Keane's rivals for promotion

AFTER Survival Sunday and the play-off final Ipswich Town now know all the teams they will be up against next season.

Derek Davis

AFTER Survival Sunday and the play-off final Ipswich Town now know all the teams they will be up against next season. EADT chief football writer DEREK DAVIS takes a look at the six clubs who have just joined the Blues in the Championship.

BUOYED by the appointment of Roy Keane, boosted by the financial backing of owner Marcus Evans and invigorated by the positive mood of fans who are returning in droves, the Blues are confident of making a real challenge for Premier League promotion this coming


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They already know where the main threat to a top six finish comes from with Cardiff and Reading along with Swansea, Preston, and beaten Championsip play-off finalists Sheffield United likely to push on.

That challenge has now been added to by six new teams coming into the Championship.

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Leicester City, Peterborough United and Scunthorpe United, have all been promoted from League One while the big boys dropping from the Premier League are West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

The Baggies, with Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus remaining at the helm, will probably be the best-equipped of the three that have dropped to handle life in the Championship.

Fewer players will leave as clauses in contracts will mean West Brom not having to pay Premier League wages while still benefiting from a �10m parachute payment.

Their style of football works well at this level and players such as Chris Brunt will again have a big impact in the Championship.

The downside is every game will be a cup final, just as it will be for Newcastle and Middlesbrough, so they will need to find consistency and maintain a high momentum all year.

For the two north-east sides being in the Championship will be incredibly hard. The adjustment takes quite some time and if Alan Shearer remains in charge, which seems likely, he will basically have to start again.

Big names like Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, Obefami Martins, Joey Barton and maybe Nicky Butt, will be off and with Andy Carroll already likely to miss the start of next season through injury, Shearer will have a big rebuilding process to go through.

He will try and ship out big disappointments like Xisco, a �5.7m flop brought in by Dennis Wise, who many see as the reason why the Magpies are where they are now.

But Toon legend Shearer should be given the time and money to start afresh and much will depend on how quickly they can find their feet and start going on a winning run although it may be they don't show until the second half of the campaign.

Similarly for Gareth Southgate's Boro.

While Shearer and Mowbray will have the backing of the fans and the board, Southgate will be under enormous pressure from day one.

He will be under constant threat with targets, real or imaginary, being 10 games, then the end of November and then Christmas, to make sure they get it right and will need to be top six from September onwards.

They will also lose key players like Stewart Downing and David Wheater and want to get rid of

stars such as �12m striker Afonso Alves to raise cash for better suited individuals and get the wage bill down.

For the teams coming up there is a completely different pressure.

Avoiding going straight back down is the number one priority. All will be happy with mid-table consolidation, although one could be in among he play-off chasing pack.

We saw it last season with Swansea doing so well, Bristol City the year before and Milan Mandaric will probably feel Nigel Pearson's Leicester can be the team this year.

The Foxes came up as champions and playing a brand of football that belies the seemingly dour exterior of manager Pearson.

His first signing after taking over was Michael Morrison, a lad from Haverhill who came through the youth ranks at Cambridge United before making the move last


While Morrison is the relative youth, former Blues favourite Wayne Brown offers experience.

The East Anglian connection is added to by Carl Pentney, the back-up keeper who hails from Brightlingsea and is the son of well-known non-league keeper Lloyd Pentney.

The Posh have Darren Ferguson in charge, son of Sir Alex, and with the backing of multi-millionaire Irish property magnate Darragh MacAnthony have an impressive leadership that has spent wisely.

Joe Lewis, a �500,000 signing from Norwich City, is in the England frame while skipper Craig Morgan is a full Wales international and United have a good mix that could see them top 10 at least.

They may have come up via the play-offs after victory over Millwall at Wembley and will be favourites for an instant return to League One but Scunthorpe United could be a surprise package.

Nigel Adkins will try to keep Liam Trotter and the Ipswich midfielder may feel he has more chance of regular football at the Iron than he will with Roy Keane's Town.

Fitting in at Glandford Road has been key for Trotter and the team spirit forged by Adkins has been a massive factor in their success after squeezing into the play-offs on the last day.

In a similar way to Doncaster, Scunthorpe will be a tough team to beat this year and while they may not pull up many trees they will take points off the top teams and will probably do enough to keep away from trouble at the bottom.

It promises to be another tough season in what is one of the most competitive divisions in the world and Ipswich fans will enjoy trips to St James' Park, The Walkers Stadium and The Hawthorns once more but with Keane in charge it promises to be an exciting ride.

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