Championship Team Previews In Their Own Words: Part 2

Stu Forster

Onto our next motly crew of Championship fans we go in the latest of our fan based previews! You can check out part 1 here.

Brighton

Jason from Brighton Only At Home@BHAFConlyathome

Last season saw a second consecutive play-off semi-final exit for the club. Was the campaign considered a success or an underachievement?

I would consider it a success. Given we had an injury list as long as the M23 for the first part of the season and a manager who really wasn't a manager and was in his first season in English football then sixth was incredible. We'd already lost twice to Derby in the regular season so had no expectations of beating them in the playoffs. However the first 45 minutes of the home semi-final is some of the best football I've seen at Championship level. We definitely overachieved.

We do seem to have a small section of fans who think we should walk the division purely based on the fact that the crowds are back now we have a decent stadium. There are always low level mutterings of dissatisfaction on twitter and North Stand Chat from some of our fans and I guess they thought we underachieved.

You're about to start a third consecutive campaign with a new manager, what are your early impressions of Sami Hyppia?

It's too early to say from friendly matches but I'm pleased with the ambition he seems to be showing. I think he's a great choice and I think we'll be a little more direct, hopefully more Germany than tika taka.

What changes has he made so far and what still needs to be done?

We need a first choice keeper, a left back and to replace Ulloa but those are not fully his choices. Our recruitment policy can seem nebulous but basically a team identifies targets and Sami gets final choice from a list. We've added Chris O'Grady who, at first look, holds it up well and moves it on which is exactly what we need. I expect our heat map to change this season, put it that way. Less crab like.

Which Brighton player should we be looking out for next season?

Nzuzi Toko who came in from Grasshoppers is VERY industrial in the tackle. Could wind up opposition fans and players in equal measure. Also having Macca (Craig Mackail Smilh) back from injury will be like having a new player.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

Shamir Fenelon (who just changed his name from Goodwin) is a pacy striker who's been scoring from all over the place in pre-season. He should be promoted from the Development Squad. The name change caught many of us out, we thought we had a secret wonder trialist at first!

Where do you think you'll finish?

Sixth. Then Sami will probably resign when we lose the playoff semi.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

You seem to be in transition in more ways than one and the last I saw had unloaded plenty of players without replacing them. If that stays the same at the end of the window I fear you'll struggle. To be honest the way we pipped you to the playoffs may not have helped confidence either. I'd still be gutted if it was us and it was a minute or so away from being just that.

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Cardiff

Cardiff fan Simon Richards

Cardiff's first season in the Premier League started with a bang before a painful slide back down to the Championship. Just what went wrong?

Strangely relegation may well be a blessing in disguise for Cardiff. Survival would have merely acted as reinforcement for a megalomanic owner's disatourously unwavering self belief that he actually knows what he's doing at the club.

The re-branding of the club created cataclysmic chasms that splintered through the supporter base, and with each crazy decision spread further and deeper. Friend turning on friend, it created a sense of disengagement between the club and many that had supported the team through the bad times, and there were many. Even standing on the pitch celebrating promotion last season I felt that this wasn't my club anymore, it was still in my city and carried a familiar name but all else seemed alien, we looked like bloody Man Utd! I had donned blue for years , my grandfather wore Blue to the Bernabeau in our most famous hour, but now I was celebrating the pinnacle of our supporting career surrounded by red.

Hopefuly relegation has proved to Vincent Tan that kit colour doesn't produce success but a well run club does. The sacking of Malky Mackay was disastrous, while the loss of form of a number of players after Christmas coincided with the reign of a new, inexperienced manager. At the end I didn't shed a tear - the Premier League really isn't all that - all smoke and mirrors.

What has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer done so far this summer?

He has spent the summer reinforcing South Wales' famous history of strikers.

13 players have been shipped out while six have come in, with a heavy tilt on strengthening the forward line.
We've lost some of our bigger names, none bigger than World Cup star Gary Medel, and while our defence has not been added to Cardiff's talisman from last season looks set to stay. Davi Marshall was one of the few bright points of our flirt with the top flight and his commitment to the club will be a welcome boost to all at the club.


What does he still need to do?

Sign some bloody defenders, boot up FM2014 and learn some of the tactics and do some PR work to bring the club and the supporters closer together. OGS seems like a really lovely bloke, the sort of guy you'd happily down a pint with, but last season he gave the impression of a small boy standing on the bridge of a leaky tanker, smiling and talking earnestly in the face of impending disaster.

He needs to get tough, know his best team and learn fast, the Championship is unforgiving and there's a change it'll chew him up and spit him out by October.

Which Cardiff player should we be looking out for next season?

I've always really liked Joe Mason, the young striker who made a name for himself in the Play Off final against Liverpool. There's a strong chance he'll be shipped out on loan but if he gets a few games I can really see him coming of age, perhaps even more so under the guidance of OGS.

Honourable mentions for Whittingham who has proved his worth at this level on countless occasions, Adam Le Fondre, who I think signed from a smaller club or summit and I've always enjoyed watching and Craig Noone, if we can keep hold of him.

Also of course if you want to learn how to do nothing, yet pick up a huge pay packet keep an eye on Kenwyne Jones - I can't help but think that if he can't prove himself in the Championship his career is as good as over.


Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

A young, local born player is exactly what we need this season - nothing engages with the fans more than a local boy come good.

We have a couple of decent prospects, some making their debuts against Chelsea in our swansong last season.
I'd probably pin point Declan John to come into his own after a decent first season last year, Kadeem Harris is an exciting young winger while Tommy O'Sullivan seems to hit the net a fair bit for a midfielder.
But there's no Aaron Ramsey on the Horizon.


Where do you think you'll finish?

Spin the roulette wheel and see where it stops. With this club nothing would surprise me. OGS may well galvanise the squad into a Barcelona esque attacking team that steam rollers the opposition or could lead us towards the opposite end of the table in a mist of bizarre substitutions and team selections.
I would tend to go for something inbetween - a top 10 finish with an outside chance of the play offs.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

I've always liked Reading, though the Burger King in your services is 'anging. You seem to always be there or there abouts and i would tend to expect that again this year. I know that the bookies have you down to finish about 12th but who has an idea at this time of the season? Play offs are not out of the question - especially as i doubt that there'll be an outstanding team this year.

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Charlton

Al from God, Charlton & Punk Rock - @algordon_cafc

When we spoke to you ahead of last season you tipped Charlton to finish midtable but in the end it was an 18th place finish and a campaign that saw Chris Powell lose his job. What went wrong last year?

Obviously every club wants to build on the season before, but twelve months ago Charlton saw players leave through the exit door with nobody caming in. With just days left to the seasons start we only had Yann Kermorgant as a recognized front man. Simon Church as you know turned up but you cannot help but think that that was a panic buy. The owners were keen to sell the club and were reluctant, not only to bring in new faces, but also to offer new contracts and splash out on signing on fees.

Eventually they sold Charlton to Belgian businessman Roland Duchâtelet. Duchâtelet already owned a network of clubs throughout Europe including the team he had always supported, Standard Liege. It wasn't long before the loanees arrived from around the Duchâtelet empire, and it was quickly evident that Powell wasn't keen on them. Duchâtelet brought them to England to enhance their value as they were only bench-warmers at their parent clubs, needless to say it was all too late in the season for them to gel and make an impression on our league position.
Chris Powell certainly showed a little inexperience with some of his managerial decisions but the way he was treated by the new owner was disgusting. Riga, like Powell did well with very limited resources but the supporters won't give Duchâtelet the luxury of another season like that.

You've since hired and fired Jose Riga before appointing Bob Peeters, what have been your early impressions of him?

Peeters, like Riga before him, is Belgian and they had both worked with Duchâtelet before coming to South London. We thought Riga was a 'yes man' but he proved that Duchâtelet must be hard to work for as it's believed relations were strained between them by May. Peeters will have to show real backbone to stand up to his boss and be allowed to do the job he is employed to do, that said, he's a tough looking chap and I wouldn't want to pick a fight with him. As you'd expect, he's saying all the right things but I'll hold back any judgement until the competitive football starts.

What work does he still need to do this summer?

At the time of writing their are eight new first team faces at the club, some loaned from the network and one or two surprisingly without a single Belgian connection. Pre-season defeats at Welling and Ebbsfleet suggest that turning a group of strangers into a settled side has to be the managers number one priority. On the plus side, that infamous playing surface has been dug up, the drainage system fixed and we now have a pitch that could happily grace the Premier League, unlike the Sunday League kit Nike have supplied us with.

Which Charlton player should we be looking out for next season?

Standard Liege midfielder Yoni Buyens is here on a season long loan. He describes himself as a box to box midfielder and has certainly scored his quota of goals in around a hundred first team appearances for the Belgian club. Apparently there are plenty of big name clubs sniffing around but we wait to see how he'll adapt to the Championship. Two new centre halves have arrived to challenge Michael Morrison for a place, Tal Ben Haim and a certain Andre Bikey!

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

We've been spoilt in recent years, last season young Diego Poyet went on to become the clubs player of the year. He moved on to West Ham in the summer but expect his midfield counterpart, Jordan Cousins, to revel in his continuing maturity. In his first full season he cemented his place in the side winning many accolades along the way, this season I expect him to emulate Poyet and leave the awards dinner next Spring clutching a trophy.

Where do you think you'll finish?

If this crop of European journeymen live up to expectation then a top ten finish is achievable, so somewhere around the eighteen mark again then.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

I thought it was only Blackpool that would struggle to field a side in a week and a half's time but you don't appear to have signed anyone either. Le Fondre is a huge loss, I believe WBA are keen on McCleary, and hasn't McAnuff moved on? With a lot of very good clubs spending plenty of money I'm afraid I no longer see you as a play off contender. Top ten finish, just.

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Derby

Derby fan and Tilehurst End regular, Pete Odgers - @PeteOdgers

Derby looked set for another season of midtable mediocrity early last season, with Nigel Clough paying with his job. The second half of the season couldn't have been much different as Steve McClaren took you to within a game of a return to the Premier League, which was the real Derby?

I would say the second half of the season was the real Derby. If you were to read back what I wrote in this column last season, I said it was the most excited I'd been about a Derby team for a long time. Clough laid the foundations of a really good young side, who played football in the right way. They were a little unfortunate in a couple of games early on - which led to Clough's sacking - but I believe had Clough stayed the team still would have been fighting for a play-off spot (around 6th/7th/8th etc) by the end of the season. However, McClaren came in and just gave the team that extra bit of belief and confidence as well as signing a couple of quality players on loan to really complete the squad. In the end I think we were incredibly unlucky not to go up.

What has the former England manager done so far this summer to change the squad?

The main thing he has done is try his best to keep the squad together. Had we had Mac from the beginning of last season we would have walked to promotion automatically, so not much needed changing. My big fear after losing the play-off final was that the Premier League clubs would come and cherry pick our best players. However, Craig Bryson chose to sign a new contract instead of play in the Premier League, as did Will Hughes and Jeff Hendrick. £2.5 million signing George Thorne, who was on loan with us at the end of last season - and was a revelation - chose to join us instead of staying in the Premier League (annoyingly he did his cruciate ligament 30 minutes into a club friendly and is out for 9 months). Leon Best has been signed on loan as a like for like replacement for super sub Patrick Bamford who will no doubt go out on loan to another Championship club who can give him more playing time. And Cyrus Christie has come in to fill the void left by right back Andre Wisdom who has understandably been loaned out to a Premier League club this time around by Liverpool. There have been plenty of other young 'under the radar' signings too. But all in all the squad, and starting eleven, doesn't look too different to last season.

What does he still need to do?

McClaren has said he still wants to add a couple of players (most likely loans) to cover Thorne's injury and to cover centre back, where we have a bit of an injury crisis at the moment. I think most fans are generally happy with the business McClaren has done so far. Maybe an exciting winger wouldn't go a miss either just to give the fans a bit of fresh impetuous ahead of this season (although I think that is just me being greedy).

Which Derby player should we be looking out for?

I would have probably said George Thorne as he was so impressive last season, but now that he is injured, you could pick any of our star three midfielders (Jeff Hendrick, Will Hughes and Craig Bryson). Bryson is probably the most consistent performer of the three but he is a few years older than the other two. Either way when fully fit I think most of the midfield could certainly do a job in the Premier League.

Name a younger player that could burst on to the scene.

We have so many young players, but after last season's performances most of them are pretty well known now. 18 year-old striker Mason Bennett will most likely be the next one to make the grade, although he will be loaned out to somebody in the first half of the season, so may not make a name for himself initially with the Rams. Either way he has represented England at almost all age groups (Other than Under 21) and is an exciting and talented prospect.

Where do you think you'll end up?

3rd. Annoyingly you just never know with the Championship. Being the pessimist I am, we could end up having one of those seasons where a few injuries ruin it, and all our confidence from last season is lost with such a young team. Never-the-less for the Championship we have a brilliantly talented side. You would also think the young players should now be even better, being that one year older and having had the experience of last season. They play exciting football, should be confident after last year, and we seem to have a manager who knows what he is doing. That should all add up to promotion or being very close to promotion again.

Finally what do you make of Reading heading into the new season?

It seems it has been a quiet summer for you guys with your playing staff, but a lively one in the boardroom. However, I think Nigel Adkins is a very astute and level-headed manager. He will get you organised, which counts for a lot in this league. It will be interesting how much money the new owners throw your way, but I think you will be up there challenging for a play-off spot come the end of the season, that's as long as the new owners aren't frauds.

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Fulham

Kristian Balkin from fellow SB Nation site Cottagers Confidential - @CottagersC

After what seemed years of steady growth Fulham dropped out of the Premier League last season. What went wrong at Craven Cottage?

What didn't go wrong? It was really a culmination of many things, if I'm honest and, as you can imagine, it was very disheartening to see. From the outside, we have looked like a club on the up, as you say, but if you sift through our transfer dealings over recent years, you can see we were in fact heading in completely the wrong direction.

Personally, I feel Mohamed Al Fayed wanting out caused very, very big problems in the way the club was run. We became short-termist, relying on loans deals, bosman transfers and, otherwise, just old players. Most of them, Darren Bent aside, had quality, but there was no verve to last season's team and you could feel, most pertinently of all, that a lot of those players just didn't want to play for Fulham. That's going to cause trouble at any club. Throw in an awful manager - Martin Jol, I'm looking at you - some knee-jerk reactions - sacking Rene Meulensteen when we were actually beginning to play reasonably well - alongside some changing room unrest, and you have yourself the perfect formula for relegation.

What has Felix Magath done so far this summer to turn things around?

Fitness! Fitness! Fitness! This guy is a fitness freak. He had them running around Richmond Park in their first week back (they were brought back to pre season training early, for good measure) and has, generally, ensured we will be ready for a far longer season than we are used to.

He has also completely overhauled the squad - and I mean completely. Only a smattering of players remain from last year's forgettable campaign, while no fewer than eight new signings have gone straight into the first team. From back to front, we have a new first choice left back, centre back, right back, winger and two strikers, while the rest will add valuable depth to our squad. They all seem like sensible signings, too - bar throwing nearly £10 million at Ross McCormack, of course - that will keep us stable but competitive at the top end of the Championship.

What does he still need to do?

We still desperately, desperately need a new central midfielder. I feel as though Scott Parker is going to be great this season as an experienced head among a very young side, but he needs a more energetic, livelier partner that can do a bit more running, can protect the defence and be creative. It's a lot to ask, I know, but we have money to spend and this is an obvious area for improvement. Since losing Mousa Dembele two years ago, it has been the position in which we have been weakest.

Beyond transfers, Magath still needs to work on team shape and defensive stability, as this is where we fell down last season. That's not to say there is no evidence of his efforts in these areas - in fact we have looked strong in pre-season - but, in terms of our defence, we were so far behind the pack in the Premier League last season that we are probably still well short of perfection. As a fan that enjoyed the Roy Hodgson era of clean sheets galore, I would love to see us become hard to beat once again.

Which Fulham player should we be looking out for next season?

It's a very good question because I don't know whether to go for the obvious in Ross McCormack or throw a curve ball from our crop of incredibly talented youngsters. McCormack is palpably talented and has shown his exceptional gifts at this level, but someone like Patrick Roberts, a hotly-tipped winger at only 17 years-old, could cause teams all sorts of problems with his trickery, pace and directness. He is truly a youngster to keep an eye on.

But I'm going to go even further left of field with my actual answer and say Konstantinos Stafylidis, a left back we've taken on loan from Bayer Leverkusen. Throughout the off season, he has been a constant menace on the left side and has already bagged himself two goals which, naturally, brought hilarious comparisons from fans with the hapless John Arne Riise who, in three years at Fulham, did nothing but whine. He is fast and isn't afraid to get forward, so will add a whole new dynamic to our game next season.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

I think I've already spilled the beans on that one, but aside from Roberts I'd look out for Cameron Burgess, a strong centre back who has featured throughout pre-season and been particularly solid in doing so, Chris David and Moussa Dembele. David is an attacking midfielder and, if his performances at the tail end of last season are anything to go by, he could well have won himself a starting berth on the opening day when we face Ipswich. A very technically proficient attacking midfielder, David is intelligent and quick with his feet, while he also has a menacing set piece delivery. As for Dembele, we have ourselves a truly magnificent striker who could break into the first eleven at any moment, despite the wealth of forwards we already possess. Another tricky player, Dembele is also physical and incredibly lethal in front of goal. Most definitely a future star.

Where do you think you'll finish?

I think the play off spaces would not be an unreasonable expectation and if the rest of the transfer window goes well, then automatic promotion is certainly attainable. Though we are now acclimatised to Premier League life, we all know how tough the Championship is and we are not going to fool ourselves into a false sense of security, but if Magath is the right man, and his group of players are up to the task, I don't see why a position in the higher echelons wouldn't be achievable.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

I always liked the squad you had when you went down from the Premier League and, correct me if I'm wrong, it hasn't changed hugely since then. You have a solid spine and a lot of experience in your ranks, so a good finish is within your grasps. I'd say top ten, and you can reach the play offs if all goes well. Best of luck to you!

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Huddersfield

Terrier24 from Vital Huddersfield@VitalHTAFC

When we spoke to your fellow fans at Barmy Army before the start of last season and they were hoping for further consolidation, do you feel you got it last year?

We started the season better than I think many can have expected, with James Vaughan firing goals in for fun it all seemed almost too perfect. As the festive period approached suspensions and injuries robbed us of Vaughan and with his absence the team started to slip, a slip that somewhat turned into a free fall, even with the signing of Nahki Wells, which truly is a step forward. In the end we survived but consolidated? Probably not and we for sure will be looking for more consistency to finish solid mid-table without having to fear looking over our shoulders this coming season, only then can we say we have consolidated our position and consider moving further forward if we dare to dream!

What has Mark Robins done so far this summer to reshape the squad?

It has been more of a club re-shape from top to bottom with the coaching staff to date, with pretty much the entire back room replaced by new faces, only Mark Robins remains!

On the players side we have recruited cannily with the addition of Joe Murphy, a vastly experienced keeper who is actually going to put pressure on Alex Smithies for the goalkeepers shirt, something that has been lacking competition in recent time - This will be beneficial for both and for the team I feel.

There has also been the return of Lee Peltier, who comes back to Town for a second spell. We all know what to expect from Peltier, an ever reliant and athletic defender who has the versatility to play pretty much anywhere on the back line and can also step into midfield, a solid addition to the squad.

Radosław Majewski has just signed for us this evening, and made a good cameo appearance at Sheffield United in our 1-0 friendly win, setting up Adam Hammill for the only goal. It feels an ages in him actually signing with us having been linked with him for the past 3 transfer windows! Hopefully this addresses our problem number 10 position, although interestingly he has taken squad number 45 with the 10 shirt still up for grabs.


What does he still need to do?

We are linked with others and are expected to see a few other new faces come in through the doors, at the time of writing we are looking for a CB a left wing back and potentially a striker although we still need to trim the squad with only those released having actually left over the summer.

Which Huddersfield player should we be looking out for next season?

The obvious is James Vaughan but I think this year could see Nahki Wells really rise his footballing stock. He already knows where the net is, and with Town working with him on his strength and a player like Vaughan to learn from Wells could really flourish. The addition of Majewski and the creativity offered by Joe Lolley (another to keep an eye on) and Adam Hammill he will certainly have the service to bang them in. Service being the thing we lacked in abundance last season

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

Joe Lolley, although many may conider he is already on the scene. The youngster has been on fire in pre-season and genuinely I am excited to see him this season in the Championship. Two great feet and likes to beat and take on his man - He is going to the top this lad.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Modestly hoping for anywhere around the comfortable mid-table 10th-14th positions, although obviously preferably top half, a shot at the play-offs would be a tad ambitious, but Burnley managed to get out of the division last season on teamwork & spirit having been written off at this stage so who knows!!

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

Parachute payments and superstar players, surely it's a walk in the park to get out of the division. Sadly this is not the case as you have already perhaps noticed. The Championship is ruthless and the top sides are always a scalp, and really anyone can beat anyone in this division. The sale of Le Fondre was puzzling but the squad you have is strong, what we would do to take Sean Morrison back! I think the play-offs are the minimum we should expect from Reading, but as already stated you just never know!

Good luck for the season and see you when we play at yours on Tue 19th August and look forward to welcoming you to Huddersfield on Tue 24th February 2015! (two Tuesday night games suck for the travelling mind!)

Thanks again to our guest writers this week and stay tuned tomorrow for part 3.

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