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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Stacey

Late 2023/24 Championship Predictions

1st – Leicester City

Seven years ago, Leicester City were gearing up for a season in the Champions League after winning the Premier League. Now in 2023, the Foxes are preparing for life back in the second tier after being relegated on the final day of the season following a seriously poor season. An immediate return is absolutely vital.

New boss Enzo Maresca has a big rebuild on his hands and a lot of work is still needed. Harvey Barnes, James Maddison, and Jonny Evans are three big losses, but Conor Coady, Harry Winks, and Stephy Mavididi all look like impressive replacements. They’ve got the biggest wage bill in Championship history and arguably the best squad on paper.

The biggest challenge for Maresca will be making this new look Leicester team gel and get off to a good start. Despite their strength on paper, it’s very possible that they could stumble, but I can see them running away with the title and making an immediate return to the Premier League. If they don’t it’d be a total failure.

2nd – Middlesbrough

If Michael Carrick had been in charge of Boro on the first day of last season, they’d probably be preparing for life in the Premier League right now. The former England international midfielder made an incredible impact in the Northeast when he replaced Chris Wilder and took them from the relegation zone to an automatic promotion chase and ultimately a playoff semi-final defeat.

Some key players have departed following the expiration of their loans, most notably flying wing back Ryan Giles, poacher Cameron Archer and sweeper keeper Zak Steffen. Replacements are coming in but there’s still lots of work to be done. I’m hedging my bets here a little and predicting some more signings will be made to take them up a notch.

A lot will depend on last season’s top scorer Cuba Akpom finding similar form again, but in Carrick’s system I think he will. My gut feeling is Boro will benefit from the mass change and uncertainty at other promotion chasers, and they’ll just sneak over the line in second place. They better hope Michael Carrick doesn’t leave though!

3rd – Southampton

It’s time for Russel Martin to make an impact with his teams’ results as well as his teams’ style of play. For too long all the talk has been around how beautiful his football is, and the indifferent results have been hidden somewhat. At Southampton, a club who will be expecting an immediate return to the Premier League, that can’t be the case.

The Saints have a really strong squad and have done a good job of retaining key players up to now. Captain James Ward-Prowse is still at the club and will dominate the division if he does stay, as will players like Salisu, Alcaraz and Tella. Ryan Manning, who worked with Martin at Swansea, and Shea Charles are two class signings too.

On paper this squad should get promoted but I fear things might not click immediately under Martin’s uncompromising style of play. When, or if, it does it’ll be brilliant to watch but the first month or two could be tough for the Saints, and they might not be able to make up for that lost time come May.

4th – Sunderland

Tony Mowbray could be forgiven for feeling like the leader of a Scouts troop right now in his role as Sunderland boss. His side caught the eye of plenty of people last season thanks to their youthful exuberance and exciting football, and it looks like more of the same is in store for the upcoming season.

Aside from the arrival of veteran midfielder Bradley Dack, all of the Black Cat’s signings have been under 21-year-olds and their squad is comfortably the youngest in the division. Whilst this might seem like a long-term plan it’s giving them success in the short term too and as their development continues, results should improve.

There will be tricky times during the season but sometimes the fearlessness can create crazy situations. They got into the playoffs last season but fell to a wily Luton Town side, providing they’ve learnt from that tie they’ll be well placed for another positive season.

5th – Coventry City

To lose your top goal scorer and best player and still be one of the favourites for promotion is testament to the quality of planning at Coventry City. Mark Robins is a wonderful manager with a track record of improving players, sometimes beyond recognition, and I think another season of positivity is in store for the Sky Blues.

Viktor Gyokores will undoubtedly be a loss, but Ellis Simms is an interesting and exciting replacement. Defensive reinforcements have arrived whilst midfield general Gustavo Hamer is still on the books. Retaining him will be key to their chances of promotion and a bit of face saving here, if they lose him, I’d have Coventry around 10th.

As it stands though their squad is solid, and their playoff final wounds will make them even more hungry for success. It’s worth saying that often we see the side who fall at the final hurdle go on to have a particularly difficult season next time around, but I think Mark Robins will keep them on the straight and narrow.

6th – Ipswich Town

Kieran Mckenna will manage in the Premier League in the next 18 months. Whether that is with Ipswich Town remains to be seen but I can see them shocking a lot of people and making the top six this season. Their football suits the Championship more than League One and their squad is full of second tier experience and talent.

Continuity is key for Ipswich and the return of George Hirst up top will be vital for them. Jack Taylor adds quality and drive in midfield alongside captain Sam Morsy, whilst defenders Leif Davis, Luke Woolfenden and Harry Clarke are all capable of the step up. I expect they’ll add to their squad a bit more too which will make them even more dangerous.

Ipswich will take a lot of teams by surprise this season and it won’t be long before they’re seen as more than just a newly promoted team. Sunderland went from League One to Championship playoffs last season and I’m backing the Tractor Boys to do the same in the 2023/24 season.

7th – Leeds United

Leeds United’s glorious return to the Premier League lasted just three seasons. The days of murderball, Bielsa brilliance and Elland Road excitement have gone, and it feels eerily similar to the lowest days in Leeds’ recent history, albeit nowhere near as bad just yet. However, the void between board and supporters is growing and the connection with the players has all but vanished.

Players like Rodrigo, Max Wober, Marc Roca, Brendan Aaronson, and Robin Koch have all been moved on as new boss Daniel Farke looks to revamp the squad and breathe fresh light into the club as a whole. Youngsters like Joe Gelhardt, Charlie Cresswell and Cody Drameh are all likely to be trusted with first team roles too.

I just think there’s too much going on at the club to allow full focus to be given to on field matters. Their squad is still decent but it’s pretty inexperienced and I don’t rate Farke as a manager particularly either. Playoffs are probably the aim, but I can’t see them making top six unless several problems are resolved.

8th – Millwall

2023 has been a difficult summer for Millwall, following the passing of chairman John Berylson. His son, James, has promised the legacy of his father will be continued and all the good work done by the Lions in recent years will continue. Given their budget an 8th place finish would be a success.

Gary Rowett continues to make his side hard to beat and has a loyal group of gritty players who make that possible for him. In attack they have the flair of Zian Fleming combined now with the finishing ability of new signing Kevin Nisbet, who joins from Hibernian. The Scottish international will provide excellent and much needed competition for Tom Bradshaw up top.

A spot in the top six feels just out of reach for the Lions but the motivation of making their late chairman proud will push them through difficult moments, I’m sure. Their squad is stronger than it was last season but so is the league as a whole.

9th – Stoke City

It’s amazing what a week of positivity can do for a club. Stoke City weren’t particularly highly thought of a matter of days ago but several impressive signings later I’m confident they’ll break into the top half. Alex Neil’s side have made all the right signings and still have time and money to do some more business if needs be.

Wingers Ryan Mmaee and Chiquinho, full back Ki-Jana However, playmaker Daniel Johnson and cultered defender Luke McNally all add serious quality to the Potters side, as do the likes of Enda Stevens, Wesley, and Ben Pearson. It’s a really decent squad now and if rumours are to be believed they aren’t done yet.

Stoke will benefit from several teams in and around them stalling this summer. Their squad has been improved drastically and Alex Neil is a great manager at this level. He knows how to set a team up to play good football and if they can Improve their end product it’ll be a good season for the Staffordshire side.

10th – Hull City

For the first time in a long time there is genuine confidence surrounding Hull City, largely thanks to the belief instilled by owner Acun Ilıcalı, who took over midway through 2021-22, and Head Coach Liam Rosenior, who oversaw just six defeats in his first 28 league games in charge. The Tigers are on the up.

Last season’s 15th place finish felt slightly underwhelming but the development under Rosenior was clear for all to see, and after a full preseason in charge it’s starting to feel like his squad now. Liam Delap and Ruben Vinagre have points to prove during this loan spell and should fit nicely into Hull’s system.

Playoffs might be slightly out of reach for them, but most Tigers fans would probably be happy with another season of steady progress. Off field matters are secure and with a quality young coach and some exciting players it feels like Hull are well placed for a top half finish.

11th – Swansea City

Graham Potter. Steve Cooper. Russel Martin. Three Swansea managers from recent years who have got big moves off the back of their time in South Wales, and now Michael Duff is looking to do the same. The highly rated coach joins after one impressive season at Barnsley and will be looking to build on the good work of his predecessors.

Their squad is looking strong too. Yes, Ryan Manning will be a big loss but signings like Josh Key and Jerry Yates make the squad more solid and both should work brilliantly in Duff’s 3-5-2 system. Keeping hold of hotshot Joe Piroe will be key but whatever fee they might get for him should be able to be reinvested into the team too.

I think a season of development and getting used to Duff’s methods is likely for the Swans and I do think they have an outside chance of pushing for the top six. Most clubs have to settle for a less exciting manager when their old boss is poached, but you could argue replacing Martin with Duff is an upgrade, or at the very least not a downgrade.

12th – Bristol City

Bristol City have had plenty of attention on them this summer, mainly to see what they’ll do with wonderkid midfielder Alex Scott. The England youth international is attracting serious Premier League interest and could bring the Robins around £25m if a sale is concluded. If not, they have one of the best players in the division on their books still.

They’ve made steady improvements to the squad too. Rob Dickie, Haydon Roberts, and Ross McCrorie provide brilliant defensive depth whilst Jason Knight adds energy to an already impressive midfield. With Nigel Pearson as boss, they have an experienced boss with uncompromising principles and that should stand them in good stead.

I’m assuming Scott will end up moving on which will definitely hurt their chances of pushing for top six. Their squad is being underrated by many people in my opinion and I could see them getting higher than this, especially if some money is used to improve the squad. I’ll be keeping my eye on them for sure.

13th – Birmingham City

Tom Wagner, New York businessman and co-founder of Knighthead Capital Management has finalized a takeover of the Blues and has brought new hope and excitement to the second city side for the first time in a long time. BHSL are gone and so is all the negativity they created. A fresh start is what they needed, and a fresh start is what they’ve got.

Investment in the squad has been made and made smartly. Dion Sanderson returns permanently as does Krystian Bielik, whilst Siriki Dembele, Tyler Roberts, Ethan Laird and Lee Buchanan are all solid pick-ups. Koji Miyoshi is an interesting signing too, adding to a dangerous looking forward line.

In John Eustace they have a highly thought of young coach who cares deeply for the club, and newfound optimism for the supporters should make St Andrews somewhat of a fortress next season. Midtable obscurity would probably be welcomed by bluenoses and it’s what I think they’ll get.

14th – Watford

Watford must be a hell of a club to support. As an outsider it appears like there’s never a dull day at the club and this summer appears to be no different. Unsurprisingly they’ve changed manager, with Valerian Ismael now at the wheel, and their squad has changed massively too. Unfortunately for the Hornets, not for the better.

Joao Pedro and Ismaila Sarr have earnt the club well over £40m in transfer fees but also leave two giant holes in an already struggling side. Replacements Tom Ince and Rhys Healey don’t exactly fill me with confidence and are a huge drop off in quality from the departing forwards. They’ve made some okay signings, but it’s been a poor window.

Mid table mediocrity is about as much as I can see for Watford this season. They’re nowhere near playoff challengers in my opinion but there are several teams more likely to go down than them which should leave them right in the middle of the division. Perhaps a controversy free season would be welcomed at Vicarage Road.

15th – Plymouth Argyle

Enter the Championship’s latest clever clogs. Like Luton, Brentford and Brighton before them, Plymouth have earnt their spot in the second tier through out of the box thinking, brave and calculated risk taking and unwavering belief in their own identity. The Argyle way is here to stay.

I’ve been surprised by the amount of people tipping them for 24th spot, it simply won’t happen. They have a brilliant young manager, a strong unit who know exactly what’s needed of them and have signed really well. Bali Mumba and Morgan Whittaker have returned following successful loan spells, further proof of how smartly Argyle operate.

Don’t sleep on Plymouth. Everybody thought it would be Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday who walked League One last season, and 101 points later Argyle are the holders of that title. They’ve signed well, retained most key players, and will have 20,000 supporters roaring them on at home games. They’ll be absolutely fine.

16th – Norwich City

Norwich fans must be feeling a sense of de ja vu. A German manager being brought in to take a stagnant side away from the grasp of midtable and back towards the promise land of the Premier League. Unfortunately for the Canaries I don’t think lightning will be striking twice this time.

Key to their success will be South American pair Nunez and Sara, who showed glimpses of quality in an ordinary squad last season. They’ll be tasked with providing the creative spark in a side who boast two-time Championship winner Ashley Barnes as their newest number nine.

It’s another case of a club standing still whilst those around them improve considerably. Norwich should be being considered amongst those chasing promotion, but the state of play feels very different now. The one time yo-yo between Prem and Championship are now very much middling in the second tier.

17th – Blackburn Rovers

This was probably the hardest team to predict. On the face of it Blackburn Rovers have a good squad and an excellent manager, but it feels like tension is building behind the scenes at Ewood Park. Jon Dahl Tomasson has spoken of his frustration at certain aspects of the club behind the scenes and my gut feeling is it’ll cost Rovers this season.

Niall Ennis’ arrival won’t replace the goals of Ben Brereton Diaz whose departure has been confirmed, although Arnor Sigurdsson looks like a good creative midfielder. The squad is decent, but it feels like it won’t take much for discontent to grow within the ranks, and if JDT leaves they could really struggle.

There’s no danger of relegation whatsoever, it just feels like it’ll be a tough season for Rovers. If they bring in some more goal scorers and appease the manager, it’ll be a different story but for now I’m bearish on Blackburn.

18th – West Bromwich Albion

There are usually a lot of candidates for the worst run club in the Championship, but I think West Brom take the crown by some margin this season. A series of off field mistakes and financial mismanagement has left Albion, who not long ago were Premier League stalwarts, languishing in the second tier.

Carlos Corberran is the beacon of hope for the Baggies, but he’s understandably frustrated at the state of play behind the scenes, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him walk away from the club at some point. He’s been backed somewhat in the transfer window with signings like Josh Maja and Jeremy Sarmiento are decent, but more is needed.

Often, we see performances on the pitch mask problems off it but I think that time has passed for West Brom. Changes are needed or else they’ll continue to slump down the division, and if they’re not careful a spell in the third tier could be creeping up on them. It’s happened to bigger teams than them in the not-so-distant past after all.

19th – Preston North End

Preston North End have hit a bit of brick wall under Ryan Lowe. Whilst teams around them have implemented quality academy development, smart transfer strategies or a mixture of both, Preston seem to be sticking to the methods that have kept them in the league for eight years. That doesn’t sound as big of an issue as it is.

North End’s squad remains decent but with the level of improvement in the division this season it wouldn’t be surprising to see them tumble down the division after last season’s 12th place finish. Will Keane and Duane Holmes are decent Championship players and Calvin Ramsey looks a smart acquisition, but more needs to be done.

They should have enough to stay up pretty comfortably but I can’t see it being an enjoyable season for the Lancastrians. What it might do is act as a warning sign for what will happen if they continue to stay too stuck in their ways. It’s evolve or get left behind in the ever-changing world of football.

20th – Cardiff City

Hope and expectation can be dangerous. Cardiff City are a club with ambitions of being more than just Championship survivors but until changes, on and off the pitch, are made that’s all they can expect to be. The return of Aaron Ramsey has clouded judgement somewhat and people seem to be forgetting how far Cardiff are from being fixed.

Erol Bulut is an unknown coach at this level and the acclimatisation period might take longer than initially hoped. Ramsey is obviously a brilliant signing, but can he play 46 games? Can he play half of them? It remains to be seen but if we’re being realistic there can’t be too much pressure or expectation put on his aging shoulders.

Their squad has been improved and at this stage that’s all you can ask of them. Financial concerns and ownership worries remain but there seems to be cautious optimism amongst Bluebirds based on the returning hometown hero. 20th place seems realistic, but I’d imagine most Cardiff fans would see it as a poor season.

21st – Rotherham United

The yo-yo kings between the Championship and League One have finally broken their pattern. Rotherham secured survival with games to spare last season and I’m backing them to achieve similar success this season, although maybe not quite as comfortably as it turned out to be last time out.

The Millers have added decent quality to their squad in the shape of Cafu, Fred Onyedinma, and Dexter Lembikisa but more is needed. Having lost the enigmatic Chio Ogbene they need pace in attack and creativity in midfield, which may come in the form of Christ Tiehi. The loss of club captain and hero Richard Wood is also something I expect will hit them hard.

The togetherness of their side combined with their love for the title of underdogs is what I think will keep them up at the expense of their South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday. Matt Taylor is a good manager, and they seem to know how to grind results out when absolutely necessary and that should be just enough.

22nd – Sheffield Wednesday

A lot has happened in S6 since Josh Windass’ 123rd minute diving header to win the playoff final in May. Darren Moore has been sacked, Xisco Munoz has been appointed and the supporters are both excited and nervous for what is to come. I think they should be a lot more of the latter though.

The reality is their squad is not good enough for the level and nowhere near enough has been done to improve it in the transfer window. It’s an old squad and there isn’t much pace following the loss of players like Jaden Brown and Dennis Adeniran. Experience is one thing, but it needs a bit of youthful exuberance to go with it.

Ticket prices have been increased massively too which adds to the discontent amongst supporters and I can see it all blowing up in a big mess around Christmas time. If they’re in the relegation zone come January the manager may leave, panic signings will be made, and they’ll fall just short of survival. It’ll be a shame to see such a great club struggle as much as they are going to.

23rd – Queens Park Rangers

Queens Park Rangers are a club in turmoil right now. Uncertainty off the pitch has been partnered with inability on it and it’s been far from the preseason R’s fans would’ve hoped for. To end their preparations with a 5-0 defeat to Oxford suggests they’re not in a good place right now, and supporters seem worried.

First choice goalkeeper and occasional goal scorer Seny Dieng has been sold whilst key forwards Chris Willock and Ilias Chair’s futures remain unclear. If either one of those two go its curtains for QPR, especially if more reinforcements aren’t brought in. They’re having a tough window so far and that needs to change quickly.

Gareth Ainsworth’s romantic reunion with the club hasn’t gone according to plan and it feels like he’s somewhat out of his depth. The way he wants to play doesn’t seem to suit the squad and whilst his initial objective of keeping the club up last season was achieved, I can’t see it happening over a 46-game season. If he lasts that long.

24th – Huddersfield Town

At some point Neil Warnock’s miracle workings have to run out. The veteran manager came in and rescued Huddersfield from the jaws of relegation last season and has been rewarded with a season long contract. However, at 74-years-old, there’s a big difference between a few months of firefighting and a season of battling away.

It’s not just the worry surrounding Warnock, I don’t think their squad is up to much whatsoever. Will Boyle, Etienne Camara and Duane Holmes are all players you’d like o have at the club so their departures will be felt, whilst signings like Tom Edwards and Chris Maxwell have done little to excite supporters.

They probably should’ve got relegated last season and has it not been for points deductions for Reading and Wigan I imagine they would’ve been. Warnock has a big and long job on his hands if he’s to be there at the end of the season leading them to safety, but will his magic still work across 46 games?


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