Just for full transparency, I am for my sins, a Sunderland fan so I will try to write this as unbiased as possible!
Both of these teams represent a huge risk and the squads are still in progress. Leicester City have a new manager, Enzo Maresca who has never managed in this league and has extremely limited experience but recently worked with Pep at Man City, so has the best schooling. Southampton have a terrific, young squad and with Russell Martin as manager have a good fit there with his style and approach to the game. The main concerns are that James Ward-Prowse and Romeo Lavia are likely to go out the door still and how will they replace them? Leicester have made some shrewd signings though, in Harry Winks, Conor Coady and a couple of others and I think they will have too much for the rest of the league.
Leeds, Sunderland, Stoke, Norwich
Let’s be honest, the Championship is one of the most open leagues in world football, and super competitive so any prediction is almost impossible to get right. I do think even though Leeds are in flux, they have managed to retain some very exciting players, and they have players with recent experience at this level. Keeping Willy Gnonto and Crysensio Summerville will be key though.
Now on to my babies, Sunderland. I genuinely think we have improved since last season when we finished 6th. Ross Stewart is my only concern, a prolific striker at this level but refusing to sign a new deal. Do we keep him and let him go for free next Summer? Or do we cash in and get a new guy? We were hit hard by injuries last season and the majority are back and our squad is the youngest in the league but has a very good balance and depth, pre-season has also gone really well.
Stoke are sort of my dark horse pick. I know a lot of pundits are saying Ipswich and I can see why, but they just don’t have the quality to make the leap this season, Sunderland did last year but the league was not as strong as it is this year. Stoke however on paper have a great squad, and a great manager in Alex Neil, i know him well as a former Sunderland manager, sadly he showed no loyalty and went to Stoke for a few more quid but he is class. I think this might be the year they get it right.
Norwich again are a team with a great squad, but last season they were just poor and inconsistent. Again, I think they will have learnt lessons and they have some top young players, like Max Aarons and Andrew Omobamidele (try saying that 3 times quickly!). Pukki has gone but they have Josh Sargent who I am predicting will get at least 20 goals this season.
Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield
These all seem pretty obvious to me, there is just a difference in level between all of these and the rest of the league. Huddersfield flirted with relegation most of the year before Warnock worked his magic and i just think now he has the job full time standards will slip and they will be bang in trouble, also their squad is really poor, no stand out players or anyone you can say “that’s the guy that will pull us up”. Sheffield Wednesday are in deep trouble, they have the oldest and least valuable squad in the Championship, they have lost Darren Moore who got them out of League 1, especially after a remarkable turnaround from 4 goals down against Peterborough in the playoffs. The owner is disengaged, no money is going into the club, and no transfers in, if nothing changes then I think most people will agree with this prediction. Lastly is Rotherham. Again, its just a matter of quality, manager Matt Taylor deserves credit for keeping them up last season, but they have lost Ogbene who was their best player last season to Luton on a free, and no real investment coming in. They are a club who do things right though, they only spend what they can afford and their sponsor which is “The Rotherham Hospice” shows they care about their community. Even so, there is no sentiment in football and they are going down.
I think if Ross Stewart wasn’t unsettled I’d have to go with him but i think it is going to be Iheanacho of Leicester, they are going to be up near the top of the league, they will play expansive football and he is a class above. If not him then I will be interested to see how Ellis Simms gets on at Coventry.
Players to Watch
I’m very interested in how Xavier Simons and Liam Delap are going to get on at Hull City (on loan from Chelsea and Man City respectively). Another Chelsea loan signing im excited to see get some game time is Omari Hutchinson at Ipswich. Luis Hemir Semedo at Sunderland too is going to be exciting, as if it plays out how I think, he will start the season up front and he looks extremely lively. Ross Stewart misses the first few weeks of the season so he could get a few goals and we sell Stewart anyway, which is my guess.
I hope you enjoyed this, and feel free to comment and tell me how wrong I am! Stay tuned to Football Kids for more News, previews, updates and transfers!