Championship Season Preview

Barnsley

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Barnsley finished a lowly 21st last season avoiding relegation by just one point. Chris O Grady has been brought in over the summer and could form a strong partnership with Craig Davies. There will be big expectations from Tykes fans that Dale Jennings will boost their attacking creativity after joining from Bayern Munich Reserves. Maintaining their championship status will be the main priority for David Flitcroft who may have his sights set higher after leading the team to seven wins from eight in all competitions at the back end of last season.

Birmingham City

The Birmingham City squad has been in transition over the summer break with a number of established names leaving St Andrews making way for a younger crop of players to come into the first team squad. Boss Lee Clark will be hoping that the likes of Callum Reilly and Ravel Morrison can develop in the same way as Butland and Redmond who have moved on to the Premier League. Birmingham are unlikely to be pulling up any trees in the division which is reflected in the point spread which suggests no higher than a mid table finish.

Blackburn

Blackburn will be hoping for an improved season with more stability in the managerial post. Jordan Rhodes scored 27 of their 55 goals and they’ll need another prolific season from him. They’ll also need other players to contribute to the scoresheet and DJ Campbell may be the man to put them on the right track. A smaller and united squad may aid their cause.

Blackpool

Paul Ince has a tough task on two accounts this season. A – Keeping hold of his son, and B – his son keeping Blackpool afloat. Having scored 18 goals last season Tom Ince is key to Blackpools survival this season. Home form will be key for the seasiders who battle against an exodus of players and a budget as tight as their pitch.

Bolton

Bolton Wanderers will be keen to carry the momentum from last season into this new Skybet Championship season. Dougie Freedman did well at both Palace and Bolton having taken The Trotters from the depths of relegation to the fringe of promotion demonstrating his managerial credentials. This will without doubt have installed an air of optimism amongst the squad. Having kept hold of key players like Chris Eagles who provided 12 goals and 12 assists last season. Bolton should occupy the higher echelons of the league if the likes of Jermaine Beckford can feature regularly on the scoresheets.

Bournemouth

The cherries manager Eddie Howe has worked wonders at the south coast club but will be under no illusions this season as to the size of the task at hand in keeping Bournemouth in the Skybet Championship.

Defender Elliot Ward recruited from Norwich City looks a good signing offering strenght and composure at the back but they will still need to tighten up their defence as they will without douubt be facing a higher calibre of attacking front lines in the Championship this campaign.

Watch out for Brett Pitman and Matt Ritchie who have always been top performers in the divisions below, they will need to impact at this level. Its all about survival for Bournemouth.

Brighton

Gus Poyet made great progress with Brighton getting them promoted and leading them to a fourth placed finish last season. However Poyet’s fallout with the board left him sacked in what seemed like a messy state of affairs handled poorly by the Brighton boardroom. New manager, Oscar Garcia, has managed Barcelona youth team and Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Isreali League title but is totally unproven in the English game. It’s hard to see Brighton doing as well as last season but they should still have a good enough squad to avoid getting into trouble this season.

Burnley

The Clarets have lost the firepower of Charlie Austin who netted 24 goals last term but following his departure Burnley will be looking to both Danny Ings and Sam Vokes to step up to the plate and become their main goalscorers. If they don’t manage to feature on the scoresheet regularly it’s hard to see where the goals will come from and Burnley could be in trouble. It would certainly be a surprise if Burnley managed to do anything this season and could well be content with another mid table finish.

Derby County

Derby County will be hoping this is the year that they can really show some progression after four seasons languishing in midtable mediocrity.

Nigel Clough’s willingness to inject youth into the first team in recent seasons may pay dividends as young talented players such as Jeffrey Hendrick and Will Hughes already have a good tally of games under their belt and look set to impress. Improved consistency will be the order of the season as results away from Pride Park last season were poor; they only won 4 games on their travels last term. Could be playoff contenders this time round.

Charlton Athletic

Charlton Athletics form at the back end last season almost saw them sneak into the playoffs so the Addicks may have half an eye on achieving that feat this time round. Midfield heartbeat Johnnie Jackson will look to score double figures again after an impressive 12 goal haul and will be aided by Mark Gower from Swansea City. There goal scoring exploits will probably have to be relied on again as. It is debatable whether they have the strikeforce personell that will be prolific. Hard to predict where they will finish, may even struggle but there is certainly value to be found in backing them.

Doncaster Rovers

Doncaster Rovers will be elated and on a high after the dramatic way in which they gained promotion via the playoffs. However it won’t take too long for them to be brought back down with a bang. The likes of Billy Paynter and David Cotterill scored double figures in League 1 last season but they are both players who have had chances in the championship before and weren’t able to deliver that sort of impact at championship level. Paul Dickov is the successor to Brian Flynn but despite his FA Cup exploits he really struggled in the league with his Oldham side and may well have got relegated if he had been there until the end of the season. Doncaster will be favourites to go down and for good reason.

Huddersfield Town

The terriers doggedly clung on to there championship status surviving by the skin of there teeth last season. Many will be expecting them to struggle again after looking at the woeful minus twenty point goal difference they finished with, but they have managed to sign James Vaughan on a permanent contract; he scored 14 goals on loan last term and looks capable of scoring even more this season. Don’t expect Huddersfield to be in the top half but they may have more chance of avoiding the drop than many expect.

Ipswich Town

The Tractor Boys will be looking forward to the new season with more optimism than in recent times. In Mick McCarthy they have a manager who is a proven performer at this level having gained promotions with Sunderland and Wolves. Although they had a terrible start under Jewell, McCarthy not only steadied the ship but had them in playoff form for the rest of the campaign. They have a reasonably solid defence so if signings like McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy can get firing they are capable of a decent finishing position.

Leeds

Brian McDermott has good credentials in this division built during his managerial stint at Reading in which he reached the playoff final, before romping home in top spot a year later. New arrivals include midfielder Luke Murphy for 1 million pounds; the former Crewe product has an eye for goal. Big Matt Smith from Oldham who terrorised Liverpool and Everton in the FA Cup will also give McDermott an alternative approach if his intended passing style doesn’t pay dividends in a match.

They will have to be more positive away from home and improve on the 4 wins gained on the road. You would certainly expect an improvement on 13th position for sure, the Elland Road faithful will certainly be demanding it.

Leicester City

Leicester City have been knocking on the door to the Premier League for the past couple of seasons now and they will want to make this their year. Looking through the squad list as individuals they seem to possess players that will have enough quality to be a force at this level such as Chris Wood, David Nugent and Andy King. Consistency and momentum are the factors Nigel Pearson will be demanding and to address this he will want to pick up more points away from the King Power where they were very strong last season. Leicester should be there or there abouts when it comes to a top six finish.

Middlesborough

Middlesborough are one of those sides in the typically unpredictable Championship that are hard to predict. With players such as Marvin Emnes and new addition Dean Whitehead they should be capable of creating and scoring goals. Mowbray’s charges will need to address the defensive issues of last season, a campaign in which they conceded far too many soft goals and were a soft touch away from home losing 70 percent of their fixtures away from the Riverside. If you have an instinct about them either to do well or poor you could get some good value.

Millwall

Millwall will be hoping there defensive unit will be a solid base to build upon this year. They have brought Steve Morison back on loan from Leeds United and if he can replicate his performances from his first spell at the club he may prove to be the remedy to there goalscoring problems. Only Ipswich Town scored less goals than Millwall last term. They have lost an astute manager in Kenny Jackett and new boss Steve Lomas could well be on a hiding to nothing; being a former West Ham captain will certainly not buy him any extra time if they hit a poor run of form. Millwall look set to be in for a battle at the bottom this season.

QPR

Last season at Loftus Road was in many peoples eyes the epitome of football’s ugliest side with a catalogue of errors and mismanagement from the boardroom to pitch level.

In recent years teams that have been relegated have found it much tougher than expected such as Wolves who drowned in the competitive and unforgiving Championship last year with a similarly unmotivated, disillusioned squad.

However the difference with QPR is their manager. He is in place from the start of the season and seems committed to the cause. Redknapp will need to use all his nouse and experience to blend a squad that is pulling in the same direction and if there’s one man who can talk a good game when it comes to players its Harry.

In new striker Charlie Austin he has bought a man who has come through the lower levels of the game and is a proven goalscorer in this league. If he can keep players of quality like Joey Barton concentrated on their football mixed in with players like Clint Hill who will graft away they will be in and around the playoffs at least.

Nottingham Forest

Forest fans will be optimistic ahead of the new season and they have every right to be. Despite the old addage ‘never go back to a club you’ve succeeded at’- when Billy Davies returned for his second spell at the club last season he immediately got to work steering the team on an eleven game unbeaten run. They have a good balance in the squad with plenty of midfield creativity in the likes of Adlene Guedioura, Majewski and Chris Cohen who are all capable of weighing in with a goal. A good squad with a manager that has consistently done well with teams in this division Forest have a good chance at Promotion this season.

Sheffield Wednesday

Sheffield Wednesday achieved there primary objective of maintaining their Championship status last season after promotion the previous year and will be looking for a progression from Dave Jones despite the Clubs owner being more occupied with servicing debts than investing in playing staff.

Although still a capable goalscorer, Leroy Lita’s best days may be behind him meaning contributions from elsewhere will be of paramount importance. Jacques Maghoma was a force in League 2 for Burton but it remains to be seen what impact he can produce at this level. Last years top goalscorer Michail Antonio is a key threat from the wing.

They haven’t got the strongest of squads and they could really struggle again this season certainly it would surprise if they were above midtable.

Watford

Watford have goalscoring potential spread throughout the side and there offensive exploits will be the bedrock of any successes they have this season. Although they have lost the prolific Matej Vydra to West Brom, Troy Deeney scored 20 goals in all competitions last term and looks to be a very good bet to be the Championship top goalscorer. Zola has been allowed to make a number of the loan signings already at the club permanent additions to the squad as well as capturing Lewis McGugan from Forest who adds even more to their goalscoring potential. Watford should be fighting in the higher reaches of the division.

Reading

It is well documented that teams relegated from the Premier League often do not get things there own way in the second tier of English football but Reading seem to have a lot of aspects in place to have a good season. Off the field they look financially secure with wealthy Russian owners willing to provide investment. In Nigel Adkins they have a manager who many considered unlucky to have lost his Premier league job at Southampton; a side which he got promoted from the Championship with, so he knows what ingredients are needed at this level. In the squad players like Le Fondre, McCleary and ex- everton and Real Madrid player Royston Drenthe all possess enough ability to impact at this level providing Adkins can get the best out of them. You’d expect them to be in the top 8 teams come the end of the season.

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