Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
Whereas our last article on the Championship looked at the teams that were hoping to make the glorious leap to the Premier League, this one will focus on the sides who may spend the season mired at the bottom of the table. Last season saw Barnsley, Burton Albion, and Sunderland drop out of the league, whilst Bolton, Reading and Birmingham came dangerously close to swapping places with one of them. Will these three teams be in the relegation mix again this season, or will some of the newly-promoted teams in Blackburn, Rotherham, and Wigan struggle to make the step up?
Last Season Finish: 21st
Star Player: Ben Alnwick
Key Signing: Erhun Oztumer
Key Departure: Darren Pratley
Bolton managed to stay up through the skin of their teeth last season, producing an incredible comeback against Nottingham Forest on the last day of the season, scoring twice in the last three minutes to win to secure their Championship status for this year.
That result was the culmination of a rather dire season, in which Bolton scored the second least amount of goals in the division as well as conceding a massive 74 goals, losing half their league games. To combat this, Bolton will once again have to rely on the exploits of goalkeeper Ben Alnwick, who won the club’s Player of the Season and secured a number of results for the team. To refresh the team, eight players have been released, including experienced former captain Darren Pratley. To fill the holes left by the releases, exciting League One playmaker Erhun Oztumer has been signed from Walsall and it will be interesting to see if he can make the step up, as well as veteran goalgetter Clayton Donaldson, who has proven he can perform at this level. If these players can connect, then perhaps Bolton can raise expectations.
However, pre-season preparations have simply added to the lack of optimism surrounding the club. An early July friendly against St Mirren had to be called off due to a player’s strike over unpaid wages and bonuses. For this to happen at a Championship club is alarming, especially this close to a season, and adds to the belief that this club will really be struggling to avoid relegation throughout the course of the campaign.
Last Season Finish: 18th
Star Player: Kamil Grosicki
Key Signing: Reece Burke
Key Departure: Abel Hernandez
Hull City had a strange season last year. Having kept key players like Kamil Grosicki and Abel Hernandez from their Premier League relegation and an international coach in Leonid Slutsky, things looked at least okay. However, things rather fell apart, Slutsky was duly sacked and the team hovered around the bottom three for the rest of the season, although looked safe for the last month under new coach Nigel Adkins.
Despite their dire league position, Hull scored an impressive 70 goals, the fourth highest in the division and more than promoted Cardiff, playing at times some entertaining, fast-paced football, which resulted in games like the 5-5 draw against Bristol City. Although, Hull also conceded 70 goals, the joint fifth-worst in the league, and was probably the main reason as to why they found themselves underachieving.
The summer transfer window has seen the team completely turned upside down. The spine of the team has been moved on, with experienced heads Michael Dawson, David Meyler, Allan MacGregor and Seb Larsson all departing to the club. In addition, and arguably most damaging, star players Moses Odubajo and Abel Hernandez have turned down new contracts to leave the club for nothing.
In response, Adkins has bought a new defence, spearheaded by the acquisition of promising defender Reece Burke from West Ham, as well as Eric Lichaj from Nottingham Forest. However, Hull have failed to replace the attacking core of their team and it is still a mystery how the newly-revamped side will play or how quickly they will gel together. They could surprise us all and storm up the table, as Adkins did with Southampton, or implode and remain near the wrong end of the table. With the failure to replace big names, I am afraid that it could be a long season for Hull.
Last Season Finish: 20th
Star Player: Liam Moore
Key Signing: Marc McNulty
Key Departure: Yann Kermorgant
Out of all the teams that were considered to have had disappointing seasons, Reading topped them all. Although losing in the play-offs, Reading finished third in the 2016/17 season under Jaap Stam, playing a distinct style of passing play and winning plaudits from commentators across the country. Last season could not have gone more wrong, with Stam sacked towards the end and the team playing some really poor football. Indeed, Reading conceded the same amount of goals as Hull did, a dreadful 70 but scored 22 less than them, showcasing not only a leaky defence but a poor attack.
Under new manager Paul Clement, whilst results improved towards the end of the season, performances did not and Reading do not look like a club on the up. Signings have been largely uninspiring, with ageing stalwarts John O’ Shea and David Meyler taken up on frees, although it will be interesting to see how Marc Mc Nulty, acquired from Coventry will perform in the Championship after tearing up League Two last season. With only just over a million spent, it looks like the budget has been cut for the club, which is never a good sign.
All in all then, with largely the same squad which struggled so badly last season, and with a lack of top signings, Reading look destined to spend another season at the bottom of the table. Although, they appear to have a higher degree of stability than either Hull or Bolton, and this could serve them well in the crunch periods of the season. Furthermore, the fact that the same core of players came 3rd in the table two seasons ago could mean that they spring some surprises along the way? It is doubtful but nothing can be ruled out in the Championship.
Last Season Finish: 4th in League One
Star Player: Will Vaulks
Key Signing: Billy Jones
Key Departure: Jonson Clarke-Harris
Rotherham defied the odds last season to come straight back up to the Championship last season. Mid-table during most of the season, the club had an impressive second half to the season and shot into the play-offs, albeit 19 points off the automatic promotion places. Then, when underdogs against a Shrewsbury side who had missed out on the automatic places by a couple of points, Rotherham shocked Wembley to occupy the last promotion place. Their tenacity and determination means they fully deserve to be in the Championship for the coming season.
However, it can be said that Rotherham have the weakest squad in the Championship and will struggle to maintain their status in the coming season. They are going to have to rely on the players that got them there in the first place, particularly Player of the Year Will Faulks, the defensive midfielder who not only proved to be adept at breaking up attacks but also finishing Rotherham’s, scoring eight goals. New signings such as defender Billy Jones and attacker Kyle Vassell will have to hit the ground running and step up to the challenge of keeping clean sheets and scoring goals. In addition, the fans and club have to band together to make the New York Stadium a fortress, as every little thing will help in this toughest of leagues.
Despite this, I just do not see Rotherham escaping relegation this season, as their squad and signings simply do not match with the rest of the league. Although, as has been said before, anything can happen in this league and greater things have occurred to so-called “weak” teams.
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