It’s been a while since the Championship has been covered in this space. As such it’s probably about time to introduce followers of the Premier League to their potential new entrants come August. Of course the season is not over yet and there is the always popular Championship playoff between finishers 3-6 in England’s second division. The top two positions are almost guaranteed at this point so little needs to be said in that regard. Here are the possible Premier League promotion clubs for 2010/11:
1. Newcastle United – Toon are almost mathematically guaranteed to finish no worse than second place. Fourteen points clear of third place with two games in hand, Newcastle will be returning to the Premier League. Obviously the Magpies are very familiar to the Premiership having spent the first eighteen years of league in the top flight, only dropping to the Championship for this season.
2. West Bromich Albion – Another familiar face for the Premier League, West Brom have been up and down between the two divisions over the past few years. The Baggies were in the Premiership as recently as last year and will be returning for 2010/11. There is still the very real possibility of West Brom winning the Championship but even if they don’t, they are eleven points clear of third place with two games in hand.
3. Nottingham Forest – Now we see a club that has not been in the Premier League for some time. 1998/99 was the last time Forest were in the top flight with the club spending a significant part of the past decade in League One. But Forest are back and are in third place at the moment. Nothing is certain of course, but it does seem like Forest will remain among playoff qualifiers with a nine point clearance of eighth place.
4. Cardiff City – Cardiff finished well last season but not quite well enough to secure a spot in the playoff. Cardiff finished in seventh place, though they were equal on points with Preston North End. Cardiff, if promoted this season, would be the first Welsh club to reach the Premier League since its inception in 1992. The Bluebirds have recovered from being one of the worst sides in all the Football League and are now challenging for a playoff position again.
5. Swansea City – The Swans were in League One just two years ago and are challenging again for a playoff position. If the season ended today they would face fellow Welsh side Cardiff in the playoff as they too are vying to become the first Welsh club in the Premier League. Swansea finished eighth last season, just six points off of the playoffs.
6. Leicester City – Leicester have not featured in the Premier League since 2003/04 and since then dropped into League One. The Foxes were only promoted to the Championship for this season after winning League One last season after several years of severe financial difficulties at Walkers Stadium. Currently only one point clear of seventh place, Leicester are probably ahead of schedule in trying to return to the Premier League. If the Foxes can maintain this position and reach the playoff it will be a massive achievement, even if they do not win.
7. Blackpool – The Seasiders are somewhat surprising this high in the table and are just a single point out of the playoffs as of this post. Last season the Pool finished in sixteenth place and have been in the Championship since winning promotion through the League One playoff in 2006/07. Blackpool have not been in the top flight since 1970 and were one of the worst clubs in the Football League in the early 1980s. Reaching the playoff, let alone winning it, would be a major accomplishment at Bloomfield Road.
8. Middlesbrough – Wee Gordon Strachan has brought Boro back from their terrible start and made their season somewhat respectable. Still, Boro are six points short of even sixth place and are somewhat unlikely to reach the playoff this season. Of course Boro are well known in the Premier League having just been relegated last season. It might take another year of rebuilding before top flight football is played again at the Riverside.