2014-15 Championship Preview

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Personally, I think that the Championship is the best league in the world, purely because anyone can beat anyone, and it’s such a hard league to predict. This year it will be equally close, with the race for the play-offs set to be the hottest ever. Managers are constantly under pressure, thanks in no small part to ownership problems which seem stuck to at least one Championship team. This summer, we saw the biggest fee ever paid for a player in this division as Fulham shelled out £11 million for Ross McCormack, whilst the other relegated sides Norwich and Cardiff have also consolidated their squads. Coming up from League One, Wolves, Brentford and Rotherham are all fancied to survive, yet at the same time, all fancied to go back down. That’s how close the Championship is: full of unpredictability, full of chances and full of drama year on year. Hold on tight, it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride for all the teams and all the fans.

My Prediction

1. Wigan Athletic

2. Fulham

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3. Cardiff City

4. Nottingham Forest

5. Norwich City

6. Blackburn Rovers

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7. Derby County

8. Watford

9. Reading

10. Middlesbrough

11. Bournemouth

12. Brighton & Hove Albion

13. Ipswich Town

14. Wolverhampton Wanderers

15. Charlton Athletic

16. Bolton Wanderers

17. Sheffield Wednesday

18. Brentford

19. Leeds United

20. Huddersfield Town

21. Blackpool

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22. Birmingham City

23. Rotherham United

24. Millwall

Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 2nd August 2014)

To win division

  • Derby – 15/2
  • Cardiff – 8/1
  • Wigan – 8/1
  • Fulham – 9/1
  • Norwich – 10/1

To gain promotion

  • Cardiff – 12/5
  • Derby – 11/4
  • Fulham – 3/1
  • Wigan – 3/1
  • Norwich – 16/5

To get relegated

  • Blackpool – 8/15
  • Millwall – 11/4
  • Rotherham – 3/1
  • Charlton – 3/1
  • Leeds – 7/2

Top scorer

  • Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn) – 8/1
  • Ross McCormack (Fulham) – 9/1
  • Matej Vydra (Watford) – 12/1
  • Chris Martin (Derby) – 14/1
  • Troy Deeney (Watford) -14/1

Club-by-Club Guide

Birmingham City

birmingham

  • Last season: 21st
  • Nickname: The Blues
  • Stadium: St Andrews (30,016)

Ins (as of 6th August): Denny Johnstone (Celtic, Compensation), David Edgar (Burnley), Stephen Gleeson (MK Dons), Jonathan Grounds (Oldham Athletic), Gavin Gunning (Dundee United), Wes Thomas (Birmingham City), David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers), Clayton Donaldson (Brentford), Mark Duffy (Birmingham City), Navid Nasseri (Bury), Grant Hall (Tottenham Hotspur, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Aaron Martin (Yeovil Town), Hayden Mullins (Notts County), Wade Elliott (Bristol City), Liam Maher (Leamington), Chris Burke (Nottingham Forest), Amari’i Bell (Mansfield Town, Loan), Koby Arthur (Cheltenham Town, Loan).

The Manager – Lee Clark

Lee Clark has had his critics on the terraces for his tactics and team choices, but it’s hard to tell how much to blame apportion, given Birmingham’s financial woes. Because of the Blues’ money troubles, it would be easy for Clark, who took charge in June 2012, to step down at St Andrews, but he’s a man of determination and great effort. He will continue to be criticised this season, but he’s coping well in a tough job.

Star Man – Paul Robinson

At 35 years old, left-back Paul Robinson is nearing the end of his career and won’t want to end it with relegation to League One after surviving it last season on the final day. The Blues captain actually missed the three games leading up to that dramatic day after picking up a suspension for picking up 15 bookings over the course of the campaign, but returned to the pitch to see Paul Caddis, score the goal to keep Lee Clark’s side in the division. Robinson is a model of the graft and determination needed to survive in the Championship, and will need to help galvanise much-changed squad to do it again.

One to Watch – Reece Brown

18 year old midfielder Reece Brown made his debut as a substitute in the Blues’s 3-0 loss to Burnley last season and has gone from strength to strength since. He went on to make a total of eight appearances in 2013-14, turning in some impressive displays, including when he was awarded the man of the match award on his first start against Yeovil in January. If he can keep up his steady improvement, he will be some player. Brown also has appearances for England’s U16, U17 and U18 sides.

My Prediction – 22nd

The Blues escaped on the final day last season, but they might not be as lucky this time around. They have bought well on a low budget, but I suspect that Lee Clark may get the sack at some point during the season, and no other manager has his determination to keep Birmingham in the divison.


Blackburn Rovers

blackburn rovers

  • Last season: 8th
  • Nickname: Rovers
  • Stadium: Ewood Park (31,154)

Ins (as of 6th August): Chris Brown (Doncaster Rovers), Luke Varney (Leeds United), Alex Baptiste (Bolton Wanderers, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Alan Judge (Brentford, Undisclosed), Ruben Rochina (Granada, Undisclosed), Ryan Edwards (Morecambe), David Goodwillie (Aberdeen), David Carson (Ashington), Josh Morris (Fleetwood Town, Loan), Anthony O’Connor (Plymouth Argyle, Loan), Leon Best (Derby County, Loan).

The Manager – Gary Bowyer

Having previously been caretaker on two seperate occasions, Gary Bowyer was given permanent control in May last year and almost guided the club into the play-offs in his first full season in charge. His ability to keep the job in a sack-happy climate has been surprising and impressive. Can he defy the odds once more?

Star Man – Jordan Rhodes

Jordan Rhodes almost guarantees goals at this level. He backed up the 26 he scored in his first season at Blackburn with 25 last time around. Having signed a new five year contract this summer, Rhodes will be hoping his goals can fire Rovers back to the Premier League. Looking beyond the last two seasons, the 24 year old’s (yes, he’s still only 24) other recent goal tallies are 36, 16 and 19. There is no doubt that Rhodes will score goals, and if he can form a partnership with new signing Chris Brown like he did with Rudy Gestede at the end of last season, the result will be prolific.

One to Watch – Jack O’Connell

Centre-back Jack O’Connell is yet to make a first team start for Blackburn Rovers, but has loan spells with Rotherham, York and Rochdale over the past couple of seasons. With the latter last season, he made 38 league appearances and was made captain as Dale earned promotion by finishing third. The 20 year old, who can also play at full-back has also captained England’s Under 19 side and is being tracked by numerous Premier League clubs. So much for a player who didn’t join a club until he was 18. He has come on hugely in the last two years.

My Prediction – 6th

There’s a lot of excitement around Ewood Park this summer. They seem to have come through the worst of their ownership difficulties, and have made few, but astute signings. Add this to the sturdy spine of a squad they have already, and you can see them pushing for promotion, especially if Jordan Rhodes continues to hit the back of the net.


Blackpool

blackpool

  • Last season: 20th
  • Nickname: The Seasiders’
  • Stadium: Bloomfield Road (17,338)

Ins (as of 6th August): Jose Miguel Cubero (Herediano, Undisclosed), Sergei Zenjov (FC Karpaty Lviv), Tony McMahon (Sheffield United), Peter Clarke (Huddersfield Town), Tomasz Cywka, Jacob Mellis (Both Barnsley), Joan Oriol (Osasuna), Nathan Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Ishmael Miller (Nottingham Forest), Donervon Daniels (West Bromwich Albion, Loan), Joe Lewis (Cardiff City, Loan), John Lundstram (Everton, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Tom Ince (Hull City, Compensation), Harrison McGahey (Sheffield United, Compensation), Chris Basham (Sheffield United), Neal Bishop (Scunthorpe United), Kirk Broadfoot (Rotherham United), Mark Halstead (Shrewsbury Town), Chris Kettings (Crystal Palace), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Matt Gilks (Burnley), James Caton (Shrewsbury Town), Ricardo Fuller (Millwall), Alex Marrow (Carlisle United), Stan Staunton-Turner (Stalybridge Celtic), Liam Tomsett (AFC Fylde), Nathan Tyson (Doncaster Rovers).

The Manager – Jose Riga

Jose Riga arrived at Bloomfield Road earlier in the summer to a squad of half a dozen players and a seemingly impossible job. The Belgian does have an impressive CV though – he was once director of AC Milan’s academy, and he also did a fantastic job at Charlton last year by keeping them up from another seemingly impossible position.

Star Man – Peter Clarke

At the start of the summer, it appeared that Blackpool’s squad for this season would be a very young one, and although youth seems to the memo of the side, it could be signings of experienced players such as Peter Clarke, who arrived from Huddersfield for free, that will be vital to The Seasiders’ survival hopes. The seasoned centre-back was at Bloomfield Road between 2004 and 2006 when the club were League One, and whilst Blackpool have since got promoted to the Premier League and relegated again, 32 year old Clarke has been at Southend and Huddersfield, making a total of 375 appearances across both clubs in eight seasons, but injuries have sometimes limited his time on the pitch.

One to Watch – Nathan Delfouneso

Another one to watch with plenty of experience playing for England’s youth teams is striker Nathan Delfouneso, who has a total of 19 for the Under 16s up to the Under 21s. Blackpool signed him on a one year contract this summer after the 23 year old was released by Aston Villa. He has had two loan spells at Bloomfield Road before, where he scored seven goals in 54 games. Other loan spells at Burnley, Leicester and most recently Coventry City, mean that Delfouneso has rarely been settled, whilst he was never a starting XI player at Villa either.

My Prediction – 21st

I am one of few people who are predicting that Blackpool won’t finish bottom or at least in the bottom three. Yes, their squad was fit for a 5-a-side football match at the beginning of the summer, but now with some signings, they still look destined to face a relegation battle throughout the season, but I feel as though they do have a chance of survival.


Bolton Wanderers

bolton

  • Last season: 14th
  • Nickname: The Trotters
  • Stadium: Macron Stadium (28,100)

Ins (as of 6th August):  Dorian Dervite (Charlton Athletic), Liam Feeney, Liam Trotter (Both Millwall), Andy Robinson (Southampton), Dean Moxey (Crystal Palace), Neil Danns (Leicester City), Ross Fitzsimons (Crystal Palace), Andy Hughes (Charlton Athletic), Alex Baptiste (Blackburn Rovers, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Cian Bolger (Southend United, Undisclosed), Marvin Sordell (Burnley, Undisclosed), Joe Riley (Oxford United, Loan).

The Manager – Dougie Freedman

Dougie Freedman is a manager who trusts in youth as well as his own ability, meaning he is a manager who rarely cares what others think. However the stats show that if Bolton don’t get off to a good start, he might care what the chairman thinks if they sack him – Owen Coyle was shown the door just 10 games into the 2012-13 season.

Star Man – Jay Spearing

After a quiet, but solid two seasons at Bolton since his move from Liverpool, this campaign is the time for Jay Spearing to show the leadership qualities that The Trotters require – after all he is club captain. Life hasn’t always been easy following his Anfield exit, but Spearing does have the quality to up a gear in his locker, there’s no doubt about that, but he rarely decides to do it. Perhaps the pressure of being skipper at 25 gets to him, but there’s a feeling around the North West that the midfielder has never really lived up to his full potential.

One to Watch – Josh Vela

There are few youngsters set to break into the Bolton first team this season, including 20 year old midfielder Josh Vela, who has been on the fringes for the last few campaigns, but injury has always stopped him in his tracks. Dougie Freedman sent Vela out on loan to Notts County in January, where he caught the eye in League One and convinced The Trotters boss that he should be starting this campaign at the Macron Stadium. If he can stay fit and avoid his persist ant injuries, this could be a great season for the Salford born midfielder.

My Prediction – 16th

Dougie Freedman certainly believes that he and his side have the quality to be promotion contenders, but do the players, do the fans, do the rest of us? As part of the latter, I say that no, going up looks too far for Bolton this season with their current squad and no real game-changing players. They won’t be dragged into a relegation battle, but lower mid-table looks a safe bet.


Bournemouth

bournemouth

  • Last season: 12th
  • Nickname: The Cherries
  • Stadium: Dean Court (12,000)

Ins (as of 6th August): Callum Wilson (Coventry City, Undisclosed), Dan Gosling (Newcastle United), Junior Stanislas (Burnley).

Outs (as of 6th August): Lewis Grabban (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Shwan Jalal (Bury), Matt Tubbs (AFC Wimbledon, Loan), Charlie Losasso (Eastbourne Borough), Ryan Allsop, Mohamed Coulibaly (Both Coventry City, Loan), Miles Addison (Scunthorpe, Loan), Josh McQuoid (Coventry, Loan).

The Manager – Eddie Howe

As a player, Eddie Howe played over 300 games from Bournemouth, and as a manager he has become virtually a club legend. In his first stint in charge, he earned promotion to League One in 2010, and then in his second and current spell, he got the club up to the Championship where they punched above their weight last season. Whatever happens, Howe will always be high in the fans good graces.

Star Man – Simon Francis

A right-back who seems to have gone slightly under the radar, Simon Francis was ever present and exceptional for Bournemouth during 2013-14. Defensively shrewd, a pest bombing forward and the definition of a ‘good pro’, he’s one of the division’s finest full-backs, but his performances appear to go unnoticed by anyone outside Dean Court. In a team where the defense is the strong point, especially after their attack has taken a hit by losing Lewis Grabban, 29 year old Francis is the pick of the back line which also features captain Tommy Elphick and set-piece specialist Ian Harte.

One to Watch – Callum Wilson

Signed to replace star striker Lewis Grabban who moved to Norwich, Callum Wilson has a lot of pressure and expectation on him after joining Bournemouth for an undisclosed fee from League One’s Coventry City, who he scored 22 times for last season in a remarkable debut campaign. This earned him a place in the PFA League One team of the season, all the more  impressive as he had suffered injury for two months with a dislocated shoulder in early 2014. The 22 year old won League One Player of the month award for March, and also won his clubs Top Goalscorer award, Player’s Player award voted for by his team mates and the Player of the season award voted for by Coventry City fans themselves. He has started off his Bournemouth career by scoring a hat-trick in a friendly against Oxford.

My Prediction – 11th

Bournemouth surprised everyone last season with their late push for the play-offs, so if they can get off to a good start and keep their form up throughout the season, there is no reason why The Cherries can’t make the top six this time around. The loss of Lewis Grabban could hit them hard though, with other teams capable of scoring more goals.


Brentford

brentford

  • Last season: 2nd in League One
  • Nickname: The Bees
  • Stadium: Griffin Park (12,763)

Ins (as of 6th August): Moses Odubajo (Leyton Orient, £1m), Scott Hogan (Rochdale, £750,000), Andre Gray (Luton Town, £500,000), Alan Judge (Blackburn Rovers, Undisclosed), Marcos Tébar Ramiro (UD Almeria), Daniel O’Shaughnessy (FC Metz), Alex Pritchard (Tottenham Hotspur, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Luke Norris (Gillingham, Unidsclosed), Aaron Pierre (Wycombe Wanderers, Undisclosed), Liam O’Brien (Dagenham & Redbridge), Shaleum Logan (Aberdeen), Clayton Donaldson (Birmingham City), Sam Beale (Eastbourne Borough), Farid El Alagui (Hibernian), Michael Onovwigun (Chesterfield), Will Grigg (MK Dons, Loan).

The Manager – Mark Warburton

The man who quit a lucrative day job as a London trader to try and make it as a football coach has proved his point by getting Brentford promoted to the second division for the first time in 21 years. His job now is to keep his job by keeping The Bees away from relegation troubles.

Star Man – Adam Forshaw

With Wigan appearing to not give up hope on signing him, Adam Forshaw may not be a Brentford player much longer, but right now, the 22 year old is the star man at Griffin Park. He is an imposing player in the middle of the park for the Bees and helps knit things together well for Mark Warburton’s men, while also taking on extra responsibility as Brentford’s penalty-taker – four of his eight goals last season have come from the spot as he was a key man in his side earning promotion from League One, whilst he also won the division’s player of the year award. The former Everton man is well regarded at Griffin Park by colleagues and supporters alike for his good attitude and consistent performances.

One to Watch – Moses Odubajo

Brentford fought off competition from Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Hull City to sign winger Moses Odubajo for £1 million from Leyton Orient this summer, which could prove to be a bargain if you believe the rumours of the potential of the 21 year old. Starting at his local team Millwall, Odubajo joined Leyton Orient’s academy aged 16, and in his four years with the first team at Brisbane Road, he won the 2011-12 goal of the season and was awarded the club’s younger player of the year for 2012-13, whilst the Football League named him young player of the month back in April. They expect big things of him at Brentford after he was given the number 10 shirt.

My Prediction – 18th

There’s a lot of young players coming through at Griffin Park, but experience might be the key to survival. Mark Warburton is also an unproven boss at this level. All this points to relegation for Brentford, but their is spirit in the squad, and I think this could keep them up, but again, the drop zone will beckon throughout the campaign.


Brighton & Hove Albion

brighton

  • Last season: 6th
  • Nickname: The Seagulls
  • Stadium: The Amex Stadium (30,750)

Ins (as of 6th August): Chris O’Grady (Barnsley, £2m), David Stockdale (Fulham, Undisclosed), Nzuzi Toko (Grasshopper), Aaron Hughes (Queens Park Rangers).

Outs (as of 6th August): Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City, £8m rising to £10m), Matthew Upson (Leicester City), Brennan Dickenson (Gillingham), Jeffrey Monakana (Aberdeen, Loan), Keith Andrews (Watford, Loan).

The Manager – Sami Hyypia

Sacked by Bayer Leverkusen when the Bundesliga side’s European qualification looked in doubt, Sami Hyypia has wasted no time in finding a new club by moving to the South Coast. He knows the Premier League and Champions League very well after making over 400 appearances for Liverpool, it will be interesting to see how he fares in the Championship – a very different prospect

Star Man – Craig Mackail-Smith

Craig Mackail-Smith was injured for the majority of last season, returning just in time to help The Seagulls gain a play-off spot on the final day of the season. This year, if he can avoid injuries then he may prove to be crucial for Sami Hyypia, especially after the sale of Leonardo Ulloa to Leicester, a surprise star of 2013-14. The stats may show that his best days may have been during his time with Peterborough, there’s no doubt that 30 year old still has an eye for goal – especially against Leeds, who he has a unique record of scoring against in every match he has played against them in his career.

One to Watch – Solly March

Standing at over 6ft, You would expect Solly March to play in defence for Brighton, but the 20 year old is played on the wing, but looks equally suited to a number ’10’ role, pulling the strings behind the front-man for The Seagulls. With natural skill on the ball, Brighton fought off Premier League interest to sign him from non-league Lewes in 2011 , and March has worked his way up the rankings at The Amex to have his breakthrough campaign in 2013-14, which ended in him signing a new four year contract on the South Coast and being called up to the England Under 21 side for their Toulon Tournament, at which he featured four times.

My Prediction – 12th

After managing in the Champions League last season, this division should be a doddle for Sami Hyypia, but he has inherited a fairly thin squad, with no game-changing players in it. It’s a weaker team than the last two campaigns when they only just made the top six, so it could be time to let someone else suffer play-off heartbreak.


Cardiff City

cardiff

  • Last season: 20th in the Premier League
  • Nickname: The Bluebirds
  • Stadium: Cardiff City Stadium (33,000)

Ins (as of 6th August): Adam Le Fondre (Reading, £1m), Guido Burgstaller (Rapid Vienna, Undisclosed), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace), Javi Guerra (Real Valladolid), Federico Macheda (Manchester United).

Outs (as of 6th August): Steven Caulker (Queens Park Rangers, £8.5m), Jordan Mutch (Queens Park Rangers, £6m), Fraizer Campbell (Crystal Palace, £900,000), Andrew Taylor (Wigan Athletic). Don Cowie (Wigan Athletic), Ben Nugent (Yeovil Town, Loan), Jo Inge Berget (Celtic, Loan), Joe Lewis (Blackpool, Loan), Filip Kiss (Ross County, Loan).

The Manager – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Another player turned manager who has experienced the best of the best in the Premier League and Champions League, former Manchester United super sub Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t get off to the best of starts at Cardiff by being unable to prevent the Welsh club’s relegation. A better judgement of how good a manager he is will be made following his first full season in charge which he has prepared for by making a number of impressive signings.

Star Man – Adam Le Fondre

Only Norwich scored less goals than Cardiff in the Premier League last year, so it was vital that the Welsh club brought in some firepower this summer, and the arrivals of Adam Le Fondre, Javi Guerra and Federico Macheda have done just that. The former Reading man is the pick of bunch, and knows where the goal is at this level, having scored 15 and 12 goals in his last two Championship seasons respectively. He sighted a major reason for moving to The Cardiff City Stadium as a chance to work with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – the 27 year old is a Manchester United fan.

One to Watch – Declan John

A few people doubted the selection of Declan John for Cardiff’s first ever Premier League game last August, but the 19 year old left-back proved them wrong over the course of the season in which he featured 20 times to become a first team regular and also earn himself two Wales caps. It has been a roller-coaster 12 months for John, who joined the club at the age of eight and has developed into the club’s most promising young talents and established himself into first Malky Mackay’s and then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting 11. In a 2013-14 season that had moments of darkness at Cardiff City, a new bright star has emerged in the Welshman.

My Prediction – 3rd

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has possibly done the best transfer business in the whole of the Championship, and has addressed their goal-scoring issue very well. Whether Cardiff can deliver on the pitch though remains to be seen. I think they’ll be in and out of the top two all season, but may miss out at the end and face the lottery of the play-offs which they might just win.


Charlton Athletic

charlton

  • Last season: 18th
  • Nickname: The Addicks
  • Stadium: The Valley (27,111)

Ins (as of 6th August): Igor Vetokele (Copenhagen, Undisclosed), Andre Bikey (Panetolikos), Zak Ansah (Arsenal), Franck Moussa (Coventry City), Kurtis Cumberbatch (Watford), George Tucudean (Standard Liege), Tal Ben Haim (Standard Liege), Johann Berg Gudmundsson (AZ Alkmaar), Stephen Henderson (West Ham United), Yoni Buyens (Standard Liege, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Diego Poyet (West Ham United, Compensation), Dorian Dervite (Bolton Wanderers), Danny Green (MK Dons), Ben Hamer (Leicester City), Adebayo Azeez (AFC Wimbledon), Richard Wood (Rotherham United), Kevin Feely (Newport County), Jordan Cook (Walsall), Danny Hollands (Portsmouth), Bradley Pritchard (Leyton Orient), Andy Hughes (Bolton Wanderers), Cedric Evina, (Doncaster Rovers), Harry Lennon (Cambridge United, Loan).

The Manager – Bob Peeters

Having spent two years as a player with Millwall between 2003 and 2005, Bob Peeters knows about the blood and thunder of English football, but he has only previously managed in his native Belgium, so could have a job on his hands. When he was appointed at The Valley in May, the 40 year old became the club’s third manager of 2014. Can he bring some stability with him.

Star Man – Lawrie Wilson

The form of the versatile Wilson was one of few positives amid a difficult year at The Valley in 2013-14. Deputising for Chris Solly at right-back – a tall order with Solly equally as vital to The Addicks – he was solid and rarely let wingers get past him, whilst he also made things happen going forward. With Solly now back to full fitness, it will be interesting to see where Wilson fits in Bob Peeters squad. Defensive midfield could be a safe bet for the 26 year old, who spent his youth career at Charlton, before having spells at Colchester and Stevenage and then returning to East London in 2012.

One to Watch – Joe Gomez

Joe Gomez is yet to make a competitive first team appearance for Charlton, but he already has the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton among his admirers after the defender impressed greatly for England at The Under-17 European Championships earlier in the summer. The 17 year old was widely-regarded as one of the best players to have emerged from the tournament and Charlton now face a fight to hold onto the defender, who is expected to break into Bob Peeter’s starting XI this season after being handed the number three shirt, with The Addicks boss claiming that “all the central defenders need to step up to play him out of the team.”

Fan’s View – Kyle Goldsmith

“Last season, Charlton went through a transition period and only narrowly avoided relegation, but after buying astutely this summer, the Addicks have a new optimism and the general feeling is that they could provide a few shocks this season. New signings to look out for are the £3,000,000 striker Igor Vetokele and Johann Gudmundsson, who came from Copenhagen and AZ Alkmaar respectively. They also look set to beat Atletico Madrid and Leeds to the signing of Andy Delort, who scored 24 goals in 36 games for Tours in Ligue 2 last season.

Overall, Charlton can possibly even challenge for the Play-offs if they avoid injuries to key players and the signings gel. Most fans would be happy with a comfortable season and a win or two over bitter rivals Millwall, whom they haven’t beaten since 1995. Either way, Charlton look set to have a more positive season than last year.”

My Prediction – 15th

Another team who have done some good business in the transfer window, Charlton have built a squad that looks perfect for staying up in this division, which they should do. But I don’t think the manager or the squad has enough experience to mount a serious play-off push, The Addicks could top ten at best.


Derby County

derby

  • Last season: 3rd
  • Nickname: The Rams
  • Stadium: The iPro Stadium (33,597)

Ins (as of 6th August): George Thorne (West Bromwich Albion, £2m), Cyrus Christie (Coventry City, Undisclosed), Alefe Santos (Bristol Rovers, Compensation), Alban Bunjaku (Sevilla), Jonathan Mitchell (Newcastle United), Zak Whitbread (Leicester City), Ivan Calero (Atlético Madrid), Leon Best (Blackburn Rovers, Loan), Omar Mascarell (Real Madrid, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Ben Davies (Sheffield United), Adam Legzdins (Leyton Orient), James O’Connor (Walsall), James Bailey (Barnsley), Callum Ball (St Mirren), Josh Lelan (Swindon Town, Loan).

The Manager – Steve McClaren

When Steve McClaren joined Derby last September The Rams were way off the top six, but they ended the season as play-off finalists, and McClaren seemed to have almost restored his repuatation in English football following his nightmare time in charge of the national team. Lead Derby to the Prem this time around and the brolly wally memories may finally be packed away.

Star Man – Craig Bryson

The Scotland midfielder was hugely influential last season, turning into Derby’s unsung hero as they finished 3rd. The hard-working midfielder, who can change a match with a burst of pace and a fine finish, deserves a crack at the Prem, whether that comes with Derby or another club – The Rams have fended off interest from Burnley this summer. The 27 year old missed just one league game last season and hit the back of the net 16 times, a tally beating his goals from the last three seasons combined. He will find it difficult to reproduce similar performances this year, but it depends how he has recovered from Wembley heartbreak.

One to Watch – Mason Bennett

The name of Mason Bennett has always been known to Derby fans since he became the club’s youngest player aged 15 years and 99 days, a record which he followed with another by becoming The Rams’ youngest ever goalscorer just over a year later. But Bennett, now 18, has never properly established himself in the starting 11 at The iPro Stadium, with this season considered to be his time to breakthrough. He has recently signed a new deal with Steve McClaren’s side, and although there was talk of League One Sheffield United buying him on loan, the former England boss is keen to keep hold of the striker, who was named Championship Scholar of the Year at the Football League Awards in March.

My Prediction – 7th

2012-13’s losing play-off finalists Watford went on to finish 13th the following campaign, and although a drop from 3rd is likely, The Rams will still be promotion contenders, whether that be automatically or via the play-offs. The latter is probably what will happen, but a leaky backline could cost them and they may disappointingly just miss out on the top six.


Fulham

fulham

  • Last season: 19th in the Premier League
  • Nickname: The Cottagers
  • Stadium: Craven Cottage (25,700)

Ins (as of 6th August): Ross McCormack (Leeds United, £7m rising to £11m), Thomas Eisfeld (Arsenal, Undisclosed), Kay Voser (FC Basle, Undisclosed), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets, Undisclosed), Nikolay Bodurov (Litex Lovech, Undisclosed), Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell), Tim Hoogland (Schalke), Adil Chihi (Cologne), Konstantinos Stafylidis (Bayer Leverkusen, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Sascha Riether (SC Freiburg, Undisclosed), Pajtim Kasami (Olympiacos, Undisclosed), David Stockdale (Brighton & Hove Albion, Undisclosed), Ashkan Dejagah (Al-Arabi, Undisclosed), Damien Duff (Melbourne City), Steve Sidwell (Stoke City), Josh Pritchard (Gillingham), John Heitinga (Hertha BSC), Derek Boateng (Rayo Vallecano), Muamar Tankovic (AZ Alkmaar), Kieran Richardson (Aston Villa), Brede Hangeland (Crystal Palace), Matthew Briggs (Millwall).

The Manager – Felix Magath

When Felix Magath took charge Fulham in February, he became the club’s third boss last season and it was his first managerial position in two years and his first outside his native Germany. He has a reputation for working his players hard into the ground, which is exactly what the Championship requires.

Star Man – Ross McCormack

An £11 million signing in the Championship is enough to raise anyone’s eyebrows, even if they did finish as the division’s top scorer the season before. The Scot’s staggering tally of 29 goals last year equated to 49% of all Leeds United’s strikes, so he will be under scrutiny to get or beat this number again, especially after his record move. Everyone’s eyes will be on McCormack throughout the season, and he is under pressure to retain his own personal crown – if this move doesn’t go well and the 27 year old doesn’t produce the goods, his repuatation could be in tatters and Fulham will look like idiots for the money they spent.

One to Watch – Patrick Roberts

This is in fact a player I have watched myself, after seeing Patrick Roberts in action for Fulham’s Under 21 side against Reading in the FA Youth Cup last season. He went on to make two first team appearances as The Cottagers were relegated from the Premier League, but Felix Magath clearly values him greatly and intends to use him in the Championship. He has set a £15 million price tag on the striker, who has appearances for England’s Under 16 and Under 17 sides, in order to fend off interest from the likes of Manchester United. Like Charlton’s one to watch Joe Gomez, Roberts played a starring role as England’s Under 17s won the European Championships in May.

My Prediction – 2nd

Some people fear that promotion is too big an ask for such a young side, but although they have lost a lot of older heads, Felix Magath have signed some unknown players from around Europe who could turn out to be just as good. I think Ross McCormack will come good, not necessarily £11 million good, but he will score a lot of goals which could send Fulham straight back up.


Huddersfield Town

huddersfield

  • Last season: 17th
  • Nickname: The Terriers
  • Stadium: John Smith’s Stadium (24,500)

Ins (as of 6th August): Conor Coady (Liverpool, £375,000), Joe Murphy (Coventry City), Lee Peltier (Leeds United), Radoslaw Majewski (Nottingham Forest, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Keith Southern (Fleetwood Town), Calum Woods (Preston North End), Chris Atkinson (Crewe Alexandra), Peter Clarke (Blackpool), Paul Mullin (Morecambe).

The Manager – Mark Robins

Mark Robins has introduced a pass and move style in West Yorkshire, giving his young players a chance to flourish, something which he believes strongly in. His lack of a Plan B when this system has not worked has led to some criticism from fans, but you have to commend the former Manchester United player for his work at the John Smith’s Stadium on a low budget.

Star Man – Adam Clayton

The key man in Huddersfield’s young midfield, Clayton won plaudits for his creative and skillful use of the ball last season, as well as his ability to score goals and play killer passes. The 25 year old is also popular amongst fans after growing a beard and dying it blue and white and scoring the last-minute goal against Yeovil in 2013-14 which guaranteed The Terrier’s Championship status for another season. He may well be the man to save Mark Robins’ side again this season, with little other threat in Huddersfield’s side, except for Nakhi Wells and James Vaughan.

One to Watch – Tommy Smith

A graduate of Manchester City’s academy who joined Huddersfield last summer, 22 year old Tommy Smith emerged from nowhere to become a regular in The Terriers’ back line in 2013-14, making 24 appearances on his way to be named the club’s young player of year. He signed a new contract in February which will keep him in the North East until 2016, when he should be at his peak. Mark Robins asked a lot of Smith by thrusting him into the first team last season as they flirted with relegation, but the defender coped with it well.

My Prediction – 20th

It’s all about a good start for Huddersfield, otherwise a squad capable of shaking off relegation worries may get dragged back in to the dogfight as they lose confidence in their ability. If a drop zone battle does arrive, The Terriers have the experience to survive it, but it won’t be easy.


Ipswich Town

ipswich

  • Last season: 9th
  • Nickname: The Tractor Boys
  • Stadium: Portman Road (30,311)

Ins (as of 6th August): Bartosz Bialkowski (Notts County, Undisclosed), Alex Henshall (Manchester City), Cameron Stewart (Hull City), Jonathan Parr (Crystal Palace), Darren McQueen (Tottenham Hotspur), Kévin Bru (Levski Sofia), Balint Bajner (Borussia Dortmund).

Outs (as of 6th August): Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United, £3.75m), Carlos Edwards (Millwall), Scott Loach (Rotherham United), Frederic Veseli (Port Vale, Loan).

The Manager – Mick McCarthy

A ninth place finish last season was rewarded with a new three year contract for Mick McCarthy, who has become popular among fans, with Town playing some of their best football in years under the ex-Wolves boss. Few would bet against Big Mick having a good crack at getting promotion in the next couple of years and it is clear to see that 55 year old is enjoying life at Portman Road.

Star Man – David McGoldrick

Had David McGoldrick not torn his knee ligament in February, who knows where Ipswich town would have finished. Up to that point, he had 16 league goals, and there is no doubt that had he still been in the team, The Tractor Boys’s play-off hopes would have been a lot stronger. Including loan spells, the 26 year old has had eight clubs in 10 years, but it is at Portman Road, where he he has developed in a huge goal threat that defenders fear. Whether that clinical nature is still there after his injury could decide where Ipswich finish.

One to Watch – Alex Henshall

A new signing for Ipswich, Alex Henshall was released by Manchester City at the end of last season after numerous loan spells including one at Portman Road for the second half of last season, but he did not feature. The 20 year old’s more successful temporary moves came at Chesterfield and Bristol Rovers, whilst he has also been heavily involved with England’s Under-17, reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2011. Once described by City as “a real talent”, it always going to be hard for Henshall to break into the first team with a host of world stars at the Etihad, but Ipswich could bring out the best in this potential talent.

My Prediction – 13th

Mick McCarthy knows how to get out of this division, but the fight for the play-offs this campaign is stronger than ever and there are questions whether the squad itself is up to, especially after losing Aaron Cresswell. It’s a fairly tough start for Ipswich in terms of fixtures, and that could be their promotion hopes gone by October.


Leeds United

leeds

  • Last season: 15th
  • Nickname: The Whites
  • Stadium: Elland Road (39,460)

Ins (as of 6th August): Marco Silvestri (Chievo, Unidsclosed), Tommaso Bianchi (Sassuolo, Undisclosed), Gaetano Berardi (Sampdoria, Undisclosed), Nicky Ajose (Peterborough, Undisclosed), Stuart Taylor (Reading), Souleymane Doukara (Catania, Loan), Zan Benedicic (AC Milan, Loan)

Outs (as of 6th August): Ross McCormack (Fulham, £7m rising to £11m), Tom Lees (Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed), Lee Peltier (Huddersfield Town), Lewis Turner, Simon Lenighan (Both Harrogate Town), Paul Green (Rotherham United), Luke Varney (Blackburn Rovers), Nathan Turner (Bradford Park Avenue), Danny Pugh (Coventry City), Marius Zaliukos (Rangers).

The Manager – David Hockaday

A surprise choice for the managerial role at Leeds following Brian McDermott’s departure, David Hockaday has only previously taken charge of Forest Green Rovers in the Conference, which he didn’t exactly set alight over four seasons. It’s a risky appointment, but Hockaday does have a history of working with youngsters and has signed a few promising ones.

Star Man – Sam Byram

For a club that continues to fail to punch above its weight, the sight of a quality homegrown player could do wonders for supporters. Sam Byram is one of few youngsters at Elland Road that is not from abroad, and is a player tipped for the top after numerous impressive performances earned him high praise last season. He has been given the number two shirt for the new season, so if there was room for him to flourish even more, now is the time, especially with Hockaday’s aforementioned knack off transforming youngsters into stars. He could have been Leeds’ one to watch at the age of 20, but such is his impressive skill already, he will be the one Whites fans are looking forward to watching this season.

One to Watch – Zan Benedicic

Zan Benedicic became the fifth Italian player to join Leeds this summer when he arrived on loan from AC Milan on Monday, as the club’s owner Massimo Cellino continues to want players from his home country. The 18 year old attacking midfielder is yet to make his debut for the Serie A side, but has been capped by Slovenia at youth level 12 times with three goals. He had been called up to the Milan first team for their tour of the USA this summer, but had to fly home to finalise this deal which could result in Benedicic moving to Elland Road permanently at the end of the season.

Fan’s View – Kieran Rawnsley

“Not being relegated would be a bonus. The young Italian we have signed from AC Milan [Zan Benedicic] is one to watch.”

My Prediction – 19th

It’s a worrying time for Leeds fans. Their new boss has only previously managed in the Conference where he didn’t exactly impress, they’ve lost their star man and top scorer, and their owner thinks a load of Italian kids can send them up. A relegation battle looms, but The Whites should survive it with weaker teams in this division.


Middlesbrough

middlesbrough

  • Last season: 12th
  • Nickname: Boro
  • Stadium: The Riverside Stadium (34,742)

Ins (as of 6th August): Enrique Garcia (Real Murcia, £3.5m), James Husband (Doncaster Rovers, Undisclosed + swap), Tomás Mejías (Real Madrid, Undisclosed), Emilio Nsue (Real Mallorca, Undisclosed), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Lukas Jutkiewicz (Burnley, £1.5m), Marvin Emnes (Swansea City, £1.5m), Matthew Bates (Hartlepool United), Matthew Dolan (Bradford City), Jayson Leutwiler (Shrewsbury Town), Stuart Parnaby (Hartlepool United), Frazer Richardson (Rotherham United), Curtis Main (Doncaster Rovers, Swap).

The Manager – Aitor Karanka

Having worked under Jose Mourinho, Aitor Karanka looks like a promising graduate of Special One school. A decent centre-back for Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid, where he was also a highly-rated coach, the Spaniard seems to have the intelligence and back to basics philosophy to get a team functioning in this competitive league.

Star Man – Albert Adomah

Whilst his teammates were off on holiday at the start of the summer, winger Albert Adomah was at the World Cup with Ghana, and although it was a short-lived experience with The Black Stars getting knocked out in the Group Stages, it was still a huge experience for Adomah. After signing for Boro last summer, the 26 year old impressed in his first season at The Riverside, as he scored 12 times – his highest ever tally in a single campaign. He started off the season better than he ended it, but this campaign could be his time to shine the whole way through.

One to Watch – Ben Gibson

Nephew of current Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson, defender Ben Gibson was thrown in at the deep end at The Riverside by Aitor Karanka last season with injuries and suspensions taking their toll on the Boro squad resulting in the 21 year old making 31 appearances and being award the club’s young player of the year. This run of games followed two years of loan spells with Plymouth and York and 2011-12 and then Tranmere in 2013-13. His impressive performances also led to an England Under 21s call up, who he now has four caps for since the turn of the year. With more experience under his belt, Gibson should develop as a formidable defender.

My Prediction – 10th

This season is promising a lot for Middlesbrough, and if you believe the hype, Aitor Karanka’s side could be this season’s surprise package. They’ll certainly give the play-offs a better go than last year when they emerged as late dark horses, but the race will be so tight. My predicted finish suggests not, but Boro may only finish a few points off sixth.


Millwall

millwall

  • Last season: 19th
  • Nickname: The Lions
  • Stadium: The Den (20,146)

Ins (as of 6th August): Lee Gregory (FC Halfiax, Undisclosed), Carlos Edwards (Ipswich Town), Byron Webster (Yeovil Town), Ricardo Fuller (Blackpool), Magaye Gueye (Everton), Matthew Briggs (Fulham).

Outs (as of 6th August): Liam Feeney, Liam Trotter (Both Bolton Wanderers), Charlie Penny (Welling United), Tom Beadle (Margate), Jack Smith (AFC Wimbledon), Andy Keogh (Perth Glory), Shane Lowry (Leyton Orient), Paul Robinson (Portsmouth, Loan).

The Manager – Ian Holloway

Ian Holloway made the jump from a Premier League relegation battle with Crystal Palace to a Championship relegation battle with Millwall by moving to The Den in January and won the doubters over by keeping The Lions in the division. The occasionally eccentric boss has experience at this level, but this is the weakest squad he’s had to work with.

Star Man – Ricardo Fuller

Despite his relatively advancing years, 34 year old Ricardo Fuller is still a dangerous goal threat, something which Millwall need. The Lions are his third club in as many seasons, following spells with Charlton and Blackpool after a six year stint at Stoke City, where his goals were crucial to promotion. There’s no doubt that the Jamaican has experience at this level, which could help his partnership with fellow new striker and one to watch Lee Gregory, who has made the step up from the Conference to the Championship.

One to Watch – Lee Gregory

Making the jump from Conference football to the Championship is a big one, but that is exactly what striker Lee Gregory has done this summer, after he impressed Millwall enough for them to pay Halifax Town £250,000 for his services. Ian Holloway’s side are in desperate need of goals, so there’s a lot of pressure on Gregory, who netted 31 goals in 39 appearances last season, to deliver at The Den. There is a lot of expectation on the 25 year old, as Millwall’s survival hopes may depend on his goal. But it’s a big ask and only time will tell whether the former Sheffield United youth teamer will bring home the goods.

My Prediction – 24th

Ian Holloway sometimes comes across as quite a naive manager, meaning the lessons of last season’s near miss are not learnt and Millwall are involved in yet another nervous relegation battle this campaign. I could be completely wrong, but Holloway’s confidence could get the better of him and The Lions’s campaign then goes horribly wrong.


Norwich City

norwich

  • Last season: 18th in the Premier League
  • Nickname: The Canaries
  • Stadium: Carrow Road (27,244)

Ins (as of 6th August): Lewis Grabban (AFC Bournemouth, Undisclosed), Kyle Lafferty (Palermo, Undisclosed), Gary O’Neil (Queens Park Rangers).

Outs (as of 6th August): Robert Snodgrass (Hull City, £7m), Rod Young (Welling United), Carlton Morris (Oxford United, Loan), Ricky van Wolfswinkel (St-Étienne, Loan).

The Manager – Neil Adams

A Canaries favourite in midfield from 1994-99, Neil Adams is a highly-regarded coach who helped Norwich’s side to glory in the 2012-13 FA Youth Cup, but he has never managed another senior side. It is his chance to prove himself by getting Norwich back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Star Man – John Ruddy

After Norwich’s relegation, John Ruddy may well be Championship’s top keeper despite the high calibre of young shot-stoppers in this division. If they don’t go back up straight away, the Premier League may beckon with a transfer, as he continues to engage in battle with Fraser Forster and Ben Foster for the right pointlessly understudy Joe Hart. Going to the World Cup in Brazil will have given him crucial experience and if he can keep the goals out this season then The Canaries may well go back up straight away, it is their attack that is more of a worry.

One to Watch – Josh Murphy

One half of the Murphy twins, Josh is perhaps seen as a bigger talent than his brother Jacob. The 19 year old plays on the wing, and made his first team debut in the Capital One Cup last season against Watford, going on to score withing 10 minutes of coming on as a substitute. He went on to make 10 appearances in 2013-14, including seven in the Premier League. Part of the Norwich youth team who won the 2012–13 FA Youth Cup where he scored in the final against Chelsea, The Canaries’ relegation to the Championship may be a blessing in disguise for Murphy, as it is a stage which he will relish and could establish himself into Neil Adams’ first team.

My Prediction – 5th

The squad is good enough, with the right blend of youth and experience, to go straight back up to the Premier League. But Neil Adams remains unproven as a boss. This may not matter though, and their rejuvenated strike force may find Championship defences easy crack and fire them to promotion.


Nottingham Forest

nottingham forest

  • Last season: 11th
  • Nickname: Forest
  • Stadium: City Ground (30,576)

Ins (as of 6th August): Michail Antonio (Sheffield Wednesday, £1.5m), Britt Assombalonga (Peterborough United, Undisclosed), Michael Mancienne (Hamburg, £1m), Lars Veldwijk (Excelsior, Undisclosed), Danny Fox (Southampton), Matty Fryatt (Hull City), Louis Laing (Sunderland), Roger Riera (Barcelona), Chris Burke (Birmingham City), Jack Hunt (Crystal Palace, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Matt Derbyshire (Rotherham United), Marcus Tudgay (Coventry City), Darius Henderson (Leyton Orient), Ishmael Miller (Blackpool), Radoslaw Majewski (Huddersfield Town, Loan).

The Manager – Stuart Pearce

Just like Neil Adams, Stuart Pearce is now managing the club where he made his name as a player. With over 500 appearances for Forest in his prime, Pearce is a hero at the City Ground and fans have loved his return as boss. It is hard to assess his managerial credentials after his time with a Manchester City side in transition and his spell with the England Under 21s.

Star Man – Andy Reid

Andy Reid was a surprise star for Forest last season as he earned his second Player of the Year at the end of it, a full decade after his first when he was at the City Ground. That’s testament to the ongoing quality and consistency of the bustling, net-bursting Irishman, who remains a firm terrace favourite. Inbetween that first spell at the City Ground and his current one, the experienced winger has also featured for five other clubs. It is a difficult ask for Reid, who is now 32 years old, to repeat his form from last season, but his burden on the wing has been eased by the captures of widemen Michail Antonio and Chris Burke from Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham City respectively.

One to Watch – Ben Osborn

Ben Osborn was handed his first team Nottingham Forest debut by caretaker manager Gary Brazil at the end of March, and was subsequently a regular during the run-in to the end of the Championship season. The midfielder has produced a series of mature performances, so will now hope to establish himself as part of Stuart Pearce’s plans in Forest legend’s first campaign back at the City Ground. A product of the club’s youth system, Osborn joined at the age of nine, and penned a five year deal a month after making his first team debut. The 20 year old can play in midfield or at left-back.

My Prediction – 4th

The arrival of Stuart Pearce at the City Ground may just give the squad the confidence they need to finish in the play-offs this time around, after feeling confident their last season before finishing seventh. Thanks to the signing of Britt Assombalonga, they now have star players in all areas of the pitch and could push for promotion.


Reading

reading

  • Last season: 7th
  • Nickname: The Royals
  • Stadium: Madjeski Stadium (24,224)

Ins (as of 6th August): None

Outs (as of 6th August): Daniel Carrico (Sevilla, £1.5m), Adam Le Fondre (Cardiff City, £1m), Stuart Taylor (Leeds United), Matt Partridge (Dagenham & Redbridge), Jobi McAnuff (Leyton Orient).

The Manager – Nigel Adkins

It was a frustrating first full season in charge at The Madjeski for Nigel Adkins and it has been a long summer following the club’s ownership problems. You would not have forgiven the 49 year old for resigning, but he’s stuck at it and is now aiming to achieve his fifth promotion, after guiding Scunthorpe up from League One twice and getting Southampton promoted from the same division and then from the Championship in successive seasons.

Star Man – Jem Karacan

Among the many injury casualties at Reading last season, Jem Karacan was the worst hit, and perhaps the most missed. In the seven games he played, he scored twice from defensive midfield and had he not been out on the sidelines, The Royals may well have earned promotion. Karacan remains one of the club’s key players and Nigel Adkins clearly sees this and rewarded him with the captains armband this summer following Jobi McAnuff’s release. The 25 year old is unlikely to be fit to start the campaign, but fans will want him back fit as soon as possible, as they’re promotion hopes could be decided on how much he features.

One to Watch – Ryan Edwards

With money tight at The Madjeski Stadium this summer, Nigel Adkins has given a host of youngsters the chance to perform in pre-season, and the one who has impressed the most is 20 year old Australian midfielder Ryan Edwards, scored the winning goal against Exeter City and provided assists in the following two matches. He spent last season on loan at Perth Glory in his home country, where his brother Cameron plays, but Adkins has seen this as the season to embed the young Socceroo into the first team, and so far Edwards has received high praise for his performances from the media and fans alike.

Fan’s View – Olly Allen

“Yes that’s me. My head says mid-table, but my heat says play-offs. Now the ownership issues have been resolved, and Simon Cox and Jamie Mackie have arrived from Nottingham Forest in the last few days, there is cautious optimism surrounding the club. The race for the play-offs is closer than ever, and it will be tight but hopefully we can make the top six.”

My Prediction – 9th

It’s been a difficult summer at Reading, with ownership problems leading to no new signings until Thursday and selling their star man from last season, Adam Le Fondre. Nigel Adkins does know how to get out of this division though, whilst the squad remains mostly the same from last season. The Royals will fight for a place in the top six, but may just miss out once again.


Rotherham United

rotherham

  • Last season: 4th in League One
  • Nickname: The Millers
  • Stadium: New York Stadium (12,021)

Ins (as of 6th August): Jordan Bowery (Aston Villa, £250,000), Kirk Broadfoot (Blackpool), Matt Derbyshire (Nottingham Forest), Scott Loach (Ipswich Town), Conor Newton (Newcastle United), Mat Sadler (Crawley Town), Ryan Hall (MK Dons), Richard Wood (Charlton Athletic), Febian Brandy (Sheffield United), Frazer Richardson (Middlesbrough), Paul Green (Leeds United), John Swift (Chelsea, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Nicky Adams (Bury, Undisclosed), James Cadman (Stalybridge Celtic), Danny Hylton (Oxford United), Kayode Odejayi (Tranmere Rovers), Harley Wigley (Stalybridge Celtic), Scott Shearer (Crewe), Wes Thomas (Birmingham City), David Worrall (Southend United), Mitch Rose (Crawley Town, Loan), Danny Rowe, Nicky Walker (both Wycombe Wanderers, Loans).

The Manager – Steve Evans

Steve Evans has secured back to back promotions with Rotherham, following similar success in the previous two seasons with Crawley. A controversial figure, he received a one year prison sentence in 2006, but his sides are tough to beat and always seem to defy the odds in the most dramatic of ways.

Star Man – Lee Frecklington

Like his manager, Lee Frecklington has been in non-league football and the Conference in a fairly short space of time. He joined Rotherham initially on loan in October 2012 and played a crucial role in their League Two promotion that season and then signed a permanent deal from Peterborough last summer and again was key to promotion as they won the League One play-offs, although Frecklington missed his penalty in the final shoot-out at Wembley, only for Jamie Collin to save Leyton Orient’s last two spot-kicks to send The Millers up. There has been a lot interest surrounding the 28 year old midfielder this summer, but Steve Evans has been quick to warn potential suitors off.

One to Watch – Jordan Bowery

Rotherham are going to need goals if they are to survive in the Championship, which is why Steve Evans has brought in 23 year old Jordan Bowery from Aston Villa this summer for an undisclosed fee, breaking the club’s transfer record. The Nottingham-born striker failed to score in 22 games and couldn’t hold down a first team place in two years at Villa Park, spending a month on loan from Doncaster last season. This will be a big season for Bowery, who will be busting a gut to prove himself after his career stalled in The Midlands, whilst Rotherham’s survival hopes could rely on his goals.

My Prediction – 23rd

Rotherham, like Yeovil last season have emerged as potential whipping boys for the Championship after going up through the play-offs. Like what happened with The Glovers, this is unlikely to be the case and Rotherham will give it their best go, but it may not be good enough, and they go down feeling proud of their efforts.


Sheffield Wednesday

sheffield wednesday

  • Last season: 16th
  • Nickname: The Owls
  • Stadium: Hillsborough (39,812)

Ins (as of 6th August): Tom Lees (Leeds United, Undisclosed), Ryan Croasdale (Preston North End), Paul McElroy (Hull City), Kieren Westwood (Sunderland), Sam Hutchinson (Chelsea), Matt Young (Southampton), Ed Sanders (Stoke City), Dejan Kelhar (Red Star Belgrade).

Outs (as of 6th August): Michail Antonio (Nottingham Forest, £1.5m), Danny Mayor (Bury, Undisclosed), Adam Davies (Barnsley), Taylor McKenzie (Notts County), Reda Johnson (Coventry City), Adam Harvey (Bedlington Terriers), Miguel Llera (Scunthorpe United).

The Manager – Stuart Gray

It took a long time for Stuart Gray to be given the managerial position at Sheffield Wednesday in January after he turned The Owls’ fortunes around as caretaker starting in November. Although Wednesday’s rise slowed down and dipped slightly after Gray got the job permanently, the 54 year old will want a good start to his first full season in charge at Hillsborough.

Star Man – Liam Palmer

It is a young side at Hillsborough, meaning both their star man and one to watch are under 23 years old. 22 year old Liam Palmer, who came through the academy in Yorkshire, was a revelation in his breakthrough season in 2013-14 and looks Premier League quality. Able to play right-back and across the midfield, Palmer is fast, hard-working, with good feet and good positional sense. After being given a new a new four year contract March, the youngsters’s performances were further rewarded with the club’s player of the season at the end of the campaign.

One to Watch – Caolan Lavery

We could have been seeing Caolan Lavery in the Premier League, as the striker has had trials with Tottenham and Sunderland in the past, but after joining Sheffield Wednesday in 2012, the 21 year old hasn’t looked back, and made his debut for The Owls at the beginning of last season. He scored four times in 12 games, as well as having a successful loan spell at Plymouth in December and January. Tipped to breakthrough properly this season, Lavery, who has played for Canada and Northern Ireland at youth level, was ruled out for the start of the campaign with a knee ligament problem picked up in a pre-season friendly against South Yorkshire rivals Doncaster.

Fan’s View – Jacob Barker

“The money injection for Sheffield Wednesday from its new owner and how it will help is always interesting.”

My Prediction – 17th

The improvements made under Stuart Gray last season could turn out to be just another false dawn and another relegation battle arrives for Wednesday. Either that, or they make a surprise push for the play-offs. With the possibility of either, I’ve got them down as mid-table finishers.


Watford

watford

  • Last season: 13th
  • Nickname: The Hornets
  • Stadium: Vicarage Road (17,477)

Ins (as of 6th August): Juan Carlos Paredes (Granada, Undisclosed), Heurelho Gomes (Tottenham Hotspur), Gabriel Tamas (Doncaster Rovers), Craig Cathcart (Blackpool), Lloyd Dyer (Leicester City), Matej Vydra (Udinese, Loan), Daniel Tozser (Parma, Loan), Keith Andrews (Brighton & Hove Albion, Loan), Odion Ighalo (Udinese, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Reece Brown (Barnsley, Undisclosed), Javier Acuna (Olimpia Asuncion, Undisclosed), Gary Woods (Leyton Orient), Ollie Cox (Hemel Hempstead), Bobson Bawling (Crawley Town).

The Manager – Giuseppe Sannino

Knowing the lower leagues of Italy and then managing in the lower leagues of England could have backfired for Giuseppe Sannino at Watford, but there is a certain optimism around the man who spent his whole playing career in Italy, and only previously managed Serie B and Serie C sides before joining Watford last December. In March,  he led The Hornets to a club record six consecutive home wins in all competitions without conceding.

Star Man – Almen Abdi

The Swiss midfielder was sorely missed last season after he played an instrumental role in Watford’s promotion push in 2012-13, when he was awarded the club’s player of the season award. He suffered heavily with injury in 2013-14, making only nine starts as The Hornets failed to reproduce their form of the previous campaign. Ready and fit to start this new campaign, the 27 year old will be keen to reproduce the performances which saw him become one of the division’s top midfielders, which in turn should help Watford mount a play-off charge once again.

One to Watch – Cristian Battocchio

One of many players to become a young Watford prospect as a result of the club’s link with Italian side Udinese, 22 year old Battocchio moved to Vicarage Road from the Serie A outfit last summer following a successful loan season in 2012-13. He has scored only six goals in 57 league games in that time, but his first strike for the club in January 2013, a lovely finish from a beautiful team move, has been described as one of the best team goals ever at Vicarage Road and won the goal of the season award for that campaign, as Watford also got to the Championship play-off final.

My Prediction – 8th

Watford’s downfall last season was that they drew too many games, 15 in total, on their way to 13th place finish. Turns these individual points into three more often than not, and they could turn into favourites for promotion. But as I have mentioned so many times, the play-off race will be so tight this year, and Watford could be another team who ‘just’ miss out.


Wigan Athletic

wigan

  • Last season: 5th
  • Nickname: The Latics
  • Stadium: The DW Stadium (25,133)

Ins (as of 6th August): James Tavernier (Newcastle United, Undisclosed), Oriol Riera (Osasuna, Undisclosed), Andrew Taylor (Cardiff City), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Partick Thistle), Don Cowie (Cardiff City), Emyr Huws (Manchester City, Loan).

Outs (as of 6th August): Jordi Gomez (Sunderland), Danny Redmond (Hamilton Academical), Adam Buxton (Accrington Stanley), Stephen Crainey (Fleetwood Town)

The Manager – Uwe Rosler

Uwe Rosler laid the foundations for Brentford’s promotion from League One last season before he was lured away by Wigan, who themselves needed a turnaround. Rosler did just that by taking from lower mid-table to the play-offs, as well guiding them to the F Cup semi-final, beating Manchester City at The Etihad on the way.

Star Man – James McArthur

The heartbeat of Wigan’s team, McArthur has risen in prominence since the sale of James McCarthy to Everton last summer, replacing his fellow Scotsman and former Hamilton teammate as the neat and tidy man who makes things tick for The Latics’. A combative midfielder who can also dictate play, the 26 year old has been the subject of Premier League interest from clubs such as Tottenham and Burnley, but he is set to remain with Wigan for the upcoming campaign at least as a promotion push which McArthur will be a huge part of is waiting.

One to Watch – Emyr Huws

Signed on loan from Manchester City, Emyr Huws has joined Wigan to gain more first team experience following another loan spell at Birmingham City at the end of last season, during which time he was awarded The Blues’ Player of the Month for February and won the club’s Goal of the Season for his 35 yard strike against Middlesborough. The 20 year old has only one first team appearance for City, who he has also signed a new two year contract for, which came in the FA Cup last season. He also made his Wales senior team debut in March, after playing for the country’s Under 17, Under 19 and Under 21 sides.

My Prediction – 1st

Uwe Rosler has been given the funds by Dave Whelan to take Wigan back into the Premier League, and he may duly succeed in doing just that after bringing in some key signings, including Oriol Riera and one to watch Emyr Huws. It’s a strong squad already, and if The Latics’ form after Rosler took over last season is anything to go by, they will be tough to beat and knock off the top.


Wolverhampton Wanderers

wolves

  • Last season: 1st in League One
  • Nickname: Wolves
  • Stadium: Molineux (31,700)

Ins (as of 6th August): Tommy Rowe (Peterborough United), Rajiv Van La Parra (Heerenveen).

Outs (as of 6th August): Michael Ihiekwe (Tranmere Rovers), Danny Murray (Stockport County), Zeli Ismail (Notts County, Loan), Jake Cassidy (Notts County, Loan), Kortney Hause (Gillingham, Loan).

The Manager – Kenny Jackett

Not everyone’s first choice when he was appointed following Wolves’ relegation in 2012-13, Jackett proved the doubters wrong by rebuilding the club effectively and gave youngsters the chance as they stormed League One, smashing records in the process. He is however yet to really crack the Championship.

Star Man – Kevin McDonald

Signing Kevin McDonald for just £750,000 from Sheffield United last summer proved to be a stroke of genius for Wolves, as the big Scottish midfielder was pivotal as they stormed to the League One title. He runs the show as one of a pair in a 4-2-3-1 formation and has a mantelpiece full of League One Man of the Match trophies from last season, which led to him being on the three-man shortlist for the division’s player of the year, an award he eventually lost out to to Brentford’s Adam Forshaw. As some consolation, he was awarded Wolves’ player of the season award and will now play a crucial role in their first season back in the Championship.

One to Watch – Eusebio Bancessi

Wolves’ Portuguese winger with the famous name was prolific for the club’s Under-21 side last season, with eight goals in 16 starts, including a hat-trick against Tottenham. It was an impressive first season at the club following a summer switch from Benfica and Kenny Jackett said that the 18 year old would also have made his first team bow at the end of last season, had the club not been chasing numerous records to cap off a remarkable League One campaign. This season though, could be the time when Bancessi announces himself to English football, with mounds of excitement surrounding the trickster teenager.

My Prediction – 14th

Wolves are expected to comfortably survive their first season back in the Championship, but it is unlikely that they will mount a play-off push, which many think they will. But in my view, it’s not a squad capable of doing so, whilst Kenny Jackett’s record in this division worries me. A season of mid-table consolidation probably awaits.

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