Stelling offers Championship promotion picks and hopes promising bosses are recognised

Jeff Stelling Carlsberg Peoples Pundit

Jeff Stelling discusses the Championship promotion picture and potential Premier League futures for Eddie Howe, Aitor Karanka and other promising bosses.

Jeff Stelling Carlsberg Peoples Pundit

If you think matters at the top and bottom of the Premier League are tight, try casting an eye down a division to the battle unfolding at the business end of the Championship.

With just seven games remaining, the top eight are separated by just eight points.

Bournemouth hold a slender one-point lead at the summit, with Watford, Middlesbrough and Norwich City all pushing hard behind them for one of the much sought-after automatic promotion spots.

Derby County, despite their recent wobble, are also very much in the mix, while Ipswich Town, Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers are determined to get a shot at life in the top-flight.

Nottingham Forest, 10 points off the play-off places, appear to have given themselves too much to do, meaning that the remainder of the season will be a scrap to squeeze eight into six.

Anything could happen from this point, with it almost impossible to call what the final standings will be and who will be taking their seat among English football’s elite in 2015/16.

We asked Jeff Stelling to give it a shot, though, with the Soccer Saturday anchorman gazing into his crystal ball.

Jeff Stelling Carlsberg Peoples Pundit

Stelling is supporting North West finalist Andy Dawber inThe People's Pundit, championed by the Carlsberg Fan Squad, and went to visit him in his local pub to give him some top tips on punditry. While there, he told HITC Sport during a telephone interview: “It’s been fantastic. I think everybody was waiting for Bournemouth to have a wobble. They play their football every single week. Eddie Howe has got them playing THE most attractive brand of football in the division. They go forward all the time, they are the top goalscorers in England, and that tells its own story. I don’t think they are going to have a wobble.

“If Bournemouth were in the Premier League, I don’t know how they would cope because their ground only holds 12,000, but dreams can come true. I think they are going to have a ferocious challenge. Norwich are on fire, and also from Middlesbrough. I know they played them last weekend, but I think Bournemouth were maybe a little bit flattered by the scoreline.

“Middlesbrough are really well organised, they have a really good coach in Karanka and I think it will be two of those three. I think Derby have left themselves with a little bit too much to do and have slipped away from the pace. Ipswich have got a bit to do as well. All of the sides up there have had a fantastic season but if you had to press me, it might be Norwich and Middlesbrough with Bournemouth just missing out, but I would love to see them go up.”

The three sides mentioned by Stelling as promotion possibles are all working under highly-rated young bosses.

Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe is 37, Middlesbrough’s Aitor Karanka 41 and Norwich City’s Alex Neil just 33.

They are part of a new generation of coaching talent that has been embraced by the Football League, with Stelling of the opinion that it is about time Premier League clubs started to break from tradition and start casting their net a little closer to home when looking for managerial inspiration.

He said: “I think it’s great to see. When Premier League jobs come up I think it’s time, not just from the Championship but the lower leagues as well, for people to start taking a look at some of the younger managers.

“Eddie Howe, we all know what sort of job he has done at Bournemouth, but look at Gary Rowett at Birmingham, who has done a phenomenal job – six defeats in 26 for a club that were absolutely on their knees. Look at what Steve Cotterill has done at Bristol City.

“I think we have got some talented young managers and if they were given a chance in the Premier League, I’m sure they would succeed. It’s still the case though that we go for the Dick Advocaats. No disrespect to him, he did a great job at Rangers and he has got a good track record, but I would love to have seen a young manager given an opportunity. Inevitably, the main way to do it is taking a club up, like Sean Dyche (at Burnley), and get into the Premier League by virtue of promotion. “

Sunderland have turned to wily old Dutchman Advocaat on this occasion, but they did plump for Gus Poyet prior to that – with the Uruguayan having cut his teeth at Brighton & Hove Albion – and ex-Swindon Town boss Paolo Di Canio further down the line.

Those appointments have been the exception rather than the norm, though, with too many clubs still favouring untested managers from around the world over talent moulded in their own backyard.

That situation may change over the coming years, and the efforts of the Howes and Karankas of this world should go a long way towards altering the recruitment policy of the Premier League heavyweights.

The mission of the Carlsberg fan squad is to make football better for fans. That's why, If Carlsberg did Pundits…they'd probably be just like you. Jeff Stelling visited North West finalist, Andy Dawber, at the John Millngton Pub in Manchester to help him prepare for Boot Camp in the People's Pundit, championed by Carlsberg – the official beer of the Premier League. To find out how Andy and all of our other pundits get on in the race to secure their big break on talkSPORT, or to find details of a regional heat near you, head to Plus, if you'd like to show your support to Andy, follow him @AndyDawber #PeoplesPundit

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