Paul Robinson’s Championship Preview – FansBet
Finally it’s back! The Championship season starts this Friday night with newly promoted Luton Town playing host to a team Middlesbrough who are led by someone I grew up learning the game with and rooming next door to when I was 16 at Leeds United, Jonathon Woodgate. With him, is first team coach, someone I played with at both Leeds and Spurs, Robbie Keane.
I obviously wish them both the very best of luck in what looks like a tough season for the ‘Boro in another Championship season that is incredibly difficult to predict, never mind the outcome, week to week is difficult enough!
I’ve experienced both relegation to and promotion from the championship, so I’d like to think I’m fairly well qualified to pass an opinion and pick a couple of teams to watch at either end that I think have the capability to succeed at the top end or not enough to compete!
My personal favourite to go up automatically is Leeds and I can hear many of you saying ‘that’s an obvious pick, that’s his team ‘ etc; but let me explain my reasoning.
I have a very close affiliation with the club that gave me the chance to have the career I did, so yes of course I always will. But living in the area and getting to many games, plus spending time at the academy as my son is there, I have a very good insight into a club and team that is moving in the right direction under the stewardship of a manager that I have huge admiration for.
Keeping hold of Mr Bielsa is a master stroke from the Leeds Utd hierarchy. What he achieved last season with the squad of players he had at his disposal is nothing short of brilliant.
Why he wasn’t backed in January and given the funds to buy a tried and tested championship striker that would have scored 10/15 goals between then and the end of the season plus a left sided player, I don’t know. In my opinion a small price to pay/ gamble to take against the huge purse the premier league offers!?
The application and dedication of a manager is rarely seen and the more we learn the more dedicated and obsessive he appears.
Transfer activity at Elland Road has been shrewd and very clever. The re-signing of Jack Harrison on loan from Manchester City, and the loan back from Spurs after the sale of Jack Clarke are in my opinion two very astute deals.
The biggest signing and the one Leeds Utd fans will, and rightly should be getting excited about is the capture of Portuguese international Helder Costa from Wolves on an initial loan deal. A player that has played for Benfica, Monaco and a team Leeds fans will know well Deportivo La Coruña, he lit up the championship, winning Wolves player of the year 16/17 season.
With Bielsa cracking the whip again, it’s set to be another exciting season at Elland Road.
Leeds United to win the 2019/20 Championship title at 2.60*
One team to keep your eye on in the championship this season that I really like the look of is Cardiff.
The Blue Birds made a real fist of fighting relegation from the Premier League last season, pushing Brighton all the way right to the wire, and in the end, they were unlucky to be relegated, with what was in my opinion an extremely strong championship squad.
The massive positive for Cardiff is the fact that Neil Warnock has stayed in Wales, also they have a very similar squad to the one that got them promoted two seasons ago, and in that season their underlying process was exceptional – second best only to Wolves, who were well above-average.
Neil Warnock is an extremely experienced, and in my opinion, likeable manager and if anyone knows this league, he does. So I think Cardiff will bounce straight back either automatically or through the payoffs as I don’t think that would phase them.
Another serious contender for promotion is Fulham in my opnion, yet another team led by one of my former international teammates, Scott Parker. It’s a role that I thank that he’s always been heading towards. I think he’s a fantastic young coach and has the capability to bring success back to Craven Cottage.
The signing of Anthony Knockaert from Brighton is a real coup for Scott and Fulham. He’s a top-class player who has the ability to control a game and has experienced premier league promotion as well as premiership football.
Fulham could lose 19-year-old Ryan Sessegnon who has been linked with clubs at the very top end of the Premier League, but they seem to have kept hold of star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored twelve goals in less than half a season last time he played at this level, so I believe they have the quality and experience to mount a real promotion challenge.
Fulham to win the 2019/20 Championship at 8.00*
Sheffield Wednesday and Stoke City
My two teams to keep an eye on this season.
Wednesday with Steve Bruce would have been one of my tips for automatic promotion as he seemed to be the perfect fit. He and his backroom staff very quickly steadied the ship and made Wednesday hard to beat which is a major factor in a long championship season.
The loss of Bruce could prove pivotal, and for me the replacement is crucial and Wednesday have a strong squad who were buying into what Bruce was asking of them.
Keep your eye on a managerial appointment and start the season.
Stoke, despite scoring less goals than any side outside the bottom three and only winning three games since Nathan Jones took over in January, are among the favourites to go up. They have one of the best teams in the league on paper, and perhaps the summer break will give them the chance for a hard reset that turns some of their 22 draws last season into wins.
The signing of one of my former colleagues Sam Vokes having time to settle in could well be the answer to Stokes goal scoring problems as he is well versed at this level.
Birmingham have had their off-field issues last season, resulting in a nine-point deduction, and Garry Monk has since left the Blues, with his assistant Pep Clotet taking over.
They may be in for a struggle this season, especially with top scorer and talisman Che Adams having moved to Southampton, and key creative force Jota heading to rivals Aston Villa. I think the blues have a real danger of dropping into League 1.
Reading for me are the favourites to go they have been flirting with relegation for the past few years as their recent performances and point totals have suggested – apart from a very surprising season when they managed to finish third in 2016/17I don’t think their starting 11 nor squad is strong enough to stand the season in what is one of if not the most strongly contested league in the world !
Those of you who enjoy the goalscorer markets I suspect you won’t go far wrong backing Alexander Mitrovic to finish top scorer, he scored in the premier league last season and has more than proved himself at this level.
So all that’s left for me to say is good luck, enjoy the season and bet sensibly, safe in the knowledge your fellow supporters benefit from any bad bets!
Birmingham City to be relegated from the Championship at 4.50*
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