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The 2011/12 Championship Preview - In Their Own Words: Part 4

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The Tilehurst End Championship Preview - In Their Own Words

Time for the final part 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.

Millwall

Lions fan Mark Dillon

How would you sum up last season?

Waves of overachievement, leading to hyped up expectations before ultimate disappointment.

How has the summer gone so far?

The amount and nature of transfer activity will have sections of the support concerned. No real replacement has been brought in for Morison and we'll struggle without his goals if a youngster can't step in. Having said that, we've progressed every year under Jackett, and the sounds from the boardroom are good so they deserve some patience.

Key player for you next season?

We built on a solid defence last season, and will need to be even tighter this year. David Forde between the posts, or Paul Robinson marshalling the back.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

John Marquis - scored plenty in preseason and there's a massive opportunity for him to stake a place with Morison and Harris gone

Where do you think you'll finish?

A solid 12th, never flirting with promotion or relegation

What do you make of Reading?

Will need to come out of the blocks early after the bitter disappointment of last year's play off final. This looks to be the toughest championship season for a good 5 years with West Ham strengthening, Birmingham seemingly sorting their money worries this week, and Leicester getting the Sven treatment. They've done well to keep the nucleus of the squad together, especially in Shane Long (at time of writing, jinx!) but might struggle to compete with some of the bigger teams for either of the top 2 places.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

Playoffs, just don't let a Welsh team win this time

Nottingham Forest

Forest fan Winnits  @winnits

How would you sum up last season?

Ultimately it has to go down as disappointing. Lack of squad numbers and our usual post-Christmas lull saw us fall from challenging for automatic and into the play-offs, where the customary semi-final failure ensued. Unusually we didn't disgrace ourselves - indeed, it could be argued the referee was the most influential figure over the two legs. Swansea deserved credit for their resilience though. I was thrilled to see Reading eliminate cheating Cardiff in the other semi-final - leaving a final where I didn't mind so much who won.

How has the summer gone so far?

I'm sure it's not peculiar to Forest fans, but the clamour for news and subsequent flurry of outlandish rumours has been crazy. We have a new manager, I was shocked at first but Steve McClaren has a high calibre. Signings have proven difficult to finalise but I'm happy with the acquisitions we've made - but am certainly hoping for more. Not least a bloody left back!!!

Key player for you next season?

It's early doors to predict - but I think Jonathan Greening could be the glue to bind our midfield together.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

There's a possibility we might see young Jamaal Lascelles - a young centreback who apparently Arsenal tried to coax away from us with a big money offer. At the other end we might see £1m+ signing Joe Garner get a second chance after the departure of Billy Davies - McClaren might see his potential and try to harness it, and he's bound to sympathise with him because they're both ginger!

Where do you think you'll finish?

Really hard to predict at present because I think our squad is far too light at the moment, but to justify what outwardly might have seen a harsh 'sacking', Forest need to make it to the play-offs at least really. If we don't add a few new faces then mid-table - which would be hugely disappointing.

What do you make of Reading?

I can never quite make my mind up about whether Reading will be contenders - then they generally are. Selling Matt Mills might have looked like a lack of ambition, but then £5m in my opinion is a lot more than he's worth so good business! McDermott is one of the best managers in the league, in my view, and seems capable of driving performances and 'togetherness' out of a selection of players that - from the outside - look to be overachieving.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

I expect them to be in and amongst the play-off spots and possibly beyond which is kinda where we've become accustomed to seeing them!


Peterborough

Just missing a Posh contribution but watch this space..

Portsmouth

Bill Gillon from Pompy Online

How would you sum up last season?

Great performance on the field, chaos off of it. It wasn't a pretty season by any means, with the administration issue leading onto us being taken over by an owner who had no real interest in having the club in the first place. With new owners being sought, and coping with a threadbare squad complicated by player contract issues, Steve Cotterill performed a minor miracle by putting us in a safe mid-table position, even though it wasn't pretty at times. Have never been so glad to see a season finish, what we have been through can never happen again, I don't think my heart could take it (and the businesses which lost money through the club's ineptitude will be saying the same thing).

How has the summer gone so far?

Things are looking a lot rosier. We have new owners now, with Convers Sports Initiatives headed by Vladimir Antonov, Roman Dubov and Chris Akers, and they look to be approaching things in the right way. Our squad is still threadbare, we started off this summer with just eight definite contracted players, though we have added some numbers and can, at the time of writing, put out a full team and bench. We are hoping to add more numbers by the time the transfer window is closed, but the players Cotterill has brought in so far tell a lot of the way he is looking to go, a high paced game and players with a bit of fight and responsibility in them, such as David Norris from Ipswich and the Bournemouth captain from last year, Jason Pearce. Luke Varney has been looking good in pre-season as well.

Key player for you next season?

The one we haven't bought yet! We still need another forward to compliment Dave Kitson up front (I'm sure you know that Dave needs somebody up there with him). We've been trying to sign Martin Paterson from Burnley, but that is seeming less and less likely, so we may need to look elsewhere, with various names being mentioned. Until we get that other forward in then we'll struggle to score goals. Of the players we have at the club at the moment, I think David Norris will be crucial, he will be the engine room in the middle and has no lack of skill either, a lot of our play and tempo will depend on how he is playing.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Cotterill won't put a youngster into the team and squad until he is utterly convinced he is ready. We've brought in 23-year old goalie Stephen Henderson from Bristol City, who won Yeovil's player of the season awards last season whilst on loan, and I think he will end up as our first team keeper in due course. We've got a good number of young players in the academy who will come through in time, but aren't ready yet (remember the same of 17-year old defender Sam Magri, the former England Under-16 captain who is highly regarded at the club). One player though who does seem to have caught the eye now of the manager is young Aussie winger Ryan Williams, who will be 18 this year and has found himself travelling with the first team squad in pre-season.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Mid-table consolidation will do me very nicely after the trials and tribulations of recent times, coupled with the fact that we are still building our squad up. The likes of Leicester and West Ham are spending money like there's no tomorrow, and you have settled, talented squads such as Reading and Forest, with the 'should do well' squads such as Cardiff, Blackpool and Ipswich. Saying that, we have a very good first team and, with some further additions, I wouldn't be surprised to see us in the shake-up for the play-offs come the end of the season and, indeed, that seems to be the feeling around the club itself. I'll say we'll finish around ninth or tenth though, with a push for promotion more realistic for next season. That would do me!

What do you make of Reading?

Reading are a good side, who were unlucky in the play-offs last season. Brian McDermott has done a fantastic job up there and has got a good, talented bunch of players around him. I've always been a fan of Jobi McAnuff (we were very close to signing him a few years back when he was at Wimbledon, but Milan Mandaric didn't want to cough up the money required for Jobi and Nigel Reo-Coker, which wasn't one of his better decisions), and with the likes of Shane Long and Ian Harte, you'll always be there or therabouts, and won't be short of goals. Good side, good set-up and good supporters.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

A lot will depend on whether you keep hold of Shane Long who, from what I can see, is obviously a big player for you, especially as Matt Mills has gone to Leicester. You will though still have the base of the squad from last season so, at the very least, you'll be there or thereabouts challenging for the play-offs again. I'll take you for a play-off position, will plump for a fifth place finish and a potential play-off final yet again! Whatever happens, I hope we both have good, enjoyable and successful seasons!

Southampton

Chris Rann from http://georgeweahscousin.com
How would you sum up last season?

Wow. Where to start. Saints never like to make things easy for themselves. We started terribly, and I am not sure most people realise how difficult League One can be, especially when everyone expects you to romp it. To seal automatic promotion was one of the best feelings I have ever had as a football fan. I enjoyed League One, but I will happy to never see it again.

How has the summer gone so far? Not bad.

We have made a very good signing in Jack Cork, and a very interesting one in Steve de Ridder. I expect a couple more to come in yet, but I am reasonably happy at the moment.

Key player for you next season?

It has to be Lallana. The speculation about Chamberlain has deflected any about him, which is a massive bonus, because for me he is a far better player. When Lallana plays well, we can beat anyone in this division.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Interesting one. Our Academy has got itself a fantastic reputation now and it is almost a case of when rather than if another superstar will come through. I am hearing good things about Scott Sinclair's younger brother Jake who is in our youth team, but Jack Stephens looks like a great prospect too.

Where do you think you'll finish? 9th and I for one would be chuffed with that.

What do you make of Reading? Rubbish hexagonal theatre. Seriously though, I like Reading as a club, and Brian McDermott impresses me greatly, you have a habit of going unnoticed for three quarters of a season, but always ending up in the promotion mix. Good solid squad, and if the loss of Mills and potentially Long don't effect you too much, I would back you for top 6 again.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

5th

Watford

Jon Moonie, along with Mike and Jason host a Watford FC podcast called From The Rookery End - www.fromtherookeryend.com

How would you sum up last season?

Last season was fantastic, we performed way beyond expectations and had some amazing performances on TV - we beat QPR and Norwich convincingly. We really enjoyed seeing more young players come through our Academy and watching Danny Graham putting 27 goals into the back of the net was a joy.

How has the summer gone so far?

To quote a famous football cliche, it's been a sumer of two halves. The first half was an exodus - 3 players and a manager left. The second half has been all about new signings, and we've had an amazing 6 new players come in. We've signed very few players in the last few years. It's been all about the loan market. It's nice to think that we are developing a team that is actually ours. The biggest signing is the extension of club Captain John Eustace - the best pearly whites and curly hair in the Championship. Our new manager Sean Dyche (check out his voice on The Football League Show, sounds like he has eaten an exhaust) gives us continuity and will put some fight into the players.

Key player for you next season?

I hope to see Marvin Sordell take his next step up. 15 goals last year, but didn't play as much as he could have. He is the man to step into Danny Graham shoes, and we look forward to see how he plays with new boy Chris Iwelumo.

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

One... I can't pick one! We have the best Academy in the country - FACT. If you've not heard about how it works then please give Harefield Academy a google. We've seen a couple of 17 year olds play for the first team and they play like veterans. However, if I had to pick one then it's Sean Murray.

Where do you think you'll finish?

If we can get anywhere near mid-table I'll be happy. We had a brush with Play Offs last season and if things go well then you never know. Priority number 1 is simply survive.

What do you make of Reading?

We had a hate relationship while Rodgers was there, but that seems to have died down. I see you as one of those Championship teams that could do something. There are a lot of those, but you feel like you are a more solid team than us. I still can't believe Jobi Mcanuff has been made club captain, but any team that has Sir Nigel Gibbs working behind it will be looked at fondly by Watford fans - Legend.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

A top 10 finish with a frustrating end of the season where you just miss out on the playoffs. There are some big teams in the Championship and I think three of them will come good across the whole of the season.

West Ham

Scott Tracey from The Game's Gone Crazy

How would you sum up last season?

Like waking up in bed and finding Heather from Eastenders undressed beside you!

How has the summer gone so far?

We have signed Nolan but one swallow does not a summer make. Mind you, given the bull pumped out by Sullivan and Gold, there's plenty for us Hammers fans to swallow!

Key player for you next season?

Kevin Nolan

One younger player who might burst onto the scene?

Loads. Montano and Spence look the best of a good crop.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Play-off place.

What do you make of Reading?

I would use it to house illegal immigrants ahead of deportation personally. Each time I drive down the M4 I thank God as I pass the slip road.

Predictions on where Reading might finish?

All depends on Long. I hope we get him!