So who’s ready to stake their claim for the Championship?

'The Championship is a crazy division where a team can win seven out of nine and then lose eight of the next 10, which is exactly what we've done.'

The words of one Robbie Savage, who is fast ensuring that his notoriety on the pitch is being matched off it as he prepares for the inevitable post-retirement media role.

In this case the 'we' is Derby County – who are perhaps the best proof of what Savage says, having lost five of their seven games since Norwich went to Pride Park and ended a good home run back in early December. Derby now sit in mid-table and just to rub salt in their wounds, local rivals Nottingham Forest are bang in form.

It's hard to describe the Championship this season as topsy-turvy, but it's equally difficult to view it as predictable. The top six are separated by seven points- and that's only because QPR are five points clear. The gap between second and mid-table is just 10 points. In the top flight there's 21 points from top to middle, in League One it's 15 and in League Two it's 19.

The top six is hard to call: with fewer than 20 games to go, you can count down another 10 places and make decent claims. Reading, Millwall, Hull and Leicester are all doing quite nicely, and at eighth, 10th, 12th and 11th respectively will fancy their chances.

The picture usually becomes clearer as May approaches, with the January transfer window signalling the start of the final push.

Leicester City, for example, have invested heavily in signing Yakubu on loan from Everton and are in the throes of adding Aston Villa's Curtis Davies and Chelsea's Patrick van Aanholt on similar deals.

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Yakubu certainly talks a good game.

'I want to stay here and get promotion. I still believe we can get to the play-offs. There are 10 games to go, they are a long way away, but we do have a chance of finishing in the top six.'

He won't be the only Championship footballer who believes his club can crack the top half dozen. Most, like their managers, talk about it in vague terms - not out of superstition, but under orders, lest their optimism comes back to bite them on the bum.

Billy Davies at Nottingham Forest resorted to the tried and trusted method of baffling the media with cliches to avoid the most popular question of the week in his neck of the woods- are his team equipped to break into the top two?

'We're entering the stage of the season where it's all about results. We've got an important and difficult eight weeks coming up,' he said.

'This is a marathon and there will be highs and lows and ups and downs and the business end of the season, February, March and April, is when things will be won and lost.

'We've got to hopefully put ourselves in a good position to compete, be up there fighting and go into those key months in confident mood and hopefully picking up points.'

Given that Forest are the in-form side in the division, with five wins and a draw in their last six, Davies was being unusually coy.

There's still time before the transfer window closes at 11pm on Monday for deals to be done, for player movements to either make or break a season.

Swansea, tucked in City's slipstream on goal difference, may lose their midfielder Darren Pratley to Bolton Wanderers, which will be a blow to their ambitions, while Burnley - who might just get some important impetus under new boss Eddie Howe - are trying to tempt striker Charlie Austin out of Swindon. Leeds have signed Sunderland defender George McCartney on loan until the end of the season, while Cardiff don't know if Jay Bothroyd will be around that long - he's out of contract in the summer, but the Bluebirds want a decent transfer fee.

For some, there is still hope, despite the odds being stacked against them.

Take Coventry City striker Marlon King, whose team have slipped to 14th, having not won since December 4.

'I don't think we should give up hope until we are mathematically out of it because we saw with Blackpool last season, they kicked on and scraped up. A lot of the top teams have still got to play each other so there will be a few slip-ups.'

An optimist maybe, but he illustrates just how close the race is going to be.