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Championship Team Previews In Their Own Words: Part 3

So with part 1 and part 2 of our team-by-team Championship previews in the can it's time to roll on to the next group, covering Ipswich through Nottingham Forest.

Jamie McDonald

Ipswich

Susan from Turnstile Blues - @Turnstile_blue

When we spoke to you at this time last year and you correctly predicted a 7th-10th placed finish as you ended up 9th. Would you consider last year a success or was there any disappointment?

I wasn't disappointed in how we did last season and thought that Mick McCarthy did extremely well in the circumstances. It was almost impossible for clubs like ITFC to compete with teams like QPR and Leicester financially and we'll probably have the same problem again this season if other clubs spend a lot of money on players.


What has Mick McCarthy done so far to change things this summer?

He sold Aaron Cresswell, as expected. I wasn't as big a fan of his as many were, but he was a decent and likeable player. He'll do fine at West Ham. I hope that Tyrone Mings will be able to step up and our fans give him the chance to. We do suffer from unrealistic expectations sometimes.

McCarthy has quietly brought in a few new faces. He seems to be astute at bringing in players on a free and they all appear to be young and promising (some of his immediate predecessors seemed to go for the old and past-their-sell-by-date in comparison). They're obviously unknown quantities. Jonathan Parr, a Norwegian left back who's another option to replace Cresswell, plus Cameron Stewart and Alex Henshall, both wingers from Hull City and Manchester City respectively - so we should be playing with a bit more width, which is no bad thing, and another GK, Bartosz Białkowski, who impressed me at our recent friendly against West Ham, although he didn't have an awful lot to do.

What does he still need to do?

It seems as if our supporters have been crying out for a decent playmaker forever and we still don't have one at the time of writing. I wonder if Anthony Wordsworth could play this role but he seems to have a lot of fitness issues and I'm not sure how the manager rates him. Right back is another position we could do with filling but I doubt we'll bring anyone else in so will probably continue with Chambers or maybe even Elliott Hewitt will break through.

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

McGoldrick will be worth watching and hopefully will stay uninjured this season. He's coming back from a really long time out and I'm sure I won't be the only Town fan who's holding their breath in his first few games. If he can come back in the form he was in before his injury, he's going to score a lot of goals.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

Jack Marriott may well be another goalscorer, if he's given the chance. I like the look of Alex Henshall too, but have yet to see him in a competitive match. There are a few prospects, but it will be understandable if Mick and Terry (Connor) err on the side of caution in the first part of the season and use our more experienced players. I haven't worked out an average age but we must be a younger side than we've been for ages, so there's lots of potential.

Where do you think you'll finish?

I'm going to be cautious and say that we'll improve on last season but only slightly. I'm not sure we'll be able to compete with the parachute payments and greater spending power of the newly-relegated clubs but if no-one else spends big and we are lucky with injuries and suspensions, we could scrape into the play-offs. So, 6th to 8th, this season.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

You've lost quite a few names that were familiar to me: McAnuff, Leigertwood, Bridge, etc., and I'm increasingly finding the twists and turns of club ownership and its repercussions on players and transfers quite hard to follow (who knows what's going to happen at Blackpool this season, for example?) but I can't think of many managers in the Championship that I rate as highly as Nigel Adkins and for that reason, I think you'll do quite similarly to us, as you did last season.

**********

Leeds

Tom from Through It All Together - @TIAT_LUFC

The Brian McDermott experiment didn't last long as the club was mired in takeover issues, what went wrong at Elland Road last year?

Everything went wrong and I mean that apart from Ross McCormack and he's gone now. The ownership was a shambles, the football was painful to watch under McDermott and the players weren't good enough.

Leeds fans say it every year but it was a year to forget.

What changes has the club made over the summer?

Plenty of changes. Staff redundancies, new owner, new manager I mean head coach, new players, new approach. You name it.

We have no idea if it will work or not but I personally feel we have to support the new regime.

What does new Leeds boss Dave Hockaday still have to do?

Win over the fans is the number one priority and of course to do that we play well, show heart and pick up points. I feel sorry for him in a way, he was never going to turn the chance down and we played terrible football under Warnock and McDermott.

I'll admit I was fuming when he was appointed but what can you do? He and the players need our backing in what should hopefully be a season to build from.

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

A difficult question. There's plenty of new foreign players we've signed who most of us have no idea about. Marco Silvestri the keeper is supposed to be the next big thing, while Tommaso Bianchi in midfield has a point to prove. I think the key thing at Leeds this year is to have a number of key players. Last year McCormack was the man, and a successful team is made up of influential players.

Sam Byram, Jason Pearce and Luke Murphy all have bags of potential lets hope they blend well with our new signings.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

Lewis Cook is probably the best bet. England U17 international who is highly thought of at Leeds. In recent years we've seen updates about his reserve or England career but he's played a number of games in pre-season and could well be given a chance this season. We did the same with Alex Mowatt last season and he looked good.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Another tough question. Personally I think the players will rally around the new regime and finish in mid-table. We need a few more quality players to think of the top ten but then again you never know. I didn't think Burnley and Derby had good squads last year but they proved you don't need tonnes of money.

However, promotion for me is out of the question, we just need a season where the fans see passion, fight and they have fun again. A decent finish will give us something to build from next season.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

Well it has been an interesting summer. I was gutted to see Nigel Adkins join you over us ( not that we made a move but you get my drift). There's been some big departures and it could affect you badly. Then again Adkins has a talent of getting the best out of his squad so it's hard to tell. I think you'll be outside the play-offs but top ten personally.

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Middlesbrough

Andy from Middlesbrough Supporters South - @BoroSouthFC

It seems every year that Middlesbrough are tipped to be in the thick of the promotion race but it hasn't quite clicked since relegation. What went wrong last season?

Last season Steve Gibson raised the bar for Tony Mowbray to achieve promotion after an awful second half to the 2012-13 season and the signing of Albert Adomah signalled some intent. However, the team got off to a slow start, often dominating midfield possession but a lack of cutting edge and some poor late goals conceded left us languishing in the bottom half of the table. In the background there were rumblings of a change in club structure as Peter Kenyon came in to advise and a more continental approach was constructed off the field as the club drifted on the field. The writing was on the wall for Mowbray during the transfer window as the club wasted all it's time and energy chasing Leeds hotshot Ross McCormack and Belgian striker Jelle Vossen to bring much needed goals to the team before ultimately ending up with Kei Kamara. A dismal defeat away at Barnsley was too much for the fans and more importantly Steve Gibson and he made the difficult decision to part with his close friend Mowbray.

In reality though, the club had been gearing itself up for a structural overhaul for a while to effectively compete in the new FFP era after the Southgate, Strachan and Mowbray attempts fell flat. A new fresh and innovative approach was needed, combining a top class coaching set up with a top class scouting structure to extract maximum value from incoming transfers and complement our famed academy. The days of throwing money on players past their sell by date was well and truly over. In stepped Aitor Karanka, a man with top class pedigree having coached Spain's youth set up and been alongside Jose Mourinho on the bench at one of the worlds biggest clubs in Real Madrid. The change on the field was tangible as the team settled in to a very organised and rhythmic 451 system and the team finished the campaign with 6 wins in the last 8 games and briefly threatened to gate crash the play offs. The capable loan signings of Omeruo and Chalobah from Chelsea highlighted Karankas positive relationship with Mourinho, one which could prove very important to us this season. A case of a season of two halves as the club now starts to rise like a pheonix from the flames.

What has Aitor Karanka done so far this summer to change things?

Karanka has continued to instill his organised and disciplined philosophy but focused on a very technical preseason with all ball work and none of the traditional cross country running you normally hear about. He has been ruthless in his transfer dealings, weeding out anyone he felt didn't have the right skill set or more importantly attitude such as strikers Marvin Emnes, Lukas Jutkewicz and Curtis Main whilst adding a very Spanish flavour to the team and coaching set up. Karanka has added Spaniards Tomas Mejias (goalkeeper), Emilio Nsue (winger) and £3.5m Kike (striker) since Daniel Ayala signed from Norwich last season, with other Spanish additions rumoured to be on the way. The team has looked bright in preseason, controlling possession, as has become the norm under Karanka and scoring some good goals, particularly youngsters Adam Reach and Bradley Fewster. The continuing development of the clubs youngsters bodes well but the squad is currently weak at right back and up front and the club are working hard to fill these gaps with more Spaniards, Chelsea loan signings or maybe even a Jelle Vossen at last.

What does he still need to do?

As mentioned previously, the sale of 3 of last seasons strikers has left a gaping hole for the club to fill and reports of Patrick Bamford (Chelsea) and Jelle Vossen to complement Kike up top would make us real promotion contenders as goals were the only missing ingredient from the team which finished last season. If the Adam Clayton deal is finalised it will add another level of much needed craft and vision to the team and I can see some of the now peripheral players such as keeper Jason Steele and Richard Smallwood being sold to create more transfer funds and budget wriggle room. 32 year old Osasuna right back Damian Abella, yet another Spaniard, looks to have signed on a free as we chase Matthew Lowton from Aston Villa. So in summary, a lot of variables in the pot at this stage but hopes are high amongst Boro fans that our momentum will continue to grow towards a successful promotion push.

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

Good question. We have 3 good keepers, George Friend at left back was our player of the season and Nigerian Kenneth Omeruo was outstanding on loan from Chelsea at centre back. Adam Clayton could be the one to watch in midfield given the glowing references from Huddersfield whilst wingers Adomah and Carayol are unstoppable on their day. Given the strong supporting backbone of the team though I'm going to go for new signing Kike based on early preseason performances. Kike has excellent movement, a good turn of pace and is technically very good for his size so will probably end up as the Championships top scorer next season.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

Steve Gibsons nephew Ben Gibson was outstanding at centre back last season and his performances earned him young player of the year and a call up to the England Under 20's. Luke Williams has the ability as a quick mobile striker but he doesn't quite seem to have the temperament to take his ability by the scruff of the neck and become the player he's been threatening to be. Following on from our conveyor belt of excellent homegrown wingers (most recently Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson and James Morrison) our rapid winger Adam Reach has had an excellent preseason after spending time out on loan last season and could well be the one to keep an eye on.

Where do you think you'll finish?

With the squad as it stands today, around 7th position with our lack of strikers but if the rumoured signings come to fruition I think we'll finish in the top two. I think the structure the club has been working hard to implement and the shrewdness of Karanka will reap its rewards as Steve Gibson is throwing everything at it including the kitchen sink this year. Our squad is now only a handful of signings from being strong in every position and it's the best chance we'll have to get back up since our fall from grace in 2009.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

I suppose I see Reading as similar to ourselves in that the scars of Premiership relegation take a few years to heal. Reading built their success on a strong team ethic but lost their way as the wage bill was reduced as most teams do after failing to bounce straight back. Having new owners in might give the club some fresh impetus, particularly if proven strikers Mackie and Cox come in. Adkins is a decent manager as we saw at Southampton so I'd see a comfortable top 10 finish and maybe even a play off spot depending how quickly Adkins gets some money to spend. It's a tough league though and almost impossible to predict!

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Millwall

Millwall fan Mark Dillon who'll be writing a unique blog on the FA Cup at Cup Tales - @CupTales

Millwall suffered a poor start to the campaign under Steve Lomas before Ian Holloway came in and slowly dragged you away from the relegation places. How would you sum up last season?

Blind optimism followed by utter despair, ending with relief. Lomas was always going to be under pressure with his West Ham links, and lack of coaching predigre. He actually managed to win over a lot of fans by the start of the season, with what on paper appeared to be some fantastic signings in the likes of Scott McDonald, Nicky Bailey, Richard Chaplow, and Steve Morison back on loan. Then we lost at home to Yeovil on the opening day, and kept losing.

He was basically shown as tactically inept, and made some of the most baffling post match comments I've ever heard, yet seemed to believe everything he was saying. A 3 match winning streak including our annual taking of 3 points away at Charlton bought him far too much time, and at Christmas when he was finally given the boot the club was in utter disarray. By the time Holloway came in it looked to be too little, too late and with 8 games left of the season we were stone bottom, with an horrendous run in and all but doomed.

That was until we somehow went unbeaten in the last 8, including wins away at Forest and Wigan, and a point away at QPR to complete the most miraculous escape any Millwall fan can remember.

What has Holloway done so far this summer to change things?

This summer has been quiet transer wise, especially compared to last summer. The main signings have been Lee Gregory from Halifax Town, Ricardo Fuller on a free following the Blackpool exodus, and Carlos Edwards on a free from Ipswich after he came in on loan last season.

The big differences are behind the scenes. John Berylson seems to have realised he made a large mistake last summer, and has seemingly left Holloway in charge of all football matters. To that end there's been a revamp of the training ground, including considerable expense on new pitches, a change in scouting, and overall a change in general atmosphere around the place. Holloway has big faith in the youngsters, which is something that has been missing in recent years with Jackett seemingly not trusting them, and Lomas realising he had no time to blood them if he wanted any hope of staying in the job and the positivity and belief he's brought in general went a long way to ensuring survival last year.

What does he still need to do?

Make it work long term. He has endless support at the moment, and if we see youngsters come through with a solid 14th-16th finish everyone will be happy with that. It's the start of hopefully a long project.

Which Millwall player should we be keeping an eye on this season?

If Nicky Bailey, Richard Chaplow or Scott McDonald can get a good run in the side, and get the ability we know they have back they'll be like new signings. All 3 of them fell out of favour under Lomas, and need that push to kick start their Millwall careers. That being said Bailey and Chaplow are already ruled out of the opening game v Leeds, so...!

One younger player who might burst on to the scene?

Hopefully Sid Nelson, who is a proper old school no nonsense centre back with the name to match. More likely it'll be Fred Onyedinma, who got a few games under Holloway last season, has been touted as the next up and coming star, and should fit the Holloway mentality in the way the likes of Zaha and Tom Ince did under him.

Where do you think you'll finish up.

I'll take 14th. Top half would be pushing it. Probably 16th though.

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

Depends how the most recent 'investment' attempt goes I would imagine. There's still the core of an excellent side there, despite losing Le Fondre. The lack of transfer activity this summer has to be a bit of a concern, but I imagine you'll be there or thereabouts again. 1 place higher than last year would be a start!

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Norwich

Former Little Norwich blogger Sam- @littlenorwich

Norwich looked as if they'd settled into Premier League life and a big spending summer seemed to back that up even more. Obviously it didn't quite go to plan, just what went wrong last season?

And to think I had almost blanked it from my memory. Last season was a catastrophic failure, made worse by the optimism instilled after what appeared to be a very productive summer transfer window and the construction of a squad well fancied to ‘kick on'. Chris Hughton's cautious approach made us a very easy team to work out and stifle and almost as easy to beat. A lack of creativity and a tactical naivety meant that by the time we approached our killer run-in against Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal the writing was already on the wall.

What has new manager Neil Adams done to change things so far?

Although he hasn't stated in outright, he has hinted at a change from approach of cautious Chris. Simply by doing this, he has lifted the clouds of last season for the majority of fans. Some, myself included are waiting for the ten game mark before we herald the return of successful positive attacking football. It would be unfair to say that Chris Hughton didn't ‘get' the club, but Neil Adams certainly does.

What does he still need to do?

The defence could do with some fine-tuning. Russell Martin has been indulged his position change from right-back to centre half and it seems that Neil Adams is one of only few convinced by the switch. A few early clean sheets would help him massively.

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

It's very difficult to answer that one until the end of the transfer window. If we keep hold of Nathan Redmond I think he could have a massive impact. He was already a good championship player when we bought him last summer and despite a difficult season I think he has everything to dominate the second tier.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

Young players stand a better chance of breaking through under Adams then any city manager I've known. I think we could see a number of his 2013 FA Youth Cup winners make the step up.

The most obvious candidate is Josh Murphy, who made his Premier League debut as a second half substitute in the 7-0 massacre at the Etihad last season. The currently more fancied half of the Murphy twins, Josh has every chance of minutes under Adams, and at championship level may well find his feet.

Where do you think you'll finish?

I hope I'm right when I say we will be troubling the top 4 or 5. I think automatic promotion would be a phenomenal achievement for Neil Adams' first full season.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

There doesn't seem to have been a great deal of summer transfer movement, but if there's a coach that can do well with what he already has it's Adkins. Mid-table to play-offs maybe?

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Nottingham Forest

Semi-retired Forest blogger Winnits returns to lend us a hand -  @Winnits

(Probably worth noting here that we spoke to Alan at the end of July, before we'd snapped up Cox and before they'd signed Assombalonga and Antonio!)

Forest flirted with the play-offs for most of the year before fading late on, what went wrong at the club last season?

We had a lot of injuries, and some 'injuries', mysterious Algerian players who apparently nobody wanted then Billy Davies had a meltdown which ultimately saw him gone after a 5-0 drubbing at Derby, a game in which we were so farcically bad and not trying it didn't even feel particularly humiliating whilst sat in the away end still out singing the confused home fans. The replacement - a certain Mr Stuart Pearce - wasn't available until the summer so Gary Brazil took on the role of caretaker which kind of continued the rubbish form we had been on since crashing out the cup to Sheffield United. All in all, one to forget, aside from the last minute or so of the play-off final, of
course.

What has new boss Stuart Pearce done so far to change things?

Difficult to say - he doesn't seem to have lifted the injury curse yet, most of our defence seem to be crocked. He's bought young players with potential on the whole, which hints at sustainability rather than Billy's boom or bust methods. I hope Fawaz realises this and gives him time to develop something but, well, Pearce is his third manager already so let's not get too hopeful of that. The most important thing Pearce has done is brought some much needed integrity to the club after Billy and his shady cousin/advisor - Forest fans universally  love him, and I think most trust him to do the right thing within the best of his abilities. It's here he will now need to show what those abilities actually are - and if £500m Kuwaiti government sponsorship is to be believed he might need to do so rather quickly before what happened to him at Manchester City repeats itself.

What does he still need to do?

Get us performing. Pre-season results (they don't count, right?) have been unimpressive - I'm not particularly bothered by that, but we need a decent start. With the likes of Hobbs, Cohen, Wilson, Lansbury, Lichaj, Lascelles and maybe more I've missed nursing injuries he needs to do that with perhaps a makeshift squad. I would think there's still some business for him to do in the transfer market but to be honest I find close-season rumour peddling to be so unbearably tedious I just ignore it until the season starts - which mercifully isn't in very
long!


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

I'm really not sure now! In terms of longer term players Lansbury is the one I've always enjoyed to watch, but maybe it will be some of the new guys or someone yet to arrive that is the key man. Hopefully Matty Fryatt can continue to bang in the goals and not do what long-courted-strikers normally do at Forest and crash and burn into a fug of mediocrity. Sone of our youngsters from last season show promise - Jamie Paterson has flair and skill and directness, Ben Osborn came in when Billy left whilst Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles are still being linked with big money moves away.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

Osborn did well in an admittedly struggling side last season - a diminutive but combative midfielder he should hopefully be sniffing around the first team. You'd hope that some of the 'development' players Pearce is signing like Veldwijk, Riera, Laing and to a lesser degree Mancienne (who is a little older) are likely to be in the frame to play too.

Where do you think you'll finish?

The championship - as ever - is going to prove a competitive league, but then who'd have tipped Burnley for automatic promotion last season, or Derby County play-off finalists and (don't tell them I said this) perhaps unfortunate not to stay in the automatic spots themselves. That said, I think Forest need a lot of work to clear the rampant and reckless short-term damage wrought by Davies followed plenty of nurturing to build a more sustainable club with more joining up of the academy, development squad and the first team. So I'm expecting upper mid-table with perhaps half an eye of sneaking into the play-offs and - to be honest - I'd be quite content with that.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

You have to fancy a freshly-relegated team with the trappings of parachute payments, a solid squad and a manager who is very familiar with this level. I'd think anything less than a play-off berth would really have to be considered failure, some might argue a berth in that lottery and indeed a win. I'd not be surprised to see Reading promoted.