Wouldn’t it be interesting to know more about our fellow strugglers in the Legion Division of Doom. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy until you read part 2; but for now, welcome to the first part of my Championship preview:
Last season position – 20th (Premier League)
Manager – Roberto Di Matteo
Narrowly beating Newcastle for the title of most underperforming, shambolic team of last season, Villa assume the role of West Brom the last time we were relegated – same manager and everything!
Villa have kept the majority of their squad together and upgraded at goalkeeper by purchasing one not called Brad Guzan; investment from the new owners will likely shape their season.
Last season Villa’s problems were much the same as our own – though a little more insidious – while we had players sacking it off, there was no pocket texting or Jack Grealish. A good start could see Villa grow in confidence.
However, unlike Newcastle, they haven’t done enough to refresh their squad of malcontents, leaving the potential for implosion should things start badly.
Their new owner Dr.Xia seems like a nice man…
6th (League One)
Barnsley were a team of two halves last season – absolute toilet pre-Heckingbottom, then the form team of the league and JPT winners with their current manager. Though they scraped into the playoffs on goal difference, it would surely have been a different story if they had a full season in charge.
Having strengthened by cherry-picking some solid League One talent, Barnsley are primed to cause more than a few problems.
A solid start to last season saw Birmingham challenging for the play-offs only to fade badly – finishing 10th after winning only one of their last twelve games. Birmingham appear to be something of a gateway team in that they’re bang average – conceding and scoring around one a game .
Victory or defeat against such a side will provide an indication of a club’s prospects.
The polar opposite of local rivals Burnley – sh*t owners, sh*t manager, poor team. The fans deserve more, but it looks like Blackburn will struggle. Their best players in Jordan Rhodes and Grant Hanley are no longer there – in all they’ve let go of 21 and signed 5.
Poundland Brendan Rogers better be praying to his God that Danny Graham and Anthony Stokes have only been pretending to be rubbish at football since 2013 and birth respectively.
The Moneyball experiment continues and despite a turbulent season that took in three managers, Brentford finished a respectable 9th.
Nevertheless, you have to wonder where they’d be if they kept faith with Mark Warburton rather than a spreadsheet.
Brighton recovered from the blip of finishing 20th in 2014-15 by missing out on automatic promotion by two goals. A series of unfortunate events saw them fail in the play-offs, but in Chris Hughton they have a proven Championship manager and a team that’s hardworking, solid, organised and dangerous.
Retaining Knockaert could go a long way to dictating their continued success, but no one will find playing Brighton an easy game.
Surviving their promotion with a respectable 18th place finish, Bristol cycled through managers like many teams in the Championship before settling on Lee Johnson, who stabilised the club and looks to improve upon his father’s efforts.
Ever since Dean Windass howked their Premier League dreams to death in typically northern fashion, Bristol have turned back into a pumpkin. Even with the upturn in form towards the end of last season, it’s hard to see anything other than a struggle for this season. However, they have shown a capacity to surprise in the past.
2nd (League One)
Having gone through back-to-back promotions and with Nigel Clough returning last season with an air of unfinished business, Burton have the potential to surprise the Championship.
Teams are likely to underestimate them and their unique 6,912 seater stadium offers an unsettling experience for those used to visiting the likes of Reading, Derby and Leeds. The grind of the Championship and its superior level may eventually get the better of them.
A dour club with an owner who belts his trousers around his neck. Since relegation from the Premier League, they’ve maintained mid-table solidity. Appearing to be more workman-like than spectacular, the question is whether Paul Trollope – managing a club for the first time in six years – can take them on a promotion push.
If not, Vincent Tan may have him fed to sharks with laser beams on their heads.
Following the McClaren implosion (sound familiar?) Derby played managerial musical chairs, finishing respectably but never really threatening the play-offs.
They now have a man in charge who spends his free time fighting wolves, possibly with broken miniatures taped to his knuckles, and has a stare that could harrow stone. Pearson knows success in the Championship and has some very good players – Will Hughes, Tom Ince, Jack Thorne.
If he can avoid ostrichcising (I thank you) the media, Derby will be a tough opponent and promotion rival.
Not content with making the Jacksonville Jaguars so bad they’re on the verge of hiding their shame in London, Shahid Khan brings failure to Craven Cottage.
(ED: Article received before Newcastle’s defeat at Craven Cottage)
Changing managers multiple times, as is vogue in the Championship, Fulham stayed afloat thanks to the goals of Ross McCormack. Should McCormack leave, with Norwich strongly linked, you have to fear for them this season – LATE UPDATE: so he went to Villa, bad for Fulham and good for us and bad timing from Villa who help a rival by destabilizing their opponent right before the game.
Not so good for us was a strong pre-season that could warp their early season performance.