Who will win the Championship?

The Championship is always one of the most exciting leagues in the world and is always one of the hardest to predict.

The relegated teams have a good chance of going straight back if they can keep hold of their best players and as we have seen in previous seasons sometimes the teams that get promoted into the league carry on their momentum and get a second promotion on the bounce.

The favourites to win the league are Harry Redknapp’s QPR and he does have experience of leading a team to the Premier League in Portsmouth so does know what it is all about and will surely get more out of his team than he did last year. The signings he has made so far have been very good and they will definitely be committed to the cause. Richard Dunne and Danny Simpson are both good enough defenders to still be in the Premier League. Karl Henry will add steel to the midfield and Charlie Austin is a proven goal scorer at this level.

Reading only had one season in the Premier League but they have got rid of quite a few of the players that helped them to promotion the last time but they have brought in some good players themselves that have Champions League experience in the shape of Wayne Bridge and Royston Drenthe. Nigel Adkins is a good manager and I feel that he will get the team playing decent football and will be right near the top of the table come the end of the season.

Bolton Wanderers will be hoping for a better year than last year and will hope that Dougie Freedman can do what he started at Crystal Palace in the early part of the season. He has made some strange choices in my opinion letting Marvin Sordell got out on loan when he has proved his ability in the Championship before. But in his defence he has replaced him with Jermaine Beckford who will be looking to prove some of his doubters wrong. Alex Baptiste, Marc Tierney and Andre Moritz are also solid signings.

Whether you agree with what they did last season you have to give Gianfranco Zola and Watford credit for getting the team together and playing as well as they did straight away. It looks like it is a similar story this year but using a slightly different loophole to bring in the players that they want from their owners ‘parent’ clubs. But the most exciting signing they have made in my opinion is Lewis McGugan because he has a decent goalscoring record and will be hoping that he can add something to the already talented team.

The team that I personally think will win the league are Wigan Athletic. The signings new manager Owen Coyle has made are already really consistent players, they may not grab the headlines but they do everything that is asked of them. James Perch, Stephen Crainey and Chris McCann all fall into this category. Then they have brought in more attacking players that will definitely get goals in Grant Holt and Marc Antoine Fortune. Also Scott Carson will be a brilliant goalkeeper and could get the most clean sheets. The only worry I have is if their campaign in Europe takes too much out of them.

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Crystal Palace in the Premier League

Crystal Palace won promotion to the Premier League through the playoffs and they will be an interesting addition to the league.
Crystal Palace
Under Ian Holloway they will be a good attacking side but may struggle in defence and unfortunately for him this tactic did not work for him at Blackpool. Hopefully he will have learned from his last experience and Crystal Palace will have a good chance of staying up. I do like a lot of their players and I do like Holloway but this time he seems to be rehashing what he said during his time at Blackpool about them going to struggle and maybe this will work against him because now teams may not underestimate them as much as they did Blackpool. Holloway’s record at the club does not seem to be one that should have got promotion to the Premier League so a lot of credit has to go to Dougie Freedman who helped them get off to a good start. Out of his 37 games in charge he has only won 13 but one of them was against Watford at Wembley and against Peterborough United on the last game of the season to secure the place in the playoffs so he has proved he can win the big games. Plus defeating Brighton in the playoffs showed he has grown tactically as a manager.

Defensively I am very worried about the team because they have players that I do think are good in the Championship but maybe not good enough for the Premier League. Danny Gabbidon and Peter Ramage are two players that certainly fit into this category. However, I do think they have a very good goalkeeper in Julian Speroni who has improved massively and has got better and better every year he has been at the club.
Julian Speroni
The midfield will be losing one of their best players in Wilfried Zaha but there is no point in focusing on what they won’t have. Although there is a slight chance that he could come back on loan, but this does not seem likely at the moment. Jonathan Williams is someone that I am looking forward to seeing in the Premier League because he is a fantastic footballer and deserves to be in the top league now after injuries stalled his career slightly. He is only young so it will be a steep learning curve for him. Mile Jedinak is another that I think will be able to make the step up.
Jonathan Williams
They do look a little weak upfront too but Glenn Murray got 31 goals last season in all competitions and will be the man they rely on to get them the goals to keep them up like Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert have in recent seasons. Aaron Wilbraham started the playoff final and I would be very surprised if he started any games next season and a new striker was brought in to replace him. I think they should sign Kevin Phillips permanently because he can still score goals even if he is only limited to substitute appearances.
Glenn Murray

Who will be Crystal Palace’s next manager?

Crystal Palace are looking for a new manager after Dougie Freedman decided his future is away from the club and at Bolton Wanderers.

Freedman, has left the club in a lot better position than the one he took charge of and along with his playing career, he will always be seen as a legend by the fans and I’m sure a lot will want to wish him the best of luck at his new club. They, along with Freedman will have good memories over the last couple of years, including beating Manchester United in the quarter final of the Carling Cup and escaping relegation quite comfortably in the end. So, who will they get to replace him? Should they be looking for more experience this time to continue the good job the Scotsman had done or bring in someone that is young and exciting? However, one thing to take into consideration is still the financial side of the game, will they have to look at the unemployed list or can they tempt someone to leave their club? Obviously, they should get a compensation package from Bolton so they may just use this to get a new manager.

The favourite for the job currently is Steve Coppell. This is a very interesting one in my opinion because he left Bristol City after just two games and actually announced his retirement. However, a lot of fans will be in favour of this because he obviously has a lot of affection for the club and including caretaker spells has been in charge four times. His experience is not in question but he has been out of the managerial game for a number of years now so maybe he wouldn’t be the best choice right now. Also, he is currently the Director of Football at Crawley Town so they may have to pay compensation for him.

The next name is actually one that if they could get, would be a fantastic coup for the club as he will be linked with every job in the Championship until he decides to take a job. This man is Mick McCarthy and he would bring a lot to the club and could actually push them onto the next level and get Premier League football back to Selhurst Park. Gaining promotion with Wolves and Sunderland has made his CV even more impressive. Could Crystal Palace realistically get him though?

The final name that caught my attention is a former player, that actually has managerial experience, not only in the Championship but the Premier League and that is Gareth Southgate. Obviously, he started his career at the club and played over 150 league games so he knows exactly what the fans are about and even though things will have changed since he left, there is still the same passion about the club that was there back then. The only worry is that, he has also been out of the managerial game for a while and it might take him some time to adapt to the role again.

Other names that have been linked with the job are Andy Thorn, Lennie Lawrence and Karl Robinson. Would the Palace fans prefer one of these to get the job?

Who will be relegated from the Championship?

A lot of big teams have been relegated from the Championship over the years including Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Southampton so nobody is safe really and anything could happen. Last year we saw Coventry City, Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers were unable to stay up so who will it be this year?

Barnsley struggled in the second half of last season especially after the departure of Ricardo Vaz Te who was their talisman and top scorer so it is easy to see why they are one of the favourites for the drop. Losing Jacob Butterfield will also be a blow and they will need their experienced players to perform well if they are to stay up. One of their main signings of the summer Mido has also been injured and he is unpredictable anyway so they may to rely on the goals from Marlon Harewood and Craig Davies to keep them up.

Peterborough United did ok last year and manager Darren Ferguson will want them to push on however I see this as a season of struggle for them. They did ease past Southend United in the Capital One Cup beating them 4-0 so that will give them confidence but I think they may have took a little risk this year especially in the goalkeeping department as they have signed Robert Olejnik who was one of the best keepers in League 2 last year but he may struggle to step up and with their defence also not being the best it could be their downfall this year.

Another team that struggled for large periods of the season were Bristol City and they were defeated by Gillingham in the Capital One Cup so optimism can’t be high among supporters at the minute. They also lost one of their main strikers when Nicky Maynard decided to leave which leaves them with only three out and out strikers in Jon Stead, Brett Pitman and Ryan Taylor and none of these have ever been considered prolific. They do however have strength on the wings in Paul Anderson and Albert Adomah so if they can get these playing to the best of their ability then they do have a good chance of staying up.

Dougie Freedman in my opinion overachieved at Crystal Palace last year and I think it will be very difficult for them to achieve what they did last season and finish as high up the table and 21st place could be seen as an achievement this year. They have so far kept hold of Wilfried Zaha but I do expect a few teams to be interested in him before the end of the transfer window. He is key to them and I hope he doesn’t feel the weight of the expectation on his young shoulders and have a bad season.

Nigel Clough must be tearing his hair out at the moment after witnessing his team throw away a 3-0, 4-1 and 5-3 lead and still failing to beat Scunthorpe United in the Capital One Cup and eventually going out on penalties. I always thought they would struggle and I know it is only the cup but there is clearly something wrong at the back or at least in the confidence and concentration of their players. I doubt they will score five past many Championship teams but I do think they could ship five past quite a lot of them.

Should Nathaniel Clyne stay at Palace?

Nathaniel Clyne has been offered an improved deal to stay at Crystal Palace but there is uncertainty whether he will stay at the club.

The defenders contract is up this summer and he has been linked with some of the best teams in the country such as Manchester United and Arsenal but would it be better for his future to stay at Crystal Palace and gain some more match day experience instead of sitting on the bench and only playing in cup games. There is no doubt he is a very good player and is rightly linked away however I believe he is at the right club, alongside some other young talented players like Wilfried Zaha as well as a young manager that I think will go far in the game and has looked very impressive so far and could be considered one of the managers of the year. Dougie Freedman is doing the right thing with his youngsters as well because he has been playing them and praising them but he has also been mentoring them and this is why I think Clyne in particular will stay at the club at least for another season.

They are 16th in the table which doesn’t seem that impressive but with how things have gone over the last few years this is a massive improvement and the fans can see the club is going in the right direction. The young right back has been part of this improvement for many years now after making his debut in the 2008-09 season, winning many awards since then including the Crystal Palace Young Player of the Year twice, the Football League Young Player of the year award and even Crystal Palace’s Player of the Year award which is remarkable seen as though he is still only 21. It has been a meteoric rise for the youngster and even he probably can’t believe how well his career has gone and if he was at another club would he have played in as many games? The answer is no and because he has the experience and the ability he will probably go a lot further in the game than someone that comes through a Premier League youth team. How many 21 year olds can say they have played in every game in a single season?

Young players need their rest and it is a worry that he might burn out further into his career but I do not think this will be the case, he is a fantastic prospect and the Palace fans can be proud that he has represented his club in such an accomplished and mature way. They may feel slightly betrayed if he does leave in the summer but it can sometimes be difficult for young players to make such tough decisions. Palace may not get as much money as they should for him because it will most likely go to a tribunal and they will decide the fee.

In my opinion, he should stay for another year but even if he doesn’t he has done a lot for Palace and was thrown in at the deep and succeeded where a lot of players would have failed. So well done to Nathaniel Clyne and I hope he gets selected for the Olympic squad and makes all the Palace fans proud.

Crystal Palace’s Dougie Freedman for manager of the year

Crystal Palace have been performing above expectations this season and a lot of the credit has to go to their young manager Dougie Freedman.

The former striker was given the job after George Burley was sacked initially as caretaker but then was given the job permanently in January and brought in his former teammate Tony Popovic and Lennie Lawrence to assist him. He had a pretty successful season last year keeping the team up with a game to spare which seemed unlikely at certain points in the season. Crystal Palace have been dogged with financial problems in the last few years and he has to deal with very little money and also being unable to offer players a good enough contract to keep them at the club.

This season, he has guided the club to a respectable position in the league and are an outside bet to finish in the playoff places and the manager is quietly confident they could just spring a surprise and finish above teams with larger wage bills. This is a remarkable achievement as they were one of the favourites to get relegated and in fairness to the bookies, looking at the squad, they probably should have been down the bottom of the league. One of his greatest qualities is that he gives his players confidence and trusts them to do their jobs and this is why some of the younger players in the squad have performed exceptionally well, Wilfred Zaha in particular. Zaha was linked with a move away from the club but I believe that Freedman convinced him to stay and convinced him that if he plays first team football instead of the odd game in the Premier League he will become a better player. A lot of players allow their heads to be turned but obviously the boss has kept him focused and he is looking better and better every game.

Some of the results this season have been impressive, beating Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup and drawing 0-0 with league leaders West Ham at Upton Park. These are big results for the team but more importantly for the fans as they can see that this team under Freedman are going places and if they keep the squad together they could be genuine promotion contenders in the next few years.

The board will also be happy with their choice and the run to the Carling Cup semi final, which they were unlucky to lose on penalties, will have helped the club financially and the extra income will have pleased the board as they would not have expected the team to get so far.

Freedman deserves a lot of recognition as he has arguably done more for the team than anyone else has for their club. Yes the teams at the top get all the praise but sometimes you have to look down the table and see that some managers are performing above expectations and these deserve more credit than they get from the media in particular. A 37% win record is good for a manger that is at a team that aren’t expected to perform well and has limited experience.