For some reason this post always seems to attract a massive amount of views. Probably because fans from teams I’ve tipped to struggle want to come and gloat at the end of the season when they do so much better. (I apologise Swansea City for tipping you for relegation last season) Last season I actually got a fair few right, so let’s go again. It’s the annual season predictions!
PREMIERSHIP: Winner – Man City –> Now, those eagled eyed among you will have also noticed I tipped Citeh to win last season and they didn’t. However, with a top manager now in place in Manuel Pellegrini and an array of striking talent with Álvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetić now on board too, they are the team to beat. Will also be so determined to improve upon weak performances last season.
2nd – Chelsea –> Now the main man is back, Chelsea should be challenging more closely than they did for the past two seasons. Much will depend on Mourinho’s ability to get more out of their strikeforce, but I’m looking forward to seeing André Schürrle in the league. Will importantly, also have backing of the dressing room.
3rd – Man Utd –> A season of stability for United? A team that won the league so easily last season is far too reliant on Van Persie for goals. An injury to him and other players will need to pull their fingers out fast. With Rooney wanting to go too, United will need to strengthen to keep up with their city rivals. And I’ve not even touched upon the big question yet. Is Moyes good enough?
4th – Arsenal –> I am writing this with the Gunners still having not signed Suarez but if they do, they’ll have the firepower to just cling onto 4th place. A squad that is nowhere near good enough to challenge for the Top 3 places, although with Wenger still deluded enough to believe so, it looks like more signs of slipping backwards.
Europe (5th & 6th) - Spurs & Liverpool –> Both of these clubs will be reliant on keeping key players to make the task a lot easier but just aren’t good enough for a Top 4 spot. For Spurs, if Gareth Bale does fancy some tiempo en el sol then the £80m they will apparently get for him will need to be spent wisely. Paulinho will add some bite to the midfield but a lack of firepower (exacerbated if Bale leaves) will leave them short. As for Pool, selling Suarez would be overcome if Diego Costa comes in but you still think they are one or two players short.
Relegation – Hull City –> They did do their best to try and throw it away at the end of last season but a squad that looks nowhere near ready for the top flight will get found out rather quickly. Won’t be helped by Steve Bruce’s safety first tactics where top teams will batter them.
Crystal Palace –> When you get promoted and are favourites to go down, it then won’t help when you lose your best two players too. José Campaña is an interesting signing from Sevilla, paying £1.7m is a fair bit for a 20 year old. Add the hapless Marouane Chamakh into the mix too and you are looking at a quick return to the Championship.
Stoke City –> Probably looking at the next Charlton. Pulis did extremely well to keep them up for so long without ever being in too much danger. Punt him and brilliantly bring in relegation master Mark Hughes. Despite players commenting on the fact training is now refreshing under the new boss (sound familiar?) Stoke don’t seem to have improved a particularly average squad while the dross around them have. Do like the signing of Erik Pieters though. He might be a busy man.
Final positions: 1st – Manchester City, 2nd – Chelsea, 3rd – Manchester United, 4th – Arsenal, 5th – Tottenham, 6th – Liverpool, 7th – Everton, 8th – Norwich City, 9th – Swansea City, 10th – Fulham, 11th – Sunderland, 12th – Southampton, 13th – West Ham, 14th – Newcastle, 15th – West Brom, 16th – Aston Villa, 17th – Cardiff City, 18th – Stoke City, 19th – Crystal Palace, 20th – Hull City
CHAMPIONSHIP: Winner – Wigan –> Amazingly have kept a large chunk of their team that should be far too good for this league. With a midfield of McArthur and McCarthy to break up attacks and Maloney and McManaman to create them they should tear most teams in this division apart. Add Grant Holt up front and you have yourselves some Champions. Europa League could be a distraction but I can’t see them lasting long in it.
2nd – Watford –> Very close to going up last year and despite signing a raft of new players on ‘permanent’ deals, they should be right up there again. Zola has the squad playing good football and with players coming in who have talent and a point to prove, promotion should be achievable. Matěj Vydra going back to Udinese will be a loss though.
Playoffs – QPR –> Has Harry finally woken up? Getting rid of the useless and overpriced mercenaries that took them down last year and brought in hungry players that should do well. Bite in midfield with Barton (however long he stays for) and Karl Henry and up front a strike force of Andy Johnson and Charlie Austin to score goals, playoffs look likely. Will need to avoid the excuses if things do go wrong though.
Leeds Utd –> Had them down for a playoff place last year but Neil Warnock was useless as they finished nowhere near. Now with Brian McDermott in charge and new owners in GFH upstairs, surely they are good enough to finish in the top 6.
Brighton & Hove Albion –> Despite all of the controversy surrounding Poyet’s departure in the summer, new boss Oscar Garcia looks to be an inspired appointment. Have a mix of bite and flair to propel them up there and keeping hold of key players has also helped. Remains to be seen how well they play when they come up against a team of more bite as tika-taka at Doncaster et al will be worth watching.
Derby County –> Always one team that comes from left field and nicks a playoff place and I reckon that’s Derby this season. A team that has steadily improved over the years, Clough is under pressure to deliver a better promotion tilt this time out. However with some exciting talent (and Conor Sammon) the Rams will be there or thereabouts.
Relegation – Millwall –> A side that has slowly slipped closer to relegation each time, a poor season was only lifted by the surprise FA Cup Semi-Final appearance. Steve Lomas will not get much time from the fans with his West Ham connection and a squad that looks fairly light means Lomas needs to add before it turns into a long season.
Barnsley –> Probably above their natural level, David Flitcroft did wonders by keeping Barnsley up last season. Teams who have come up look better however which means it looks likely for another struggle this season.
Yeovil Town –> Don’t really know anyone unbias who won’t have tipped Yeovil to go down, but the squad just doesn’t look like one of the best 21 in the league. I would love them to stay up and no doubt they’ll surprise many at Huish Park but I don’t think it will be enough.
Final positions: 1st – Wigan Athletic, 2nd – Watford, 3rd – QPR, 4th – Leeds United, 5th – Brighton, 6th – Derby County, 7th – Nottingham Forest, 8th – Reading, 9th – Leicester City, 10th – Bolton, 11th – Ipswich Town, 12th – Bournemouth, 13th – Doncaster Rovers, 14th – Sheffield Wednesday, 15th – Blackburn Rovers, 16th – Middlesbrough, 17th – Burnley, 18th – Blackpool, 19th – Charlton Athletic, 20th – Huddersfield Town, 21st – Birmingham City, 22nd – Millwall, 23rd – Barnsley, 24th – Yeovil Town
LEAGUE ONE: Winner – Wolves –> Couldn’t have been the only one to find it hilarious when Wolves went down last season but we’ve seen it all before. Leicester and Norwich were in a shambles when they came down, took a wee bit of time to sort it out and then proceed to smash the Division. Can only see it happening again with Wolves.
2nd – Brentford –> Just a penalty kick away from promotion but Uwe Rösler’s men need to do it all again. Will surely use the memories of last May to make sure they go up automatically this time. Have also importantly kept the pretty much all of the squad that got them there last season (with the exception of Harry Forrester and Simon Moore) and also added to a good team. Massively keen to see Villarreal hero Javi Venta strut his stuff too.
Play-offs – Peterborough United –> Just couldn’t keep up the 5-4 wins all the time and went down on the last day. While they continue to play this gun-ho style of football, they’ll win friends but probably too weak in defence to nick an automatic spot. Will need to replace Dwight Gayle’s goals however.
Leyton Orient –> Always tipped by me in extremes, two seasons ago I tipped them up, last season it was down so may as well continue the pattern. In all seriousness, a close squad that finished off last season well should be right up there again. If they can get over their normal slow starts then they might even be higher.
Rotherham United –> With a good financial backing and growing crowds you get the feeling the Millers will pick up where they left off. Steve Evans always seems to get the best out of Matt Tubbs and his goals until January (and maybe longer) should push them up the table.
Sheffield United –> We’ve been here before, for two years. People tip the Blades to go up and then they bottle the playoffs. While I can see them too good for a lot of teams in the league, I don’t think they are anywhere near good enough for automatic promotion so playoff lottery will have to do again!
Relegation – Gillingham –> Powered their way to promotion last season but brute strength can only get you so far. Will need to continue the momentum early on otherwise teams who will comfortably deal with long balls will see them off and their stay at Level 3 will be a short one.
Carlisle United –> Slightly surprised Greg Abbot is still in a job after slowly taking the Cumbrians down the table. Can only see Abbot complete the job this season with a squad that doesn’t look like it will cope. Only plus-point is Lee Miller will score goals in this league. Can’t do it all on his own though.
Colchester United –> Another team that has slowly slipped down the table in recent seasons. Probably the one of the four I tipped to go down most likely to prove me wrong but much will depend on the new young players they have brought in. Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt have much to prove.
Coventry City –> When I look at the struggles Hearts are going through and beginning to worry, I only need to look at Coventry to see how it could be much much worse. Playing 60 miles away in Northampton, one of their holding companies now liquidated and less than 70 season tickets sold. The squad on paper should be ok, but a points deduction and a general shambles going on around them doesn’t bode well.
Final positions: 1st – Wolves, 2nd – Brentford, 3rd – Peterborough, 4th – Leyton Orient, 5th – Rotherham United, 6th – Sheffield United, 7th – Bristol City, 8th – Preston North End, 9th – Notts County, 10th – MK Dons, 11th – Tranmere Rovers, 12th – Shrewsbury Town, 13th – Bradford City, 14th – Walsall, 15th – Crewe Alexandra, 16th – Stevenage, 17th – Swindon Town, 18th – Oldham Athletic, 19th – Port Vale, 20th – Crawley Town, 21st – Gillingham, 22nd – Carlisle United, 23rd – Colchester United, 24th – Coventry City
LEAGUE TWO: Winner – Oxford United –> I think the penny has finally dropped for boss Chris Wilder. If he fails to win promotion then he is out of a job. A squad that looks good and some fine additions should probably see the O’s up.
2nd – Chesterfield –> Surprisingly saw their promotion challenge fizzle out last season but shouldn’t have that problem this time. Upfront, Marc Richards and Eoin Doyle should bag the goals and have a solid midfield to create chances for them.
3rd – Fleetwood Town –> Moneybags had a fairly dull first season in the Football League finishing nowhere near either promotion or relegation. Graham Alexander is under pressure to deliver however so Town have splurged more money on Steven Schumacher and Jeff Hughes amongst other players. A squad that knows what they need to do, should be able to do it.
Play-offs – Portsmouth –> Despite the support they get and the players they will be able to attract, I think Pompey still might not have enough this season for automatic promotion. League 2 also won’t be the piece of piss that their fans will expect as everyone who comes to Fratton Park this season will want a scalp.
Scunthorpe United –> Brian Laws very nearly kept the Iron up last season with a late good turn of form. If they can keep that form going, then playoffs will be a minimum. Good signings have come in with Andy Dawson and Chris Iwelumo the biggest ones.
Cheltenham Town –> Starting to consistently finish in the Top 7 with Mark Yates in charge and this season should be no different. Have also bagged an excellent striker in Jamie Cureton who should fire the Robins into the playoff places again.
Plymouth Argyle –> Seemed to have finally rid themselves of major financial problems and should be up there challenging for a playoff spot. John Sheridan will also want to prove to Chesterfield that he is still capable of getting a team promoted so look out for a steely determination from Argyle.
Relegation – Dagenham & Redbridge –> Always struggle as I’m still confused by their bizarre League 1 campaign. Now with John Still trying his luck at Luton, the Daggers could quite easily be swopping places with them as a weak side and inexperienced manager doesn’t bode well.
Accrington Stanley –> Another side with an inexperienced boss as surely James Beattie has something better to do? Still, credit to him for trying to keep Stanley in the league. Lee Molyneux is a massive loss so much will depend on Nicky Hunt’s form, but I still can’t see how Stanley will stay up.
Final positions: 1st – Oxford United, 2nd – Chesterfield, 3rd – Fleetwood Town, 4th – Portsmouth, 5th – Scunthorpe United, 6th – Cheltenham Town, 7th – Plymouth Argyle, 8th – Bristol Rovers, 9th – Northampton Town, 10th – Burton Albion, 11th – Rochdale, 12th – Wycombe Wanderers, 13th – Torquay United, 14th – Exeter City, 15th – Newport County, 16th – York City, 17th – Hartlepool United, 18th – Mansfield Town, 19th – Southend United, 20th – Morecambe, 21st – AFC Wimbledon, 22nd – Bury, 23rd – Dag & Red, 24th – Accrington Stanley
SCOTTISH PREMIERSHIP: The only key question to be answered this season will be which lucky clubs finish 2nd and 3rd to grab the Europa League spots. Celtic have the title wrapped up and I would have sadly tipped Hearts to go down anyway with such an inexperienced squad before the 15 point deduction. The added misery of –15 just makes it inevitable. That leaves 2nd and 3rd, I think Motherwell will be up there again and St Johnstone look to be going from strength to strength. Aberdeen will probably just miss out and the others aren’t good enough to get a look in. Brave new league eh?
Final positions: 1st – Celtic, 2nd – Motherwell, 3rd – St Johnstone, 4th – Aberdeen, 5th – Inverness CT, 6th – Dundee United, 7th – Ross County, 8th – Hibs, 9th – Partick Thistle, 10th – Kilmarnock, 11th – St Mirren, 12th – Hearts
The season is now well and truly in full swing! Enjoy the action.