss of Bakary Sako, they’ve bought in some good players and have a strong squad ahead of the season.

Their strike force of Benik Afobe, Nouha Dicko and Adam Le Fondre is one of the best in the league, and theirs no question that the goals will poor out of the Molineux next year.

Predicted finish: 2nd

Full predicted table:

1. Middlesbrough

2. Wolverhampton Wanderers

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3. Burnley

4. Brentford

5. Derby County

6. Hull City

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7. Fulham

8. Nottingham Forest

9. Ipswich Town

10. Sheffield Wednesday

11. Bristol City

12. Reading

13. Leeds United

14. Queens Park Rangers

15. Birmingham City

16. Brighton and Hove Albion

17. Cardiff City

18. Blackburn Rovers

19. Huddersfield Town

20. Preston North End

21. Rotherham United

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22. Charlton Athletic

23. Bolton Wanderers

24. Milton Keynes Dons

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