GRAHAM WESTLEY

Our guest colum­nist gives us his pre­dic­tions for pro­mo­tion

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

WITH this sea­son ap­proach­ing the half­way point, Football League clubs are starting to re­alise whether they are des­tined for a pro­mo­tion or rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle in the New Year.

At the top end of the EFL, there are some lofty hopes build­ing that the Aladdin’s cave of the Premier League may lie ahead.

But com­pe­ti­tion will be fierce, im­prove­ment will be needed and heads of steam need fu­elling. Stuff will hap­pen and con­tin­gen­cies will be im­por­tant.

Take Sh­effield United. Their phe­nom­e­nal as­cent has been dealt a cruel blow in the loss to injury of the bril­liant Paul Coutts.

Bril­liant

I man­aged Couttsy at Pre­ston and he is a char­ac­ter who will need re­plac­ing, not just a player. He car­ries a won­der­ful cer­tainty about him­self that rubs off on oth­ers and his loss will be tough to ad­dress.

Who will ul­ti­mately taste suc­cess in the three di­vi­sions this term? Here are my pre­dic­tions…

It’s As­ton Villa and Cardiff for me to go up from the Cham­pi­onship. What’s that based on? The rep­u­ta­tions of their man­agers and their cur­rent po­si­tions.

All cur­rent in­di­ca­tors are that Wolves could eas­ily knock that pre­dic­tion for six, but I’m go­ing for track record, for know-how in get­ting over the line. For me, it’s a Steve Bruce and Neil Warnock dou­ble.

In League One, I’m star­ing at two clubs only. Wi­gan are strong – I watched them draw at Gilling­ham re­cently and was very im­pressed. Michael Ja­cobs def­i­nitely has the X-Fac­tor. They have ex­cel­lent and ex­pe­ri­enced in­di­vid­ual play­ers. And real strength in depth.

Then there’s Black­burn. Tony Mow­bray gave me my worst 20 min­utes in football when he brought his Mid­dles­brough team to Pre­ston and played with a 4-3-3 shape in­volv­ing a false nine. We were all over the place as he com­pletely out­wit­ted me and grabbed a 2-0 lead.

(Peter­bor­ough owner) Dar­ragh MacAn­thony wound me up about that re­sult so much that I nearly drove my­self mad in beat­ing Tony’s Coven­try in a tele­vised game at Peter­bor­ough.

Clever

He is al­ways a clever man­ager to play against and I have to back him at Black­burn to suc­ceed first time out in League One.

In League Two, you can’t look be­yond the big­ger clubs. In the end, re­sources do count for a lot. The big­ger clubs will at­tract play­ers in January and that win­dow has a big impact in the di­vi­sion. So I ex­pect Lu­ton and Notts County to cap­i­talise on their strong starts and I ex­pect Coven­try to join them.

I’ll be wrong, of course. Football is not pre­dictable. Pick­ing all seven of the au­to­matic pro­mo­tions is never easy. Do it! Try and beat me!

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

BIG BLOW: Sh­effield United mid­fielder Paul Coutts was in­jured in his side’s win at Bur­ton Al­bion

EX­PE­RI­ENCE: Steve Bruce

WIN­NER: Neil Warnock

SMART: Tony Mow­bray

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