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The 2011/12 Championship Preview - In Their Own Words: Part 1

The Tilehurst End Championship Preview - In Their Own Words

Over the past week I've been asking bloggers from across the Championship to give us their thoughts on the season ahead and what they expect from their own teams, and Reading this season.

My thanks to each of them for giving up their time and also to The Two Unfortunates Blog, The Football League blog where all of these sites are listed.

Barnsley

Guest Blogger: Wilky from Barnsley FC Blog|On The Ponty End

@onthepontyend

How would you sum up last season?

Overall last season was disappointing, to the extent that the apathy displayed by the team almost put me off continuing with the blog. It was very difficult to enjoy most fixtures, despite having a reasonably good run up to January. Better forgotten!

How has the summer gone so far?

The reduced budget and managerial changes had worried many Barnsley fans, and naturally there has been fierce debate, in the pubs, regarding the kind of players we need to be successful in the Championship. Early signs suggest we have a stronger proposition and team ethic to bring against the opposition this season. I believe we wil surprise many.

The Reds are unbeaten in pre season; however,our opposition has not been particularly notable (Hibernian, Grimsby Town and Sheffield Wednesday), the Championship will be a far harder task.

Key player for you next season?

Probably Jacob Butterfield who has the potential to be the kingpin and playmaker for The Reds this season. Very much in the mould of a Stephen McPhail or (an in form) Brian Howard, he has fantastic skill, good vision an appetite for taking the game to the opposition. Whilst not prolific (yet) he's always capable of pulling a special strike out of the bag.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Danny Rose introduced himself with perhaps one of the most incredible over head kicks to score against Spurs in the FA Youth Cup http://youtu.be/u-52qqE6VJc and he could break through. In all fairness, we have a good bunch coming through and there could be a few.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Realistically, mid-table

What do you make of Reading?

A strong Championship club who I can see challenging in the top six again. I was really impressed by the form you showed in the last half of the season and was surprised that you didn't make it all the way in the end. Shane Long has impressed and will no doubt start the new season in a similar vein.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

Top six, but it will be a tougher proposition this time out!


Birmingham

Mike from Joys & Sorrows

@joysandsorrows

How would you sum up last season?

Last season was a real case of highs and lows. Winning the Carling Cup was amazing and will be a day I will never forget but then to get relegated the way we did was unforgivable. Our league form throughout most of the year was poor with too many draws and not enough goals.

How has the summer gone so far?

As bad as it could get really. We have lost most of the squad with key players like Foster, Dann and Zigic soon to follow and we have been restricted to only bringing in players on free transfers. At least two of those players I'll admit to having never heard of. There are constant stories in the press of financial meltdown and while they are mostly exaggerated it doesn't help that our Chairman has been arrested. In pre-season we have so far won one game and scored one goal. On Tuesday night we lost two-nil to your friends down the road, Oxford United.

Key player for you next season?

Anyone who's still left really but of those likely to stay I'd say Keith Fahey and Jordon Mutch in midfield. They were squad players last year but this season I expect them to get a lot more game time. Mutch is still young but got good Championship experience on loan to Watford last season.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Jordon Mutch as mentioned above but also Nathan Redmond who is a pacy and tricky young winger who has played for England U-17s.

Where do you think you'll finish?

If we can get our act together and actually add to the squad we might make the playoffs. If things don't get better financially then League One beckons.

What do you make of Reading?

Reading were relegated with us in 2008 but didn't bounce back and had to sell their stars. I was expecting a long Championship stay but they recovered well to make a late run on the playoffs last season. I expect Shane Long will go so probably the best you can do is sneak into the playoffs again. Looking forward to making another trip to the Madjeski this season.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

It's a difficult division to call but I'd say somewhere between 6th and 10th.

Blackpool

Chris Walker from Up the ‘Pool

@onedavebamber

How would you sum up last season?

A few days before the start of our debut Premier League season, the majority of Blackpool fans were braced for the worst - the euphoria of promotion had died down and we hadn't signed any players - Derby's lowest points total record looked like being rivalled. The players did trickle in at the last minute though, and we got off to a dream start with the 4-0 opening day win at Wigan. The dream continued for the rest of 2010 with us up in the top half going into the New Year. Needless to say the way we collapsed in the second half of the season was a massive disappointment, but a frustrating January transfer window was a major factor in our downfall. We did perk up again for the last few games of the season, but only two wins in 2011 wasn't enough to save us from relegation in a highly competitive battle at the bottom. There was no disgrace in going down - given our budget the management team and playing staff worked wonders. Most Blackpool fans will look back and remember the highlights, although it will be tinged with a regret that we were so close to having a second shot in the big time.

How has the summer gone so far?

In comparison to last season, it's been much more positive. Everyone was resigned to losing Charlie Adam and David Vaughan, and it's widely accepted that DJ Campbell won't be far behind them in heading for the Bloomfield Road exit door. However we have been able to retain Matt Gilks and Stephen Crainey who at one point looked likely to leave on free transfers having been out of contract. It means that there is a lot of continuity to the squad and that should ensure we don't start slowly. The players we have brought in so far are a varied bunch - ranging from season professionals such as Kevin Phillips and Barry Ferguson, to young prospects like Gerardo Bruna and Bob Harris. It would be nice to think we'll still land a marquee signing, especially if DJ Campbell does depart as expected, but we do seem to have a fairly strong squad, with a decent amount of depth to it.

Key player for you next season?

Barry Ferguson will surely be the man who Ian Holloway hopes to build the team around with the loss of the talismanic Charlie Adam. Ferguson will have joined on wages higher than Blackpool have ever paid before, and so he'll have a lot of expectation on his shoulders. He won't be quite as dynamic as we were used to with Adam, but Ferguson should anchor the midfield and hopefully allow some of our young exciting talents to play the attacking football we have become renowned for during Holloway's tenure.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Matt Phillips, who we signed last summer from Wycombe, showed glimpses of his ability last season and it is to be hoped he can replicate that on a more consistent basis this time around. He will miss the start of the season while on international duty with England at the U20 World Cup in Colombia, but he could be a big player this campaign. He's a quick and direct winger who will scare a lot of Championship left backs, although he is still raw - a diamond in the rough, if you will.

Where do you think you'll finish?

It's always hard to predict anything in the Championship, especially before the end of the August transfer window, but I'm fairly confident 'Pool could be set for a decent season. Upon relegation most were resigned to a dismantling of the squad, little investment in new players, and a return to the lower half of the Championship. However, with the squad assembled this summer, I'd like to think we can finish top 10 and maybe make a challenge for the play-offs. A lot will depend on finding the final few pieces of the jigsaw though - a creative midfielder and a quality forward could make us a side to watch. If pushed for a particular spot, I'll stick my neck out and say 6th.

What do you make of Reading?

I was very impressed by Reading when I saw them last season, especially in the play-off semis against Cardiff. The team appeared to have a lot of strong individuals, but also a good work ethic which probably helped be so successful against a lot of teams with bigger budgets. Jobi McAnuff is a player I've always rated and he usually does well against Blackpool, but Jem Karacan caught the eye in the play-offs with his range of passing in midfield. Obviously Matt Mills will be a loss, and with Shane Long being linked with a big money move away, I think it'll be hard for Reading to match what they did last season

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

I think Reading are one of about 12 teams that will have their sights on the play-offs. West Ham and Leicester look to be favourites for the automatic positions, but I'm not sure there's going to be much difference between the rest of the division - a few poor teams at the bottom excepted. I'd anticipate Blackpool and Reading won't be too far away from each other come the end of the season, but the loss of big players might mean Reading just miss out on the play-offs this time around - I'd say about 8th seems right for the Royals.

Brighton

The Seagull Love Review @tslr

How would you sum up last season?

We 'stormed' League One with a brand of slick, zippy, continental-style football the likes of Albion fans have only ever seen in Nike adverts. Admittedly Nike don't usually film their adverts in Oldham in February, or Dagenham on a Tuesday night.

How has the summer gone so far?

In what is now an Albion tradition, our pre-season tour involved public brawls with locals in the rowdy Albufeira area of the Algarve. And that's just the players. In other news we smashed our club transfer record twice, moved to a stadium that we've been fighting for for 14 years, and introduced branded club mints into the new megastore. So it's been kinda busy.

Key player for you next season?

Everybody will have a different guess, and frankly it could be anyone, but I'll say our captain and central defender Gordon Greer. The hairy caledonian brute will be keeping things tight at the back against what we imagine will be infinately tougher opposing forward lines.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Lewis Dunk, another central defender, has so far shown composure that belies his years. Albion fans are keen for him to develop in the first team and he's local lad to boot. He also has great hair.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Don't care as long as we don't get relegated. Some people are getting carried away but we just need to stabalise in the Championship for a bit, get to know the place and not do anything stupid.

What do you make of Reading?

Meh. Still a bit of bad blood between us I think, so Albion fans will enjoy the matches.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

There or there abouts I'd imagine. There being the top 4.


Bristol City

Paul Binning from The Exiled Robin

@cider1977

How would you sum up last season?

High pre-season expectations with the appointment of twice-promoted Steve Coppell and the signing of England's World Cup No.1 were quickly extinguished by an opening day home thrashing and an exit in the Carling Cup at Southend, followed by Coppell walking out after just two matches. Still bottom in October, new manager Keith Millen's signings Stephen Caulker, Jon Stead and Brett Pitman, along with Albert Adomah helped us to eventually gain mid-table mediocrity. Everyone was delighted with that in the end, anything other than relegation deemed a bonus.

How has the summer gone so far?

It's been all about Nicky Maynard's will he/won't he sign a new contract/move to Leicester/move anywhere else saga. If he stays then we may miss out on £5m next summer but he is so good, and so important, most fans would accept that right now.

Pre-season has summed up what we know - we're decent going forward, cumbersome and disorganised at the back. Desperately need some defensive signings, and quickly.

Key player for you next season?

Maynard if he stays. Also Kilkenny (free signing from Leeds) could hopefully be the creative link our midfield was missing last season, and whoever we (hopefully) sign to play centre-half.

 One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

We've signed two youngsters from the lower league in Yannick Bolasie and Ryan Taylor, but I'm going to go for James Wilson, once linked with Everton, to finally put his injury-history to bed and establish himself in the back four.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Somewhere very middling, probably 9th - 14th. An exceptional seaso could see us pushing the top 6, a bad season could see us battling at the bottom. Unfortunately many fans seem to think it should be something like 4th to 8th and that expectation just isn't realistic in a strong league, and could prove a problem for the manager.

What do you make of Reading?

Looked a decent, young footballing side last season but you felt it had to be last year or bust - and the summer departures seems to be indicating the Royals will be a little weaker all round this year.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

I suspect it will be somewhere just above us. A good season could mean the play-offs again, more likely 7th-10th. Unless they can spend the Matt Mills money wisely...

Burnley 

Kevin Robinson from  No Nay Never

@nonaynevernet

How would you sum up last season?

Last season was underwhelming - a year of ups and downs. We began the season having retained almost our full Premier League squad and started well but dropped off. Eddie Howe came in and enjoyed a good start, but had a terrible spell in the middle before a decent end.

How has the summer gone so far?

Slow. It's been a summer of outgoings rather than incomings. We've managed to ship out many of the older players in an aging squad but have only made two loan signings, though it looks as though winger Keith Treacy is coming in this week to replace Chris Eagles.

Key player for you next season?

Chris McCann has been out injured for two years but in our promotion season two year ago he was one of the best players in the league. Our defence was horrific last season and the defender formerly known as Andre Bikey (now Andre Amougou) will need to stay focused all season and not lose his head like he has been known to.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Jay Rodriguez will look to really push on from his debut full season last term which he ended as top scorer. Eddie Howe has given loads of young players good game time in every friendly this pre-season and attacker Alex MacDonald has been on good form. He has to be favourite to make an impact this term.

Where do you think you'll finish?

We have to look at promotion, the play-offs may be our best bet right now but who's to say automatic is out of the picture? Last season was a disappointing mid-table finish but with more stability and a competent manager we have to improve.

What do you make of Reading?

Obviously we all have fond memories of the 2009 play-off campaign and Reading has always been one of the good guys who get things done the right way.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

You've been there or thereabouts for the last few years and you always expect Reading to provide a consistent threat whilst never really standing out. I expect you'll need to win on the final day to secure a play-off spot.