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Beyond the promised land

Coca Cola Football League Season 2006/7
Championship | League 1 | League 2

If, for 72 football clubs, the Premiership represents the promised land, the alternative is not so bad.

The Championship is a well-supported and flourishing league, comfortably the most popular second division in world football. There is evidence to suggest, too, that though money is inevitably tight, Leagues One and Two are thriving; though Rotherham came perilously close to bankruptcy last season, all have weathered the crisis created by the collapse of ITV Digital.

They may lack the glitz and the glamour of the top flight, but there are plenty of examples of well-run community clubs, far less reliant on television for revenue and billionaire benefactors for new recruits.

For two weeks, the Championship and Leagues One and Two will have a share of the spotlight before the Premiership, the megalomaniacal big brother, returns to dominate on August 19.

A showcase for football outside the elite comes at a time in the campaign when reality is yet to impinge on dreams of promotion. It is a dream almost all can share; Watford, Southend and Colchester could celebrate their elevation last season, achievements few outside those clubs had considered possible. Predictable it is not.

Now, however, financial muscle is being flexed again by supposed favourites. For the first time in several seasons, Championship clubs could be classed as big spenders, even if the source of their wealth is often the Premiership. Crystal Palace, for example, have been able to buy because of the sale of Andrew Johnson. Birmingham are using the proceeds of the departures of Emile Heskey and Jermaine Pennant to strengthen their squad. Southampton, after cashing in on Peter Crouch and Theo Walcott, have now granted the money to George Burley.

Shopping sprees could provide a rejuvenation of sorts. More may be required after a season where - despite notable exceptions such as Reading - too many teams suffered a relapse, playing unadventurous and needlessly direct football. Two-thirds of them, including fifth-placed Leeds, scored, on average, fewer than five goals every four games. At many of those clubs, crowds remained impressively high, but they deserved more entertainment for their loyalty.

It must be an objective for the forthcoming campaign. For all but the rank outsiders in their respective divisions, a play-off place will figure, however optimistically, on the agenda. And having got our excuses about the unpredictability of the Football League in early, here are the Soccernet suggestions as to how each team will finish:


1. West Brom
2. Southampton
3. Crystal Palace
4. Birmingham City
5. Coventry City
6. Sunderland
7. Derby County
8. Leeds United
9. Wolves
10. Burnley
11. Norwich City
12. Preston
13. Leicester City
14. Cardiff City
15. Stoke City
16. Hull
17. Ipswich Town
18. Sheffield Wednesday
19. Plymouth Argyle
20. Southend United
21. Luton Town
22. Barnsley
23. QPR
24. Colchester United

League One

1. Swansea City
2. Huddersfield Town
3. Nottingham Forest
4. Bristol City
5. Millwall
6. Tranmere Rovers
7. Doncaster Rovers
8. Crewe Alexandra
9. Brighton and Hove Albion
10. Northampton Town
11. Bradford City
12. Brentford
13. Carlisle United
14. Oldham Athletic
15. Blackpool
16. Port Vale
17. Leyton Orient
18. Gillingham
19. Chesterfield
20. Yeovil Town
21. Bournemouth
22. Cheltenham Town
23. Scunthorpe United
24. Rotherham United

League Two

1. Wycombe Wanderers
2. Peterborough
3. Walsall
4. Wrexham
5. Hartlepool
6. MK Dons
7. Shrewsbury
8. Bristol Rovers
9. Chester
10. Torquay
11. Notts County
12. Darlington
13. Swindon
14. Boston United
15. Grimsby
16. Accrington
17. Bury
18. Stockport
19. Lincoln
20. Macclesfield
21. Rochdale
22. Hereford
23. Mansfield
24. Barnet

Coca Cola Football League Season 2006/7
Championship | League 1 | League 2

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