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August 1, 2011 / ultrafox1963

Championship Guide and Preview 2011-12 – Part 1

With just FOUR DAYS before the start of the league season, I decided to post a preview of the Championship, assess City’s main rivals, and suggest possible watering-holes for the City hordes to explore on our travels.  After all, it may be some time before we have another opportunity to visit many of these venues.

Parts 2 and 3 will follow on Tuesday and Wednesday evening.

BARNSLEY

The Tykes were promoted from this level in 1997, but in more recent times have usually featured in the lower half of the table.  With limited resources available to new manager Keith Hill, an improvement in fortunes is unlikely this time round.  However the firepower in attack should steer them clear of the drop zone.

KEY PLAYER: Craig Davies

LEAGUE POSITION IN 2010-11: 17th

PREDICTED POSITION FOR 2011-12:  20th

DATE FOXES DUE TO VISIT: Saturday 10 September

LAST FOXES AWAY WIN HERE: 2-0, 6 November 2010

RECOMMENDED FOXES PUB: Dove Inn, Doncaster Road

BIRMINGHAM CITY

The euphoria of February’s League Cup triumph was swiftly dispelled by a late-season slump which saw them fall through the Premier relegation trapdoor.  With manager Alex McLeish leading the exodus away from St Andrews, hopes of a swift return to the top flight look bleak.  A season of rebuilding looks likely under incoming boss Chris Hughton.

KEY PLAYER: Marlon King

LEAGUE POSITION IN 2010-11: 18th (Premier League)

PREDICTED POSITION FOR 2011-12: 10th

DATE FOXES DUE TO VISIT: Sunday 16 October (live on BBC TV)

LAST FOXES WIN HERE: 1-0, 13 March 2004

RECOMMENDED FOXES PUB: White Swan, Bradford Street, Digbeth

BLACKPOOL

Ian Holloway’s side won more plaudits than points during their brief excursion to the top flight.  But with key players moving on, the remaining squad is largely the same as that involved in relegation battles at this level in 2008 and 2009. A similar struggle looks likely this time around.

KEY PLAYER: Barry Ferguson

LEAGUE POSITION IN 2010-11: 19th (Premier League)

PREDICTED POSITION FOR 2011-12: 18th

DATE FOXES DUE TO VISIT: Tuesday 20 March

LAST FOXES WIN HERE: 2-1, 6 February 2010

RECOMMENDED FOXES PUB: Churchills, Topping Street

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

The Seagulls’ 14-year wait for a new stadium is finally over, with the opening of the Amex Stadium in Falmer.  Manager Gus Poyet  will be determined to make this new home a fortress, but the lack of team strengthening during the close season (with the exception of Craig Mackail-Smith) suggests this could be another seaside club facing a long winter.

KEY PLAYER: Craig Mackail-Smith

LEAGUE POSITION IN 2010-11: 1st (League 1)

PREDICTED POSITION FOR 2011-12: 19th

DATE FOXES DUE TO VISIT: Saturday 4 February

LAST FOXES WIN HERE:  N/A

RECOMMENDED FOXES PUB: Real ale will be available at the ground!

BRISTOL CITY

The Robins reached a playoff final three years ago, but a succession of managers since then have failed to maintain the momentum.  Ex-Leeds midfielder Neil Kilkenny is the only significant summer addition to last season’s squad.  Another season of mid-table mediocrity beckons.

KEY PLAYER: Neil Kilkenny

LEAGUE POSITION IN 2010-11: 15th

PREDICTED POSITION FOR 2011-12:  15th

DATE FOXES DUE TO VISIT: Tuesday 6 March

LAST FOXES WIN HERE:  2-0, 24 November 2007

RECOMMENDED FOXES PUB: Orchard Inn, Hanover Place

BURNLEY

Poor away form during last season’s run-in, including a 4-0 hiding at Leicester, cost the Clarets a chance of a playoff place and a possible instant return to the top flight.  A string of departures in recent weeks have forced manager Eddie Howe to rebuild his squad and undermined hopes of a renewed challenge for the top six.  Consolidation appears a more likely prospect.

KEY PLAYER: Jay Rodriguez

LEAGUE POSITION IN 2010-11: 8th

PREDICTED POSITION FOR 2011-12:  13th

DATE FOXES DUE TO VISIT: Tuesday 1 November

LAST FOXES WIN HERE:  1-0, 20 February 2007

RECOMMENDED FOXES PUB: Burnley Cricket Club, Belvedere Road

CARDIFF CITY

Two successive playoff failures heralded the departure of manager Dave Jones and several of his top players.  Malky Mackay, who worked wonders in this league with Watford, faces another tough challenge to build a squad capable of mounting a fresh promotion bid, and may fall just short this time around.

KEY PLAYER: Robert Earnshaw

LEAGUE POSITION IN 2010-11: 4th

PREDICTED POSITION FOR 2011-12:  9th

DATE FOXES DUE TO VISIT: Sunday 25 September (live on Sky TV)

LAST FOXES WIN HERE:  3-2, 12 May 2010

RECOMMENDED FOXES PUB: Prince of Wales, St Mary Street

COVENTRY CITY

Irritant neighbours rather than true rivals of ours these days, the sky blues look set to resume their role as habitual relegation battlers.  But a combination of a rapidly-dwindling fanbase and a lack of investment means that incoming manager Andy Thorn faces a baptism of fire in his first full year at the Ricoh.  This could well be the year when their luck finally runs out.

KEY PLAYER: Sammy Clingan

LEAGUE POSITION IN 2010-11: 18th

PREDICTED POSITION FOR 2011-12:  22nd

DATE FOXES DUE TO VISIT: Saturday 6 August

LAST FOXES WIN HERE:  N/A

RECOMMENDED FOXES PUB: Greyhound Inn, Sutton Stop

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