QPR, Reading and Wigan tipped to win promotion from Championship
Harry Redknapp's expertise puts QPR in pole position to win the Championship, says Garry Birtles.
Last Updated: 30/07/13 10:21am
That's the view of Sky Sports' Garry Birtles who reckons the former Tottenham and Portsmouth boss can inspire Rangers to an immediate top flight return.
QPR, along with Reading and Wigan, dropped into the Championship last season but Birtles predicts all three will be poised for promotion come the end of the 2013/14 campaign.
"You have to say QPR, because of their manager, are the best equipped of the relegated Premier League sides to bounce straight back up," he told Sky Sports News.
"I think Harry Redknapp will get the right atmosphere in the dressing room, the right players and they haven't lost a number of players, either.
"Wigan have lost key elements of their team but they've got a new manager in Owen Coyle, who is a very good manager and knows the division inside out, so they have a chance, although I think it will be more difficult for them.
"And then Reading, under Nigel Adkins, have a fabulous chance because they haven't lost players, they've got a very good squad and one that is very knowledgeable about the Championship.
"The main protagonists will be those three."
Birtles is also expecting last season's Play-Off Final runners-up Watford, Nottingham Forest and Bolton to feature prominently at the top end of the table and believes that trio will be the relegated sides' biggest threat.
"The way Watford play football is absolutely fantastic but it's all about the way they respond from the heartache of missing out last season," said Birtles.
"Can they pick themselves up? They've got a level-headed manager in Gianfranco Zola and I'm sure his preparation during the summer will have been fantastic and he'll have them ready, without a doubt.
"Forest, meanwhile, had a decent pop at it last season. Billy Davies came in late and I think there's a bit of stability there now. Too many managers came and went but Billy knows all about Forest, he knows about getting teams into play-offs and they've got an outside chance.
"And then there's Dougie Freedman's Bolton. What a job he did at Crystal Palace to set them up for last season and now he'll want to do the same with Bolton - and I'm sure he can. Players respond to him and they could be dark horses."
Doncaster, Bournemouth and Yeovil are also new to the Championship, having won promotion from League One, however, Birtles suspects all three will be facing tough campaigns in the second tier.
He is tipping the Cherries to fair best, but pointed to the close finish to the 2012/13 season, where a number of teams were facing the drop on the final day of the season, as evidence of how competitive the division is.
"There are so many good teams in the Championship and we saw last season that 50 points weren't enough to guarantee you safety and it went right to the wire," said Birtles.
"We've seen teams before who have skated through from League One, through the Championship and into the Premier League but you have to say that would be very difficult [for these sides].
"Out of the three you'd have to say Bournemouth, under Eddie Howe, have got the best chance, because of the transformation when he went back and how he lifted the players.
"Yeovil did a fantastic job last season when nobody expected them to do it, while Doncaster play some fantastic football, but it's going to be difficult for those promoted teams."
League One & Two
Birtles also offered his thoughts on who would prevail in League One and League Two...
League One: "Sheffield United have been set up nicely by Danny Wilson to progress. It didn't quite work for Danny but everything is in place to be successful and they will be one of the teams up there fighting on a consistent basis.
Notts County were right on the edge of the play offs last season, can they push on? While at Peterborough Darren Ferguson has done a great job there; he knows how to get promoted and he knows the division inside out. They were unlucky to get relegated last season and Ferguson will have learnt from that and have them primed and ready to get back into the Championship.
And then there's Wolves. Everyone is going to ask about them and whether they can bounce back. Well, it's not always guaranteed but they have the quality there, they have the fans to get behind them. Can they get used to life in League One? The manager Kenny Jackett has to motivate them to think they can get straight back."
League Two: "Scunthorpe will be right up there. Having been promoted from this division before they know all about it, which is so important.
Southend will be strong again after showing real consistency last year and they will be hard to beat, while Northampton will also be hoping to push on after a great 2012/13 season.
Then, looking at the promoted sides, Mansfield, coming up from non-league will be confident of making a little bit of movement and it will be nice to see Newport in there again after all these years."