Another thrilling Championship in store
Twelve months ago not many people would have expected to be entering this season with Queens' Park Rangers one of the favourites for promotion, but that's where we find ourselves.
The west London club, backed of course by billionaire owners, are expected to be there or there about come May, but for all their money they haven’t splashed the cash as much as many thought they would.
Ridiculous notions of Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo moving to Loftus Road have come and gone, and while those they bought look sensible buys, they’ve hardly set the world alight.
Players from Genoa, Fiorentina and, rather unbelievably, Real Madrid, have arrived on loan but they are not big names.
Iain Dowie will be desperate to prove his growing list of doubters wrong after unsuccessful stints at Charlton and Coventry, but even with that I don't think they will run away from anyone this year.
Birmingham and Reading have to be favourites for me.
Alex McLeish's side haven't lost too many players and have bought wisely, though they could suffer from the same problem Charlton had last year of struggling to adapt to the Championship’s gritty style of football.
Steve Coppell is an old hand and as a Palace fan it’s hard to see him doing anything wrong.
He's a master at getting teams into the top division and the summer exodus at Reading hasn't been as bad as many expected. While they won't run away with it I think they'll be in he top two come May.
Derby have bought a completely new side and will be desperate to bring the good times back to Pride Park after last season's Premiership embarrassment but I don’t see them doing better than a play-off place.
Sheffield United ended last season like a steam train and could gatecrash the automatic spots and Cardiff could be an outside bet alongside Nottingham Forest, who could be the Bristol City of this year.
City themselves showed plenty of character last season but will suffer second-season syndrome and end mid-table, while Wolves always flatter to deceive.
Tomorrow’s opponents Watford are ranked 12th in the odds for the Championship despite making the play-offs last year, largely because they have lost chunks of their squad and not replaced them.
Aidy Boothroyd seemed to have lost the support of the fans when we visited Vicarage Road in April and unless he gives them attractive football he could be first for the chop this season.
As for Palace, I have no doubt we will be up there. Going to the training ground to speak to Neil Warnock and the players last season it was evident the squad were enjoying themselves and I doubt there is a better atmosphere anywhere in the division.
While we might not be able to spend the millions of Birmingham and QPR, spirit, and of course Victor Moses, has to count for something and in this tight division I reckon it might be just what's needed.
Top six prediction: 1- Reading, 2- Sheffield United, 3-Birmingham, 4- QPR, 5- Palace, 6- Derby.
In this section
- Palace sitting comfortably
- Eagles still in period of transition
- Palace blog: Positivity the key for Eagles
- Dougie can prevent a repeat of last year's nervous finish
- Clyne shows what might have been for Bostock
- Freedman should follow Warnock's lead in dealing with Zaha
- Palace give cause for cautious optimism
- A Spurs Olympic win would be a disaster for Crystal Palace
- Stadium move will benefit Palace
- Is Freedman the right man for Palace?