A Look Ahead To The New Season
Barnsley have lost last seasons top scorer in Daniel Bogdanovic who left for Sheffield United after his contract expired & veteran defender Darren Moore also left at the end of last season. They have bought some talented replacements though in Jason Shackell (Wolves), Liam Dickinson (Brighton) & Diego Arismendi from Stoke, Also adding to the squad is Goran Lovre of FC Groningen on a free who scored 22 goals in 105 appearances, he could be one to watch. With their squad looking a slight improvement on last season Mark Robbins will be looking to improve on last seasons 18th placed finish & they should do it.
Bristol City made their best summer signing in the form of Steve Coppell who is proven in this league & with some already talented players in the squad they will be looking towards a play off place this season after finishing a disappointing 10th last season. Coppell has brought in Kalifa Cisse from his old club Reading but nothing more to date, the only player to leave so far is John McCombe to Huddersfield Town but there are noises of Bradley Orr leaving too. Coppell will improve them, but not by enough i don't think.
Burnley were relegated from the Premiership last season after making a surprisingly good start and of the relegated teams look the most likely to bounce back to the top flight after making some good Championship quality signings, in have come Chris Iwelumo (Wolves), Dean Marney (Hull), Lee Grant (Sheff W) & Ross Wallace (Preston) but they have lost top scorer Steven Fletcher & former Red Robbie Blake who opted to stay in the Premiership with Wolves & Bolton respectively. They could bounce straight back up as champions with that squad, can't help but feel Brian Laws may win the sack race though.
Cardiff City have had a torrid close season after losing the play off final, a transfer embargo preventing them from bringing any new players in, rumours of a dire financial position & local boy Joe Ledley not helping the issue by choosing a move Glasgow Celtic on a free transfer which meant no compensation for the Welsh club, Mark Kennedy has also moved on to Ipswich. Despite the transfer embargo they have been able to bring in Tom Heaton on a free transfer from Manchester United. Last season 4th
Coventry City are one of 7 championship clubs starting the season under new management (with 13 managers in total starting their first full season in charge) as they've replaced Chris Coleman with former Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd who has wasted no time in bringing in fresh faces with former Forest loan midfielder Gary McSheffrey, Clive Platt and Sunderland striker Roy O`Donovan adding to the attack & Lee Carsley adding defensive cover along with Carlisle defender Richard Keogh. Stephen O`Halloran has also made the Coventry switch from Aston Villa. The only player to leave so far is defender Elliott Ward. should be aiming for a top half finish at least after ending last season in 19th place.
Crystal Palace are another financial disaster, which has seen several players move away from Selhurst Park, former manager Neil Warnock raided them for Shaun Derry & Clint Hill while Johannes Ertl (Sheff U) & Nick Carle have also headed for the exit door. Andy Dorman is the most notable signing they have made but another season of struggle looks on the cards here after only surviving on the last day of last season in 21st place.
Derby County are becoming more & more difficult to work out, in again have come the lower league signings in Crewe duo James Bailey & John Brayford while they've also made last seasons loan singing Dave Martin permanent from Millwall. The best of this seasons signings seems to be Tomasz Cywka on a free from Wigan. Out have gone the experienced heads of Paul Connolly (Leeds) & Lee Croft (Huddersfield looking like a good bet in league one). Some of the pre-season decisions by young Clough have been bizarre to say the least though, with strike duo Luke Varner & Rob Hulse both being played in defensive roles but even stranger was his decision to play Saul Deeney (reserve goal keeper) in a midfield position. It's about time they had a top half finish after ending last season in 14th, but i doubt they will.
Doncaster Rovers have made one of the signings of the season after making last seasons loan striker Billy sharp permanent for just 1.1 million. Simon Gillett & George Friend have joined Sharp at the Keepmoat with the only departure being Paul Heffernan to Sheffield Wednesday. Signing of the season or not, i think we'll see a bottom half finish from Donny this season after just scraping a 12th placed finish last term.
Hull City are another club that prove the words 'football club' & 'financial disaster' go hand in hand these days, rumours of massive debts in the tens of millions are all over the press & new manager Nigel Pearson has so far only bought in 2 free transfers in James Harper & Nolberto Solano. Out have gone Dean Marney, Steven Mouyokolo & Stephen Hunt as they try to slash the wage bill. The will be hoping to bounce straight back up after relegation, but it looks unlikely at this stage.
Ipswich Town manager Roy Keane has a lot to prove this season, much was expected of the former Sunderland manager last term & they failed to produce having to wait until late October for their first win when they were lucky enough to bump into Derby. Very little has happened recruitment wise with only Mark Kennedy as the notable addition. Failure to improve on last seasons 15th placed finish could see Keane leave & i fully expect to see him on Sky Sports News walking his labradors by Christmas, but then i said that last season.
Leeds United, like Forest returned to the Championship after a three season stint in League One, like Forest they returned to the Championship with a different manager than they went down with & like Forest, i suspect they will survive this season but maybe not with said manager in place. They have made some solid signings though having taken Kasper Schmeichel on a free from Notts, Billy Paynter from Swindon and also Paul Connolly (Derby County) there have been other arrivals in Federico Bessone (Swansea City), Niell Collins (Preston) & Lloyd Sam. They have though lost talismanic striker Jermaine Beckford to Everton who did so much to help them to last seasons 2nd placed League One team.
Leicester City will struggle to replicate last seasons 5th placed play off finish under new manager Kaiser Sousa. Comedy defender Wayne Brown shouldn't be too much of a loss & neither will Yann Kermorgant, James Wesolowski or Nolberto Solano. New signing Miguel Vitor could be an exciting one to watch though.
Middlesbrough have very busy this close season signing Scotland, Scot Gordon Strachan has added to the Boro ranks with Andrew Halliday (Livingston), Kris Boyd (Rangers), Stephen McManus (Celtic), & Kevin Thomson (Rangers), as well as shock none Scottich signings Nicky Bailey (Charlton), & Tarmo Kink (Gyori ETO). The only departure has been Emmanuel Pogatetz so they should be in for a good season & one of the early favourites.
Millwall won the league one play offs last season and have a decent manager in Kenny Jacket, their signings do little to persuade me they are strong enough to survive though in have come Shaun Batt (Peterborough), Tamika Mkandawire (Leyton Orient), Steve Mildenhall (Southend) with James Henry (Reading) & Kevin Lisbie (Ipswich) being the 'star' signings. They haven't lost much talent. only Dave Martin moving on to Derby but i can't see anything other than a failed struggle for survival here.
Norwich City will probably be the best of the three promoted teams this season & as we know, one of the three coming up usually makes the play offs & this season i suspect it will be Norwich. Paul Lambert did a fantastic job last season in picking them up after Brian Gunns quick fire departure & they have made some pretty useful signings in Andrew Surman & Elliott Ward while former Forest striker Grant Holt will try to prove he is Championship quality.
Nottinghm Forest are yet to make a signing & only James Perch has left the club permanently with Joe Garner being out on loan until January. They will need to be very lucky with injuries as things stand to better last seasons 3rd place finish. You can't help but feel this season will end in either promotion or catastrophe but as they proved last season they can put solid winning runs together
Portsmouth have suffered more than most due to financial issues, they have been given special dispensation to sign players while under a transfer embargo because they simply don't have enough players to start the season, they are still in administration & new manager Steve Cotterill will have a massive job on getting anything out of this season.
Preston North End are another team that sees their manager start his first full season in charge with Darren Fergusson taking over last term, their defence has been severely weakened by the arrival of Leicester's comedy defender Wayne Brown but there are more positive signs on the transfer front with the arrival of Paul Hayes from Scunthorpe & Matthew James on loan from Daddy United They have lost Ross Wallace to Burnley though & he was their main creative force last season when they finished 17th.
Queens Park Rangers manager wasted no time in raiding his debt ridden former clubs for Clint Hill, Shaun Derry (both Palace) & Paddy Kenny of Sheffield United. Jamie Mackie has also made the move to QPR from Plymouth which sees the Londoners head into the season with a strong squad. They've never finished a Championship season higher than last seasons 11th place but with Warnock in charge that may well change this season, loath him or hate him, he's a good manager.
Reading ended last season in blistering form & had they started in the same way they would have won the league at a canter. They will certainly make a stronger challenge this term. There hasn't been much activity in the transfer market here & it probably wasn't needed after they hit form, but Andy Griffin has made his loan move permanent & Marcus Williams has joined on a free from Scunthorpe. Only Kalifa Cisse has moved on to Bristol City.
Scunthorpe United were the most entertaining Championship team last term with their 46 league games containing no fewer than 146 goals which saw them end the season in 20th place. I can't really see them bettering their last seasons final position but i really hope they continue to entertain. Sadly with the loss Paul Hayes & Gary Hooper may see them fall back to league one but if there's one thing we know about Scunny, it's that they know how to find a good striker.
Sheffield United had a poor season by their standards last terms but have made some interesting additions for this forthcoming season, the arrival of Daniel Bogdanovic from local rivals Barnsley looks the best of the bunch if he can continue his goal scoring form here while they've also bought in proven Championship players in Johannes Ertl Rob Kozluk & Leon Brittain while Nyron Nosworthy will bring power to the back line. Former fans favourite Paddy Kenny has joined up with former manager Darth Vadar at QPR & Billy Sharp ended a nightmare spell at the club with his move to Doncaster. Last season 8th.
Swansea City had one of the poorest scoring records in the Country last season but still narrowly missed out on a play off place new manager Brendon Rodgers had a torrid time in charge of Reading last term but they may perform better should Rodgers release the shackles on the players & allow them to play & attack, or, alternatively, they could fall apart & sadly i suspect the later.
Watford struggled last season & it will probably be more of the same this time out, they have signed a couple of free agents in Tom Aldred & Rene Gilmartin & released a few players, the most notable there being Will Hoskins. Last season 16th