2013/14 Championship Club-by-Club Previews: In Their Own Words - Part 1

Chris Brunskill

Ahhhh it's nice to be back among friends, and it's nice to see our chums at various Championship blogs remain as friendly as ever, as they give us their opinions on how their clubs are shaping up ahead of the new season.

Barnsley

Wilky from Barnsley FC Blog On The Ponty End

@onthepontyend

How would you sum up Barnsley's 2012/13 season?

Last season would probably rank as the most exciting adventure since promotion to the Premier League.

Now I can hear you sniggering, but to go from relegation certainties at New Year, rudderless after the departure of Keith Hill and rejection from O'Driscoll and Butcher as replacements. We found a temporary fix in the shape of Hill's No2, the unproven "Flicker". What followed was the stuff of dreams. 90 minutes off another Wembley appearance, falling in the FA Cup Quarter Final to Manchester City at the Etihad, Championship survival and form that would have seen us challenging for a play-off position. Add to that the sense that we may have unearthed an English football coaching saviour. It wasn't poor at all.

How has the summer gone so far?

I've only been to see one of the pre-season games at Oakwell so far, which saw us pitted against Club Brugge (fielding Eidur Gudjohnsen). The outcome was a very respectable 1-1 and maybe we just edged the last 20 minutes. I missed the recent draw (2-2) with Wolves, who by all accounts looked every inch a Championship team in the wrong league. So all in all, we look good.

Key player for you next season?

Chris O'Grady who has now signed on a permanent deal, following last season's loan agreement from Sheffield Wednesday. A tall, powerful forward, who loves to be involved in anything. He helps our attacking midfielders function and knows exactly where the onion bag is.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Paul Digby. He will be a star of the future at the highest level. An outstanding midfield combatant, who at just 18 years of age has you drooling at the prospect of what he will become.

Where do you think you'll end up?

Top half of the table. Seriously!

What do you make of Reading?

In a way, I feel sorry for the fans, who were carried into the Premiership on a wave of optimism and togetherness. McDermott had seemed to reinstall the familiar values and team spirit that had been enjoyed in the days of Coppell. You gambled. You lost. I feel you would have had a better chance this time with him at the helm.

Sorry, but I don't think you'll bother an automatic spot for a guaranteed return, it will require a bit more rebuilding at Reading.

Where do you think Reading might finish?

Somewhere within the top eight. I have a feeling that some of your players may not have the stomach for a Tuesday evening fixture at the likes of Oakwell in October.

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Birmingham

Almajir from Often Partisan

@often_partisan

How would you sum up your 2012/13 season?

One that started off hopeful, that looked absolutely nightmarish in parts before finishing as midtable mediocrity. Could have been much better, could have been worse.

How has the summer gone so far?

The good news is we haven't gone bust. The bad news is we've sold pretty much the only players worth anything, we've had to bring in a load of freebies and the situation doesn't look like changing any time soon.

Key player for you next season?

Our best player is Chris Burke but I think the key will be Paul Robinson. If he's still fit we'll be ok, if his legs are gone we could be done for.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Everyone is going to say Koby Arthur (who made his debut last season) but I have a sneaky feeling we might see a bit of Demarai Gray if he can keep improving. We don't have many left wingers at the club.

Where do you think you'll end up?

Bottom half of midtable

What do you make of Reading?

To be honest, I dunno. Not really paid that much attention to the relegated teams as we'll be the other end of the table. Could be tough for you guys to bounce back, you could walk it... I guess it depends on if you keep players like Pogrebnyak et al

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Blackpool

Chris Walker from Measured Progress

@onedavebamber

How would you sum up your 2012/13 season?

Farcical, quite frankly. The Ian Holloway era came to a very messy end, borne out of his frustration at a lack of backing. Despite the enormous success he had brought to the club and a promising start to 2012/13, the chairman denied Holloway the funds to strengthen for another tilt at promotion and after three seasons of battling over every penny, he finally had enough. His decision to move to Palace looks to have been justified after their promotion through the play-offs.

Whereas Holloway's patience ran out after three years, his replacement Michael Appleton could only stomach nine weeks of the same treatment before jumping ship to HMS Venky's - the ridiculousness of that decision only brings home how fed up Appleton must have been at Bloomfield Road. Fortunately, Paul Ince's eventual arrival after six manager-less weeks stabilised the club enough to avoid a catastrophic relegation, but it was a thoroughly depressing season with few highlights beyond the opening weeks.


How has the summer gone so far?

For much of the summer it's been a frustrating time for Blackpool fans, as a number of key players departed with their replacements nowhere to be seen. Indeed, two weeks before the start of the season we only had 11 senior professionals at the club. It was an unacceptable situation with the manager clearly angered by the blocks being put in his way. With funds being denied to him, Ince was having to watch a team full of sub-standard triallists in the vain hope of finding a gem.

Ince made no secret of his displeasure about the situation, remarking: "I'm probably the only manager in the Championship sitting watching a team of triallists. That's not the way it should be." Rumours of an offered resignation were rife, and when the chairman decided to take a holiday last week, Ince flew out for urgent talks. One can only imagine he demanded to be backed with the squad situation looking desperate, or his previous supposed threat might have come true. Losing a third manager in under a year would have piled on more embarrassment for the owners, so thankfully they appear to have relented in their frugality.

Players have now started to arrive, with Bobby Grant, Michael Chopra and Steven Davies providing much-needed attacking options. We are still a good 5-6 players short of a competitive squad, but more will surely arrive during August - hopefully of a sufficient quality to not only avoid the relegation worries of last season, but look towards the top half of the table. Additionally, we've also retained Tom Ince so far, and if he is still a Blackpool player when the transfer window closes, then Paul Ince may be relatively satisfied.


Key player for you next season?

If he stays, then Tom Ince is obviously the main threat we possess. He was top scorer by some distance last season, as well as creating his fair share too. A fee as agreed with Cardiff, but with Ince rejecting the move to South Wales it'll be interesting to see if anyone else comes in for him before the end of August.

Despite being left-footed, Ince spent most of last season operating on the right of a front three, which sometimes made him a little predictable as he typically looked to cut inside. If he is to continue playing wide, I'd prefer to see him on the left as default, but perhaps switching every now and then. However, it's possible his father may see use for him 'in the hole', although it's unclear at this point if he has the maturity to play that role.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Blackpool's youth system has been one of the worst in the Football League, and it must be 10 years since a player last came through and made any significant number of appearances. Of the current crop, midfielder Liam Tomsett possibly has the best chance, although given there are already a decent number of midfielders in the squad, his prospects still look remote.

Then there's Alberto Noguera, who joined last summer from Atlético Madrid. It was a tough first season with him struggling to adapt and only played 20 minutes of league football. However, Blackpool are lacking creative players at the moment, so he may now get his chance. Noguera has a small build, but his on the ball ability is not in doubt. Whether he can demonstrate this in the frantic-paced Championship remains to be seen.

Where do you think you'll end up?

Had you asked me this a week ago, I'd have said a finish in the bottom third of the division would be most likely, but the signings of Chopra and Davies provide more encouragement. Until the squad is fully assembled, it's just so difficult to predict.

The failure to prepare early in pre-season could cost us, but if the two most recent acquisitions are the sign of things to come, then the top half shouldn't be beyond us. If the club can't bring in the required 6-8 players (of a good standard) though, we may be looking over our shoulders.

What do you make of Reading?

I rate Reading's chances of having a good season. I like Nigel Adkins, and the squad doesn't look to be have been weakened. I'd say the important factor for Reading is not losing anyone before the end of the transfer window, because the squad certainly looks good enough for promotion.

Jobi McAnuff is a player I've always rated when Blackpool have come up against him, while Pavel Pogrebnyak and Adam le Fondre scored score plenty of goals. I also thought the signing of Danny Williams was a good move - he's a player I saw a lot of for Freiburg and he should do very well at Championship level. And then there's Jem Karacan who I think is excellent.

Honestly there are a lot of players in the Reading squad I could enthuse about. I think you have a lot to be excited about, despite the disappointment of relegation.

Where do you think Reading might finish?

I think you'll be promoted, but it may depend on how QPR react to relegation on whether it's automatic or through the play-offs. I'd tip Watford for the title, but I think both Reading and QPR won't be far behind.

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Bolton

Mark from The Lion of Vienna Suite

@LionOfViennaSte

How would you sum up your 2012/13 season?

The 2012/13 season had us go through every possible emotion. There was fear ahead of the first match at Burnley, frustration when Bolton was losing every match in sight, anger when nothing was changing, and hope when Dougie Freedman took over. It was a bit of slow going with the new manager but he did his first job (shoring up the very leaky defense) well and soon, Wanderers were keeping clean sheets and going on winning streaks. It was a very tense end to the season with Wanderers fighting with Leicester City and Nottingham Forest for a play-off place and a home draw against Blackpool saw Wanderers miss out by the slimmest of margins.

How has the summer gone so far?

It's been a very busy summer. Bolton have signed eight players thus far in Marc Tierney, Alex Baptiste, Jermaine Beckford, Rob Hall, Hayden White, Conor Wilkinson, Gary Fraser, Erik Bukran. The new signings are a mix of proven talents and youth prospects. Some are slotting into the U-18 team, others will be starting at Burnley on opening day. Freedman has let go of some dead weight, sold others, and brought in some very promising new talent. The pre-season friendlies have not gone well but we're hoping that it's just the players shaking the rust off.

Key player for you next season?

The obvious answer here is Chris Eagles, who was Bolton's leading scorer with 12 last season. That said, there are a few players that we're looking at to have breakout years. Marvin Sordell has not yet proven himself as a striker while Stu Holden, after a successful summer playing in the Gold Cup, is back to fight for a spot in the already packed midfield. Jermaine Beckford is another one that has to justify his signing and we're hoping that he provides at least 15 goals.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Dougie had begun integrating a number of young players into the first team squad, bringing through the likes of Chris Lester, Zach Clough, Sanmi Odelusi, Josh Vela, and Tom Eaves. I think it's that last name, Eaves, who could really prove himself this year up front in a goal-starved Bolton attack.

Where do you think you'll end up?

Assuming everything goes well and Bolton Wanderers don't have a ridiculous injury crisis as they have done every year for the last few, there is no reason why Bolton can't fight for an automatic promotion spot.

What do you make of Reading?

Reading are a strong side lead by a proven Championship manager. They look like a force to be reckoned with in this division and Bolton Wanderer swil not be taking them lightly. There's some quality in that squad, in just about every area of the field. As an American, I'm actually really looking forward to seeing Danny Williams get a shot in the team.

Where do you think Reading might finish?

I think Reading will be in prime position to win a spot on the elevator straight back up to the Premier League.

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Bournemouth

Pete from Cherry Chimes

@PeterBell19

How would you sum up your 2012/13 season?

In a word "phenomenal". I had visions of AFC Bournemouth being relegated after the first 10 games of last season. Whatever Paul Groves and Shaun Brooks were trying to do in getting their message across to the players just wasn't working. All the fans knew it and the chairman had to accept that as well, having seen the club spend probably the most money in its history in rebuilding the squad. Then Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall returned to the club and the speed in which they turned things around was incredible. We went on a 15 league game unbeaten run and, even with a small blip towards the end, we only missed out on being Champions of League One by that extraordinary turn of events at Griffin Park.

How has the summer gone so far?

As usual, AFC Bournemouth have been making headlines. The biggest one was for the pre-season exhibition match against the most unlikely of all opponents Real Madrid! I mean Real Madrid playing at Dean Court. We thought it was an April fool at first and then the realisation hit us that is was really going to happen when the ticket price of £60 was announced. I went to the game and it was a fantastic day with our new Ted MacDougall stand being opened as well as the refurbished and extended club shop. The stadium was absolutely buzzing with some 11, 722 fans packed into it. The fact that we lost 0:6 did not matter at all. The aim was to tell everyone that Bournemouth has a football team that is making progress and is aspiring to greater things. We have also brought in some more experience to the squad , especially in defence with Elliot Ward and Ian Harte, both on free transfers. The only downside was missing out to Eintracht BraunSchweig on the Simeon Jackson signing, a former Norwich City striker. We are also picking up a lot of injuries in pre-season, which is worrying.

Key player for you next season?

Harry Arter is our engine room. We need to keep him on the pitch as often as we can and that means he has to play with a cool head, and not get too many yellow cards which has been his Achilles heel. He is not only a good ball winner, but can provide killer passes and create great goals, as well as score them himself.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Well, we do have a secret weapon. So little is known about him that even AFCB supporters wonder how we came across Mohamed Coulibaly. He is 24 and from Senegal. Last season played for Grasshopper Zurich. Mohamed can play on the wing or upfront and was man of the match against Real Madrid in his home debut. Cherry Chimes likes him so much that we have just sponsored his away shirt for next season.

Where do you think you'll end up?

I know that some teams have come straight through the Championship having been promoted from League One, but we are not at that level yet and the Championship looks as difficult as it has ever been with the massive clubs that have been relegated from the Premier League. If we can keep every one fit and play our first team in more than 70 per cent of games, I can see Bournemouth finishing between 10th and 15th. I would like to be more optimistic but the challenge ahead of us is huge and the Financial Fair Play Rules have prevented us from building the squad further.

What do you make of Reading?

Reading have a good parachute payout from the Premiership. They did not over spend when they were in the top tier and have an excellent chance of going straight back up. You have a proven manager in Nigel Adkins and you have added to your squad over the summer with quality in the shape of Wayne Bridge, Royston Drenthe and Danny Williams. What is more, you look about ready to spend some more, while also keeping hold of most of your former Premiership players.

Where do you think Reading might finish?

Surprisingly, I think you'll come in second rather than first. My dark horse for the title is Bolton Wanderers.

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Thanks to all of our bloggers for helping us out and check back tomorrow for our next batch. We realise we've missed out Blackburn and sadly despite our best attempts we haven't been able to get hold of them yet, but should we find someone we'll add it in due course.

You can also find great coverage on all teams from the Football League on The Two Unfortunates.

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