In the last of three twohundredpercent Football League season previews (compiled before tonight’s match between Norwich City and Watford), Rob Freeman previews the Championship, predicts one of the relegated Premier League sides bouncing straight back up, consolidation for two of the promoted sides, and notices how little transfer activity there is compared to the rest of the league, and how the quality has dropped – again – in the second tier.
Last Season: Relegated (18th) Manager: Brian Laws (appointed January 2010)
In: Lee Grant (Sheffield Wednesday), Chris Iwelumo (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Dean Marney (Hull City), Ross Wallace (Preston North End)
Out: Robbie Blake (Bolton Wanderers), Steven Fletcher (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Joey Gudjonsson (Huddersfield Town), Nicky Weaver (Sheffield Wednesday), Steven Caldwell, Stephen Jordan (released)
With Hull and Portsmouth’s reported financial problems, and none of the playoff runners-up taking advantage by strengthening their squad, this division seems exceptionally weak (but also extremely tight). It also looks like Burnley’s title to lose. For a start, they’ve been able to keep most of their squad together, and the players they’ve lose, they’ve been able to replace with similar quality, they didn’t appear to overspend last season, and in losing Steve Fletcher, they gained Chris Iwelumo and enough money to fund a push, should they find themselves outside the top two.
2. Bristol City
Last Season:10th Manager: Steve Coppell (appointed May 2010)
In: Albert Adomah (Barnet), Kalifa Cisse (Reading), Nicky Hunt (Bolton Wanderers), David James (Portsmouth), Damion Stewart (Queens Park Rangers), Sam Vokes (Wolverhampton Wanderers, loan until January 2011)
Out: Frankie Artus (Cheltenham Town), Michael Coulson (Grimsby Town), Paul Hartley (Aberdeen), Jamie McCombe (Huddersfield Town), Bradley Orr (Queens Park Rangers), Lee Trundle (Neath), Tom Williams (Peterborough United), Brian Wilson (Colchester United), Adriano Basso, Steve Collis, Tristan Plummer (released)
Steve Coppell’s back, and has kept most of Gary Johnson’s side together. Coppell has replaced Bradley Orr with Nicky Hunt, and added Cisse, Stewart and Vokes to the spine of the side. The biggest signing, is of course, David James, and while that wouldn’t normally be enough to push a side into the top two, it may be just enough to tip the balance into the Robins’ favour.
3. Nottingham Forest
Last Season: 3rd Manager: Billy Davies (appointed December 2008)
In: Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, loan until January 2011)
Out: James Perch (Newcastle United)
The quietest team in the division, transferwise. Bertrand replaces the departing Perch in defence, apart from that Billy Davies keeps faith with the side that failed at the play-off stage last season. Ordinarily a side that doesn’t strengthen falls backwards, but so many sides in this division have weakened this season, that keeping consistent is as good as strengthening.
4. Queens Park Rangers
Last Season: 13th Manager: Neil Warnock (appointed March 2010)
In: Leon Clarke (Sheffield Wednesday), Shaun Derry, Clint Hill (both Crystal Palace), Paddy Kenny (Sheffield United), Jamie Mackie (Plymouth Argyle), Bradley Orr (Bristol City), Adel Taarabt (Tottenham Hotspur)
Out: Damion Stewart (Bristol City), Gavin Mahon, Nigel Quashie (released)
One of the few sides that have made a number of good signings this season, even if none of them are outstanding. Neil Warnock’s main task has been improving the defence, and raiding former clubs to add Kenny, Derry and Hill to the squad. The one downside is that Warnock tends to favour playing three strikers, and having three more on the bench, but only Helguson looks capable of producing the goods.
5. Coventry City
Last Season:19th Manager: Aidy Boothroyd (appointed May 2010)
In: Lee Carsley, Gary McSheffrey (both Birmingham City), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Everton), Richard Keogh (Carlisle United), Roy O’Donovan (Sunderland), Stephen O’Halloran (Aston Villa), Clive Platt (Colchester United)
Out: Marcus Hall (Northampton Town), Dimitrios Konstantopoulos (Kerkyra), Clinton Morrison (Sheffield Wednesday), Elliott Ward (Norwich City), Ashley Cain, Curtis Wynter, Stephen Wright (released)
Aidy Boothroyd arrives, which means that entertaining football departs, as he strips the sport down to it’s most neanderthalic level. In come three forwards, with Platt’s aerial ability integral to Boothroyd’s system. Jutkiewicz and O’Donovan seem strange arrivals on the face of it, as both have had weak spells on loan to League One. McSheffrey will provide a little skill on the left, but the star signing is Lee Carsley. His best days may be behind him, but at this level, he will add much needed organisation, strength and steel into the Coventry midfield. The Sky Blues will be this season’s dark horses.
6. Ipswich Town
Last Season: 15th Manager: Roy Keane (appointed April 2009)
In: Marton Fulop, Conor Hourihane (both Sunderland), Mark Kennedy (Cardiff City)
Out: Pim Balkestein (Brentford), Alex Bruce (Leeds United), Owen Garvan, David Wright (both Crystal Palace), Liam Trotter (Millwall), Ed Upson (Yeovil Town), Richard Wright (released)
Another side that have been fairly quiet in the transfer market are Roy Keane’s Ipswich. Ipswich improved after a slow start last season, and Ipswich’s two most troubled areas were left back and in goal – they may have only scored 50 goals, but they had the most shots on target for the division. Mark Kennedy adds to the options for the former, and while Brian Murphy appeared to have been the answer in goal, Marton Fulop has been added to the squad for £750k. With Keane promising at least one more signing up front, the Blues look likely to be pushing for the play-offs.
Last Season: 11th Manager: Gordon Strachan (appointed October 2009)
In: Nicky Bailey (Charlton Athletic), Chris Boyd, Kevin Thomson (both Rangers), Andrew Halliday (Livingston), Tarmo Kink (Gyori ETO), Stephen McManus (Celtic)
Out: John Johnson (Northampton Town), Chris Killen (Shenzhen Ruby), Emanuel Pogatetz (Hanover), Jeremie Aliadiare, Chris Riggott (released)
Something about Gordon Strachan’s tenure at Middlesbrough doesn’t convince me – and in the main it’s been the recruits from Scotland, some of whom have failed to impress in previous spells in England. Strachan has continued that trend with all but two of his signings. Kris Boyd will get fewer chances, and find it tougher to score against Championship defences, but Nicky Bailey is the best signing, and a player who has experience of this division with Charlton, but has also matured in his season in League One.
8. Cardiff City
Last Season: 4th Manager: Dave Jones (appointed May 2005)
In: Tom Heaton (Manchester United), Danny Drinkwater (Manchester United, loan until June 2011), Jason Koumas (Wigan Athletic, loan until June 2011)
Out: Darren Dennehy (Barnet), Warren Feeney (Cardiff City), Mark Kennedy (Ipswich Town), Joe Ledley (Celtic), Josh Magennis (Aberdeen), Aaron Morris (Aldershot Town), Tony Capaldi, Peter Enckelman (released), Ricardo Scimeca (retired)
Cardiff’s financial situation is still unclear, but there are suggestions that despite money coming in for Joe Ledley, more players need to be sold. With only Ledley gone, but Koumas brought in on loan to replace him, Cardiff will start the season as strong as they finished it, but if the reports of their financial situation are true, they may have to cash in on the likes of Michael Chopra and Peter Whittingham, and as a result, they’re likely to tail off at the end of the season.
9. Swansea City
Last Season: 7th Manager: Brendan Rodgers (appointed July 2010)
In: Scott Donnelly (Aldershot Town), Neil Taylor (Wrexham)
Out: Federico Bessone (Leeds United), Chad Bond (Neath), Leon Britton (Sheffield United), Marcos Painter (Brighton & Hove Albion), Guillem Bauza (released), Besian Idrizaj (died of a suspected heart attack)
Rodgers didn’t impress in his time as manager as Reading, and while Paulo Sousa left the Swans with a great defence, the two arrivals aren’t here to add to the poor scoring record as a team. With very few strikers on the books, and a change in the coaching team, last season’s defence might not repeat their exploits from last season.
Last Season: 9th Manager: Brian McDermott (appointed December 2009)
In: Andy Griffin (Stoke City), Marcus Williams (Scunthorpe United)
Out: Oliver Bozanic (Central Coast Mariners), Kalifa Cisse (Bristol City), James Henry (Millwall), Marek Matejovsky (Sparta Praha)
Another side not making many additions are the Royals. However, despite their late season form, they are one side who needed a spark or two to be added over the summer, instead they’ve added two fullbacks to a side who needed a few extra goals, and not replaced Kalifa Cisse’s versatility..
11. Leicester City
Last Season: 5th Manager: Paulo Sousa (appointed July 2010)
In: Tom Kennedy (Rochdale), Moreno (Vitoria Guimaraes), Miguel Vitor (Benfica, loan until January 2011)
Out: Wayne Brown (Preston North End), Billy Kee (Torquay United), Carl Pentney (Colchester United), Nolberto Solano (Hull City), James Wesolowski (Peterborough United), Harry Worley (Oxford United), Chris Powell (retired)
A new manager brings in just three new players. Kennedy will need time to adjust to this division, and the Portugese signings will lot of time to adjust to the pace and style of the Championship, but the biggest loss will be that of Nigel Pearson. The Foxes won’t struggle, but they’re not going to get into the play-offs again.
12. Norwich City
Last Season: Promoted (1st) Manager: Paul Lambert (appointed August 2009)
In: Andrew Crofts (Brighton & Hove Albion), David Fox (Colchester United), Simeon Jackson (Gillingham), John Ruddy (Everton), Steven Smith (Rangers), Andrew Surman (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Elliott Ward (Coventry City)
Out: Jamie Cureton (Exeter City), Gary Doherty (Charlton Athletic), Darel Russell (Preston North End), Michael Spillane (Brentford), Rhoys Wiggins (Bournemouth), Paul McVeigh (released)
Unknown territory for Paul Lambert, not just the Championship, but also having a second season as manager of the club. Surman and Ward are the only two signings who have experience at this level, and the rest will all have to step up together with the existing squad. This could become an exciting side, but they will take time to get it together, and may even struggle over the autumn, but come the end of the season, the Canaries will be safe in their first season back up.
13. Derby County
Last Season: 14th Manager: Nigel Clough (appointed January 2009)
In: James Bailey, John Brayford (both Crewe Alexandra), Dave Martin (Millwall), Gareth Roberts (Doncaster Rovers)
Out: Paul Connolly (Leeds United), Tomas Cywka (Wigan Athletic), Mark Dudley (St. Patrick’s Athletic), James McEveley (Barnsley), Gary Teale (Sheffield Wednesday), Lee Hendrie (released)
A similar story of the signings for Derby County. Gareth Roberts has a wealth of experience to add to the side, but Nigel Clough has built a very good first team, but the squad seems weak. Clough has made a lot of signings from the lower divisions in the last eighteen months that just haven’t worked out, and Bailey and Brayford need to be the ones to start bucking that trend.
14. Sheffield United
Last Season: 8th Manager: Kevin Blackwell (appointed February 2008)
In: Daniel Bogdanovic, Rob Kozluk (both Barnsley), Leon Britton (Swansea City), Johannes Ertl (Crystal Palace), Steve Simonsen (Stoke City), Nyron Nosworthy (Sunderland, loan until June 2011)
Out: Ian Bennett, Gary Naysmith (both Huddersfield Town), Henri Camara (Atromitos), James Harper (Hull City), Paddy Kenny (Queens Park Rangers), Glen Little (Aldershot Town), Kyel Reid (Charlton Athletic), Jordan Stewart (Skoda Xanthi), Sam Wedgbury (Macclesfield Town), Jonathan Fortune, Derek Geary (released)
The Blades have lost a lot of quality and a lot of experience, and Blackwell hasn’t really replaced it. The signing of Kozluk seems a step back (unless Blackwell is looking to add him to the coaching staff in the future), and the other permanent signings don’t seem as strong as the players they’re replacing. Nyron Nosworthy should help shore the defence up, but a play-off challenge like last season, seems out of the question.
15. Hull City
Last Season: Relegated (19th) Manager: Nigel Pearson (appointed June 2010)
In: James Harper (Sheffield United), Nolberto Solano (Leicester City)
Out: George Boateng (Skoda Xanthi), Stephen Hunt, Stephen Mouyokolo (both Wolverhampton Wanderers), Dean Marney (Burnley), Boaz Myhill (West Bromwich Albion), Geovanni, Bernard Mendy, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (all released)
Rumours of the financial situation range between “poor” and “catastrophic”, and their transfer policy reflects it. They’ve had to jettison almost an entire team, and their two signings aren’t ones to build a promotion hunt on. Harper will appreciate the move, as he looks to recapture the form he had at Reading, but Solano was as much a peripehery as you’d expect a 34 year old winger to be. Appointing Nigel Pearson as manager may be the best move the club made over the summer, but he won’t be able to prevent a lower mid-table finish.
16. Leeds United
Last Season: Promoted (2nd) Manager: Simon Grayson (appointed December 2008)
In: Federico Bessone (Swansea City), Alex Bruce (Ipswich Town), Neill Collins (Preston North End), Paul Connolly (Derby County), Billy Paynter (Swindon Town), Lloyd Sam (Charlton Athletic), Kasper Schmeichel (Notts County), Adam Clayton (Manchester City, loan until Septembert 2010), Sanchez Watt (Arsenal, loan until June 2011)
Out: Casper Ankergren (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jermaine Beckford (Everton), Paul Dickov (Oldham Athletic), Tresor Kandol, Rui Marques (released)
Leeds spluttered over the line in League One’s promotion race, and Simon Grayson has gone for consolidation over a promotion challenge, and the decision is wise. Most of the incomers were squad players for other Championship sides, and all have something to prove, and there are question marks over Billy Paynter after his unproductive spell at this level with Hull, not to mention Kasper Schmeichel having not looked convincing in his spells at Cardiff and Coventry two years ago.
17. Crystal Palace
Last Season: 21st Manager: George Burley (appointed June 2010)
In: Adam Barrett (Southend United), Andy Dorman (St. Mirren), Owen Garvan, David Wright (both Ipswich Town), Lewis Price (Derby County), Julian Bennett (Nottingham Forest, loan until January 2011)
Out: Danny Butterfield (Southampton), Nick Carle (Sydney), Shaun Derry, Clint Hill (both Queens Park Rangers), Johannes Ertl (Sheffield United), Jack Randall (Aldershot Town), James Comley, Darryl Flahavan, Stern John, Matthew Lawrence (released)
Some interesting signings for George Burley, but administration meant the loss of a number of Palace’s more important players, such as Shaun Derry and Clint Hill. David Wright will be an important signing with his defensive versatility, but there are questions over Julian Bennett’s fitness and Owen Garvan’s temperament.
Last Season:18th Manager: Mark Robins (appointed September 2009)
In: Liam Dickinson (Brighton & Hove Albion), Goran Lovre (Gronigen), James McEveley (Derby County), Jeronimo Morales Neumann (Estudiantes de la Plata), Jim O’Brien (Motherwell), Jason Shackell (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Out: Daniel Bogdanovic, Rob Kozluk (both Sheffield United), Simon Heslop (Oxford United), Darren Moore (Burton Albion), Mounir El Haimour, Jon Macken, Anderson Silva (released), Diego Arismendi (Stoke City, loan until June 2011)
A couple of losses to Sheffield United notwithstanding, Barnsley have had a productive close season. One thing Mark Robins has done well for at Oakwell, is bringing in so-called rejects from the higher Championship sides and using them as cornerstones of his team. Darren Moore and Jon Macken go, Jay McEveley, Jason Shackell and Liam Dickinson arrive. It’s been successful in terms of keeping them away from relegation, and there’s no reason why it can’t happen again.
19. Scunthorpe United
Last Season: 20th Manager: Nigel Adkins (appointed November 2006)
In: Bobby Grant (Accrinton Stanley), Michael Collins (Huddersfield Town), Chris Dagnall (Rochdale), Jim McNulty (Brighton & Hove Albion, loan until January 2011), Eddie Nolan (Preston North End, loan until January 2011)
Out: Paul Hayes (Preston North End), Gary Hooper (Celtic), Grant McCann (Peterborough United), Matt Sparrow (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marcus Williams (Reading) Peter Winn (Stevenage), Ben May, Kenny Milne (released)
Nigel Adkins has worked miracles since his promotion to manager, and they’ll continue. With so many clubs feeling the pinch, the Iron just need to play within themselves, and not get complacent to stay up, and the signings are as you would expect. Gary Hooper has gone north of the border, but Bobby Grant and Chris Dagnall are brought in to add goals, the only other major departee is Marcus Williams, but he’s replaced by Jim McNulty.
Last Season: 16th Manager: Malky Mackay (appointed June 2009)
In: Tom Aldred (Carlisle United), Troy Deeney, Rene Gilmartin (both Walsall)
Out: Jon Harley (Notts County), Will Hoskins (Bristol Rovers), Richard Lee (Brentford), Jordan Parkes (Barnet), Lewis Young (Burton Albion), Jay DeMerit (released)
The loss of Jay DeMerit and Jon Harley are important, as they haven’t really been replaced – Tom Aldred is the only defensive signing, and he’s way too inexperienced to build a defence around. There isn’t much in the way of firepower at Vicarage Road, and like Derby, the squad outside of the first eleven isn’t strong. Unlike Derby, the first eleven doesn’t seem that strong.
21. Doncaster Rovers
Last Season: 12th Manager: Sean O’Driscoll (appointed September 2006)
In: George Friend (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Simon Gillett (Southampton), Josh Payne (West Ham United), Billy Sharp (Sheffield United)
Out: Lewis Guy (** ****), Paul Heffernan (Sheffield Wednesday), Sean McDaid (Carlisle United), Gareth Roberts (Derby County), Ben Smith (Shrewsbury Town), John Spicer (Notts County)
Sean O’Driscoll has performed miracles, both here and at Bournemouth, but this season could well be the biggest test of his managerial career. The club haven’t lost any of their most important players, but the signings aren’t what you’d want if you were looking for a successful relegation battle. That said, there are clubs with other problems, and that in itself should be enough for Rovers to stay up.
22. Preston North End
Last Season: 17th Manager: Darren Ferguson (appointed January 2010)
In: Andreas Arestidou (Shrewsbury Town), Wayne Brown (Leicester City), David Gray (Manchester United), Paul Hayes (Scunthorpe United), Craig Morgan (Peterborough United), Darel Russell (Norwich City), Matthew James (Manchester United, loan until June 2011)
Out: Liam Chilvers (Notts County), Neill Collins (Leeds United), Michael Hart (Hibernian), Chris Sedgwick (Sheffield Wednesday), Ross Wallace (Burnley), Youl Mawene, Velice Sumulikoski (released)
Lots of incoming signings, but most of them have been released by their previous clubs, and none of the signings are really great ones. They’ve not really lost any quality, but with their finances being in a tricky situation, and their shares being suspended, and rumours of administration, off the field uncertainty may overwhelm the season at Deepdale, and relegation is a distinct possibility.
Last Season: Promoted (3rd) Manager: Kenny Jackett (appointed November 2007)
In: Shaun Batt (Peterborough United), James Henry (Reading), Steve Mildenhall (Southend United), Tamika Mkandawire (Leyton Orient), Liam Trotter (Ipswich Town), Darren Carter (Pretson North End, loan until November 2010), Kevin Lisbie (Ipswich Town, loan until June 2011)
Out: Gary Alexander (Brentford), Adam Bolder (Burton Albion), Dave Martin (Derby County), Jason Price (Carlisle United), Ali Fuseini (released)
Kenny Jackett has a great record in League One, but this is his first venture into the Championship, and the signings are uninspiring. Batt didn’t look great last season with Peterborough, and at 27 years old, it’s a bit late for Tamika Mkandawire to make his Championship bow. Kevin Lisbie has been brought in for goals, which is something he’s only managed with real success once in this division. The Lions are one of those sides who are likely to be better equipped for this division after they’ve gone back down and come straight back up.
Last Season: Relegated (20th) Manager: Steve Cotterill (appointed June 2010)
In: Ibrahima Sonko (Stoke City, loan until June 2011)
Out: Nadir Belhadj (Al Sadd), Papa Bouba Diop (AEK Athens), David James (Bristol City), Lennard Sowah (Hamburg), Dusko Tosic (Crvena Zvezda), Angelos Basinas, Steve Finnan, Hermann Hreidarrson, Kanu, Ricardo Rocha (released), Antti Niemi (retired)
Where else can you put them? Despite the CVA being passed, the financial situation still isn’t clear, with Balram Chanrai still seeming to distance himself from the club. Until a buyer is found, the administrator will run the club in the interest of the creditors, and that’s likely to mean as little expenditure as possible, and with a squad of just fourteen starting the season, being solvent and functioning as a club is a bigger aim that Championship survivial.