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Those 10 pre-season Championship questions answered

Before the season began, I wrote a preview of the Championship season, then boiled it down to ten key questions. Now the season is over, let’s take a look at the answers.

1) Can Nigel Adkins pull off another miracle and keep Scunthorpe up again, even after losing Gary Hooper to Celtic?

We’ll never know of course, because Adkins left to become manager of Southampton in League One. It turned out to be a good career move because the clubs have now swapped places and Adkins got the best of it. I suspect Adkins thought it was only a matter of time before Scunthorpe found being in the Championship unsustainable – without or without Hooper – so who can blame a young manager for moving on?

2) Will Gordon Strachan’s new pragmatic signings get Middlesbrough promoted before the parachute payments run out?

It’s difficult to believe now, but Middlesbrough were pre-season favourites to win the division. Kris Boyd was supposed to come in and score thirty goals. In fact, he scored six in twenty-seven games, before being loaned to Nottingham Forest. To some, Boyd represented “everything that was wrong about Gordon Strachan and his reign as Middlesbrough manager“. As a result of the mess Strachan left, Middlesbrough will now have to reduce their wage bill from £20m to £6m next season. This is what happens if you gamble with the parachute payments.

3) How quickly can Norwich and Leeds establish themselves as a force in the division?

This might be the most intriguing question of the ten. The answer was a real surprise. Norwich astonished everyone by going straight through the Championship by winning automatic promotion. I didn’t think that was possible given the comparative wealth of teams like Cardiff, Middlesbrough and QPR. Leeds also spent a large part of the season in the playoff places before fading and Millwall were still in the running going into the penultimate week of the season. I won’t make the mistake of dismissing Brighton, Southampton or Peterborough next season.

4) With decimated squads, just how bad will Hull and Portsmouth be?

Not nearly as bad I suspected. Hull could even have made the play-offs. Portsmouth struggled early on but got themselves out of trouble and never really looked like going down, much to the relief of their fans, who must have feared a Bradford-style free-fall through the divisions.

5) How long can Billy Davies keep his cool over Forest’s transfer acquisitions committee?

A stupid question that I already knew the answer to. Davies was almost certainly right though. Forest didn’t look as strong as they did the year before and went out in the first round of the playoffs once again.

6) After consecutive final day heartbreaks, can Dave Jones lift Cardiff yet again?

I’ve written plenty about what went wrong at Cardiff during the season. There was the ridiculous public slating of Adam Matthews for his mistake against Ipswich, the implosion against Middlesbrough and finally the ugly playoff defeat to Reading. I suspected that the players might start tuning Jones out as the season progressed. Whatever the problem, it ended up costing Jones his job at the end of season and he can’t really complain too much.

7) How will Brian McDermott do given a full season at Reading?

After spending most of the season just above mid-table, a late surge suddenly put Reading in the playoffs. Conventional wisdom says the team with the momentum going into the playoffs gets the big prize, but it didn’t work out that way for Reading as they lost in the final to Swansea. Losing the Championship playoff final is about as painful as it gets for any club, and now Reading will have to deal with the weight of knowing they’ll have to try to do it all again next season, just as Cardiff did the year before.

8 ) Will Leicester’s fans take to Paulo Sousa’s brand of possession football, or will they crave something more ‘British’?

Er, no they didn’t. Neither did the players or the Leicester board, who sacked Sousa on October 1st after the Foxes had only won one of their first nine games. As it turned out, Leicester didn’t need something British. They just needed something better. The Leicester board made the right decision, bringing in Sven Goran Eriksson, who would’ve got them into the playoffs but for the terrible start.

9) Will Brendan Rogers finally show the potential Jose Mourinho says he has now he’s taken over at Swansea?

I was convinced that Rogers was going to be the next hot-shot young manager coming out of the Championship, and now there’s quite a bandwagon forming after he put Swansea into the Premier League via the playoffs. Perhaps the most impressive part is that Rogers made so few changes when he came to Swansea. He identified the existing problem – a lack of goals – and addressed it with the signings of Scott Sinclair, Luke Moore and loaning Fabio Borini from Chelsea, all without weakening the club’s solid defensive record. The style of play that first Roberto Martinez then Paulo Sousa had brought to the club was evolved by Rogers rather than rebuilt.

10) How many clubs will go into administration during the season?

What a relief to be able to say ‘none’. There were reports of Preston suffering heavy losses, but they survived, financially at least.

 

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