By Kieran Lovelock
As the end of the season rapidly approaches let us take a look at who could potentially be gaining promotion to the English Premier League next season from the Championship. What is unique about this season is that all three team who relegated from the Premiership (Hull, Portsmouth and Burnley) all look too far behind to make a charge promotion with closest challengers being Burnley who are six points off the playoffs and have just fired the manager.
Reminder- The way in which promotion works is that the top two teams at the end of the season go up automatically and the teams positioned 3-6 go into a playoff competition with the winner achieving promotion.
Queens Park Rangers
Current League Position- 1st Points- 52
Last EPL appearance- 1996
After years of perennial underachievement the west London side finally look ready to be back amongst the big boys of the Premiership. Their lead at the top of the table had been as large as 15 points at one point but it now stands at five although they have a far superior goal difference to everyone else. QPR have always had potential in that they have extremely wealthy owners but this year they found stability by employing and sticking with arguably the best manager outside of the Premiership in Neil Warnock. Warnock has brought in a combination of flair players, such as Adel Taraabt from Spurs and Wayne Routledge from Newcastle, and then combined this with experienced pros such as Heider Helguson and Bradley Orr. Their style of soccer is best described as effective and should they win promotion their owners would need to invest in new players all over the pitch.
Current League Position- 4th Points- 47
Last EPL appearance- 1983
The current squad of players was largely put together by current Wigan manager Roberto Martinez and former Chelsea coach Brendan Rodgers is getting the best out of them with the addition of Scott Sinclair from Chelsea and some strong defensive organization. Swansea have conceded just 5 goals at home this season and have proved to be an incredibly strong outfit with centre back’s Alan Tate and Graham Monk providing an impregnable base for Swansea to go forward. Should the Welsh side gain promotion their success in the top flight will largely depend on their ability to maintain their defensive qualities as they are renowned for not scoring very many.
Current League Position- 2nd Points- 47
Last EPL appearance- 1983
After losing out in the playoff final to Blackpool last season and spending big this season Cardiff surely must believe that it is their time. The team from the Welsh capital have the one of the most potent strike forces in the Championship with Michael Chopra and Jay Bothroyd but neither of them have done well in the Premiership when they have been there. The incredible loan signing of Craig Bellamy will run out at the end of the season so if they get promoted Cardiff will have to hope that Chopra and Bothroyd can pull it off this time, along with the acquisition of some steel in the spine of the team.
Current League Position- 4th. Points- 47
Last EPL appearance- 2005
After gaining promotion to the Championship last season Norwich have had a tremendous campaign. A well supported club, Norwich are a team with good players all and manager who has experience in the lower leagues. A solid outfit with no obvious strengths but no obvious weaknesses their success has largely been built on the goal scoring form of Grant Holt who got in excess of 30 goals last season. Ironically Norwich may be better off having another season in the Championship to build their squad further in order not to become victims of their meteoric rise.
Current League Position- 5th Points- 46
Last EPL appearance- 1999
In 1980 Forest were the two times champions of Europe but now they are simply fighting to get back to Premiership. Manager Billy Davies has experience of getting teams promoted and has had considerable money to spend on his squad therefore the Forest board will be expecting results after a third place finish last season. Striker Robert Earnshaw has the potential to be a regular goal scorer in the Premiership and history shows that attacking sides such as Forest tend to perform better than teams that simply sit back and defend once they achieve promotion. However, whether or not Forest have the backbone to see out the remainder of the Championship season successfully has yet to be confirmed.
Current League Position- 7th Points- 42
Last EPL appearance- 2007
Watford are the league’s joint top scorers with a total of 52 goals in just 26 games. A dynamic attacking unit, with Danny Graham scoring 15 league goals this season and Marvin Sordell scoring eleven, Watford are the kind of team that could easily make a run at any point. They will want the January transfer window to close rather quickly however so they can keep hold of their prized assets in Graham and Sordell and a few loan signings at the back wouldn’t go a miss either. Should they succeed in gaining promotion a lot will depend on young manager Malky Mackay’s ability to adapt to managing against the best players in the world.
Current league position- 6th Points- 45
Last EPL appearance- 2004
In 1992 Leeds won the Premiership title and in 2001 they reached the semi finals of the Champions League. However what followed was arguably the most spectacular fall from grace in the history of football. Since 2007 Leeds were playing in the league below The Championship and finally made it out last year thanks mainly to the form of Jermaine Beckford, who moved to Everton at the end of last season. Despite losing Beckford Leeds are still a good attacking unit but have been found lacking at the back sometimes this season conceding four goals three times, five once and six once. Should they go up defensive reinforcements will certainly be needed.
Current league position- 11th Points- 39
Last EPL appearance- 2004
The Foxes might be worth an outside bet even after a terrible start to the season. New manager Paulo Sousa came in from Swansea in July amid a mass of expectation but ended up being sacked and replaced by former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson in early October. Since then “the Svenster” has turned City’s fortunes around in leading them to 11th spot and just 6 points off the playoffs. What is more impressive however is the Swede’s ability to lure striker Yakubu from Everton despite apparently being a key player to them. The Nigerian has scored 80 goals in the Premiership his potential in the Championship is huge. And with other Premiership players such as Curtis Davies and Kyle Naughton also arriving on loan it could be an exciting end to the season for Leicester fans.