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The 2011/12 Championship Preview - In Their Own Words: Part 2

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The Tilehurst End Championship Preview - In Their Own Words

Time for part two of the preview!

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 the majority of these sites are listed.

Cardiff City

Our friend Simon Richards has been on holiday! so we'll be including Cardiff later in the week.

Coventry

Neil Allison from Sky Blues blog

@neilallison

How would you sum up last season?

Pretty much exactly the same as the previous two! Decent start, although we did manage to continue it up until Christmas this time, followed by the mother of all capitulations in the new year. Throw-away campaign.

How has the summer gone so far?

I’d like to say we’re now on the up with our new boss Andy Thorn, but unfortunately we’ve lost a lot of players, and haven’t been able to replace them (on account of a nightmare financial situation – again). We’re struggling to stay optimistic, so if someone has the time to come and fix our money issues, that'd really help us out.

Key player for you next season?

Sammy Clingan. With the squad being as slim as it is, he stands out even more now amongst his peers. He’s performing a vital job in our new 4-3-3 system, and if he’s not there keeping order in the middle of the pitch, we’re lacking any real authority to replace him. He really does read the game beautifully.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

We’ve seen plenty of the youth setup during pre-season, but the one who has stood out so far is a classy young midfielder from Burundi called Gael Bigiramana. Seems perfectly at home amongst the seniors, and has a lovely fluency about his play. Should see plenty of game-time.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Many already have us pinned as relegation candidates. I see a difference in how we’re playing the game under Thorn however, so providing we can somehow grab a couple more bodies (even on loan), I’m sure we can compete well in this league. Hard to see us setting the world on fire, though.

What do you make of Reading?

I like Reading, Brian McDermott ..and little Jay Tabb. It’s all too easy to opt for the big-name manager, but you showed faith in soppy old Brian, and it’s paying dividends – he clearly knows his football and seems to have a lot of respect around the place. Losing Mills will be a blow, but you still have more than enough quality in your squad. Long, Kebe, Karacan and McAnuff always stand out as threats. I’m more than a bit jealous.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

Difficult to predict with any sort of conviction, but I’m sure you’ll still be pushing for promotion come the latter weeks of the season. Looking through the squad, there’s too much quality there for you not to be. Add to that the confidence you’ll take from how you finished last year (ignoring the final game, obviously) and I think that’ll help maintain the standards you’ve set for yourselves.


Crystal Palace

James Daly from Five Year Plan Fanzine

@FYPFanzine

How would you sum up last season?

How many words am I allowed? Frustrating. Stressful. Long. They all spring to mind. it should have been a fresh start after administration, a points deduction and a last day relegation survival in 2010 but we again had to look at the wrong end of the table. Thankfully, Dougie Freedman came to the rescue again (this time as manager after saving us from relegation twice as a player).

How has the summer gone so far?

Rather well, actually. We've signed Genn Murray on a free transfer from arch rivals Brighton - he was their top scorer last season - and have added him to internationals Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi. Eagles fans are pleased with the transfer activity so far, but would like a new central defender or 10.

Key player for you next season?

Aside from the obvious choices like goalkeeper Julian Speroni and talisman Darren Ambrose, young Sean Scannell is likely to have a big imapct. Ravaged by injuries in the last few years, the pacy forward has looked very sharp in pre-season, has bulked up, and is due a break-through season.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Look out for Jon Williams; small, blessed with plenty of skill and pace and uber confident, the young Welshman as dazzled scouts and coaches a like for our academy side and reserves and looks set to get chances in the first team this season.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Hopefully mid table, with a tasty little cup run thrown in, but seeing as this is Palace and nothing is ever straight forward expect either a relegation battle or a shock run to the play-offs.

What do you make of Reading?

Promotion candidates for sure. I'd love to see Jobi McAnuff and Jay Tabb back at Palace. Ho hum.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

I'd be surprised if Reading didn't make the play-offs, and after last season's frustration at Wembley, perhaps it's the Royals turn to go up this year. I like Brian McDermott -even if he looks like a supply teacher - and he has moulded a decent team there.


Derby

Pete Odgers, from your very own Tilehurst End (A lifelong Ram but we like to keep him around the place...)

How would you describe last season?

Disappointing. After going through last years summer with just one fit striker, and then selling that one fit striker (Hulse) on transfer deadline day, some might have said the writing was on the wall. However, thanks to a couple of loan signings the team surprised me by playing beautiful football and challenging at the top of the table. We were perhaps a couple players short of promotion at the half way stage. Yet, come the January window we sell our best player (Commons) and lose the loanees without replacing them with anyone anywhere near as good. Confidence soon disappears, along with results and the beautiful football. A miserable slide down the table, along with protests against the board ensues.
How has the summer gone so far?

The board acted quickly to stop the protests from growing by saying they would “refund any season tickets at the start of the season, if any fan was not happy with the squad that had been assembled”. Indicating that money would be spent on quality players to enable Derby to challenge for a play-off spot. A few signings were made early on which created a new found optimism amongst the fans – and season tickets were sold.. But despite the spattering of a few new faces, Derby have still yet to buy an ‘out and out’ striker, an experienced holding midfielder to replace Robbie Savage, and any cover for the full back positions. Coupled with this, has been a load of injuries in pre-season, meaning that Clough has yet to get anywhere near a settled team out. As a consequence Derby have turned in a few inept pre season performances. The optimism of early June has now been replaced with the usual pessimism ahead of the new season.. But that could all change with a couple of shrewd signings, but I for one am not going to be holding my breath.
Key player for you next season?

I hope it’s someone like Chris Maguire (a £400k signing from Aberdeen), who seems to have potential and bags of confidence. But being young, and with no experience of the English game, his confidence could soon waver if he gets found out early on. A more sensible answer is Jason Shackell, last season’s Player of the year at Barnsley. The £1 million signing is a proven solid defender at this level, and if he stays fit we should definitely have enough to stay up.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Depends how young you want to go. As mentioned above, 22 year old Maguire could well be a gem this year. But it seems 22 is nowadays pretty old for a player to ‘break through’. We have a 19 year old Irish central midfielder called Jeff Hendrick who’s been getting some rave reviews in the reserves and for Ireland U19’S. But he will most likely be loaned out somewhere this season first.

Where do you think you'll finish?

The Championship is such a tough league to predict. As I said last year I was pessimistic before the start, but then we found ourselves challenging in the top 4 for the first half of the season. If you get some confidence going then anything can happen – look at Blackpool a year ago. This year though, so many of the other sides in the Championship have drastically improved their squads over the summer. With that in mind, I will say we will finish somewhere around 15th. But we really could finish in any of the 24 positions, and that’s exactly why I think the Championship is the best league in the world!

What do you make of Reading?

Tough one again. For me, this season there are three big questions; Will you suffer the dreaded hangover from desperately missing out in the play off final last year? And, will Khumalo and Sonko sufficiently replace Ingimarsson, Khizanishvilli and Matt Mills? And, will you hang onto Long, and if you don’t, will you be able to find someone to replace his goals?

Putting those three questions aside, McDermott seems to be a manager who works well with the resources he is given. With this in mind, you still have a decent core to the team, and finishing last season in such fine form (despite one result at the end), it is definitely feasible the Royals could still have another good season. Having said that, looking at the strength of the teams that have come down, as well as how some other Championship sides have recruited over the summer, it will probably be a tough ask to break into those play offs for a second year running. I for one though, will be hoping you do it as you play football in the right manner as well as having a likeable manager. In addition to this, you are a club being run in a financially sustainable way, unlike so many other clubs in the Championship.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

Again like Derby, could be anywhere, but I’ll go for a very ‘sit on the fence’ 9th.


Doncaster

Lewis Ward from Vikingsbloggen

@vikingsbloggen

How would you sum up last season?

Unlucky. The season started so well with wins over Hull and Norwich but it was ruined due to our huge list of injuries, at times more than 14 players and sometimes we couldn't fill our bench! So I think unlucky sounds about right.

How has the summer gone so far?

It seems to have been quite productive. Its not often we sign a lot of players but this year we have. We've added to every department, including the crucial defence but I still think we could improve here. We've got several on trial so things are definitely looking up.

Key player for you next season?

It'll be Billy Sharp, just as last season but this time we'll just have to hope he's not as unlucky with injury. There are still rumours that Premier League clubs are still after him so if he does go our key player will most likely be James Coppinger. Copps has been influential during his seven years at the club and still is.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

We've signed a Donny lad in James Baxendale from the Leeds Academy and he's looked positive during the friendlies. He still has a lot to learn but under O'Driscoll's watchful eye he should turn out to be a great player.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Hoping we fair better than last season with injuries, which I think we should, I think we'll finish in mid table. If everything goes well at the club we should be pushing for the play off but we'll just have to wait and see!

What do you make of Reading?

Reading seems like a great club with passionate fans. When you go into the game between our two clubs you can guarantee it'll be a good one, and going by last season there should be lots of goals!

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

Reading always seem to fair well in the Championship but fall at the final hurdle and I think this season will be the same, especially without key players such as Matt Mills. So I'll say the play offs but if everything goes right, automatic promotion could be a possibility.