With only 13 days to go until the start of the NPower Championship season it is easy to see why things are beginning to heat up in the race for the Premier League.
In my opinion the NPower Championship is the second best league in the world, and this year it will be closer than ever. West Ham and Leicester are joint favourites with many bookmakers to win the league and (some believe) run away with the title.
Leicester have certainly flexed their muscles in the transfer window so far accumulating 9 new players, including former Pompey forward David Nugent. However as many foxes would tell you, it was in defence they were left lacklustre last season, and Sven-Goran Eriksson has also been quick to address that conundrum. Ex cottager John Pantsil is one of the few names looking to bolster the Leicester defence this season. City fans are adamant their side has what it takes to push for a top two spot this time around, and injuries, referee decisions and luck will all play a major part in whether or not that happens.
Pantsil also used to play for the Hammers, whom to many people’s surprise have managed to keep hold of an assembly of their top players. Big Sam has also managed to do some handy work on the transfer market, yesterday making Bolton’s Matt Taylor his third summer signing after Abdoulaye Faye and Kevin Nolan. The East Londoners must not underestimate the league they have fell into however. Especially if Scott Parker decides to depart Upton Park, like many others, their fans could be in for a whirlwind of a season.
This is not a league however that is dependant on two teams, in fact it is usually dependant on each of the 24 powerhouses in the Championship and their individual fortunes. Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Nottingham Forest and Reading are all being backed to rise to the challenge too. So are the likes of Cardiff, Leeds and Southampton. It is often said that anyone can beat anyone in this league on their day, and that is very much true this year more than ever.
Championship new boys, Steve McClaren at Nottingham Forest and Chris Hughton at Birmingham have also quietly been badgering away behind the scenes to prepare squads which are ready for the imminent new season on August 6th, and it would not be a surprising to see a push for the top two from any of these sides.
If one thing is for sure about the upcoming Championship season, it is that it will be full of Big names. And that in itself is something that has not been quite apparent in recent years.
It is in some ways becoming a mini premier league, a pre school before life in ‘big’ school. Blackpool, as we saw could not cut it in the end after a honourable attempt, and like many before them are back where they began. But can anyone make that giant leap without falling back on their face? QPR, Norwich and Swansea may tell us, but for now… let the greatest league in the world wait. We have a Championship season to be getting on with!