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In this installment of ‘Countdown To Kick-Off’ (the 2nd of 3) I preview and predict every Championship teams’ fortunes.

I’ll probably be wrong with many but here are my predictions!

Cardiff City: nPower Championship Winners 2012-13

Cardiff City: nPower Championship Winners 2012-13

1) Wigan Athletic

Boss Owen Coyle has experience in this league and he’s made a super signing in Grant Holt, who’ll be lethal at this level. They’ve also managed to keep hold of Shaun Maloney and Callum McManaman

2) Reading

After their disappointing Premier League campaign, I feel they’ve got all the right ingredients to make it back there – their manager Nigel Adkins knows how to steer a club up and their squad is very capable too.

3) Watford

Gianfranco Zola did well last time out and I can only see more success for him. He has clearly assembled a capable squad and attracts new players of decent standard, if those brought in from Italy last year are anything to go by. Also, the permanent signings of Lewis McGugan and Almen Abdi can only help their cause.

4) QPR

I think coming down to the Championship will be quite a shock initially for their high-earning stars but they do clearly have the personnel to succeed in the league, which is easier said than done.

5) Bolton Wanderers

Dougie Freedman’s squad contains players capable of beating anyone in the league. Their goalkeeping and defensive departments, with Alex Baptiste in, are tight while Jermaine Beckford, with a point to prove, could excel in attack. Chris Eagles, Darren Pratley and Stuart Holden remain key assets.

6) Derby County

Nigel Clough has quietly formed a well-balanced squad with more depth. After minor progress each year, it’s time for a real push so my heart says a play-off spot! The signing of the up and rising Johnny Russell could be one to make the rest of the league envious. The strength of Derby’s midfield is very healthy for the club but quite a selection headache for Clough. The Rams’ defence does, however, probably need bolstering. My heart says the Rams can do it but who knows?

7) Leeds United

Brian McDermott can work well with his resources and also get the best out of his current crop, he proved this at Reading when he steered them to the play-offs and then the title.

8) Nottingham Forest

They have a large squad with good players at this level, but if they are to challenge they must have stability from the boardroom – something which didn’t happen last year. There are so many contenders for the top six, their defence needs work to be further up the table.

9) Brighton and Hove Albion

The biggest question is whether they can continue where Gus Poyet left off. The squad is there but Oscar García has less managerial experience for a growingly fierce league. The events of the end of last season weren’t ideal preparations for the players to return to.

10) Leicester City

Their owners have spent, spent and spent in the past few years and haven’t got far. This time they’ve been relatively quiet on the transfer front, their squad is, again, a good one but the heartache of their play-off defeat to Watford will, I believe, remain sore.

11) Ipswich Town

Mick McCarthy has steadied the ship after a disastrous spell under the stewardship of Paul Jewell. However, I don’t think they have what it takes to compete much higher than mid-table.

12) Blackburn Rovers

Rovers have a brilliant team of players but the worry is their owners, off-field antics always seem to be rife with the club. The owners need to allow Gary Bowyer the freedom to sort his own squad out.

13) Birmingham City

Uncertainties off the pitch and the departures of Curtis Davies and Nathan Redmond will not stand them in good stead. Keeping Chris Burke will be a good boost but there isn’t enough firepower in the Blues’ squad to make it much further up than mid-table.

14) Burnley

Losing Lee Grant, Martin Paterson and Chris McCann are all big blows. Sean Dyche remains determined to keep Charlie Austin, which is pivotal but their squad doesn’t have enough to get much of a look in towards the top six.

15) Charlton Athletic

Chris Powell’s success last season in taking the club, back in the Championship after promotion, to 9th was very impressive. More clubs are assembling very competitive squads, I think the competition is too mean for the Addicks to repeat the feat.

16) Huddersfield Town

The permanent arrival of James Vaughan is good but I see more looking over their shoulders for the Terriers. Again, there’s such a fierce battle for even the top half places.

17) Sheffield Wednesday

Dave Jones hasn’t had the money to bring in players capable of moving the club forward and will therefore face a frustrating campaign.

18) Middlesbrough

I see more struggle, they’ve come down a long way since being relegated in 2009. Their manager, Tony Mowbray is good but he can only do so much, the squad lacks quality.

19) Barnsley

The club have a good young manager in David Flitcroft and he’ll have to work wonders again if they’re to progress. I anticipate another season of struggle. Their spirit is to be admired though, a good attribute for the relegation survival run-in.

20) Bournemouth

Eddie Howe’s team lack experience and the step up to a league where there are no guarantees won’t be easy. Nevertheless, their achievement of getting into the Championship is not to be under-estimated.

21) Doncaster Rovers

The demands of the Championship will be tough, they can’t compete financially. I think they’ll just about survive.

22) Blackpool

Somewhat of a surprise tip for relegation after their recent successes but I suspect they’ll struggle, particularly if Tom Ince moves on, and their players that have already exited were key members of their side.

23) Millwall

The loss of the resourceful and steady Kenny Jackett is a big blow. Replacement Steve Lomas is too big of a gamble due to his lack of experience as a manager and his West Ham ties.

24) Yeovil Town

Their story of their arrival to the second tier is amazing and a model to aspire at for lower league clubs. Gary Johnson did a great task with Bristol City in this league in 2007/2008 but this is a step too far – the fairy tale ends this season for me.

Other articles in my ‘Countdown To Kick-Off’ series
Part 1: What is Derby’s Strongest Starting XI?
Part 3: Is Johnny Russell the answer to our prayers?

Also see my predictions for the Rams in Sporting Life’s Championship Guide for the forthcoming 2013/14 season.

Post written by Nathan Morley
Blog: derbycountyfan.com, Twitter: @NMtherams

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