Predicting the unpredictable: Bolton and Burnley prove me wrong for very different reasons

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With the Championship taking a break this weekend, Vincent Ralph looks back at his pre-season predictions...

Some say it is akin to climbing Everest, while others say it is far more difficult than that. But one thing is for sure – it takes a brave man to predict how the Championship is going to ultimately pan out.

Well, a brave man or a foolish one. So here I am, predicting the unpredictable.

That is what I wrote back in August, when another Championship season was about to kick off and I – foolishly as it turned out – had a crack at guessing how the table would look come May.

With the international break taking a sizeable chunk out of my usual weekend entertainment, I decided to look back on my pre-season predictions, and while there is still plenty of football to be played, the current table and my hypothetical one look like completely different beasts.

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Most glaringly, while I predicted Bolton Wanderers would finish second, you would have to add a zero to the two to locate their current position.

Conversely, while I decided Burnley would finish 18th they are currently top of the pile.

I also felt that both Bournemouth and Blackpool would struggle, predicting 19th and 16th-place finishes respectively. And yet both currently find themselves in the top eight, while I find myself embarrassed and considering another career.

But in all seriousness, that is the allure of the Championship. You cannot predict it, even if you think you can. It is not so much unpredictable as a story with infinite twists. The fun is in watching them unfold, not trying to second-guess them.

It did not take a genius to know Queens Park Rangers would finish somewhere near the top, or that Yeovil Town would unfortunately struggle. But the Championship is the concrete cliché – the hardest division in England, because anyone really can beat anyone.

Perhaps by the end of the campaign the table will look a little more like mine. But I doubt it.

Below is how I believed the Championship table would look come May; with the sides' current league positions in brackets:

1. Queens Park Rangers (2)

2. Bolton Wanderers (20)

3. Reading (7)

4. Wigan Athletic (12)

5. Nottingham Forest (4)

6. Leeds United (14)

7. Watford (5)

8. Leicester City (3)

9. Brighton & Hove Albion (15)

10. Blackburn Rovers (9)

11. Middlesbrough (16)

12. Charlton Athletic (21)

13. Ipswich Town (11)

14. Derby County (10)

15. Birmingham City (19)

16. Blackpool (6)

17. Sheffield Wednesday (22)

18. Burnley (1)

19. Bournemouth (8)

20. Millwall (18)

21. Doncaster Rovers (17)

22. Barnsley (24)

23. Huddersfield Town (13)

24. Yeovil Town (23)

image: © Matthew Wilkinson

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