From home kit leaks to unveiling parties, you can feel it in the air: Leeds United football is coming. In a little over a week, we get to see our lads take the pitch against Queens Park Rangers, and all the offseason drama comes to an end. We finally have matches to write about again.
But before we do that, we're taking a quick look at our preseason predictions. We'll have more in the days to come, but on Wednesday, we published part one of our Weekly Roundtable, asking the question: Which three Championship teams will be promoted in 2017? There was one universal pick in Newcastle, but the other choices varied.
And today, we're publishing the rest of our staff's predictions, and yes, the answers vary again without a single staff member agreement on all three choices. Are these three writers confident in Garry Monk's squad? Do they see Newcastle as runaway winners too? Find out below.
For part two, we’ve got sitting around the roundtable: Jack Dudley from Cambridgeshire, Sean Ryan from Dublin, and John Horne from Charlotte, North Carolina in the States.
All of us are "all Leeds," and all of us will try to answer the question we present every Wednesday to the best of our ability. It's not a quiz show, but it should give you insight into us as fans and writers alike.
And at the end, in the comments, don't forget to let us know how you'd answer the question of the week.
The Weekly Wednesday Roundtable (Part Two!)... begins now. Wait, is it a Weekly Friday Roundtable at this point? Probably.
Which three Championship sides will earn promotion in 2017?
Sean Ryan: Before I talk about the teams that I think will be plying their trade in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season, I would like to pass on my commiserations to our editor, Mr. Johnny Wakefield, who has clearly lost his mind with this article saying that Cellino has a plan. You'll be missed, Johnny.
Now onto the important question of the day. Who is going up this season? Easy. Newcastle, Norwich, and Leeds United.
NEWCASTLE: Newcastle have a squad that is capable of being at the very least a top 10 side in the Premier League and they have a very, very good manager. The signing of Matt Ritchie shows that Benitez knows what type of players he needs to be bringing in and even if they lose Sissoko they have more than enough quality to stroll away with the league in the same way that they did last time they were in the Championship.
NORWICH: The Leeds United B team as I affectionately call them are like QPR were a couple of years ago. Too good for the Championship not good enough for the Premier League. It's fun to watch them getting relegated every second year, but it sucks watching them go back up. With players such as Robbie 'Ronaldo' Brady, Johnny Howson and Wes 'Messi' Hoolahan they have the quality to go up. They only ever seem to win the Play-Offs and a top six finish once again seems like it's right up their alley.
LEEDS UNITED: We are going up. That is all. I have been a Leeds fan for 21 years and have never seen the good years. I want to see the good years. We have a top manager in Garry Monk and the signings of Roofe, Antonsson and Green show that we are signing decent players. If there was ever a time for us to go up, it's now. Leeds can't do the Play-Off's so the only way we go up is as one of the top two. It's going to happen. It has to happen. (God, please let it happen.)
John Horne: As an American, I love the summer sports season. Major League Baseball is in... wait for it... full swing, and I have a pretty good idea if D.C. United will follow through with another disappointing season after sitting on top of the MLS since its inception. (Yep.)
However, this time of year something happens.
In late July, a feeling shoots down your spine and gives you a rush. College football is about to begin and I can count down the days until I make my pilgrimage to Williams Brice Stadium with 80,000+ of my closest friends to cheer on the University of South Carolina Gamecocks!
Well, this year, I had another feeling join in: The countdown until the start of Championship play.
So who earns promotion to play with the big boys at the conclusion of 2016/2017?
I feel like I have to go with Newcastle United first. There is too much talent for them not to claw their way back into Premiership play unless they pull a Chelsea from the start of last season and choke like a fat kid on a spotted dick (get off my back U.S. censors, it is an English dessert). Not to mention the motivation Newcastle players will have to play like the legendary Santiago Munez once they watch their free copy of GOAL! The Dream Begins supplied by the front office.
Next up is Norwich City although my gut makes me feel like something could be off with this pick. In the grand scheme of things, Norwich has gone up and down more than a lady of the night since 2014. I mean, maybe they get another bounce... they should. But then, will the hunger by some of the clubs stuck in Championship for some time overtake this yo-yo of a club?
With that being said, I see two clubs that could fill that spot: Brighton and Wednesday. Both clubs were on the precipice last season and the taste of blood is still warm.
To round out my playoff spots I'll throw Derby and the Wolves in for good measure.
As far as Leeds, our time in purgatory isn't over...yet.
Jack Dudley: Cracking question for this week’s round-robin! I’m going to throw an early declaration into this one and admit that, as much as my heart would like to give them the nod, Monk’s men won’t be one of my three choices. I would of course be more than happy with a top-six finish, which obviously gives us a chance in the lottery of those pesky play-offs. In terms of an outright selection of three, though, my realistic side prevails here I’m afraid, lads. Let’s get to it...
The general consensus of anyone who follows this league is that the Magpies will be making an instant return to the top-flight – and it’s very difficult to disagree, especially with Rafa Benitez being convinced to stay at the helm. So, winning the league for me this season is Newcastle United, and if I was putting my neck out there, I’d say it’ll be by some margin. As we know, teams generally lose those stand-out players who in all honestly are too good to be in the second-tier, and those who are just too expensive wages-wise to keep on the books. The Toon, however, have only so far lost one of note in Gini Wijnaldum. Moussa Sissoko also looks to be on his way out of the north-east, although he went missing for most of last season in their bid to stay up.
Despite the loss of last year’s best player, Newcastle have more than enough quality throughout the side to take this league by storm. Shrewd acquisitions over the summer have bolstered an already impressive squad by Championship standards. Grant Hanley is a very solid Championship defender, he knows the league very well and was a rock in the heart of Blackburn’s defence, and I don’t think you’ll find many Geordies up-in-arms over him replacing Fabricio Coloccini. Matt Ritchie is another very good bit of business, as the left-footer can play anywhere in the midfield and can more than hold his own in the Premier League, and I was rather surprised that Bournemouth let him go. Combine that with the retention of the firepower in Ayoze Perez, Alexander Mitrovic, and new arrival Dwight Gayle from Crystal Palace, I can’t see many teams nicking points off Newcastle this season - clear winners for me.
Despite their abysmal effort to stay in the Premier League last season, it’s also hard to look past Aston Villa to not bounce straight back; Roberto Di Matteo’s arrival at Villa Park will boost confidence and belief that they’ll go right back to the top-flight. I think the likes of Jack Grealish and Scott Sinclair will benefit massively and flourish from a season in the Championship - a year out of the limelight and the pressure that media scrutiny brings can only do them a favour - and can hopefully rebuild their careers and start to live up to their potentials again, Grealish especially. If they can keep ahold of Jordan Ayew, then I can see the forward enjoying himself in the Championship. The addition of Tommy Elphick from Bournemouth will bring cover and division experience in the centre of their defence, especially if Micah Richards were to leave.
The third and final spot is completely up for grabs, but I can’t see an instant return for Norwich. I’m going to go for Sheffield Wednesday. Not only because they’re always in the play-off mix, but also because I like to ruffle some feathers. Those of you who have read my article on the change in transfer policy at Elland Road will know I have alluded to this before. With Forestieri and Hooper up front and already gelled, the arrival of Steven Fletcher will add firepower - goals won’t be hard to come by for the Owls. If they can keep it a bit tighter at the back this season, they may go one better in the play-offs.
So where’s my positivity? There’s no reason why Leeds can’t be in the mix with the likes of Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich. I think Brighton have had their chance, and Derby always seem to falter at too many stages of the season to keep being considered challengers, despite always showing promise. There’s a lot of teams in the league this season that could definitely be in the play-off mix, but for anyone who’s not a Geordie or a Villain, it may be a case of having to be satisfied being a part of the chasing pack. I can’t wait.
So that's it for this week's roundtable. Our seven staff members are ready to start the season, obviously with varying degrees of confidence in Cellino, Monk, Clotet, and the squad around them. What do you think? Newcastle, probably, right? We've had a few of you chime in on social media, and obviously voting in the polls, but let us know! Thanks for reading these all summer, we're going to have one more next week before the real fun starts. Looking forward to it. #MOT