Championship predictions: Potters tipped for top but Ipswich could drop, with mid-table expected for Canaries

Canaries head coach Daniel Farke, left, and Stoke City boss Gary Rowett, then of Derby County, share a laugh at Carrow Road last season 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Canaries head coach Daniel Farke, left, and Stoke City boss Gary Rowett, then of Derby County, share a laugh at Carrow Road last season Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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Stoke City and Middlesbrough are favourites for promotion from the Championship this season, according to the reporters who cover the division’s 24 clubs across the country.

Paul Hurst and assistant Chris Doig - some are tipping Town for the drop Picture: ROSS HALLSPaul Hurst and assistant Chris Doig - some are tipping Town for the drop Picture: ROSS HALLS

Recently relegated Stoke have been backed by 22 of the 24 reporters to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt, in an annual pre-season survey.

Boro are second favourites with 19 votes, with Nottingham Forest and Derby tied on third with six each – but Norwich City got just one promotion vote.

On the other hand, none of the reporters are predicting that the Canaries will be among the three teams to be relegated in 2018-19.

Newly-promoted Rotherham United, managed by former Diss and Wroxham forward Paul Warne, are favourites for the drop with 20 votes ahead of Bolton Wanderers with 15.

Ipswich Town are then among three teams tied as third favourites with six votes each, alongside Reading and Hull City, ahead of their first season under former Shrewsbury boss Paul Hurst.

• Scroll down for the full predictions

Aston Villa

Reporter – Gregg Evans (Birmingham Mail/Live)

Key arrivals – Andre Moreira, loan (Atletico Madrid)

Main departures – John Terry plus all the loan players from last season: Sam Johnstone, Josh Onomah, Axel Tuanzebe, Robert Snodgrass and Lewis Grabban.

How’s your budget? – Well, it was non-existent before the recent change of ownership. Now it has been significantly boosted, although there’s still no official numbers. Expect loan signings rather than big-money buys.

Fans’ expectations – Promotion. Despite the recent troubles and two seasons already in the Championship, Villa fans demand a top-six finish at least, with promotion the end goal.

Promoted – Stoke, West Brom, Aston Villa

Relegated – Rotherham, Millwall, Bristol City

Birmingham City

Reporter – Joseph Chapman (Birmingham Mail/Live)

Key arrivals – Kristian Pedersen (Union Berlin)

Main departures – Jason Lowe, Robert Tesche, Andrew Shinnie, Stephen Gleeson

How’s your budget? – Blues signed left-back Kristian Pedersen for around £2m in June, but have been hamstrung by a reported transfer embargo that has denied Garry Monk the chance to strengthen his squad further. This is hoped to be resolved before deadline day and would therefore allow Monk to recruit further.

Blues’ squad is talented, but rather thin and they’re in desperate need of added depth. Plus Monk has frozen out senior keepers David Stockdale and Tomasz Kuszczak and, unable to shift them, has opted for young Connal Trueman as first choice in pre-season. He’s set to start the campaign in goal.

Fans’ expectations – Realistic, I think. Promotion seems a stretch at the moment, after the lack of business that’s been done to date. Many I’ve spoken to would be rather content with finishing above the bottom three again.

Promoted – Derby, Stoke, Middlesbrough

Relegated – Rotherham, Hull, Reading

Blackburn Rovers

Reporter – Rich Sharpe (Lancashire Telegraph)

Key arrivals – Jacob Davenport and Joe Rothwell.

Main departures – None

How’s your budget? – Mowbray brought back a ‘competitive budget’ from his talks with the owners. Focus so far has been on contract renewals, with seven deals done. Two undisclosed six figure fee signings have arrived, with two more permanent additions likely, which may see them break the seven figure barrier.

Fans’ expectations – Cautiously optimistic the momentum last season, plus a strong team spirit and Bradley Dack, can see them looking up, rather than over their shoulders and stabilise after relegation in 2016/17. Will need more attacking options if they are to challenge the top half though.

Promoted – Stoke City, Middlesbrough, West Brom

Relegated – Bolton, QPR, Birmingham

Bolton Wanderers

Reporter – Marc Iles (The Bolton News)

Key arrivals – Yanic Wildschut on loan from Norwich, Jason Lowe, Erhun Oztumer and Clayton Donaldson, Josh Magennis, Jack Hobbs.

Main departures – Filipe Morais, Mark Howard, Darren Pratley and Karl Henry.

How’s your budget? – Wanderers hadn’t spent a penny on transfer fees since January 2015 but they have broken that jinx with the £200,000 signing of Josh Magennis from Charlton. Still nowhere near the big spenders, though.

Fans’ expectations – Something more comfortable than last season’s final-day escape against Nottingham Forest. The squad has evolved and it would be good to see Wanderers’ football – so hard to watch at times last term – evolve with it.

Promoted – Swansea, Stoke, Nottingham Forest

Relegated – Rotherham, Ipswich, QPR


Reporter – Tom Moore (Freelance)

Key arrivals – Ezri Konsa, Said Benrahma

Main departures – Andreas Bjelland, John Egan, Florian Jozefzoon, Konstantin Kerschbaumer

How’s your budget? – Brentford’s model when it comes to player acquisitions is buy cheap, undervalued players, develop them and sell them for a hefty profit and money is available from this process but the Bees have one of the lower budgets in the division.

Fans’ expectations – Fans have become accustomed to seeing key players depart during every transfer window but, as history has proven, Brentford have always dealt with the situation well. A push for the play-offs with a young team that is improving all the time is the expectation.

Promoted: Swansea, Stoke, Nottingham Forest

Relegated: QPR, Rotherham, Bolton

Bristol City

Reporter – Gregor MacGregor (Bristol Post/Bristol Live)

Key arrivals – Jack Hunt, Andreas Weimann, Marley Watkins, Adam Webster, Mo Eisa, Hakeeb Adelakun, Niki Maenpaa

Main departures – Aden Flint, Bobby Reid, Hordur Magnusson, Gary O’Neil

How’s your budget? – There is money left in the pot. Especially if, as expected, Joe Bryan is sold too.

Fans’ expectations – Most fans are optimistic for the new season despite the club selling its best players in the off season. A top half finish would be decent after a transitional summer. That might be possible after some good Championship recruitment.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Brentford

Relegated – Rotherham, Bolton, Wigan

Derby County

Reporter – Steve Nicholson (Derby Telegraph)

Key arrivals – Mason Mount and Harry Wilson on season-long loans from Cheslea and Liverpool; Florian Jozefzoon from Brentford undisclosed fee; Jack Marriott from Peterborough United undisclosed fee

Main departures – Andreas Weimann to Bristol City undisclosed fee; Charles Vernam to Grimsby Town undisclosed fee

How’s your budget? – There has been much talk of Derby needing to trim a top-heavy squad and cut the wage bill. This remains the plan and is needed although the Rams have brought in four new faces.

Fans’ expectations – The arrival of Frank Lampard has provided the fans with a lift after the Rams lost in the play-offs last season. Lampard’s appointment is intriguing, and the unknown of how he will fare in his first job as a manager adds to the excitement. There is always an expectation surrounding Derby, and an expectation of another top-six finish which is something they have achieved in three of the last five seasons although Lampard deserves time, as all new managers do.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa

Relegated – Rotherham, Bolton, Wigan

Hull City

Reporter – Will Jackson (Hull Daily Mail)

Key arrivals – Eric Lichaj, David Milinkovic, Reece Burke, Jordy de Wijs, Todd Kane (on loan from Chelsea), George Long

Main departures – Michael Dawson, Moses Odubajo, Max Clark, Allan McGregor, David Meyler, Abel Hernandez, Seb Larsson

How’s your budget? – Tight to say the least. Gone are the days of signing £10million strikers as austerity bites at the KCOM. The Tigers have spent around £2.5m so far this summer and still have plenty of holes in the squad still to fill.

Fans’ expectations – It’s fair to say last season fell way below supporter expectations as the Tigers found themselves in a battle to avoid relegation. Big names have left and despite Nigel Adkins’ attempts to bolster depleted levels of optimism most fans would be happy with the security of midtable.

Promoted – Stoke, West Brom, Middlesbrough

Relegated – Rotherham, Ipswich, Bolton

Ipswich Town

Reporter – Stuart Watson (East Anglian Daily Times)

Key arrivals – Gwion Edwards (Peterboorugh, £700k), Trevoh Chalobah (Chelsea, loan), Jordan Roberts (Crawley, free), Ellis Harrison (Bristol Rovers, £750k).

Main departures – Adam Webster (Bristol City, £3.5m), David McGoldrick (contract expired).

How’s your budget? – It was frees and loans galore for years under Mick McCarthy. There will be no injection of cash by owner Marcus Evans, but new boss Paul Hurst has been assured he can spend whatever he raises in sales. Webster’s fee has helped. Cashing in on Martyn Waghorn in order to buy two or three more remains an option.

Fans’ expectations – Pragmatic heading into a 17th successive season in the second-tier on a restricted budget. Some increased entertainment value, a win against Norwich and a bit of cup fun (all of which have been in short supply) is all anyone wants.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Derby

Relegated – Rotherham, Hull, Bolton

Leeds United

Reporter – Joe Urquhart (Yorkshire Evening Post)

Key arrivals – Lewis Baker, Jamal Blackman

Main departures – Felix Wiedwald, Jay-Roy Grot (loan), Pawel Cibicki (loan)

How’s your budget? – Well, isn’t that the million dollar question. Leeds have managed to only bring in two Chelsea loanees as yet after being linked with a raft of names throughout the summer. The Whites have been keen to spend but as yet have struggled to get any deals over the line - although it looks like Barry Douglas from Wolves and Matej Vydra from Derby County may well end that issue. United’s expenditure, if all goes to plan with incomings, will be around the £15-20m mark.

Fans’ expectations – With the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road expectations for the season ahead skyrocketed but have somewhat tempered in recent weeks with the failure of any major signings. If Leeds can get a few deals done many fans will be hoping (and expecting) a top six finish at the very least this season - whether that is realistic or not is yet to be seen.

Promoted – Stoke City, Swansea City, Middlesbrough

Relegated – Hull City, Rotherham, QPR


Reporter – Philip Tallentire (Middlesbrough Gazette)

Key arrivals – Paddy McNair, £4m from Sunderland; Aden Flint, £4m from Bristol City

Main departures – Fabio to Nantes (£1.75m)

How’s your budget? – Tony Pulis insists he’ll balance the books, pointedly referring to Steve Gibson’s heavy investment last summer. The manager wants two or three new faces but won’t pay silly money. Ben Gibson and Adama Traore are the two major assets who could leave.

Fans’ expectations – Boro fell short but not by much so automatic promotion will be the ambition once again. There’s a feeling that Tony Pulis gets results and, after his first gruelling pre-season and a summer to balance the squad, Boro will be a lean, mean results machine.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Derby

Relegated – Birmingham, Rotherham, Bolton


Reporter – Richard Cawley (South London Press)

Key arrivals – Murray Wallace (Scunthorpe), Ben Amos (Bolton, loan).

Main departures – Tim Cahill, Nadjim Abdou, Harry Smith, Tom King (Wimbledon, loan)

How’s your budget? – While other clubs pull off multi-million pound deals without a blink of the eye, Millwall will continue to operate on one of the division’s tightest budgets. Priority this summer was to keep prize assets like Jake Cooper, Shaun Hutchinson and George Saville.

Fans’ expectations – The Lions set the bar high as they majorly over-achieved to finish eighth. If they can steer clear of major injuries then a top-10 finish is on the cards again.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Derby

Relegated – Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday, Bolton

Norwich City

Reporter – Paddy Davitt (Eastern Daily Press)

Key arrivals – Jordan Rhodes on a season long loan from Sheffield Wednesday and Finnish international striker Teemu Pukki. Norwich were one of the lowest Championship scorers last season and that has been the main thrust of their summer business. Felix Passlack, on loan from Borussia Dortmund, and a permanent deal for former FC Augsburg midfielder Moritz Leitner continue the German-theme under head coach Daniel Farke.

Main departures – James Maddison. Joined Leicester City for a club record fee north of £21m. Josh Murphy also made the switch to the Premier League in a move to Cardiff City.

How’s your budget? – The Premier League parachute money ran out over the summer. The mantra is now to bring in a transfer surplus and lower the wage bill. Selling two of their brightest young talents means they are in a stable financial position. But the era of £3m plus deals on player targets is over for now.

Fans’ expectations – City finished 14th under Farke last season. That was packaged as one of transition with a new football model off the park and massive turnover of players on it during the past 12 months. But Norwich fans will not accept that again and the bare minimum is cracking the top 10.

Promoted – West Brom, Boro, Derby

Relegated – Reading, QPR, Rotherham

Nottingham Forest

Reporter – Paul Taylor (Nottingham Post)

Key arrivals – Ten new signings and a new look squad. Costel Pantilimon, Jack Robinson, Michael Dawson, Tobias Figueiredo, Jack Colback, Gil Dias, Joao Carvalho, Diogo Goncalves, Hillal Soudani, Lewis Grabban, Luke Steele

Main departures – Andreas Bouchalakis, Armand Traore, David Vaughan

How’s your budget? – Forest broke their transfer record to land Joao Carvalho from Benfica for 15m euro and spent £6m on Lewis Grabban. They are having a good go at it this summer.

Fans’ expectations – It is traditionally more hope than expectation at Forest, following two decades outside the top flight. But this season, the feeling is that they have a squad that is good enough for a top six finish at least.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Forest

Relegated – Bolton, Rotherham, QPR

Preston North End

Reporter – Dave Seddon (Lancashire Post)

Key arrivals – Ryan Ledson, Graham Burke, Jordan Storey, Andrew Hughes, Michael Crowe

Main departures – Greg Cunningham, John Welsh

How’s your budget? – Probably one of the lowest four or five in the division although fees have been paid for four players so far and cash is available for a couple more signings before the deadline. North End operate within their means and like to look to League One/Two for up-and-coming talent. They also like the Irish market, Graham Burke the latest signing from the League of Ireland.

Fans’ expectations – After finishing in seventh, only two points outside the play-offs, expectation has risen among the supporters. They liked what Alex Neil did in his first season in charge, giving North End fresh energy and changing the mantra from ‘we’re happy to be here’ to one of ‘we’re going for it’.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Preston (play-offs).

Relegated – Rotherham, Bolton, Birmingham


Reporter – Phil Spencer (Football.London)

Key arrivals – Toni Leistner on a free transfer from Union Berlin

Main departures – Nedum Onuoha, James Perch, Jamie Mackie and Jack Robinson (all released), Alex Smithies sold to Cardiff City

How’s your budget? – Practically non-existent after the club reached a settlement on their FFP dispute. Any signings are likely to be bargain deals, free transfers and loans.

Fans’ expectations – Given the implications of a transfer embargo and a hefty FFP fine, fans are typically realistic in their aspirations. QPR finished 16th last term and finishing anywhere around the same place has to be seen as a success given the circumstances.

Promoted – Swansea, Stoke City, Middlesbrough

Relegated – Rotherham, Bolton and Wigan


Reporter – Jonathan Low (Football.London/Reading-FC)

Key arrivals – Andy Yiadom, John O’Shea, David Meyler and Marc McNulty. Darren Sidoel has joined the U23s.

Main departures – Yann Kermorgant, Joseph Mendes, Stephen Quinn, Deniss Rakels and Jonathan Bond.

How’s your budget? – Not a lot to play with. Can’t see more than a couple of million being spent on any one player. The only way is if they sell Liam Moore - the most saleable asset - for a significant fee.

Fans’ expectations – Given the summer recruitment so far, not too high. They’re hoping for an improvement on last season’s display which is not hard as they can’t steep any lower.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Norwich City

Relegated – Bolton, Rotherham, Ipswich

Rotherham United

Reporter – Paul Davis (The Sheffield Star)

Key arrivals – Goalkeeper Marek Rodak, right-backs Zak Vyner and Billy Jones, centre-halves Clark Robertson and Sean Raggett and centre-forward Kyle Vassell.

Main departures – Right-backs Josh Emmanuel and Shaun Cummings, central midfielder Richie Towell (although Rotherham want him back on loan again from Brighton) and centre-forward Jonson Clarke-Harris.

How’s your budget? – The Millers are a stable club with no financial problems but their budget will be one of the smallest in the division.

Fans’ expectations – Staying up would be just fine, although Paul Warne’s side will be as fit as any in the Championship and might surprise one or two observers.

Promoted – Middlesbrough, Stoke, Nottingham Forest.

Relegated – Reading, Bolton, Hull.

Sheffield United

Reporter – Danny Hall (The Star)

Key arrivals – John Egan, £4.1m from Brentford. Dean Henderson, loan (Manchester United). Ben Woodburn, loan (Liverpool).

Main departures – David Brooks (Bournemouth)

How’s your budget? – Decent. United broke their transfer record to sign John Egan and have offered £5m for Martyn Waghorn at Ipswich. They’re still nowhere near the bigger hitters of the division, though.

Fans’ expectations – Probably divided between thinking they’ll go better than last season, tenth, and worrying that they’ll struggle a little without any new incomings.

Promoted – Forest, Stoke, West Brom

Relegated – Ipswich, Hull, Reading

Sheffield Wednesday

Reporter – Dom Howson (The Star)

Key arrivals – Not signed anyone.

Main departures – Ross Wallace, Glenn Loovens, Jack Hunt, Jordan Rhodes

How’s your budget? – After three years of heavy spending on recruitment, the Owls have been forced to make cut backs in an attempt to comply with profitability and sustainability regulations. Boss Jos Luhukay has had little money to play with since taking over the reins last January.

Fans’ expectations – Expectation levels are not as high following the team’s disappointing 2017/18 campaign. And given their lack of transfer activity, most fans would probably take another year of consolidation.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion

Relegated – Rotherham, Bolton, Blackburn

Stoke City

Reporter – Martin Spinks (The Sentinel)

Key arrivals – Wingers James McClean and Tom Ince, striker Benik Afobe and Nigerian international midfielder Peter Etebo

Main departures – Wingers Xherdan Shaqiri and Ramadan - and hopefully a few more to follow

How’s your budget? – The owners have backed Gary Rowett and don’t look as though they intend to die wondering when it comes to winning promotion at the first time of asking

Fans’ expectations – The mood has swing markedly thanks to the summer changes in management/players and there’s definitely a feel-good factor that probably means an expectation of a minimum top-6 finish among the majority of fans

Promoted – Middlesbrough, Stoke City and Aston Villa

Relegated – Rotherham, Bolton and Reading

Swansea City

Reporter – Andrew Gwilym (Wales Online)

Key arrivals – Yan Dhanda, Joel Asoro

Main departures – Lukasz Fabianski, Ki Sung-yueng, Leon Britton, Angel Rangel, Roque Mesa, Borja Baston, Kyle Bartley, Andre Ayew

How’s your budget? – Very little has been spent so far this summer with Swansea having restructured their recruitment department amidst a need to offload some of their higher earners following relegation. Expect more new faces before the window shuts but the rebuilding job will take time.

Fans’ expectations – Very few are looking at the prospect of promotion with a mid-table finish the general expectation. This needs to be a longer-term project and Graham Potter needs time and patience to help get things back on track.

Promoted – Stoke, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest

Relegated – Rotherham, Bolton, Ipswich

West Bromwich Albion

Reporter – Joseph Chapman (Birmingham Mail/Live)

Key arrivals – Sam Johnstone (Manchester United), Kyle Bartley (Swansea), Harvey Barnes (Leicester, loan), Jonathan Bond (free agent), Conor Townsend (Scunthorpe)

Main departures – Jonny Evans (Leicester), Ben Foster (Watford), James McClean (Stoke), Gareth McAuley, Boaz Myhill, Claudio Yacob (all released)

How’s your budget? – Having splashed out on Sam Johnstone and spent money too on Kyle Bartley, Albion remain in the black for this window. They’ve made a tidy profit on James McClean and have got their money back on Ben Foster after seven years of service. Expect them to spend more before the window shuts.

Fans’ expectations – Naturally, promotion is on the minds of many fans having come down from the top flight last season. They’re among the favourites with the bookies, but it must be pointed out that Albion have won just six of their last 47 league matches - that’s form that should temper expectations of repeating what Wolves did, at least!

Promoted – Derby, Stoke, Middlesbrough

Relegated – Rotherham, Hull, Reading

Wigan Athletic

Reporter – Paul Kendrick (Wigan Observer/Wigan Post)

Key arrivals – Callum McManaman, Christian Walton, Leonardo Da Silva Lopes, Kal Naismith, Reece James

Main departures – David Perkins, Donervon Daniels, Reece James, Andy Kellett, Noel Hunt

How’s your budget? – With the club in the midst of a takeover, boss Paul Cook hasn’t had much funds at his disposal, only shelling out for one player (Da Silva Lopes) so far. But at the same time he’s kept hold of all of his key players from the League One title-winning side.

Fans’ expectations – While the younger end of the fanbase remain hopeful of a Premier League return, the older end still see the Championship as the club punching above its weight and are happy to be here. The truth is probably somewhere in between, and the security of mid-table will be the aim.

Promoted – Middlesbrough, Stoke, Swansea

Relegated – Bolton, Ipswich, Rotherham

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