BLOG | Championship 2016/17 Preview: The Bottom Eight

BLOG | Championship 2016/17 Preview: The Bottom Eight

We’re now less than a week away from the kick-off of the newly named ‘EFL Sky Bet Championship’ – quite a mouthful and I’m licking my lips in anticipation.

We had the Euros to take our mind off the close-season this year, but let’s face it, they were a bit dull and with the pre-season friendlies now complete it’s almost time for the serious stuff to get started.

We’ve had a strong pre-season (we’re all pretending that the one defeat doesn’t count with it being a ‘training match’) and although July results don’t tend to mean a lot, it’s great that we’re starting our season with confidence as we’re set for a tough start!

Anyway, moving away from the Wednesday talk, the purpose of this piece is to give you my tips on who I think will be down at the wrong end of the table and thankfully that no longer involves discussing us!

Burton_Albion_FC_logo.svgBurton Albion
Manager: Nigel Clough
Captain: John Mousinho
Last season: League 1 – 2nd
Top scorer: Lukas Akins (12)

What an amazing achievement from Burton last season. Getting promoted to the Championship via their second-placed finish under the guidance of Nigel Clough is fantastic for a club of their size and I’m delighted to see them at this level.

I’m thoroughly looking forward to making the short trip down to Burton as it falls the day after my birthday.

If Burton were to some how avoid the drop this year then that would be an even greater achievement.

However, with their budget compared to the other clubs in the division, I just can’t see them being able to compete. They’ll give it a good go and I’m sure they’ll have kept a great team spirit but I don’t see them having the quality to stay up. My tip for bottom place.


Rotherham_United_FC.svgRotherham United
Manager: Alan Stubbs
Captain: Lee Frecklington
Last season: 21st
Top scorer: Matt Derbyshire (8)

Millers fans will love me for saying this, but I think they’re in for another tough season.

The turnaround that they had under Neil Warnock last season was nothing short of a miracle and the club deserves a huge amount of credit for how they performed. Well done to Tony Stewart for getting Warnock in because the way he turned that club round was incredible.

I know they’ve been working hard to bring in new players and I wish them the best of luck but I see them fighting around the relegation zone again this season.

If they manage to get off to a good start then there’s no reason that they can’t stay up but I think they’ll spend the season looking to get to the magic points safety mark – whatever that might be this year.


180px-Blackburn_Rovers.svgBlackburn Rovers
Manager: Owen Coyle
Captain: TBA (formerly Grant Hanley)
Last season: 15th
Top scorer: Jordan Rhodes (10)

A team that seems to be on a continuous downwards slide.

They had one of the worst strike rates in the league last season – the third worst if you don’t include the teams that went down, and their top scorer left in January. Add to this the fan unrest, a thread-bare squad and losing their best player in Grant Hanley, it hardly looks like they’re going to improve this season.

They managed to finish 15th last season due to a pretty solid defence to balance out the lack of goals. I don’t expect them to be in the bottom three but I do think they’ll spend the season nervously looking over their shoulder.


Manager: Jaap Stam
Captain: Paul McShane
Last season: 17th
Top scorer: Nick Blackman (10)

Despite them releasing their new kit from outer space, I don’t expect Reading to be shooting for the stars this season.

As the Championship gets tougher each year, it’s no surprise that it is littered with teams that were in the top flight recently.

Reading, Fulham, Blackburn and QPR have all struggled since dropping into the Championship.

A quick look on Reading forums and you see fans commenting how they haven’t learnt their lessons from last season, defensively they are naive and have no killer instinct in front of goal.

The Royals should have enough quality to steer clear of any real danger but the danger is that they keep sliding down the league table.


barnsley logoBarnsley
Manager: Paul Heckingbottom
Captain: Conor Hourihane
Last season: League 1 – Play-off winner
Top scorer: Sam Winnall (21)

It was certainly an interesting ride for Barnsley supporters last season; bottom of the league at Christmas but at the end of the campaign they’d had two trips to Wembley, winning the JPT and promotion back to the Championship!

Personally, I’m happy to see them back.

I enjoy my trips to Oakwell, love a local derby and we usually get 4-6 points off them.

We’re now in a far stronger position than the last time we played them and surely it should be 6 points this year!

I’d like to see Barnsley stay up and I see no reason why they can’t if they carry on with the way they played in the second half of last season. They clearly have the character to never give up and to turn things round if it isn’t going right so best of luck to them.


Manager: Dean Smith
Captain: TBA
Last season: 9th
Top scorer: Alan Judge and Lasse Vibe (both 14)

This is a bit of a strange one with them finishing ninth in the league last season but I expect the Bees to struggle this time round.

The quality in the division has risen and they’ve lost their better players. Their ground is fantastic and it’s not an easy place to travel to for away teams so they need to try and make it a fortress this year in what is sure to be a tougher test for them.

I think they’ll spend the season outside the bottom three but still flirting with the idea of relegation. I enjoy my trips to Brentford and hope I’m wrong about their chances this season and that they have a more boring mid-table season.


PNE_FCPreston North End
Manager: Simon Grayson
Captain: Tom Clarke
Last season: 11th
Top scorer: Daniel Johnson (7)

A team that I found difficult to place.

It could go either way for Preston as they’ve made some interesting signings such as Tommy Spurr and Ben Pringle.

They had a strong end to the season last year and managed to finish 11th despite only scoring 45 goals in 46 games. It’s easy to see which end of the pitch they need to improve at as they only conceded 45 goals too.

Stevie May was unlucky with injury for them and it’ll be intriguing to see how he gets on when he gets some game time.

I’m going to put Preston down as just being inside the bottom eight with around a 18th placed finish, although they could easily be a mid-table team again this year if they find a goalscorer.


Manager: David Wagner
Captain: Mark Hudson
Last season: 19th
Top scorer: Nahki Wells (17)

I’m tipping Huddersfield to struggle this year. I’ve been really impressed with their marketing and pricing strategies for their season tickets, I hope it brings the fans in for them as they’ve struggled over the last couple of years.

My brother is at Huddersfield University and so I always enjoy a good night out before and after our match at their place. It’s a rugby town and their attendance struggles so it’s good to see the club trying to do something about this.

I know they had lots at the ground to watch them play Liverpool in preseason and I hope these people come back when it counts. However, I’m not convinced by the ‘Wagner Revolution’ and think they could fall through the trapdoor this year.


So there we have it: the first part of my OwlsAlive Championship preview. I’m sure I’ll have managed to offend some people and I look forward to being reminded of these predictions at the end of the season.

My Bottom Three: Burton, Rotherham and Huddersfield.

It’s so refreshing to be a Wednesdayite and not be thinking about this end of the table.

Come back tomorrow for Part Two – The midtable Bores!

You can read some of our other contributors’ thoughts on the upcoming season by clicking here.

Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive and @THEsharpey


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