‘Leeds, Fulham & Cardiff are my top tips.. but beware a dark horse,’ says Rowett
IT WOULD take a brave man to confidently predict the outcome of this season’s Championship title race, reckons Gary Rowett.
In a division with more ups and downs than a seaside roller-coaster, that should come as no surprise.
But the former Birmingham, Derby and Stoke chief believes that those who have taken it slow and steady during the past few years could be rewarded.
Rowett said: “The Championship is a really interesting division this season – for all sorts of reasons.
“A few clubs have parachute payments, a few will be under pressure to play attacking, possession-based football and a few will be scrapping to get out however they can.
“But I do think there will be an opportunity for a club that has gradually built itself up, year-on-year, to get into the top six.
“One that will appear a little bit under the radar at the moment, who will surprise everyone.
“Clubs such as Bristol City, who have quietly invested this summer. I also fancy Alex Neil at Preston to have a good season and possibly Tony Mowbray at Blackburn.
“I’m not saying they’ll walk away with promotion, or anything like that, but a couple of them could be up there. And, with a bit of momentum, who knows? It’s a bit of a cliche, obviously, but the Championship is always so open, it’s difficult to pick any outright winner.
“Who would have foreseen 12 months ago, for instance, that Norwich City and Sheffield
United would have been promoted together? That’s what I’m talking about.”
However, Rowett has picked a few that he thinks will be in the shake-up, come the start of next
He said: “If you are pushing me for a few teams who I think will be up there, I’d probably say Leeds, Fulham and Cardiff.
“Leeds were very impressive for most of last season. They haven’t altered too much, it’s a question of whether Marcelo Bielsa can make them play with the same intensity and cope with the expectation of playing for such a big club.
“They fell away towards the end of the season. Maybe they just ran out of legs. It’s a tough ask, physically, the Championship.
“I also like the look of Fulham. Aleksandar Mitrovic is staying at Craven Cottage and that’s going to be a huge plus for Scott Parker – because he is one who has scored a lot of goals in this league.
“They should also benefit because Anthony Knockaert (inset, top), who they’ve signed from Brighton, will cause teams problems and they’ve got some pace on the other flank after Ivan Cavaleiro joined from Wolves on loan.
“And if you want another one, then look at Cardiff City. Neil Warnock (inset, below) tends to divide opinion among the public. But, as a manager, you cannot do anything other than admire his record.
“He knows what works, has the courage to stick to his beliefs and consistently delivers. Cardiff will be a tough nut to crack.”
One trend that the 45-year-old Rowett (above) has picked up, however, involves a tactical rethink. He added: “There is definitely a growing pressure at some clubs to adopt a more pleasing passing style, playing out from the back.
“This will be in evidence – at least at the start of the season – at quite a few places. It will be interesting to see how long that approach lasts, if results don’t start going the way that the owners and decision-makers want.
“And we will see more interesting clashes in style. I know a couple of clubs – Birmingham and Charlton – are using three centre-backs in pre-season – a move away from what they did in the past.
“It’s intriguing, and we can expect another season of surprises.”
‘There’s an for opportunity has a club that gradually built itself up, yearon-year, to get six’ into the top