The 200% Football League Pre-Season: The Championship
Slightly later than planned (due to a unexpected broadband outage), here is the final Football League preview. Again, it isn’t meant to be comprehensive (it would be four times the size and a lot duller to read if it were), more informative, and concentrating on permanent signings, rather than loan signings, departures and loans that have become permanent.
Wigan Athletic have brought in nine players, as they aim to return to the top flight and prepare for their European debut. A lot of familiar names arrive to replace eleven departures – Scott Carson in goal, James Perch, Stephen Crainey and Leon Barnett in defence, Chris McCann in midfield and Grant Holt and Marc-Antoine Fortune up front. New manager Owen Coyle continues the Wigan tradition of signing Hondurans, with left back Juan Carlos Garcia being one of the most recent arrivals.
Reading have survived the summer without losing players back to the Premier League, and even add a few new names. American midfielder Danny Williams is the surprise package of the arrivals, as little needs to be said for Wayne Bridge. Royston Drenthe made a big name for himself at the 2007 European Under 21 Championship, but has flattered to deceive since.
Harry Redknapp claimed that the squad that Queens Park Rangers went down with would struggle to make the top half, but only four new faces arrive. Karl Henry and Charlie Austin have proved themselves elsewhere at this level, while Richard Dunne adds experience in defence, and right back Danny Simpson will look to finally establish himself in the first team of a club.
Watford’s summer has been slightly hampered by a transfer embargo of sorts (they can still sign players with league approval), but they continue to be a dumping ground for Udinese and Granada players. No loans yet, but eleven players come from Gino Pozzo’s other clubs, including four of last season’s loanees. midfielder Lewis McGugan and defender Reece Brown are the only other two arrivals.
Just as everything was starting to look rosy for Brighton & Hove Albion, they have a summer to forget. Manager Guy Poyet being sacked, and replaced by Spaniar Oscar Garcia. Garcia has played things safe so far, by just signing two defenders (Matthew Upson and Adam Chicksen) and one midfielder (Kemy Agustien), while he adapts to the English game.
Leicester City gambled on spending big last season in an attempt to get promotion, and came up short, so Nigel Pearson has had to be a lot more restrained this season – left back Zoumana Bakayogo is the only signing so far.
Bolton Wanderers finished last season strongly, just missing out on the playoffs. Jermaine Beckford aims to fill the hole left by Kevin Davies, while Marc Tierney and Alex Baptiste add to the defensive options. Midfield acquisition Andre Moritz is still finding his feet in the country, but has shown that he’s capable of scoring goals.
Nottingham Forest’s summer signings have a League of Nations feel, with six players from four different continents arriving at the City Ground. Algerian midfielder Djamel Abdoun is the only newcomer to English footballer (one sub appearance for Manchester City in 2007 notwithstanding). Goalkeeper Dorus de Vries, defenders Gonzalo Jara and Eric Lihaj have all adapted to English football. Midfielder Jamie Paterson and forward Jamie Mackie complete the new sextet.
Charlton look like they have work to do in the market, with just three major permanent signings, one each for the spine of the team in Richard Wood, Mark Gower and Simon Church.
Derby manager is one of the many that have highlighted the two-tier nature of the Championship with the sides receiving parachute payments effectively having double the income of those that don’t. Derby still spend money though, but £750 on Johnny Russell looks a huge gamble, although he has been prolific in pre-season. Alongside him up front will be Chris Martin with the experienced midfielder John Eustace, defender Craig Forsyth and goalkeeper Lee Grant also arriving at Pride Park.
Burnley are another side who have made only a small entry into the transfer market, and have signed more goalkeepers (Tom Heaton and Alex Cisak) than outfield players (defender Joseph Mills). Sean Dyche clearly waiting for the end of August to finalise his squad.
Birmingham City will look to more from Lee Clark this year, and he reacquaints himself with forward Lee Novak and brings in keeper Darren Randolph, right back Neal Eardley, well traveled striker Matt Green and promising midfielders Tom Adeyemi Andrew Shinnie.
Leeds United fans will be glad to finally be shot of Ken Bates, as well as seeing some money splashed out – £1m spent on promising Crewe midfielder Luke Murphy, while the other two additions are Noel Hunt and Matt Smith on free transfers.
Mick McCarthy’s first close season at Ipswich sees an overhaul of the squad, with ten signings, although three of these were on loan last season. The pick of new arrivals look to be defender Christophe Berra, midfielder Cole Skuse and winger Paul Anderson. The only money spent goes on promising winger Jack Doherty.
Paul Ince seems to have spent the summer trying to keep his son at Blackpool, but has seen his attack as the area that needs strengthening, with Steven Davies, Michael Chopra and Bobby Grant all giving Ince new striking options. Defender Gary Mackenzie is the only other new arrival so far.
Middlesbrough tailed off alarmingly last season, so a good start will be needed again, in case a repeat happens. Midfielder Dean Whitehead and versatile defender Frazer Richardson are the only permanent arrivals, and with the latter only arriving yesterday, it suggests Mowbray is still working on the squad.
Gary Bowyer has a lot to prove at Blackburn Rovers and has brought in nine players in an attempt to take Rovers back into the Premier League. Defenders Matt Kilgallon and Tommy Spurr, midfielders Corry Evans and Chris Taylor and striker DJ Campbell all have great experience at this level, while Alan Judge has impressed in League one. The squad looks one capable of going up.
Sheffield Wednesday bring in three new faces, most of which are untested in the Championship. Defender Kamil Zayatte having played in the Championship with Hull. Midfielder Jacques Maghoma hopes to make the step up from Burton, while Austrian forward Atdhe Nuhlu makes his English football debut.
Mark Robins makes some good signings for Huddersfield – Jon Stead has a lot to prove, but played some of his best football here, while Martin Paterson and Spaniard Cristian Lopez offer further striking options. Adam Hammill usually provides a lot of chances at this level, and could form a great midfield partnership with Jonathan Hogg.
Millwall’s biggest loss was manager Kenny Jackett, and Steve Lomas has big shoes to fill. Lomas keeps faith with the defence, just adding keeper Steven Bywater, but the midfield sees Lee Martin, Richard Chaplow and Nicky Bailey arrive to create what could be a formidable midfield. Jermaine Easter, Steve Morison and Scott McDonald all provide new attacking options as well.
Barnsley bring in just four experienced permanent signings. Lewin Nyatanga (who has been at Oakwell on loan three times, so shouldn’t need time to settle) and Jean-Yves MVoto will both add to the defensive options, Chris O’Grady makes his loan permanent, while promising striker Dale Jennings returns to England having failed to make the grade at Bayern Munich.
Doncaster Rovers biggest changes have been the promotion of Bryan Flynn to Director of Football, and the arrival of Paul Dickov as manager. The most high profile signing has been that of Louis Tomlinson from One Direction – Flynn says that Tomlinson has been signed on ability alone, but only time will tell. Elsewhere Ross Turnbull is the new goalkeeper, and Richie Wellens is the pick of five new midfield signings that include Harry Forrester, Dean Furman and Spaniard Marc de Val.
Bournemouth return to the second tier for the first time in over two decades, but Eddie Howe adds just four players so far. Ian Harte brings a wealth of experience to the defence, and Elliott Ward alongside him is a useful player at this level, as is midfielder Drew Surman. Mohamed Coulibaly up front is an unknown quantity.
Yeovil Town become the first side to enter the league through promotion (rather than re-election, or relegation and subsequent promotion) to make their bow at this level. They don’t sign much in the way of Championship experience with loanee Alan Tate and Danny Seaborne in defence and Liam Davis on the left the only players with real experience at this level, although winger Joel Grant was chased by a lot of divisional rivals. Nana Ofori-Twumasi could be a great signing in defence if (and it’s a big if) he’s over his injuries.