With the start of a new league season just days away, it’s that time of the year where we’ll all be marking our coupons with the expectation of collecting a fortune come May. Hopefully with a couple of doubles, trebles or accumulators and if you’re brave enough a Leicester City style 5000/1 price may be in reach.
Whilst we acknowledge there are still players to be transferred in or out and a LOT of money to be spent or squandered before the transfer window slams shut on 31st August, it is time to name our tips for titles, promotion and relegation for leagues North and South of the border.
We have opted to name promotion only in the English leagues and remove from the Scottish leagues as realistically who can predict the play offs!
Anyway here goes…
Title – Man Utd Relegation – Hull City, Burnley & Sunderland
Mourinho’s Man Utd v Guardiola’s Man City is the title shootout for us this season. Arsenal and Chelsea have yet to meaningfully strengthen, Spurs won’t be as close again and Leicester’s win was a one off. Jose has addressed key areas were the reds were lacking and with Zlatan’s magic arriving at Old Trafford we think they’ll come out on top in the North West and in England.
It was difficult to choose a complete three for relegation this season, Hull were the only obvious choice with no manager and no money spent so far. We think Burnley will have tremendous fight under Sean Dyche but will more than likely suffer relegation with a couple of games remaining.
Third and final side in our list is Moyes’ Sunderland, we don’t feel they are good enough to stay up and that the ex-Everton manager will further damage the reputation he built at Goodison Park.
Title – Newcastle Utd Promotion – Norwich
Relegation – Burton, Rotherham & Reading
Providing Rafa Benitez sticks around, it is extremely difficult to make an argument for any other side to win the Championship this season. They have recruited well with Gayle, Ritchie and Hanley coming in and with 52,000 cheering them on every week it should be a comfortable march to the title. Look out for Scotland International, Ritchie, for Player of the year at this level too.
We also assume an immediate return to the top flight for Alex Neil’s Norwich. The Canaries have stuck with the Scotsman who guided them to promotion and subsequent relegation, which is good to see in this day and age. He has held the squad together but could do with adding a goal scorer to ensure an easier few months.
The Championship is one of the most challenging leagues in Europe and there will be numerous teams battling it out at the bottom for survival. Our picks based on current views are Burton Albion, Rotherham and Reading. Having watched Burton stumble towards promotion without Hasselbaink at the helm, the step up will be too much for them. Stubbs has replaced Warnock at Rotherham but his inability to guide Hibs to promotion in Scotland does not stand him in good stead for his new challenge. Reading have recruited former Man Utd man Jaap Stam as manager so you’d expect them to be watertight at the back. They just haven’t threatened in the past few seasons and perhaps they are going to be involved at the wrong end of the table this time around.
Title – Charlton Promotion – MK Dons
Relegation – Oldham, Fleetwood & AFC Wimbledon
Continuing the Championship theme of teams bouncing straight back from relegation with Charlton Athletic & MK Dons. Last season many managers played their part in the Addicks drop, but with Russell Slade in the hot seat they will be one of the better teams in League Two. MK Dons have held onto Karl Robinson and that could be their best bit of business throughout the summer. Both sides have to be considered as Championship-level teams and will be striving to return at the 1st attempt.
Whilst we’ll all be looking forward to the hotly anticipated meetings of Wimbledon’s old and new we feel that the new boys will make a swift return to League Two. It’s been a fairytale journey for them getting to this level in double quick time, but one step too far with current with current set up in place for us. We anticipate they will be joined in the drop by serial lower half finishers Oldham and the lads from Fleetwood Town.
Title – Portsmouth Promotion – Plymouth
Relegation – Newport County & Morecambe
It’s about time Portsmouth started to make their way back up the leagues, the fans have saved the club at a play-off defeat last year showed they are on their way back. We fancy Paul Cook to lead them to the trophy at the 2nd time of asking.
Another team still hurting from a play-off defeat last season is Plymouth Argyle, a massive 14 players have been brought in to aid the promotion push and with former Premier League striker David Goodwillie leading the line, it’s promotion for the Pilgrims.
Dropping out of the Football League must be the most difficult thing to stomach as a fan and we’re sorry to say we see this looming for all Newport and Morecambe fans in May 2017.
Title – Celtic Relegation – Hamilton
Scott Brown stoked the Old Firm fire this week by claiming that Aberdeen and not Rangers would be Celtic’s biggest challengers…We have to agree. But no matter how close Aberdeen get the trophy will once again end up in the cabinet at Parkhead. Brendan Rodgers will be looking to see out his tenure with the Hoops gathering as much silverware as possible en-route to gaining a top job back down south.
The time has come for Hamilton to gracefully depart the top flight in Scotland, year after year they serve up bottom half finishes and they look to be by far the poorest team in the division heading into the start of the campaign. We see relegation and a managerial change along the way. Kilmarnock and Dundee could also be contenders with Killie chief Lee Clark’s future looking uncertain, while at Dens – the loss of 25 Hemming’s goals would hurt any SPL side.
Title – Dundee United Relegation – Ayr United
Recently relegated Dundee United have swept the club clean of under-performing managers and players in the close season. Ray McKinnon now in charge and has made some shrewd additions in key areas of the park. We tip the Tangerines to pip Neil Lennon’s Hibs in what will be a closely contested title race. We’ll even throw in another cheeky prediction of Simon Murray for the league’s top scorer!
Having been promoted via the ever-so-complicated Scottish play-off system, Ayr United find themselves in a strong 2nd tier just like many others in recent seasons. Unfortunately we see them propping up the table come May.
Scottish League One
Title – Alloa Relegation – Stenhousemuir
Jack Ross has guided Alloa to 4 wins from 4 in the League Cup this season and had his side topping Group D at the expense of Raith Rovers and holders Ross County! Form expected to be carried into the league and a swift return to the Championship to be made by the Wasps.
An 9th and 8th placed finishes in the last two seasons but we are predicting an even poorer campaign this time around for Stenhousemuir.
Scottish League Two
Title – Forfar Relegation – Edinburgh City
Last but by no means least, Scottish League Two. Gary Bollan’s Forfar are our pick to top the division. Bollan took over from Dick Campbell last season and couldn’t quite save the Loons from the drop. Have had some positive results in pre-season and performed reasonably well in the Betfred Cup group stage.
It’s a one season deal for Edinburgh City, Having been promoted to the league structure they just don’t look capable of competing at the higher level.
All the best to your supported teams this coming season. Sorry if we’ve predicted a bad one for you but for every title win or day in the sun, there must be a heart-wrenching relegation or missed opportunity.