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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QPR in the Championship

QPR finished bottom of the Premier League and this was very unexpected after once again spending a lot of money in the transfer windows.

But, the players they brought in clearly did not care for the club and only joined to make a lot of money very quickly. Not every single one of them was a mercenary but they just had too many problems to be successful and Mark Hughes might be the one to blame but the board and the owners need to take a look at themselves and learn from their mistakes. Harry Redknapp is now the man in charge and to me it looks like he might be looking for the first opportunity to leave the club but if they can convince to him stay for at least one season they may just be able to bounce back at the first attempt. He has a lot of things to sort out over the summer and will need to make a lot of changes as there will be quite a lot of players that do not want to play in the Championship and will most likely go abroad. There are still some positives for the club but they need a quick start next season.

Robert Green in goal could be crucial because it wasn’t long ago that many people wanted him to be England’s number one and is still a good goalkeeper but can be a little error prone from time to time. In front of him is where they have more of a problem because they made a lot of mistakes and were nowhere near consistent enough. It looks as though they may have to rely on Clint Hill once again to try and lead them to promotion but I think they need to keep hold of Nedum Onuoha as he had a lot of potential and he is certainly good enough for the Championship.

A lot of money was spent in the midfield positions and it is looking likely that their best one Adel Taarabt is going to leave so they will lose a lot of creativity. But Jermaine Jenas is someone that I feel will do brilliantly in the Championship and may even add a few goals to his game. I think the most important player though could be Junior Hoilett because he did not show the QPR fans his true potential and owes them something next season.

In attack they may not lose too much because none of them performed that well apart from Loic Remy who will not want to play in the Championship at all. So I do not see many clubs wanting to sign Bobby Zamora or Jay Bothroyd. The one player that I did like was Jamie Mackie but unfortunately he only got two goals and I don’t think any Premier League teams will be willing to take a chance on him. Finally, Andrew Johnson will be hoping to get over his injury problems and score the goals and get the club back into the Premier League.

Who will be Blackburn Rovers next manager?

Steve Kean has finally left Blackburn Rovers after months and months of unrest at the Championship club and the fans have finally got what they wanted.

Yes, I agree with them he definitely shouldn’t have been in charge for as long as he was and when things weren’t going right in the Premier League he should have gone but some of them went about it in the wrong way and just showed how fickle football fans are, one minute they were singing, ‘We are top of the league’ then when the results weren’t going well, ‘Kean out.’ I am glad he has gone because now the club can go forward and the fans will return to Ewood Park and support their team, but if they do end up getting promoted then Kean deserves a lot of credit because he has assembled a decent squad and his signings in the summer were good, in particular Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu and Jordan Rhodes. However, only 21 wins in 74 games is not good enough, so who will replace him?

The favourite is Tim Sherwood, who was their captain in 1995 when they won the Premier League title so he obviously knows what it is like to be around the club when everyone is happy and things are going their way. Sherwood could bring the good times back but it would be very risky in my opinion because this would be first managerial job and his lack of experience could work against him, especially in the Championship when there are a lot of managers that know what they are doing in the division. However, he has worked under some good managers in Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas Boas so if he ever needed advice he could ask them and I’m sure he will have a lot of contacts in the game so he could make some shrewd loan signings, if needed.

The next person linked with the role is also someone that was part of that title winning side and that man is Alan Shearer. Shearer, does have a little more experience than Sherwood but his short spell in charge of Newcastle United ended in relegation after losing five of his eight games in charge. I’m sure the fans would take to him as he was a legend at the club and scored goals for fun at the club so they would hope he would get the best out of their strikers, in particular, Jordan Rhodes, who has been branded the next Alan Shearer.

Finally, someone that may not be as popular but would get results in my opinion and that man is Mick McCarthy. He may not be a big name or even someone that would excite fans but he knows what he is doing and has achieved some sort of success everywhere he has been. Gaining promotion from the Championship isn’t easy and he has done it with both Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both times winning the league in the process so he obviously knows exactly what is needed unlike his rivals for the post.

Will Jermain Defoe leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer?

Jermain Defoe may be the only experienced striker at Tottenham Hotspur but surprisingly he has been linked with a move away.

Defoe has scored 15 goals in 48 games for England

Last season was a frustrating one for the former Portsmouth striker as he only started 11 Premier League games and was constantly overlooked because Harry Redknapp wanted to play with Rafael Van Der Vaart just behind Emmanuel Adebayor. He wouldn’t have fit into their system that well last year in my opinion and that is the reason why he struggled for game time. When he on the pitch though he mostly produced the goods scoring 11 times in his 25 appearances and 17 in 38 games in all competitions so he has proved he does still have the quality to succeed in the Premier League and his career isn’t coming to an end. I was very surprised to see him linked with a move away but maybe he just isn’t an Andre Villas-Boas type of player but with a deal for Adebayor not completed yet he may be forced to use Defoe at least for the start of the season. The England international has 195 goals in his career so far and will be desperate to get to 200 goals as quickly as possible and to do that he may have to leave if he isn’t guaranteed first team football.

QPR have been heavily linked with him and they do have the funds to buy him and pay the wages so I can’t see why this transfer wouldn’t go through unless the player himself wants to play for a team challenging at the top of the table. However, QPR are building a good squad and may be outsiders for a European place in the coming season and could be a good shout for a cup win. He could compliment Bobby Zamora very well and has been a more consistent goal scorer than both Andy Johnson and Djibril Cisse so he could help push the club onto the next level.

Martin O’Neill is also keen on Defoe and Sunderland could do with a goal scorer as they haven’t really replaced Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan in recent years with Nicklas Bendtner coming in on loan last season. It is unclear whether he will come back either on loan or permanently again so they will have to look elsewhere. A major problem could be that Defoe hasn’t played for anyone in the north so he may be reluctant to move to the area.

Finally, Aston Villa could be looking at the striker and this would be an interesting move as Darren Bent is also at the club and when they were both at Tottenham together they didn’t really play that often and that could mean that they weren’t a good partnership. I can’t see them working well together but maybe I will be proved wrong. If he did sign then they would have a quick attack with Bent, Defoe and Agbonlahor so they would be very threatening on the counter attack and would cause a lot of problems for their opposition.

Who will be the next Nottingham Forest manager?

Steve Cotterill has been sacked as manager of Nottingham Forest after less than a year in charge of the club.

Forest have won the European Cup twice in their history

New owner, Kuwaiti businessman Fawaz Al-Hasawi obviously felt that Cotterill was not the man to take the club forward and wanted to bring in someone that he believed could challenge for promotion to the Premier League in the coming season. The former Portsmouth manager did a good job for Forest in my opinion winning 12 of his 37 games in charge after a terrible start to the season under Steve McClaren and kept them up comfortably in the end. They finished 19th in the table, 10 points clear of the relegation zone. It wasn’t easy for Cotterill as a lot of Forest fans did not enjoy his style of football and wanted success like they had been getting under previous manager Billy Davies but I believe Cotterill did as well as he could and achieved everything that was needed of him so maybe he could have done the same next season. I can see why he has been sacked though as a bigger name will attract better players and it seems as though Al-Hawasi will be willing to pump a lot of money into the club.

So who are the main candidates? Darren Ferguson has been linked with the job and is the early favourite to get the job, he has done a fantastic job with Peterborough United and this could be his chance to join his dad Sir Alex in the Premier League. He is currently in his second spell at the club and this time he has managed to keep them in the Championship so he may be looking to continue his good work there but Forest may be a difficult job to turn down with the extra benefits. The only thing that may put off the new owners is the fact that he failed at Preston North End so he has never challenged for promotion from the Championship.

Harry Redknapp, surprisingly is also heavily linked with the job and he ticks all the boxes. He is a big enough name in the game to attract players to the club and he has just guided Tottenham Hotspur to fourth in the Premier League so he clearly has a lot of ability. The big question is, would Redknapp drop down to the Championship? You would think not however, Sam Allardyce took the the risk instead of waiting for a new job and is back in the Premier League after one year and if he does manage to get Forest promoted, he will surely have a lot of money to spend to make sure they stay up. There is a lot of potential at the club and he could be the one to take Forest back where they belong.

Possibly a more realistic option and probably less favourable would be another former Premier League manager in Mick McCarthy who has been out of work since leaving Wolves. He may not play an attractive style of football but it is clearly effective as he got Wolves promoted and kept them in the Premier League year after year. The former Republic of Ireland manager will have a lot of contacts in the game so he could make some good high profile signings for the Championship and he is quite reliable so they could definitely do a lot worse.

Players of the day- Luka Modric and Fernando Torres

Ireland were the first team to be knocked out of Euro 2012 after they were beaten by Spain which leaves the rest of the group wide open.

The first game of the day saw Italy take on Croatia and the game was very interesting as in my opinion it was the most tactical game so far. Both teams lined up the same way they did in their first group matches and they were very evenly matched for most of the game with nobody taking real control. However, Italy were slightly more dominant in the first half and took the lead through a fantastic free kick from the very impressive Andrea Pirlo. The midfielder controlled the half and mad Italy tick and is at the moment my pick for player of the tournament. The second half was different as Croatia came back into it and managed to get more dangerous crosses into the box and it was Mario Mandzukic who profited from one of these balls as he scored his third of the tournament. The game finished 1-1 and both teams know that a victory is needed to make sure they qualify for the next round.

Man of the match-Luka Modric- The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder was clearly not put off by the news that Harry Redknapp had left his club side as he dictated play and when he was needed most by Croatia he answered the call. In the second half in particular he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and made sure his team got an equaliser. He is a remarkable player that can find space anywhere on the pitch and he was the only one that looked like creating anything. It seemed that he realised that the threat was coming from the left and he made sure left back Ivan Strinic had the ball as often as possible to put a cross in so it was fantastic awareness from him.

Modric has been at Spurs since 2008

Spain destroyed Ireland 4-0 and they dominated from the first whistle to the very last. Ireland conceded early yet again which basically ruined any chances they had of coming away with something from the game. Fernando Torres scored his first with a powerful effort that Shay Given possibly could have done better with. David Silva then scored early in the second half with a clever finish and Torres added another with a confident finish. Substitute Cesc Fabregas finished off the scoring but he was helped by the Ireland defence who by this time were out on their feet.

Man of the match- Fernando Torres- He showed today that all teams (except Barcelona) need a central striker to put the ball in the back of the net. Against the Italians, Spain seemed to just want to pass the ball one more time before shooting and this allowed the opposition to get blocks in and last ditch tackles. But in this game within four minutes he showed just how clinical he can be. Simply he adds something different to the side, he wants to run in behind and he isn’t looking for little one twos, he just wants to be given a through ball so he can shoot. This tournament could be where his career gets back on track and now he is off and running it wouldn’t surprise me if he finished top scorer.

Torres with the World Cup in 2010

Who will be Tottenham Hotspur’s next manager?

Harry Redknapp and Tottenham Hotspur have parted ways after the club failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Redknapp had been at Spurs since 2008

Tottenham finished fourth but because Chelsea won the Champions League they will be playing in the Europa League next season and even though this seems quite unfortunate should they have even been in that position? At the turn of the year they were genuine title contenders and many people believed that they were going to win the league. But they fell away and finished below Arsenal even though they were comfortably in front of them for most of the season. The distraction of the England managers job obviously didn’t help the situation and Spurs soon went on a slump after Fabio Capello left England and this was their downfall, their players seemed to not know what was going on and Redknapp didn’t help the situation at all. Overall Redknapp did a very good job winning 49.49% of his matches and will be very difficult to replace so the new man coming in may struggle under the pressure straightaway. Plus, key players may be more likely to leave no such as Luka Modric and Gareth Bale who will want to play in the main European competition next year.

So the board have a very big decision to make, they need a manager that is going to continue the work Redknapp started or they could end up a mid table club again. David Moyes is currently the favourite to take charge and I think this would be a fantastic appointment, he has worked miracles at Everton, getting them into the top half year after year spending very little money. He deserves to be at a club that can spend more money and I believe he has the ability to take them to the very top, as he always makes astute signings and improves the players he has in his squad. I only see two problems in them getting him and that is, will he be a big enough name to convince their star players to stay and is Moyes holding out for the big job at Manchester United?

Roberto Martinez is linked with every job going at the minute and it isn’t surprising however he could have the same problems as Moyes and not be able to convince their stars to stay. His Wigan team have defied the odds and kept them up year after year playing some very entertaining football and he has shown his tactics can beat the big teams in the league. One result the Spurs fans will remember about Martinez is when he took his Wigan team to White Hart Lane and they got destroyed 9-1 surely the board will remember this and see that he may not quite be good enough yet for a really big job.

Finally, another name I have seen linked with the job is Fabio Capello and a lot of Spurs fans are actually blaming him for ruining their season, if he just stayed as England manager then there wouldn’t have been so much speculation about Redknapp’s future. But looking at Capello’s career would he be able to do a good job? Yes in my opinion because he has shown he can win titles and trophies at club level, he will be judged mostly though by his time as England manager however I think this is harsh as international and club management is very different.

I hope Capello doesn’t get the job but he does offer something different to the other two and that is real pedigree in Europe and will be attract a lot of big names to the club. I really want Moyes to get the job but only if he is given the opportunity to build something at the club and is given money to replace the players that leave.

Moyes has won the LMA manager of the year three times

 

Who will Sebastien Bassong play for next season?

Sebastien Bassong has had a tough time since joining the Premier League but will he get another chance to show he has enough quality to stay in England?

The central defender is currently at Tottenham Hotspur but it looks as though his time at the club is coming to end after being shipped out on loan to Wolves for the second half of last season. In his three seasons at White Hart Lane he has only played 44 league games and has had to settle for a place on the bench a lot of the time with manager Harry Redknapp preferring others like Ledley King, Michael Dawson, William Gallas and Younes Kaboul. The 25 year old does have time on his hands but he hasn’t quite lived up to the potential he showed at Newcastle United where in his only season there, he was voted their player of the season, however this was in their relegation season and nobody performed that well and it can’t have been such an honour to win the award. In his loan spell at Wolves he also suffered relegation and did not perform that well, although he cannot be blamed for their relegation, he still has to take some of the blame as he did not look good enough for the Premier League.

So will anyone in the Premier League take him on or will he have to go back abroad or into the Championship? I think any of the three promoted teams should have a look at him as they all lack a little bit of experience in that area. West Ham currently have James Tomkins and Winston Reid as their starting pair but after releasing Abdoulaye Faye, they will need some competition and cover. Reading are also suffering from a lack of experience in that area with both Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss hardly kicking a ball in the Premier League so Bassong would at least have a little more knowledge, and personally I think he is slightly better than Gorkss. Southampton have two good centre backs in Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld but they do lack cover so they will need to bring in someone so why not Bassong, I cannot imagine Spurs wanting a big transfer fee for him but his wages maybe a stumbling block.

Other teams that are already in the Premier League may also like the look of him because of how well he did at Newcastle and the talent he has shown at times at Spurs. Stoke City may be interested in signing him as he will add a slightly better ball playing defender to their team. With Matthew Upson and Jonathon Woodgate not exactly performing as well as manager Tony Pulis expected he may be in the market for another defender.

Finally, I believe QPR should be looking at him as they struggled terribly at the back at times this season and he is a much better player than Clint Hill and is arguably better than Anton Ferdinand so I believe he would walk into their team.

Who will Salomon Kalou play for next season?

Just days after winning the Champions League Salomon Kalou has left Chelsea and is in search for a new club.

Kalou has scored 36 Premier League goals

The 26 year old has been at Chelsea since the 2006-07 season and scored 58 goals in 244 games for the club which isn’t a bad record for a player that was often used from the bench. In his first season, he played the most matches he would as he played 57 times and contributed nine goals as well as 10 assists. For the next four seasons he was very consistent and hit at least 10 goals, including the 2009-10 season when he got 12 goals in 36 appearances. But for some reason this season he never really got going and under Andre Villas-Boas he was rarely used. He only played 24 times and got five goals but one of these was very crucial as he scored the only goal of the game away to Benfica in the quarter final of the Champions League.

Maybe it is the right time for him to move on as he was getting used less often and maybe was behind Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge in the pecking order for the two wide positions, especially in the Premier League. So if he wanted to stay at England where would he go? He could sign for London rivals Arsenal as they could fit his style of play. He likes to get the ball out wide and cut inside so he would do a good job for them on the wings but it may be difficult for him to stamp his authority on the team especially with the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and new signing Lukas Podolski able to play in similar positions. He would definitely add another threat but he may not be happy as he may not be first choice but it would still be a good move in my opinion.

Tottenham Hotspur have also been linked with him and if they lose key players this summer in particular Gareth Bale they will need to replace them. At times in the season  just gone Spurs looked a little weak on the wings especially when Aaron Lennon got injured. Rafael Van Der Vaart looks a lot more comfortable playing in the hole behind the striker rather than on the wing so I think Kalou could be a very good signing for the club. He arguably has a better final ball than Lennon so could even take his place and with Bale on one side, Kalou on the other, Van Der Vaart and the main striker will certainly get a lot of balls to attack in the box as well as benefit from clever through balls.

Finally, Liverpool could be interested in signing him as they have looked poor in the midfield area this season with Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing not living up to their price tags and were in all honestly not good enough for Liverpool. He can play on the left or the right and would link up well with both of their strikers. He could feed off Andy Carroll’s knock downs and also combine well with Luis Suarez on the floor. With Dirk Kuyt’s future unclear he would be a fantastic replacement and score around the same amount of goals a season.

I think he should join Tottenham and help them secure a Champions League spot next season because I think they would be a good fit for each other and under Harry Redknapp’s guidance he could become an even better player.

Should Grant Holt be in the England team and go to the Euros?

Grant Holt has had a fantastic season and is currently the second top English scorer in the Premier League so does he deserve to be in the England squad?

Grant Holt has scored over 150 goals in his career

In my opinion, yes he does, I would take whoever is scoring the goals and whoever is on form and right now is there a better striker than Holt. Wayne Rooney is obviously the best English striker but will be missing for the first two games of the tournament so England need another option. Peter Crouch has been coming into form at just the right time but he has already been tried at an international tournament and I am sure a lot of England fans want the team to go in a different direction and try out new players especially when it seems that they are not very optimistic about their chances of winning the tournament which is quite strange seen as though England are usually one of the favourites.

Holt had the chance to impress the favourite to take over as England manager in Harry Redknapp in Norwich’s last game and he yet again caused the defence a lot of problems. Ledley King, who many people believe would have been one of the best centre backs in the world had he not had so many injury problems struggled all day against the big target man and should have given away a penalty when they were grappling in the box.

With this being Holt’s first year in the Premier League, he probably couldn’t have wished for a better start. He has scored 15 goals in all competitions with 13 of them coming in the league but it is not only his goals that are catching people’s attentions, it is his all round game as he is very powerful and causes defences problems every time he steps onto the pitch. You know what you are going to get from him but still it seems that nobody can deal with him effectively. His work rate is outstanding and he may lack some abilities at times but he makes up for it by chasing every ball down and battling for every ball.

It is remarkable rise for the man seen as though he was playing in League 2 for Shrewsbury in the 2008-09 season scoring 28 goals which secured his move to Norwich who at the time were in League 1. Two consecutive promotions and 53 goals has put got him to the position he is in and he had many doubters at the start of the season like many of the other Norwich players.

Why not take him to the Euros? I can’t imagine many European defenders will have faced anyone like him and he is more than just a bully as he has been labelled by some people therefore he could add something to the squad and a real alternative. England will probably take Danny Welbeck, Danny Sturridge and Wayne Rooney leaving space for one more striker at least. Crouch has the height but he lacks the power and with Andy Carroll out of form, I believe Holt should go just to give England a different option if they need a goal in the last 20 minutes.