Football League Expert & Columnist
Fight for the top
Peter Beagrie assesses some of the promotion contenders ahead of the Championship season.
Last Updated: 15/08/12 6:23pm
The Championship promises to be as competitive as ever during the 2012-13 campaign with many teams having eyes on promotion to the Promised Land of the Premier League.
Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves will be looking for an immediate return to the top flight, while Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield, elevated from League One during the previous term, will be aiming to stamp their authority on the division.
Plenty of other big clubs will be in the mix, too, and Sky Sports' Football League correspondent Peter Beagrie has taken an in-depth look at some of the teams that are figuring highly in the bookmakers' thoughts...
The Championship this year could be a battle between the North West and the Midlands.
The three sides that have been relegated from the Premier League look in very good order ahead of the big kick-off and have been able to keep a lot of their better players.
Bolton (13/2f with Sky Bet) have cleared out a lot of dead wood and made some very impressive signings, particularly in that central midfield area with Keith Andrews.
They will also be welcoming back two players who missed last season in Lee Chung-Yong and Stuart Holden and, in Owen Coyle, have a manager who has won promotion before.
I can see Wolves (8/1) being major players but it will be vital that they keep hold of Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher, both of whom are being sought by Premier League clubs.
Fletcher could be a revelation in the Championship as he has got every single attribute needed: he is fantastic in the air and can score goals out of nothing. Plus, Jarvis should be devastating at that level. Those two could make Ståle Solbakken's side automatic promotion contenders.
I don't think the continued uncertainty over Steve Kean's future will affect Blackburn (10/1) and they are rightly one of the favourites because of the strength of their squad.
Losing Yakubu and Junior Hoilett is a blow - they would have lit up the Championship - but they have acquired brilliantly with the midfield signings of Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu and are a match for anyone in the centre of the park and at the back.
Leon Best's injury is unfortunate, though, and you wonder whether a lack of an out-and-out goalscorer could scupper their promotion aims.
Rovers are after Huddersfield's Jordan Rhodes and I would argue that it is as important for Blackburn to get him as it is for Huddersfield to keep him.
Leicester (15/2) are up there in the bookmakers' reckoning but I am not sure how big a threat they will be. The squad looks to have the strength in depth but there have been a lot of changes at the club in recent seasons and key partnerships have not had time to develop.
Nottingham Forest (12/1) have been taken over and a lot of people might have expected them to splash the cash, but it has been the other way around and they have lost important players like Chris Gunter, Luke Chambers and Garath McCleary.
The appointment of Sean O'Driscoll as manager is a bit of a surprise as the owners said they would be looking for a high-profile boss when they came in.
But I am pleased he has got his chance over a box-office figure who doesn't know the division. Still, I would pick four or five other teams over Forest to make the play-offs.
Leeds (11/1) have a proven manager at this level in Neil Warnock and he has been able to significantly strengthen over the summer.
Adam Clayton has moved to Huddersfield and that will be a big loss, but Neil has beefed up his backline with Jason Pearce and Adam Drury and he now has a strike partner for Luciano Becchio in the shape of Luke Varney, who will work tirelessly in the channels.
United's only problem could be in the wide areas where they lack a creative dazzler following the loss of Max Gradel last summer and Robert Snodgrass this.
They used to be able to overturn possession and hit people on the break but I think they are lacking that ability at the moment.
That's Peter's view but who do YOU think will soar or struggle in this season's Championship? Should he have mentioned YOUR club as promotion contenders? Let us know using the feedback form below...
Beags will look at the League One and Two sides later in the week.
Over the course of the campaign, Beags will be answering YOUR Football League questions in his weekly column. So whoever you support, make sure you send in your posers via the feedback form for Peter to sink his teeth into.