4 August ~ Last year's predicted table was accurate in forecasting the top two but got Southend at completely the wrong end of the division and was only correct with one team finishing in the bottom four – the troubled Stockport County.
David Holt, our Norwich City correspondent, was unsurprisingly happy to predict: "We'll be the number one team in Norfolk." On the first day of the 2009-10 season, however, it appeared Norwich were the third team in East Anglia, as they lost 7-1 at home to Colchester Utd. This created plenty of local tension but the Canaries had revenge by winning 5-0 in the return fixture and going up as eventual champions.
Following the disappointments of previous seasons it was understandable that Leeds Utd fans remained fairly cautious: "We seem to be favourites again but it's hard to see beyond the play-offs where stage-fright usually sinks us." Perhaps their automatic promotion will freshen the smell suggested for his club by Duncan Young: "Mildew permeating the elegant decay of a country estate already sold to pay the running costs and visited by a dwindling band of enthusiasts."
Considering they started with a ten-point deduction and finished just outside the play-offs, Southampton were the form team of the division for much of the season, going on a four-game winning run on three separate occasions and hitting the top ten by the start of March. This was modestly predicted by Tim Springett: "At the moment we're just pleased that we'll have a team to watch next season. Stabilisation will be the aim – a play-off place would be a bonus."
Elsewhere, however, pessimism reigned and several clubs did better than their fans expected. Craig Gurney envisioned the smell of Swindon Town as: "That heady mixture of old and new. Pig swill, locomotive engine oil and Swindon Superbabe Melinda Messenger's Delightful perfume: a 'fruity and floral blend with notes of fresh mandarin, blackcurrant and raspberry vanilla' it says here." But he was less enamoured of his side's hopes for the season ahead: "I predict a season of 1-0 and 0-1 scorelines and an unspectacular 11th place." Swindon lost to Millwall in the play-off final.
Charlton supporter Tom Green must also have been pleasantly surprised by a play-off place as in 2009 he was "Feeling optimistic – mid-table", and suggested the smell of his club as: "The water from a bouquet of flowers left in a vase for three years."
At the bottom, however, things were grim. Southend's continued financial difficulties – the club faces a winding up order on August 11 – were reflected in their suggested smell: "Musty and damp like an empty war-chest." And among other problems our Stockport's fan prediction – "We'll be relegated. At the time of writing we've no manager, no pre-season, few players and we're in administration" – proved correct. County finished bottom, 25 points adrift.