The 46 game marathon that is the English npower Championship resumes this Saturday the 6th August. With promotion to the upper echelons of English Football and one of the most financially rewarding prizes in the game at stake it promises to go right to the wire.
Despite the volume of games and the relative unpredictably of the outcome there is quality coursing through this years Championship. With big clubs such as West Ham and Birmingham and an entertaining Blackpool making the backwards step last season there will be fresh impetus added to this season’s promotion race.
Indeed it is the Hammers who will start the season as bookies’ favourites having brought in proven premiership quality in Kevin Nolan, Matthew Taylor and the towering Senegalese Abdoulaye-Faye. The catalyst for these captures has been the appointment of Sam Allardyce and with the likes of Matthew Upson, Scott Parker and Carlton Cole still on the books at the Boleyn Grounds it may be a short stay in the npower championship for the Claret and Blue.
Leicester City are also serious contenders for promotion with new owner Vichai Raksriaksorn possessing the financial clout needed to propel the Foxes to the Premier League. With the acquisitions of Kasper Schmeichel, Paul Konchesky, John Paintsil, Sean St Ledger and David Nugent Leicester’s prospects for the forthcoming Championship season are anything but blue.
No other clubs have been afforded the financial outlay of a West Ham or a Leicester but there can be no separating the rest of the field. Brian McDermott’s Reading have clung on to Shane Long and may amend last season’s play off disappointment, with Nottingham Forest hoping Steve McClaren can reignite his managerial career with a promotion push.
Leeds, Birmingham and Cardiff will be in the mix come May with Cardiff’s snatch and grab raid on Bursaspor giving Kenny Miller ample opportunity to set the Championship alight. Hull city, Ipswich and Burnley under the stewardship of a youthful Eddie Howe will no doubt challenge for those coveted play-off berths.
The promoted sides generally all provide a surprise or two and Southampton, Peterborough and Brighton will be hoping to upset the apple cart on their return to English football’s second tier.
Gus Poyet’s Brighton side have pulled off a coup with the signing of Scottish striker Craig Mackail-Smith, the former Peterborough striker impressing last in league one while Southampton also pulled of their own star signing with the capture of Jack Cork from Chelsea.
For those who fancy a flutter, gambling on this season’s npower Championship is akin to that of the annual “that’s a funny name for a horse” punt on the Grand National with a Leicester or a West Ham representing little or no value. There is one dead cert however this year’s Npower Championship will be a fascinating watch.
Sportsnewsireland.com will have live score updates on all GAA Championship matches over the summer.