TTU Go Predicting: A Club-By-Club Championship Preview

Loftus Road
Image available under Creative Commons (c) GeetaRChurchy

The hubbub engulfing our League 1 and League 2 previews this week has highlighted the sensitivity of the average football fan. Now it’s time for the Championship, a division in which, contrary to appearances, not quite all the teams start with B.

Barnsley

The high farce of the Tykes’ last minute escape against Huddersfield confirmed David Flitcroft’s emergence as one of the Football League’s most promising managers in April but there will be a nervousness about the season to come – a horrific 6-0 home defeat against Charlton sat amid a bevy of notable results in the run in and if that can be explained away as a Black Swan of a score line, there is still work to do. Consequently, it seems sensible to have converted Chris O’Grady’s loan from Sheffield Wednesday into a permanent deal after he scored 6 times as a temp, while the capture of Dale Jennings from Bayern Munich is one of the division’s more intriguing pick-ups. Another former loanee, Lewin Nyatanga replaces mainstay Stephen Foster at the back but is a ball playing centre half what the South Yorkshiremen need?

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Birmingham City

Financial malaise ran through Birmingham City’s 2012-13 like a fossil on a Lyme Regis beach and the former yo-yo club are in danger of wallowing for a good time yet. Hence, the surgery enacted by long embattled manager Lee Clark has been swingeing, with prize assets Curtis Davies and Nathan Redmond departing for the Premier League. Despite the ongoing, almost surreal presence of Nikola Žigić, the Blues now have a solid Football League look about them with honest workmen such as Wade Elliott and Hayden Mullins joined by Neal Eardley and some real wildcard choices such as Matt Green who will be negotiating a four division leap. It’s a combination that signals a new realism at St. Andrews but is unlikely to bear fruit in the short term – the play-offs are a reasonable target but Clark will be long gone by then, while the prospect of new ownership looms large.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Blackburn Rovers

Clearly sick of the negative headlines, Gary Bowyer was a low-key appointment for Rovers after his double caretakership and in that he’s gone one better than Tony Parkes who enjoyed seven seat warming stints without ascending to the number one spot. The squad possesses renown, not least in the shape of £8 million man Jordan Rhodes, and only the underrated Martin Olsson has left to date, but surely the continued catastrophe of Venkys stewardship cannot be reversed as long as those sub-continental Bernard Matthews impersonators remain in charge? – to boot, it’s been projected that the club could incur a £40 million loss this year. Matt Kilgallon and DJ Campbell have been brought in to reverse the decline while the capture of Alan Judge from Notts County seems sound based on his performances as a Magpie even if he once proved to be a less reliable battler in Plymouth colours.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Blackpool

There have been more giveaways than Primark at Bloomfield Road this summer and Paul Ince’s time management in attempting to get his boy a home he deems fitting for the self-styled guvnor’s lad has been awry at times. Still odds on to exit before the end of August, Ince Junior has been joined by Alex Baptiste, the aforementioned Neal Eardley and Stephen Crainey, three men who have sweated profusely for the Tangerine cause, while only Gary Mackenzie and Bobby Grant arrived. The squad is consequently miniscule and the ‘contractual cliff’ that Chris Walker warned of in a post for us back in April has come to pass. Ince will need the monies that accrue from the sale of his lad to avoid a relegation battle in 2013-14 and it’s getting late enough now for any prospective purchases to be branded as panic ones. As of yesterday, the manager was getting his excuses in early.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Bolton Wanderers

After a miserable beginning to 2012-13, Bolton rallied under Dougie Freedman and launched an improbable bid for the play-offs. They look well positioned a summertime on – pivotal players such as Chris Eagles, Keith Andrews and Darren Pratley remain, while injury has shielded the likes of Chung-yong Lee and Stuart Holden from the gaze of Premier League clubs. The arrival of Alex Baptiste will do much to stiffen the defence while Jermaine Beckford has joined with a lot to prove after underwhelming the city of Leicester. Ádám Bogdán is developing into one of the division’s best goalkeepers (even if Andy Lonergan is pushing him hard) and while with such a degree of momentum behind them, we must expect Wanderers to challenge, the balance sheet difficulties highlighted by blog The Swiss Ramble a couple of years ago now will surely come to haunt them at some point.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Bournemouth

The adverse publicity surrounding the Cherries’ wish to cash in on the visit of Real Madrid should not obfuscate the impression of a team on the up. A quarter of a century ago under Harry Redknapp, a talented XI fought manfully at this level but they perhaps have every right to expect do a little better this time. Eddie Howe retains kudos and goodwill, even if his indecisive residence in Burnley casts doubts on his ability when the pressure is raised, while free-kick expert Ian Harte and Elliott Ward would appear to be three sensible acquisitions for a squad short of experience. That said, Matt Ritchie for one will be aching to prove himself a league up too and he could well make the transition with ease while underdog status will lead many to underestimate them.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Brighton & Hove Albion

Seemingly possessed by a desire to press the self-destruct button, we’ll never know what really happened at Brighton in May, but the wounds of a humiliating defeat to one’s closest rivals Crystal Palace in the post-season and the unseemly departure on national television of a manager who has welded the Seagulls into a force of nature has been extraordinary. It’s likely that the Uruguayan left for more prosaic reasons than the more scatologically-minded headline writers of Wapping would have us believe but the dust will take a while to settle. Settle it will, however, and the astute hiring of Matthew Upson is a signal of an underlying strength of will in Sussex, backed up by the highest crowds in the Football League. Óscar García would appear to be in de facto occupation of the hot seat at the time of writing.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Burnley

Burnley fans seemed resigned to the loss of Eddie Howe last year and that one smashing and heart-warming elevation apart, it’s hard to think of a following that has suffered more mid table mediocrity in recent years. Mind you, Coventry City fans were once heard to complain thus, so one should be careful what one wishes for. Sean Dyche has been characteristically low key this window and the main departures have involved some of the few remaining heroes of that storied side – Martin Paterson to Huddersfield and Chris McCann to join old gaffer Owen Coyle at Wigan among them. Despite Kieran Trippier’s reputation as one of the competition’s best young players, the Clarets look set to struggle even if doubts over Charlie Austin’s fitness could see him stay. Would that be a good thing though?

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Charlton Athletic

After the musical chairs of previous seasons, things have settled down at the Valley although the vim of promotion has largely been lost and Scott Wagstaff and Danny Haynes have departed for Bristol City and Notts County respectively. The one signing has been an eye catching one, however, with Mark Gower happily putting seal to paper, having been unfortunate to have seen his first team spot at Swansea infringed upon by the overseas influx. He’ll be needed for a squad that is starting to have a slightly undercooked feel even if the goals have flown freely in pre-season and the Addicks finished 2012-13 with an eight match unbeaten run. That kind of form always augurs well for a follow up campaign but the South Londoners’ playing staff looks weaker than at least a dozen of their adversaries’.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Derby County

We’ve been waiting for some time for Derby County, large attendances and all, to launch back into the national consciousness after the overspending of the nineties. At times the club’s owners have seemed paralysed with fear that, should they lose patience with Nigel Clough, he would promptly turn up at the City Ground and shame them for ever more. The result has been his quiet curatorship of a promising side; new Ireland international Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes among them. Now, with slightly more wiggle room in the market, Clough appears to have assembled a team with potentialities – Lee Grant and Chris Martin joined for free and Craig Forsyth was a snip from Watford for £150,000, while a cool three quarters of a million had been disbursed for Johnny Russell from Dundee United before John Eustace dropped anchor yesterday – one of the thinking Championship fan’s favourite players.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Doncaster Rovers

A year ago, Doncaster Rovers appeared to have lost their soul after the shameful departure of Sean O’Driscoll and an especially ignominious relegation involving more mercenaries than a medieval dukedom. It’s hence a surprise to see them back in the Championship so soon and perhaps even more surprising to see Paul Dickov at the helm after Brian Flynn stepped down from temporary charge. At the moment, the group has been kept together and Harry Forrester looks to be a very smart buy from Brentford, rubbing salt in the wounds of the vanquished. The poaching of Billy Paynter and skills of James Coppinger will keep Rovers competitive but it will be a demanding year for the team soon to be evoked as typical cannon fodder.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Huddersfield Town

Hudderfield Town tailed off alarmingly in 2012-13 both before and after the departure of Simon Grayson and surgery has been widespread these past few weeks – ex-loanee James Vaughan has come in from Norwich alongside Martin Paterson, the skilful but often inconsistent Adam Hammill and former hero and local lad Jon Stead. The influx makes for a ridiculously large squad and Mark Robins is probably keen to move out some of those who were involved in last year’s ebb. Still, something had to be done and with Peter Clarke a talisman at the back, the Terriers can perhaps hope for better this time.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Ipswich Town

Wolves fans will be looking on ruefully at the excellent job Mick McCarthy carried out in steadying the ship at Ipswich even if the ownership/management structure at the Suffolk club is shadier than its supporters are truly comfortable with. The squad has been added to very adroitly – the pace and skill of Paul Anderson, experience of Christophe Berra, never-say-die attitude of Jay Tabb, buzzing of Cole Skuse and silken abilities of David McGoldrick all enhance the mix while the erratic Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is not so much of a loss, despite the manager’s graciousness on waving goodbye to the ex-Arsenal man. Town have been dwelling below stairs for too long now and while a forecast of promotion may be optimistic, I wouldn’t bet against them competing in the play-offs come May.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Leeds United

Brian McDermott has all that one needs to forge a promotion winning team as evidenced by his taking a largely prosaic but hearty Reading side to the title a little over a year ago. Forward Noel Hunt is archetypal in this and should weigh in with a dozen goals or so while the million pound forked out to Crewe for Luke Murphy suggests ambition on the financial front. McDermott may raid his former charges for others but he’s generally been a man who likes to work with what he has already – so the precociousness of Sam Byram will be carefully nurtured and the mercurial talents of El-Hadji Diouf allowed to flourish. Whether that will make Leeds anything more than a contender will be revealed over the coming months. Expect the word ‘massive’ to be mentioned more times than in any account of the Bristolian music scene.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Leicester City

There has been more legislation passed by Barack Obama during his time in office than Leicester City have done business this summer and the hangover from that cruel denouement to the season at Watford may take a while to subside. It doesn’t help that City fans are divided on the subject of honest boss Nigel Pearson while the lack of trading suggests financial uncertainty – a possible backdraft from the silliness of the Sven era. Still, the owners’ purchase of the King Power Stadium in March along with the award of top academy status perhaps indicate a willingness to plan a sustainable future even if decent money was spent on the likes of Chris Wood throughout the course of 2012-13 and the wage bill remains stretched. There should be enough quality in the team to leave the Foxes looking upwards rather than downwards and perhaps Andy King will start to dominate games like he once did.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Middlesbrough

A dramatic fall from grace throughout the course of the last campaign indicated how much Boro are still suffering from the legacy of Gordon Strachan’s time at the helm and it truly was a horrendous winter for the Teessiders. The signings so far appear to be good ones however, with the battling consistency of Dean Whitehead lending bite to a midfield alongside former Sunderland team mate Grant Leadbitter. The club consequently have a more gnarled, harder to beat look and that can only be good after last year’s profile as pushovers. Tony Mowbray likes his teams to keep the ball on the grass but it needs to be tougher for opponents to come to the Riverside again.

Verdict: Middle of the Road

Millwall

Another team to badly fade away last time out, Millwall’s decline was at least identifiable to one major factor – the loss of Chris Wood to Leicester. Hence, the club have acted quickly to redress that wrong by bringing back returning hero Steve Morison after faltering spells at Norwich and Leeds (still his current employers) as well as Scott McDonald from Middlesbrough. Gone though, is the admirable Kenny Jackett while Steve Lomas is a fascinating appointment as his successor. With two UEFA League qualifications behind him from his time at St. Johnstone, the Northern Irishman’s arrival is a refreshing change and he’s complimented the hiring of the striking duo by bringing in Stephen Bywater between the sticks – how well the appointment of an ex-Hammer with the Lions faithful will go down is debatable, however. Ditto Nicky Bailey, who once snarled on the wrong side of the Isle of Dogs.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Nottingham Forest

Two players who it always seemed might be competing for the same place, Lewis McGugan and David McGoldrick, have departed the City Ground this Summer but the squad still has a supple look thanks to the forward power of Simon Cox, Darius Henderson and Dexter Blackstock as well as the midfield wiles of Chris Cohen and Radosław Majewski. It’s at the back that the Tricky Trees have been less watertight and Billy Davies has been attempting to prise former rock Wes Morgan back from Leicester all summer long – although a temporary deal for Jack Hobbs has materialised as a handy Plan B. Dorus de Vries, Gonzalo Jara and Eric Lichaj all look to be sensible additions to the rearguard of a team that should be an outside candidate for automatic promotion.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Queen’s Park Rangers

We’ve seen it before and the likes of Newcastle and West Ham have gambled by keeping an expensive unit together for an additional year in a bid to get back to the EPL. Hence, QPR will be doing the same and, contrary to all financial logic, albeit in keeping with the lengthy contracts that most of their mercenaries are on, will be looking to giveth more than they take away. Still, Christopher Samba has now returned whence he came and the £12 million netted should, along with monies resultant from the possible sale of Julio Cesar, allow the bid for Celtic’s Gary Hooper to bear fruit. Some will see it as a world without justice that will see a team still in possession of so many big earners (Bosingwa, Park, Barton to name but three) almost inevitably make a title winning challenge. Only the lack of team spirit that cost them their Premier League spot in the first place can prevent a return.

Verdict: Automatic

Reading

The new contracts signed by Alex and Hal Robson-Kanu will provide optimism for Royals’ fans on their quick return to lower division waters but also a warning that the financial prudence of yesteryear has been halted at Nigel Adkins’ insistence. The marquee capture of sometime bad boy Royston Drenthe will do nothing to prevent that impression and nor will the sneaky pinching of Wayne Bridge from under the noses of Brighton. Reading’s squad is unwieldy – especially when one considers how inadequate it proved to be during that lone Premier league season and the club’s player of the year perhaps provides the biggest conundrum – Adam Le Fondre is a finisher par excellence but is markedly less impressive when he starts games.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Sheffield Wednesday

The muse that saw Dave Jones conduct a torrid affair with the play-offs deserted him last season as Wednesday struggled to cope with the extra quality on offer in the Championship – a lumpen mode of play with the committed but blunt edged Miguel Llera at its heart was at times less than easy on the eye. Perhaps only Michail Antonio continues to provide fantasy while the arrogance of Gary Madine is out of all proportion to his achievements on the pitch. The signing of Jérémy Hélan from Manchester City indicates that Jones will continue to rely on a wingside effort while two keepers have left the club in Nicky Weaver and Stephen Bywater.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Watford

What’s particularly interesting about the new Watford vintage is the way that, rather than solely relying on rehiring the loan stars of 2012-13, they went out and acquired some additional quality in the interim. Hence, Lewis McGugan joins from Nottingham Forest and youngster Uche Ikpeazu has been persuaded away from Reading although he’ll be unlikely to feature too heavily given his inexperience. The former temporary men will continue to be important though – and Daniel Pudil and Almen Abdi in particular were important assets to keep, while the past week’s flurry of acquisitions has constituted a reunion to rival that of the film The World’s End. Elsewhere, one wouldn’t expect Matěj Vydra nor Nathaniel Chalobah to re-emerge but the regulations remain flexible enough to allow Gianfranco Zola to continue his superb management and continue his commitment to the best playing style the League will see.

Verdict: Automatic

Wigan Athletic

Swapping Roberto Martinez for Owen Coyle seemed akin to replacing Jacko from Brushstrokes with his sidekick Elmo and there may be less of a ‘project’ about Wigan Athletic this coming year. I was astounded at the quality on show when I saw them defeat Reading at the Madejski in the winter and hence, it might seem foolish to tamper with a combination that ended May as a better one than any line up this new division has to offer while scooping the small matter of an FA Cup into the bargain. Arouna Kone and others have departed and the incomers have been many. Grant Holt for £2 million is the headline act but Marc-Antoine Fortune, James Perch and Scott Carson is as eye catching a strategy of business as we’ve seen, even if all will be pinching themselves when they run out at Wembley in the Community Shield.

Verdict: Chasing the Play-Offs

Yeovil Town

How not to be patronising? No matter, given most Somerset men will revel in their favourites’ new found status. Gary Johnson is aware too that this Yeovil side will have their work cut out but he has achieved similar before with a Bristol City team full of comparative unknowns. Which leaves us to ponder which out of Kieffer Moore or Michael Ngoo and Billy Clifford, loans from Liverpool and Chelsea respectively, will impress us this year? This latter had a strut and an air of arrogance when I saw him in Colchester colours in January – a willingness to put his foot in and create the play – maybe he will perpetuate the dream? It’s a division that is unforgiving to big reputations that rest on their laurels and Yeovil can profit from that.

Verdict: Looking Over Their Shoulders

Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 44 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, Twisted Blood, In Bed with Maradona, A United View on Football and The Blizzard.

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38 Comments on "TTU Go Predicting: A Club-By-Club Championship Preview"

  1. Matt roberts says:

    Utter bollox

  2. Steve W says:

    I think Barnsley may well surprise a few people this year to be honest.
    I reckon the 12/1 odds to be the top Yorkshire team in the Championship are quite tasty too.

  3. royal says:

    Reading chasing play offs? Inadequate team for the Champ? Best team in the league on paper by far, they will break their points record this season…106

    • Lanterne Rouge says:

      I hope you are right but the hangover from relegation can be a fierce one, especially when so many games were lost last sesaon – losing can become a habit and although the quality of the opposition is weaker, the way Wigan came to the Mad Stad in February and simply blew us away still gives me the shivers.

      I think the squad looks good but there is a cornucopia of wingers – Robson-Kanu, Kebe, McAnuff and Drenthe – few of those are going to be willing to play second fiddle – while up front, Alf struggles when he starts matches, the Pog works hard but is limited and Roberts is still not fit. I also worry about the defence which really struggled to cope last year – although still having McCarthy on the books is a big bonus. Players who are surplus to requirements such as Leigertwood and Federici need to be moved on to lighten the wage bill – and that’s not to denigrate the contribution of either which has been legendary.

      Last time the club was relegated, they started well and won 3-0 and 3-1 against eventually promoted Wolves and Birmingham away from home before Christmas, only to be dragged down into a morass of medicority after the festive season. Above all, the playing style needs to be more pleasing as it will be tough to compete with a team like Watford for whom it has quickly become ingrained.

      • Tomb says:

        What on earth has happened to Pogrebnyak? (I didn’t see much of Reading last seaosn, and therefore even less of him)

        He went from “the Russian bloke Spurs should’ve signed instead of Pavlyuchenko” to the scorer of several key goals for Fulham, through a few more confusing stages to now being supposedly limited by Championship standards?

        I’m not saying you’re wrong, just marvelling at how quickly things appear to have changed for him. Especially if, as you say, he genuinely works hard.

        • Lanterne Rouge says:

          A good question. There is no doubt that his time in a Reading shirt has been a disappointment – but in mitigation, the amount of service he received was terrible because of the gap in class between the whole team and others in the Premier League. That affected his confidence and later in the season, he did miss the occasional barn door including one in the New Year’s Day match at White Hart Lane.

          He should be good enough now although on coming on against Ipswich, he promptly trod on the ball and slipped!If I’m honest, I do think he’ll move on before the window closes.

  4. robbie says:

    forget QPR and READING watch the FA cup winners
    ok we lost kone and alcaraz no big deal and figgs alcaraz rarley played (always injured)
    holt will score more than kone and i forgot fortune will be a handfull for all deffences
    wigan will be by far the best team in the league
    reading joke of a club no history,QPR only because of harry they get overated hype, they did not finish bottom for nothing mid table at best

  5. BiasedRam says:

    Good write-up for Derby. I’m quietly confident of a play-offs push, since we’ve kept together the bulk of a team that finished tenth last season – Roberts and Fielding have left but were getting on a bit and in and out of the team last season respectively, and there are tentative positive noises being made about Brayford signing a new contract soon – while making some sensible additions. Russell in particular has had a magnificent pre-season.

    That said, a lot of teams were average or below par last season and will have improved over the summer – it should be really competitive and I imagine a lot of teams having drastically different seasons this time round. Plus, sod’s law says we’ll have our entire first team decimated through injury by October anyway. Yeah, quietly confident is the phrase I’d use.

    • Lanterne Rouge says:

      Really interesting to hear that Russell has impressed pre-season – the record of Scottish stars coming down to the Championship in recent years has been abysmal in the main – with Gordon Strachan repenting at his leisure after the raft he brought in at Middlesbrough.

  6. As an avid Birmingham fan I was surprised you think we will be chasing the play-offs. I do not share that optimism sadly though I would be delighted if it came to pass. I’m excited in one way with our new look squad with lots of young, quick and hungry players in it but I believe there are far more than six teams in the Championship that will be too strong for us. Whilst I reckon we will be OK I cannot see anything better than a mid-table place and that will represent a good season given the turmoil the club has experienced with our owner in the dock for money laudering, lack of cash flow, flogging of our best players for peanuts just to keep the club afloat in the interim and the lack of atmosphere at St Andews as a result. Hate to be pessimistic but that is the reality of our situation at the present time. However, young players, running around, wanting to play for the team and providing a bit of entertainment and I’ll be happy. KRO SOTV

  7. Lanterne Rouge says:

    As ever, the earliness of our previews immediately dates them but one eye catching move has seen Karl Henry roll up at QPR – that looks like a canny signing to me.

  8. Hoops says:

    Really enjoyed all 3 previews, and generally agree with your predictions. However, as a QPR fan, I can’t see us going up automatically. It seems pretty likely Barton, Bosingwa, Cesar, Mbia, Granero, Taarabt and Diakite will be gone come September. So i don’t really think we’ll be following the Newcastle model. But without Taarabt, we have lack any creativity and unless Remy stays, our only strikers are old and inury prone. I can see us being solid at the back, but a lot of 0-0s. I’d expect us to come around 10th.

    I see it being between Watford, Reading, Bolton and Wigan for the Autos. Wigan and Watford have made some great signings. Brighton, Derby, Forest, Leicester, Ipswich for the reamining play-off spots. Think Blackpool, Yeovil and Doncaster to go down.

  9. Dave says:

    Pre-season appears to be a tell on form of some teams who retained their squad from the previous season. For example Barnsley look strong in all areas and have a lot of creative plays against teams that are stagnant in their play. Barnsley will finish in the top three.

  10. Chris Chadwick says:

    Come on Lanterne, chasing the play-offs last season also meant you were looking over your shoulder and were probably middle of the road too. Barring a handful of teams there was hardly anything to choose between the rest. You’ve only stuck your neck out on the auto promotion teams. So who’s getting relegated?

    • Lanterne Rouge says:

      Great question! Someone on twitter mentioned that the midtable is such a morass that it’s esay to hedge one’s bets with predictions. If I were to stick my neck out, I’d suggest Barnsley, Blackpool and Yeovil and yet I tipped Palace last year!

  11. Scott says:

    RE: Dave (the deluded Dingle)
    If Barnsley finish in the top 3, I will walk bare foot across the wall with broken glass cemented into it at Oakwell… Not a chance in hell mate.
    You’re welcome to M’voto, very average in pre-season friendlies against poor opposition.

  12. tobytyke76 says:

    Although Dave is optimistic saying we’ll finish in top 3, I do think we’ll finish in the top half of league. We will surprise a few people this season. We’ve kept all the players that played their hearts out at the end of last season and we’ve added to that with some really good signings. For the first time in a long time I’m really looking forward to the start of the season. COYR!!!

  13. Dave says:

    Scott, thanks for your opinion but what is a “Dingle”? We are not aware of the term in Canada. Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing you walk on a wall with cemented glass in it! Please send photos of you in the A&E looking as embarrassed as you do when you write such crass statements. Top three for Barnsley.

    • Dave, a “dingle” is a midland colloquialism for a Wolves fan or anything to do with Wolves. Molyneux is known as “Dingle Dell” where I was brought up in Birmingham. As for Barnsley ending up in the top three you’re dreaming! They may have a better season than last year but they are not top three material any more than I believe my team are but I’m happy to be proved wrong. Enjoy the season anyway and good luck with your prediction but for your sake I hope you haven’t put your mortgage on it!

  14. tobytyke76 says:

    Dave, I think Scott might be a bitter Donny fan. Bitter because Mvoto had agreed to join a small team like Donny until Barnsley (a bigger and better team) showed interest and so he came to us. I do think we’ll have a really good season where as Donny will definitely be relegated this season. Dave, I hope u can make it down to the mighty Oakwell this season.

    • Dave says:

      Tobytyke76 it would be awesome to get to the UK again – I have several meetings in Europe during mid season and will for sure go to at least three away and three home games:)

  15. Eric the Red says:

    I just can’t see past Watford, they’ve basically got two teams that could win it. God help us if it’s true that they’re getting Vydra back.

  16. Jonathan Rodgers says:

    I have to say I think Watford are going to storm the division this year.. Not far off last year, all the loans have come back apart from the few who didn’t make the grade & there have been some significant additions as well (McGugan, Angella to name a couple). And don’t count against Vydra returning.. They may have slow start though, pre-season has hardly been stretching.
    As for the team I really support.. Derby should be pushing for play offs or second spot, in my view. Brayford gone to Cardiff today but that cash will give us room to add to what is already a good squad. Russell looks to be a natural finisher and we’ve also got John Eustace’s experience (something we’ve been missing since Savage left).

  17. tobytyke76 says:

    My prediction is Wigan champions, QPR runners up. Watford, Reading, Forest and Brighton to make play offs with Watford going up and Yeovil, Donny and Blackpool to go down. Paul Ince is a bad manager and will prove it by taking Blackpool to the foot of the table before resigning or getting sacked by christmas.

  18. tobytyke76 says:

    My prediction is Wigan champions, QPR runners up. Watford, Reading, Forest and Brighton to make play offs with Watford going up and Yeovil, Donny and Blackpool to go down. Paul Ince is a bad manager and will prove it by taking Blackpool to the foot of the table before resigning or getting sacked by christmas

  19. LUFCIsaac says:

    Watford’s squad is obscene – has anyone actually seen who they have? They could come both First and Second with their players. Even Vydra would struggle to get a place I reckon. Small town club come good – good luck to ‘em even if I am jealous

  20. Mike says:

    A very fair reflection on the Boro’s chances there, nothing less than I’d expect from this site, of course. The Strachan hangover might have finally eased off with the giveaway of Scott McDonald and other leavers (Bailey, McManus, Thomson), but it’s hard to remain optimistic and to feel as though we’re doing anything more than treading water, steadily easing back into life as a second tier outfit. Nothing much wrong with that, especially based on the club’s very localised fanbase, but our status jars with the hierarchy’s insistence that MFC is ambitious and hungry for promotion back to the Promised Land.

  21. Ted Maul says:

    Quite #Accidental Partridge in the first line of the Birmingham paragraph, no…?

  22. Stanley says:

    I’m not sure that you can take Millwall’s form of last season as an indication of the likely outcome in the next. The scale of the changes at the club seems to have gone somewhat under the radar. For that reason, we go into the new campaign without any real clue as to how we will fare.

    I was never one of those throwing the toys out of the pram over the appointment of Steve Lomas, but he has impressed me greatly during pre-season. He seems to know exactly what he wants: he quickly identified the gaps in the squad and has brought in experienced Championship players to fill them. Morison and Scott McDonald will be expected to provide the goals that were so badly lacking last year, while Richard Chaplow and Nicky Bailey should give the midfield more bite and provide alternative sources of creativity to James Henry and Liam Trotter. He has given chances to players out of favour under his predecessor. He is on record as wanting to manage as high up the pyramid as possible, and has something to prove.

    On the other hand, however, Lomas comes with qualifications and a good record in the SPL, but no experience of the Championship as a manager. Moreover, with so many signings arriving together comes the risk of them taking too long to settle. Lomas can’t afford a slow start, not least because there is a minority of supporters waiting to jump on any signs of weakness. Those of us witrh a bit more realism don’t expect too much. But a mid-table finish shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve.

    • Lanterne Rouge says:

      I’ll admit to being slightly hampered by the ever altering complexion of certain teams’ squads when penning the preview – Watford in particular requiring multiple rewrites – and Millwall were also a case in point. I’m ambiguous about a couple of the acquisitions though. Nicky Bailey was one of the most written about players in the early days of this blog in 2009 and although Mike Baker’s comment above would indicate that he has achieved a degree of leadership during his time at Middlesbrough, his star isn’t as high as it was during his Charlton days. Similarly – and concerning Steve Morison – they say ”never go back’ and will he still have the confidence these days?

      • Stanley says:

        Let’s face it, Bailey wouldn’t be joining Millwall if his reputation hadn’t taken a hit during his spell at Boro. Interestingly, an interview with Bailey has appeared on a Millwall news site today. He makes it clear that he was pretty frustrated under Mowbray, and suggests that the Boro boss just didn’t believe in him. Bailey will play in a more attacking role at The Den than at the Riverside, and he clearly is keen to prove his worth.

        Morison is an interesting one. I was sceptical when the signing was first rumoured for exactly the reason you mention. To judge from pre-season, though, he is a better player than the one we sold to Norwich. Fitter, stronger, more confident than before. It appears that Leeds let him go to make room on the wage bill for Noel Hunt. An odd decision if you ask me, but understandable given Hunt’s role under Brian McDermott at Reading.

        I must admit, I’m concerned about the amount of money that is being spent on the likes of Bailey and Scott McDonald. I was hoping for an influx of younger talent. But, last season we were in desperate need of leadership in midfield and upfront. Richard Chaplow, Bailey, Morison and McDonald should provide that. Coupled with the return of Paul Robinson at the back, the continued presence of David Forde, last season’s struggles should be a distant memory.

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