Sean Gregan’s exclusive column: No reason why North End can’t muscle in at the top

The Championship is one crazy league isn’t it? It’s definitely the hardest league in the world – simply because there are so many teams who have a chance of getting promoted.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 4:00 pm
Scott Sinclair celebrates scoring against Swansea

You could probably go all the way down to Cardiff City, who are in 12th, in terms of the race for the play-offs and who knows even below that. I have known teams come with a late run.

Automatic promotion is also up for grabs – and that is surprising because just a few weeks ago, it looked like West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United – two of my old clubs – were involved in a two-horse race for the title.

But they have both gone on really poor runs and it’s tightened up again at the top.

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Only six points separate the top six, with another of my former clubs Preston North End three points further back in seventh.

I wouldn’t count PNE out yet on forcing their way into the top two although it’s going to be tough, but why not?

Fulham, who are third, Nottingham Forest and Bristol City are all big clubs.

Th real surprise is Brentford, who are on a great run of form.

It is interesting to see Leeds lose a big lead again. So many times over the last few years they have looked like they will get promotion and fallen away. Will it happen again.

There seems to be some kind of mental block around the club, a bit like what happened with PNE with all those play-off near misses in the early 2000s.

It should not really be like – different players come in, different managers.

I think the expectation level at Leeds is something else – it’s a massive club and the fans expect success and to be in the Premier League.

I don’t think expectation levels should be a problem for Preston. Within the camp, they will have high expectations but nobody else will be backing them when you consider the size of the other clubs they are competing against.

I don’t see why they should feel pressure should they get in the play-offs – that hoodoo is long gone after Wembley 2015 and like I say, PNE are not the favourites to go up.

It was great to see January signing Scott Sinclair get his North End career up and running last Saturday.

The goal he scored in the 1-1 draw with one of his former clubs Swansea City at Deepdale really was top drawer and showed just why Alex Neil was keen to bring him to the club.

Hopefully, it is the first of many – it’s just a shame it did not come in a winning cause, but a draw against the Swans is not to be sniffed at.

They are right behind PNE in the table and are still benefitting from the finance which comes with the long time they spent in the premier League.

That result made it four unbeaten and this weekend, North End need to make sure they keep the good run going against Wigan Athletic.

The Latics are in the relegation zone, but they have had a couple of great results of late, including beating Leeds last weekend. It’s a derby and they will be looking to upset PNE’s applecart.