Guide to this season’s Championship – From Huddersfield to Wolves
Welcome to the second part of writer Oliver James’ Championship preview:
Position last season – 19th
Manager – David Wagner
Cycling through the what appears to be traditional three managerial appointments didn’t improve Huddersfield much last time out. With an average league position of 18th over the past four seasons, the indication is that Huddersfield have only the capacity to survive.
Despite still being a sh*thouse under current incumbent David Wagner for the remainder of last season they have recruited with imagination in the summer – but that’s like watching a film and praising the set dressing.
If you could go into a shop and buy a Championship side off the shelf, then Ipswich would be that team and Mick McCarthy the manager. Consistently in play-off contention without ever looking like going up, expect more of the same from this gateway side and its’ experienced, proboscisly-fearsome manager.
The Massimo Cellino circus continues and since the beginning of his stewardship none of Brian McDermott, David Hockaday, Neil Redfern, Darko Milanic, Neil Redfern again, Uwe Rossler or Steve Evans have managed to achieve anything above 13th.
Gary Monk will want to be more Ringmaster than the bearded ladies he’s following and appeared a decent manager at Swansea but it’s hard to say what the extent of his influence will be. Another season of dysfunction is likely until Cellino employs then dismisses himself as manager and his head explodes.
19th (Premier League)
Too good for the Championship, not good enough for the Premier League, Norwich appear doomed to bounce between the leagues for all of time. The loss of Nathan Redmond is a blow, however Alex Neil has already doured his way to one promotion.
They should be near the top of the table only to be relegated following promotion – Norwich give up now. Please.
Forest are on a downward trajectory, having steadily dropped from 8th to 16th over the previous four seasons. Fawaz Al-Hasawi, another in a long line of despotic owners ruining football, has appointed Philippe Montanier – who did an exceptional job at Rennes last season – for another tilt at the windmills. I don’t think anyone here needs an education on the risks inherent in French imports.
PRESTON NORTH END
Steady progression from League One to the Championship culminated in an 11th place finish, however Preston should be worried about second season syndrome. Simon Grayson is a cunning technician in League One – he has achieved promotion with every team he has managed. Sound good doesn’t it?
But things tend to end badly in the Championship – not lasting more than one season and change with any team. This year may be different, maybe the pattern that followed him at three previous teams was just a blip…nah.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
All relegated clubs look away now as QPR’s 2015-16 shows the prototypical first season in the Championship. After finally settling on Jimmy as their manager in December, he proceeded to do no better than the previous incumbents, drudging through a season of mediocrity.
An average squad filled with average players that can be dangerous on their day but never look like putting it together over the season.
Reading started well last season, had a blip, panicked and fired Steve Clarke, then everything went downhill fast. Attempting a reboot with the Dutch Gollum, Jaap Stam is a big unknown this season – other first time managers have succeeded at this level but this is his first proper managerial role.
Other top level footballers have gone from a bit of easy coaching into management, I mean look how well it turned out for Gary Neville…oh, wait. Reading will have to be seen for any real conclusions to be drawn about their direction, let’s just hope they pixelate Stam’s face on TV.
There was a time when you used to have to be a good manager at the top of Scottish football to get a job in England. Apparently now you only need to be a sh*t manager from the second tier to get a one. Yes Stubbs won the Scottish cup, but the previous two winners were Inverness and St. Johnstone – you could enter a team of Marmots and they’d at least reach the Semis.
Rotherham clung onto Championship survival after Yorkshire Jesus, Neil Warnock, verbally abused every other team into submission from the touchline. It’s going to take a massive effort for these to finish anywhere other than the proverbial.
As we found out at St James Park last season – Sheffield Wednesday are not a bad side. They’ve built on a squad that comfortably made the play-offs last season and will be looking higher this season.
The only worry is a Premier League side poaching their manager in the shuffle throughout the season. Maybe a good indication of where two teams will be, was their first game (and win) of the season against Aston Villa.
Wigan powered through League One last season under the stewardship of ex-mag Gary Caldwell, whose face appears trapped in the Benjamin Button Vortex. There was a feeling of a big fish in a small pond at that level, but the Championship is an altogether different animal…or league.
They have some good players like former Man Utd charity project Nick Powell, but given their previous volatility in the league – from 5th to 23rd in a season – it’s hard to say what sort of Wigan will show up.
The teams Walter Zenga has managed in his career since 2010: Al-Nassr, Al-Nasr, Al Jazira, Sampdoria, Al-Shaab.
He was sh*t at all of them. Good luck Wolves! We’re all praying for you to pull through.
You can read the first part of Oliver’s preview HERE.
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