Our guest columnist gives us his predictions for promotion
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.
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.
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!
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