LOOKING at the Championship this season, it is quite simply the toughest league in the country; it’s even tougher than the Premier League.
Just look at the teams who didn’t even get in the play-offs last season such as Wolves and there will be good teams who will miss out again this year, looking at the strength in depth in the division.
In the Premier League, some of the teams will look at games and say: ‘We have three points in this game and this one there and that one and that one’. You can identify runs of wins and that is not debasing the league. You just don’t get that in the Championship.
In the Championship, every single week you are virtually playing against somebody who has got aspirations of getting into the Premier League.
From start to finish, it is almost full of ex-Premier League sides. From the top, there’s Blackburn, Birmingham, Bolton, Charlton, Fulham, Hull, Ipswich. And the list goes on and on.
You see evidence of that in Leeds’ first month too. Burnley, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday and one of the new boys in Bristol City away is also tough. And so it goes on.
But it is the same for everybody in fairness and I am sure most teams will be looking at the fixture lists thinking: ‘Bloody hell, we don’t get a break here!’ It will mostly be like that all the way through.
Most of the teams who have been in the Premier League will be thinking that they can get promotion and can push on.
It is such a big season for lots of clubs. The likes of Burnley and Hull will be wanting to go straight back up because of the money that will be there in the Premier League with the new TV deal from next season.
A few teams such as Derby County seem to be really going for it, with a new manager as well in Paul Clement. While if Middlesbrough manage to bring Jordan Rhodes in, that brings them into the equation even more. Wolves as well have a good chance for me.
Others who haven’t been in the top-flight such as Bristol City will be looking for a really good season and the likes of Brentford will be thinking the same too.
Some such as Rotherham will be just happy to be there, but they won’t be many like that and most will have aspirations of promotion.
Leeds United-wise, they will thinking that they have a chance of the play-offs, most definitely.
Moreso, with this week’s signing of Stuart Dallas to provide some much-needed width, which can only be a good thing.
He’s worked with Uwe at Brentford before and know each other, which is a plus.
Leeds have got to make progress this year and that will be Uwe Rosler’s remit from the owner. I think they are capable of getting into the play-offs, I really do.
They are in with a shout.
But it is all about being consistent, that old word. And they weren’t last year.
It was a time when they might win three or four on the spin, but then they would lose a few or whatever.
You need more; that measure of consistency that marks the top teams out.
Leeds sort of flirted with things at times last season, but that was all. Win a few, then fall back. You can’t afford to do that and must be winning regularly and getting points on the board and they need a really good start for me. That is what Uwe will be saying to the players. The message will be: ‘We can’t afford to get left behind.’
That is going to be really difficult with the teams they are going to play early on. Right from the opening day game against Burnley, which is one of the hardest ones that they could have had.
Leeds have made some good acquisitions, while much has been made of Adam Pearson coming in and being one of Leeds’ ‘best signings’ and his arrival has been important.
Adam is someone who knows the way of football over here.
He has been involved in it throughout his working life, along with rugby. But for the majority of the time, it’s been football.
From what I have gleaned, I think Massimo Cellino probably didn’t realise the amount of stuff that he would have to deal with as Leeds owner and has realised he needed a really strong right-hand man who knew the game over here.
I think it is only good for Leeds that Adam is in there. He has vast experience.
From this season, I notice there’s a few rule changes including clamping down on feigning injury to get an opponent sent off.
The problem is how do you totally prove that? But hopefully the rules will discourage it, although there will be a few grey areas on how you prove it.
But it’s a step in the right direction to try and eradicate diving and that element in the game.
There’s also a new code of conduct for managers and coaches in the technical area.
For me, if you kick a bottle of water on the sidelines, that can be deemed more as frustration than dissent and just a reaction.
But sarcastically clapping a decision does show dissent and is disrespectful.
Maybe it is a good thing to try and stop that.
But by and large, I do think managers are pretty well-behaved, especially with some of the refereeing decisions that you see.
Often, managers are very restrained, given the high-stakes of management these days, that’s for sure.