Shaun Derry picks out his tips to be challenging for the Championship
Shaun Derry reckons up to 14 teams could be contesting for a top-six place in the Championship.
Last Updated: 02/08/13 10:34am
The QPR midfielder told FL72 Season Preview that Rangers are targeting an immediate return to the Premier League after last season's relegation - but is fully aware there are plenty of other talented sides gunning for promotion to the top flight.
Last year's Championship was remarkably competitive, with just 10 points separating sixth and 19th at the end of the campaign and Derry is expecting a whole host of clubs to be vying for the automatic and play-off places again this term.
"This division is full of many teams capable of getting into the top six," said the combative 35-year-old.
"I feel there are 12-14 capable teams, so hitting form at the right time is going to be massive, especially around the Christmas period where it settles down a little.
"But the key to the Championship is you have to hit the ground running because if you don't it can be a very difficult season."
Each week FL72 will preview the weekend's Football League action and ahead of the new season Derry gave his verdict on some of the sides he thinks could be challenging at the top end of the second tier table come May, kicking off with his QPR side...
Harry Redknapp, every time he addresses the players, mentions promotion. Promotion, promotion, promotion is always coming out of his mouth. And we're not thinking of anything else. We let ourselves down massively last year and we've got to stand up and be counted this year. Even though we got relegated out of the Premier League it wasn't about the ability of the players - we've got some fantastic players - but the pressure will be on us this year and we've got to put that right.
They've got stability over at Reading and they've got a new manager in Nigel Adkins who has had a fantastic last couple of years, albeit being sacked at Southampton. They've not lost many players from last season as well, which is a huge, huge bonus for them.
Judging by the amount of players that have come through the door at Wigan, they are probably aware of what happened to Birmingham a couple of years ago [when they were combining a Championship campaign with European football] and they realise they've got to make a number of signings to play in the region of 65, 66 games this year. But the signings they've made have been top draw and they've got a good new manager in Owen Coyle.
The hangover from losing a play-off final can last. Watford have got a very good squad and have signed the vast majority of the Udinese guys who were on loan last season - but if you don't start well the hangover can linger. You can say everyone knows how they play but ultimately when you're signing guys who have made such an impact, as permanent signings they will feel more part of the club and that could play to Watford's advantage.
Dougie Freedman has to take a great amount of responsibility for what Crystal Palace achieved before Ian Holloway got them to the promised land. Dougie has had some time at Bolton to install his mark on the team and they reacted really well to him last season and went on a fine run of form before just losing out on the last game of the season. They're my bets to be right up there.
With Gus Poyet last year they were playing some fantastic stuff and I had them as favourites to go up in the play-offs. It obviously didn't work out and they lost to Crystal Palace but I think new boss Oscar Garcia comes in under the radar which will help him. They also have a lot of Spanish players down on the South Coast, so the transition will be quite smooth. I still think they'll be a strong side this season.
They have signed Jamie Mackie from my side, QPR, and he will be a very good player for them at this level. I was surprised he left us. But he'll be going into Forest as part of a strong line-up of six or seven attacking players - and goals are massive at this level. They'll also be right up there.
It's a hard job Gary Bowyer has got at Blackburn. It's been crazy times for the last two years and just think they wished Steve Kean away early doors when he was in fourth position in the Championship. It's going to be a difficult time for Gary because he's got a very young squad and with the Venkys in charge you just don't know what's going to happen next.
I feel they've made some good signings. They've got a new manager there in Steve Lomas and I've been to see them a few times; they're a very passionate bunch down at the Den. But the signings they've made are Championship quality and good, good players and I expect them to finish a lot higher than they did last year.
People say it's a huge jump up from League One but you can only judge it on past seasons where we've seen Norwich and Southampton make the double jump into the Premier League. What helps is when you're winning games it becomes ingrained in the way you train and the way you approach games. The promoted sides, Doncaster, Yeovil and Bournemouth, will want to carry on as normal. I don't think they'll be looking at the Championship and saying 'we have to change dramatically how we approach the game and go about playing the opposition'. They've just got to continue on the way they have.
Sky Sports will be showing five games involving Football League sides over the next five days - three Championship fixtures and two Capital One Cup contests...
Sheffield United v Notts County - 7pm, Fri, Sky Sports 1
Burnley v Bolton - 12pm, Sat, Sky Sports 1
Derby v Blackburn - 3.30pm, Sun, Sky Sports 1
Preston v Blackpool (Capital One Cup) - 7.30pm, Mon, Sky Sports 1
Morecambe v Wolves (Capital One Cup) - 7.30pm, Tue, Sky Sports 1