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It was predicted here (and I’d like to think correctly so) that this year’s Championship in England would be very competitive and very close.
Just 4 points separate the top 6 right now and that could condense even further during the next round of games. Traditional big hitters like Leeds, Aston Villa or Middlesbrough won’t have it their own way this term and some of the so-called smaller sides can get themselves right into contention.
Here we look at 3 such sides which would be right in the play-off mix come the end of April, despite their long odds at the start of the league campaign:
I named this side before the end of last season as my alternative team of the year in the Championship and I stand by it. I had to be honest at the time and say that I believed they achieved their relative success last season ‘despite’ Simon Grayson’s presence rather than ‘because of’ his presence, and it seems that was true.
Grayson is now at Sunderland, who are languishing in the bottom 2 while Preston are flying high in 6th place. Long may that continue and it would be no surprise should they remain in that lofty position for a good while yet.
Another side mentioned in glowing terms on these pages were runaway League One winners, Sheffield United. The reason we gave for their success last season was their recruitment policy and once again they have accumulated a good squad for this year’s challenge.
They have seen off city rivals and perennial play-off challengers Sheffield Wednesday in their own place and currently sit in a remarkable 3rd place. Although more challenges are to come, it would be no surprise to see them be more than a match for the so-called bigger sides.
True, Ipswich are hardly a small club and they have a rich history. But they are no Real Madrid either and put in their worst seasonal performance in a long, long time last season.
It was thought that they would be on the worser end of the East Anglian battle this season but with apparent turmoil, or at least transition at Norwich, the Tractor Boys’ chances look good! Mick McCarthy was complimented on these pages last season and I fully stand by the fact that he is exactly the man the club needs to take them forward in this division.