With the Premier League getting underway last weekend, with all the hype surrounding some of the world's biggest clubs and players, it was forgivable perhaps to have forgotten that the Npower Championship started as well. Last season, Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves were relegated from England's topflight. How will they fare this season? Here, with the assistance of fellow football fan Ross Potter, we examine each side and predict where they will finish up come the end of the season.
BarnsleyHaving narrowly avoided relegation last season due to Portsmouths 10 point deduction, Barnsley have looked to add experience to a young looking squad. Mainly working through the free transfer market, the only money to have left the pocket of the owners is the £50k spent on the defender Lee Collins, and acquisition from League 2 side Port Vale. The key to their form this year however, will mainly be down to how well the more experienced players perform, and the notable signings of Mido, an Egyptian international who once plied his trade in the Premier League, Tomasz Cywka from newly-promoted Reading, and the often controversial Jacob Mellis from Chelsea, on free transfers could be the key to their success. The loss of influential midfielder Jacob Butterfield to Norwich may be a huge loss, only time will tell. Prediction: 22nd
BirminghamA summer of minor tweaking for Birmingham, who lost not only in the Play-off Semi-final to Blackpool having finished the regular season in 4th, but also their highly-rated manager Chris Hughton who was lured into the Premiership by Norwich City. A tough act to follow, but one Lee Clark will be relishing having been controversially sacked by promoted Huddersfield, despite leading them to a record 43 match unbeaten run spanning 11 months. He has soon laid down his mark, bringing in three players with Premier league experience. Peter Lovendkrants, Hayden Mullins and Darren Ambrose will bring not only tenacity from Mullins, but skill and finesse, especially from Ambrose who scored one of the goals of the seasons in last years surprise Carling Cup defeat of Manchester United when he was playing for Crystal Palace. The emergence of talented 19-year-old goalkeeper Jack Butland, who took part in the recent Olympics as part of Team GB, and won his first International cap in Englands win over Italy, will surely help him cement his first-team place, along with the departure of former England goalkeeper Ben Foster. Prediction: 2nd (Promotion)
BlackburnRelegated Blackburn will hope for a swift return to the Premiership, and have certainly had a busy summer. Despite the loss of top goal scorer Yakubu, and highly-rated winger Junior Hoilett, they have not been shy in the transfer market. Under fire manager Steve Kean has delved into the Premiership with the acquisitions of former Fulham schemer Danny Murphy, with tenacious midfielder Dickson Ethuhu also joining from the Southwest London club. Spending £3 million on Newcastle Leon Best certainly raised a few eyebrows, and although currently injured, he has had success at this level before. Prediction: 1st (Promotion)
BlackpoolIan Holloway has seen fit to not make wholesale changes to the squad that made it to within one game of promotion last season. Another team to have dealt solely in the free transfer market, their fans will be hoping for more of the same from last year, with their attacking brand of football receiving plaudits, it is their defence that has somewhat been a worry in recent years, and with Jake Caprice being their only defensive signing, it could be another exciting season for the fans at Bloomfield Road. Prediction: 5th
BoltonAnother of the relegated teams, Bolton have been slightly rocked by the retirement of Fabrice Muamba following advice from a cardiologist following his heart attack against Tottenham earlier this year. Unlike Blackburn, their relegation has seen a mass exodus of senior players, with Jusski Jaaskelainen, Sean Davis, and Nigel Reo-Coker being some of the most high profile to leave. One of the only shining lights on their pre-season has been the signing of Keith Andrews who impressed for West Brom in the latter stages of last season. This could be the start of a period of recovery and rebuilding for Bolton, and although they have an experienced manager in the shape of Owen Coyle, who has experience of taking teams out of the Championship, I can see this being a season of disappointment for the Trotters. Prediction: 11th
BrightonBrighton were one of the surprise packages of the Championship of last year, and although they could not keep it up for the entire season they finished in a respectable 10th place and will be looking to build on this in the upcoming season. They will be hoping for another prolific season from last seasons top goal scorer Craig Mackail-Smith, and although not conceding an alarming amount of goals, have strengthened at the back with the signing of goalkeeper Tomasz Kusczczak from Manchester United, and the loan signing of experienced left-back Wayne Bridge. Although a positive season was had last year, the Seagulls may well find themselves in much the same position as last season, but with a little bit of luck they may be able to force themselves into the top ten, although a play-off spot may be just beyond their reach for now. Prediction: 13th
Bristol CityOther than the bottom 2 sides, Bristol City were the only team to score less than a goal a game, and the selling of top scorer Nicky Maynard halfway through last season only highlighted their need for goals. Bizarrely, Derek McInnes has gone the whole summer without buying a striker, although the signing of DJ Campbell is rumoured to be close. However, even if this signing does come to fruition, Bristol City may be in for a long, troubled season. Prediction: 24th Burnley A disappointing season for Burnley who finished mid table and to make matters worse, lost their top scorer Jay Rodriguez to newly promoted Southampton. They aimed to resolve this by signing Wolves reject and current Welsh international Sam Vokes. No signings of real quality mean this could be another season which could end up in mid-table obscurity for Eddie Howes men. Prediction: 12th