Brighton & Hove Albion
Won the League 1 title in style under the excellent management and stylish football of Gus Poyet. A move into the fantastic new Amex Community Stadium has ended 12 years of exile at the ramshackle Withdean Stadium.
1st in League 1
Craig Mackail-Smith (Peterborough Utd), Will Buckley (Watford), Will Hoskins (Bristol Rovers), Kazenga Lua-Lua (Newcastle Utd, loan), Roland Bergkamp (Excelsior), Romain Vincelot (Dagenham & Redbridge)
Glenn Murray (Crystal Palace), Elliott Bennett (Norwich City), Jim McNulty (Barnsley), Chris Holroyd (Rotherham), James Tunnicliffe (Wycombe Wanderers), Fran Sandaza (St. Johnstone)
Craig Mackail-Smith – Brighton’s record signing and last season’s top scorer in League 1. The signing was a real coup for Poyet, who was able to pinch his man from under the noses of Leicester and West Ham. If the former Peterborough man can continue his form into the Championship, Brighton could have a shot at the playoffs.
Look out as well for Dutch under-21 forward Roland Bergkamp, nephew of Arsenal legend Dennis.
West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Burnley
I’m going to go slightly against the grain in not tipping Leicester for promotion. In the battle of the former England managers, I think it will be Steve McLaren who wins out. No doubt you will be able to pillory me for this later. I would like to see Eddie Howe do well at Burnley after his frankly stunning achievements with Bournemouth, and their form late last season suggests they could be a threat.
Watford, Peterborough and Doncaster Rovers
Watford are broke and have lost half their squad and their manager. Peterborough have got Prince Ferg back at the helm, but the loss of Mackail-Smith’s goals will be a big hurdle to overcome. Doncaster struggled last season, finishing 21st, and will quite probably struggle again.
A playoff push might be a bit too much, but the club is ambitious and will certainly be aiming high. Fans will be happy with comfortable mid-table. Some have suggested that Poyet’s brand of good football might be found out in the rough and tumble of the Championship, but I disagree. Swansea have reached the Premier League playing passing football, and League 1 is also a tough division.
Whilst they will score goals, Brighton’s one weakness will be at the back where they have a tendency to concede sloppy late goals. But their performances against Portsmouth and Watford in the FA Cup last season show that they can cut it at this level, and the quality of reinforcements that Gus Poyet has brought in will ensure an enjoyable season.