The new sponsor for the Football league, npower, has had one of the UK’s leading silversmiths, Ottewill, construct brand new trophies for the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2.
All three trophies contain a new three handle design and are silver plated with gold handles. The Championship trophy stands 600mm high and weighs 12kg, whereas the League 1 and 2 trophies weigh 20kg and stand at 750mm high. The company’s marketing director, Kevin Peake, said: “We wanted a fresh design that reflected our excitement about becoming new sponsors. We think these new trophies do exactly that and we’re delighted to be unveiling the new designs to mark the first weekend of the new season.” The question now is who is in the running to lift these trophies at the end of the season.
Let’s start with the Championship. Any number of teams is in the running to lift the trophy this season, such is the competitive nature of the division. The bookmakers made Middlesbrough the favourites, closely followed by Nottingham Forest, but with both of those teams being beaten on the opening weekend, there will be dips in the form from the bookies. This writer believes that it will be between Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town. Burnley have a chance, because of their experience in the Premier League and they have kept the nucleus of the side that went up from the Championship two years ago. Nottingham Forest were in the mix last season and the experience that Roy Keane possesses will give Ipswich a massive chance.
In League 1, the outright favourites were Southampton, but their defeat to Plymouth Argyle at St. Mary’s Stadium dropped their odds slightly. Southampton will still be the clear favourites with the firepower of Ricky Lambert and the playmaking abilities of Adam Lallana and if those two can overcome their injuries, the Saints should have a big chance. Sheffield Wednesday will also be in with a fighting shout, such is their prestige and talent within the team, and an outside bet would be on Phil Parkinson’s Charlton Athletic, after their fourth placed finish last season.
League 2 is also difficult to call. The only teams that looked like going up last season were Notts County, Rochdale and Bournemouth and all those teams fulfilled the expectations, alongside Play-Off winners Dagenham & Redbridge. Bradford are the bookies favourites, but time and time again, they are given all the odds, all the backing and do not deliver, finishing 14th last season. The best bet would be Rotherham United. With an experienced manager in Ronnie Moore and the goals that Adam le Fondre provides, they will look to bounce back from their Play-Off final heartache last season. Another good bet would be with Wycombe Wanderers. Gary Waddock is at the helm and they have exciting young players, such as Matt Phillips and Jon Paul Pittman, willing to learn. The outside chance would go to Bury. They are a formidable opponent and if they can stop falling apart towards the back end of the season, they can push up to the title.
Whoever lifts the title, the npower Football League promises to provide excitement again and joy for those lifting the new npower trophies when May comes around.