The race for Championship promotion

The Championship is probably one of the most competitive leagues in the world, with it being virtually impossible to predict who’ll get promoted to the promised land of the Premier League come the end of the season. Here‘s a brief look a few of the contenders who, in my opinion, are in with a strong shout.

Derby

Derby just lost out to gaining promotion to the Premier League last season in the cruellest way possible – by losing in the play-off final. You could understand if they were suffering a hangover from that game, but it has been the complete opposite. Currently top of the table after an impressive 5-0 over Wolves, the Rams are showing their quality once again and seem up for the fight.

Manager Steve McClaren has made some shrewd signings that seem to be gelling well and with Chris Martin leading the line up front and young Will Hughes, a player tipped for the highest level, pulling the strings in midfield they’re always a dangerous team and have the squad depth and quality to maintain their promising start.

Bournemouth

Usually Bournemouth would be nowhere near this article, or may slip into the surprise packages section near the end, but the Cherries have proved everyone wrong and shown that money is not everything.

Losing leading scorer Lewis Grabban to Norwich was a huge blow as his vital goals aided them to a top half finish last season, but they have grown despite that setback and are on a 7-game unbeaten run, which includes wins over Reading, Brighton and an amazing 8-0 away victory at struggling Birmingham City.

Boss Eddie Howe has the club running through his veins and even with a small budget has got players playing with passion, intelligence and that, combined with his Championship nous and experience, means they’re flying at the moment.

In Artur Boruc, Bournemouth have a goalkeeper with Premier League experience and class, with his arrival having also been a popular one.

Keep their impressive form going and Howe’s Cherries will be right up there.

Middlesborough

Currently sitting third in the table but just on goal difference, Boro have taken well to the season and are playing some excellent free-flowing football under Spanish manager Aitor Karanka.

A draw with Bournemouth and a 4-0 thumping of Norwich recently have shown the class they possess. The tricky Lee Tomlin is leading the team forward, with midfielder Grant Leadbitter also contributing with a few scorchers from midfield.

Aitor Karanka has come in with continental ideas and turned the club around. Are Middlesborough in with a shout of gaining promotion? Absolutely.

Ipswich

The Tractor Boys were looking doomed a few season ago, with not many predicting much from them, particularly in the promotion race. Relegation candidates would’ve been more likely, but with their owner throwing a bit more money at it and the arrival of experienced manager Mick McCarthy, Ipswich are on the up.

David McGoldrick and Darryl Murphy are leading the line and scoring for fun, and with only 1 loss in 10, no one can blame Ipswich for looking up the table at where they dream to be.

Three wins on the bounce gives them the boost they need to carry this on for the remainder of the season and they’re more than capable of mounting a serious challenge.

Watford

With the managerial losses Watford have been through this season, no less than four so far, you could understand if the club was struggling to sustain a promotion bid, with new ideas coming in and no real stability. But to their credit (and to my surprise!) they have been the complete opposite.

The unity in the changing has shown that the players are together and whoever comes in the door can settle quickly knowing his squad is willing to adapt at a fast pace. The quality at the club must also surely help, with Matej Vydra back again and scoring for the Hornets.

Slavisa Jokanovic is at the helm and has carried on where the others have left off. Despite two losses on the bounce, Watford have the squad to be pushing for promotion. You get the feeling their owners are expecting it!

Norwich

After relegation from the Premier League, Norwich are expected to be at the right end of the Championship table and get back to England’s top flight at the first time of asking.

Having kept most of their squad together, the talent on show is evident and has been demonstrated right from the off this campaign, with new goal-getter Cameron Jerome scoring for fun so far.

The Canaries started the season with a defeat to Wolves but then went on a good run ending with them top of the league, but the last 10 games have been a bit up and down. Two defeats in a row and only two wins in ten will probably make some question their inclusion in this piece but, for me, they’ll be back on track soon enough. They simply have the quality to do so.

Ruddy in goal is a huge boost for the side, with the England international considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the division. Along with other players such as Martin, Johnson, Grabban and Jerome their form will improve once again and promotion will become a real possibility.

A surprise package

There is always one or two surprises when it comes to the top six at the end of the season. A late run of good results can propel anyone from a relegation fight to a promotion push.

One side who may surprise a few is Fulham. After a frankly horrific start that shocked many, they’re booming under new manager Kit Symons and seem to be gathering momentum.

The Cottagers are a team on fire and in form and should they continue to improve under Symons, along with the addition of one or two players in January, Fulham could easily get back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.

By Matt Hill – Liverpool fan – @MJH4192

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