Sunday, 5 August 2018

Championship Discussion 1: Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn and Bolton


Aston Villa:
What a difference a play-off victory would have made for Aston Villa but fast forward from that match and the club has severely suffered financially with the club battling the demands of Financial Fair Play and just about managing to avoid going into administration. However, as the season begins, Aston Villa have new owners and new optimism. Billionaires Naseef Sawiris and Wes Edens hold a majority stake in the club and are determined to get Villa back in the top flight. They have backed determined boss Steve Bruce who to his credit hasn’t said at any stage he wanted to leave the club despite the uncertainty for much of the summer. Now the fans will want success this season. With Villa being under a soft transfer embargo when the club was on its knees financially, the club will have to act quickly in the month of August to replace what they lost from the previous season. Aston Villa will have a new look squad, but they will find it difficult to replace what they lost but their ambition remains the same. Promotion is high on the agenda for the club and Steve Bruce must deliver this time around with a motivation to avoid last season’s heartache. There is enough quality in that squad at Championship level including Albert Adomah, James Chester, Jonathan Kodjia and of course prized asset Jack Grealish. Keeping Grealish will be vital for the club and the closer to the deadline they get, the more likely he stays. The fans will be full of renewed optimism despite a difficult summer for the whole club and teams will struggle against them this season should Bruce create the team he wants and a play off place will be the minimum expectation for the whole club and they will hope this time around, they will be celebrating promotion in May.
I think Aston Villa will secure a play off spot at least but they will have to fight for it. I do think last season’s heartache will be motivation this season and I think they could well be celebrating at the end of the season.

My Predicted Finish: 5th (Promoted as Play-Off Winners)

Birmingham:
The blue half of Birmingham will be hoping for an improved campaign this time around after the club narrowly escaped relegation once again. Firefighter Garry Monk to the rescue for Birmingham as he got Birmingham going and they escaped from the clutches off League 1. However, like their bitter city rivals Aston Villa, Birmingham have also battled Financial Fair Play and unfortunately for them, they have failed to comply with FFP rules and now the club face a battle to get players Garry Monk desperately desires because he can sign up to 5 players, but they must be deemed as a required player after the club failed FFP. The Blues must follow a strict plan from EFL and they will face a potentially difficult season once again. Despite this, Garry Monk will have confidence in the players he has, and a mid-table finish would represent an improvement for the club. Furthermore, the Birmingham fans will hope for stability this season after seasons of changing managers and vast amounts of changes in the squad and the fans will hope Garry Monk survives the season. Birmingham’s ambition would be to push for a play-off place but they face a battle with a number of Championship teams with the same ambition and based on their current squad, the Blues will struggle to compete for a play-off place and Monk will be fully aware his squad needs a few extra bodies to give them a competitive edge but he will have to be box clever with approach due to the club’s constraints. They do have talent their squad with the likes of Che Adams and Jota would they haven’t seen the best out of since his big move from Brentford and Monk will be desperate to unlock the Spaniard’s true abilities. He is a quality Championship player and must do more for the club to achieve something this season. The Blues fans will certainly just want a season of stability and improvement from the previous campaigns.
I think they will be much improved this season if they stick by Garry Monk and give him the opportunity to improve the whole football club

My Predicted Finish: 17th

Blackburn:
What a fantastic response to relegation from Blackburn Rovers, they were magnificent last season in the third tier and Tony Mowbray masterminded a promotion campaign which every Blackburn fan expected. The pressure now changes to survival with any promoted team and Blackburn are no exception. They have had a quiet summer and have done much of their work out of the media spotlight as they gear up for the new season. Tony Mowbray has done a wonderful job at the club and rightly gets the chance to lead Blackburn’s survival charge. Blackburn scored plenty of goals and were solid defensively last season and again they will need these attributes to compete in the Championship. They will need their star players to flourish including the midfield maestro Bradley Dack. He is certainly the best £750,000 ever spent by the club and he will be vital to any success Blackburn have this season. The League 1 player of year dazzled in the third tier with an abundance of goals and assists in Blackburn’s promotion and he will relish his opportunity to showcase his skills in a higher league as well a lot of this Blackburn team. The fans will want survival at a minimum and anything above survival would represent an excellent season for Blackburn.
I do think Blackburn have enough to survive and will cause their opponents some problems this season and they will relish beating arguably better teams.

My Predicted Finish: 19th

Bolton:
The Bolton fans were full of different emotions on the final day of last season and they finished that particular day with scenes of shear joy and delight as the club survived relegation and now they will be hoping the club can have a much more comfortable season. Phil Parkinson has done a wonderful job in his 2 years in charge and he like the Bolton fans will want a season of comfort and not battling the drop. However, the club still clearly has some financial difficulties with reports about players not being paid for certain things. However, Phil Parkinson will battle on from the off-field issues and want to build a team better than the previous season’s team. The wholesale changes of team have been evident with large amounts of last seasons team leaving and total so far of 11 new signings. Parkinson will quickly have to get that team to gel and play to the style he wants to incorporate. However, Parkinson has kept the spine of their squad from last season and these include David Wheater, Mark Beevers, Josh Vela and Sammy Ameobi. Wheater and Beevers have formed a brilliant partnership at the back for Bolton and they will be vital for Bolton’s chances of survival. Likewise will Sammy Ameobi who was largely Bolton’s creative player last season and his shear pace and power will cause problems for teams and Parkinson will be wanting to see more from him in the new season. Bolton’s expectations will be to secure a third consecutive season in the Championship and anything above survival would represent a brilliant season for the football club and those Bolton fans will back their side whatever direction their season heads in. I think it will be a difficult season for the club but if they manage to survive it would represent a successful season.

My Predicted Finish: 23rd

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