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Championship Team Previews In Their Own Words: Part 4

Our journey around the Championship through the words of fellow bloggers reaches its conclusion as we look at Rotherham through Wolves. You can check out our others previews here.

Scott Heavey

Rotherham

Rotherham fan and journalist Jonathan Veal from www.thedreambooks.co.uk and www.jonathanveal.blogspot.com@jonathandveal83.

Jonathan has also published a book called Reliving The Dream this summer, telling the story of the Millers' return to the second tier.

It's been a while since we've been in the same division together! Rotherham have endured a fair bit of change since our last meetings with several promotions and relegations as well as a couple of ground moves. How would you sum up the past few years?

The last few years have been an absolute rollercoaster. From the depths of playing in front of 2,000 people at Don Valley and losing to the likes of Barnet and Macclesfield, to the incredible highs of Wembley and getting back into the Championship, it has been an eventful! There was genuine concern that the club would go under, they then had to endure the effects of that, but under the current chairman Tony Stewart they have been reborn and it has gone a lot better than anyone could have ever have hoped for, apart from the man himself perhaps.

How has Steve Evans attempted to reshape the squad ahead of the new season?

There is only ever one way with Steve Evans and that is to recruit. He's brought in 12 players, with the prospect of couple more, and the majority of them have Championship experience under their belt. But you just have the feeling that perhaps he's gone for quality over quantity with some of the signings. However, Evans has got a good track record of getting the best out of players with a point to prove and his record of shipping players out if they don't fit is even better. I'd expect at least a couple of the signings to be out of the door by Christmas and replaced by someone else. He's kept the majority of players from last season, so competition for places should be really strong. Matt Derbyshire is probably the marquee signing, but everyone is licking their lips at the prospect of potentially signing Stevie May from St Johnstone.

What does he still need to do?

Having got two players for every position the squad is probably over-subscribed. The reserves are going to be strong next year! He's still after a striker, Stevie May, but apart from that he's probably done the majority of his business.

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

A sign of how far the Millers have come over the last few years is that the side is full of players to look out for. In the past it was only ever Alfie or Lewis Grabban. Now there are four or five leading men. Ben Pringle probably has the best reputation after a great season last year, with Reading showing an interest in him. He's unproven at this level, though, so it will be interesting to see how he copes with the jump, but whatever the difference in quality of the opposition, his left foot will still cause danger. Then you've got Derbyshire, a proven goalscorer, Kieran Agard who bagged 26 goals last season and Lee Frecklington who is arguably the club's best ever midfielder. So it's exciting times.

One younger player who might burst on to the scene?

I don't think we'll see any youngsters burst on to the scene. They have just loaned out their three most promising players, Mitch Rose to Crawley and Daniel Rowe and Nicky Walker to Wycombe. Generally, Evans is not one for throwing in youngsters to give them a chance. They have to be ready and as yet, none of them are.

Where do you think you'll end up?

It's going to be a tough season, without a doubt. If you look at the clubs Rotherham have to face it is actually quite daunting, given the rapid rise they have had. Evans has said survival is the first priority, which it is, but I just think everything is set up for the club to progress. It won't be like the last time they were in the Championship where they were like a fish out of water. This time, the club is ready and I firmly believe a mid-table finish is an achievable target this season. I think anywhere between 12th and 16th is possible.

Finally what do you make of Reading heading into this season?

Reading should be considered among the favourites for promotion, though they will have lost a lot of interest from Millers fans owing to the sale of Alfie, who is still loved in South Yorkshire. Nigel Adkins is a top-class manager who plays the game in the right way.

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Sheffield Wednesday

Joe from Yes We Cran@YesWeCrann

Wednesday had a miserable start to the year before smashing us at Hillsborough and slowly creeping to safety. Would you consider last year a success?

A success is probably a strong word, but I think surviving comfortably like we did is a good building block for this season. I just hope we start better this time around!

What has Stuart Gray done so far this summer to change things?

Along with the (hopefully) new owners Gray has tied down a few players like Chris Kirkland on new contracts and signed Sam Hutchinson on a permanent deal... I reckon there's still a few more new faces to come too!

What does he still need to do?

Get the guys in the right frame of mind! They'll all be well aware of how we started last season and the start of this campaign could be a bit of a mental battle for them. We also need a proven goalscorer to lead the line, so I wouldn't mind him bringing a new forward in.

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

I have a sneaky feeling that Atdhe Nuhiu could step up to the plate for us this season, he started to find his feet towards the end of last year.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

It could be a good season for Caolan Lavery (21) this year, and I suppose there's a small chance that 17-year-old Franck Betra could play some sort of role depending on how things go for him.


Where do you think you'll finish?

I'd be happy to challenge for playoffs and maybe sneak into the top six. We're a club on the rise I feel, but I don't think our rise will be immediate, a general improvement on last season would be a good next step for us in my opinion.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

You guys were unlucky to miss out on the playoffs last year which must have been rough, but with a few little tweeks to the team then you should be able to rectify that this time around. Good luck!

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Watford

Jon Moonie From The Rookery End@RookeryJon

Watford were highly fancied as promotion candidates after losing at Wembley last year but the challenge never really materialised and Zola lost his job. What went wrong at the club last year?

It felt like that our tactics under Zola was figured out and we lost three of our key players from the season before. Vydra's goals, Chalobah's eye and Abdi's control of the middle of the park (he was inured most of last season).

It seemed Zola wasn't the man to lead when the going was tough and we made A LOT of silly mistakes, which were punished.

We may have finished where we did, but we were half an hour away from being 3 points off the play offs with a game in hand. Then we lost that game against QPR and it seemed like the boys gave in the last four games of the season.

What has Beppe Sannino done to improve the side this summer?

Well he's and his own pre-season and he seems to be trying out a few new systems. Is it a permanent change or is it just a back up - we're not sure.

Then there are all the signings. We've got Matej Vydra back and, if you remember, he was a goal machine the season under Zola. Plus a huge host of signings: sturdy Brits - Lloyd Dyer (Leicester) and Keith Andrews (Bolton), resigned on loan Daniel Tozser to command the midfield, Heurelho Gomes (Spurs) in goal and to sure up at the back Craig Cathcart (Blackpool), Gabriel Tamas (West Brom/Doncaster) and  Juan Carlos Paredes who played for Columbia in the World Cup.

What does he still need to do?

Make them a team, play a bunch of competitive games and see if there are any gaps to fill.

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

Vydra may get a lot of attention and not make the impact that he did two years ago.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

I think last year I mentioned Sean Murray, a Watford home grown player, and he may finally make the push to be a first choice. The other one to look out for is Cristian Battocchio - he loves to chip a keeper!

Where do you think you'll finish?

Top - I'm always ultra positive this time of the season.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

This is the championship, so pick any position from 1 to 24. They are all as probable as the other!

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Wigan

Keiran from Pie Eater's Footie@PieEatersFootie

Last season looked like a rollercoaster for Wigan fans with European adventures, cup runs, play-off heartbreak and a managerial change to boot. How do you reflect on it now?

Where do I begin with last season? We Europe was six of the best games in the clubs history in terms of just what it meant, being able to play against teams from across the continent and compete was an outstanding thing, especially for a team which nearly 20 years ago was struggling in the old Second Division. The FA Cup run was something no-one would have seen coming, it just sort of happened and we all tagged along for the ride. If anything it proved that what we did last season wasn't a fluke and that we still have a team to compete with the country's best. At the end of the season we just ran out of the energy and couldn't push that little bit harder to get over the line and to win the play-offs. It finished a fantastic season and one I wouldn't have changed much of.

What has Uwe Rosler done to improve the side this summer?

This summer it has been fitness training to get the players into gear to hit the ground running. Under Owen Coyle we just weren't keeping the players fit and Uwe Rosler has stepped in brought discipline and structure back to our training to continue to implement his aggressive high pressing attacking game. In terms of players we have strengthen everywhere on the pitch to replace the players we have lost of free transfers this summer.

What does he still need to do?

Well we are all hoping for one more striker, that is if we can get rid of Grant Holt. Unfortunately Holt's wages are quite large and until we can remove him from our wage bill we will struggle to be able to afford to bring anyone big into the club. The same goes for an attacking midfielder that we need. Once Grant Holt leaves that lets the door open for Rosler to bring in the extra players we need to start the season.

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

That is a hard one to answer really. Having seen how the lads are preforming in pre-season we could be about to see the return of Callum McManaman to full fitness and hopefully he will light up the Championship. The other man who could be worth a watch this coming season is our new Spanish import Orio Riera, he finished high in the La Liga goalscoring charts last season and has that little big of class about him which you want to see in a striker. Hopefully Riera can hit the ground running for Wigan.

Any younger player that might burst on to the scene?

Frazer Fyvie, Tom Chow and Ryan Jennings have all been heavily involved in pre-season and all have shown that they are ready to make the step up to the first team now. Fyvie and Chow two central midfielders with plenty of energy in the middle of the park and can both playing well attacking or defending. Jennings though is quite a different matter, blink and you will miss him, the pace the lad has his fantastic and looks very good on the ball. Interesting to see how he adapts to playing in the team.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Can I say Champions? I don't quite think any fan would say they would expect that from the squad. One thing you know is that the Championship is hard league to win. The aim has to be a Premier League return and so however that come as fans we will be happy, be nice to grab an automatic promotion, but if it is to be a play-off win then so be it.

Finally what do you make of Reading's prospects?

Hard to say, as I believe you haven't added any players. Saying that you have a very strong squad as it is and if you added a striker who can score goals for you in Championship level consistently they you could be easily challenging up at the top of the table, which is where I would expect you to be, a top six place would be or there or there abouts would be my expectations for Reading this season.

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Wolves

Tom from WolvesBlog @wolvesblog

It's safe to say Wolves have been through a tough time over the past few years, are you confident the club is back on the right track?

Absolutely. The club made a real mess of things post-McCarthy and relegation from the Championship felt cataclysmic. But it can sometimes be a good thing to hit rock bottom if it means you can perform major surgery and come back stronger, which is exactly what I feel Wolves are doing this season.

What has Kenny Jackett done to rebuild the squad so far this summer?

Not a lot this summer, only a couple of free transfers in Tommy Rowe from Peterborough and a winger called van La Parra from Holland. But we overhauled the team last season and dominated everyone after Christmas, so there's a feeling a lot of these lads are going to make a real impact at a higher level.

What does he still need to do?

I do think we're a player light at both ends of the pitch - cover at the back and a physical presence to compliment what we've got up front. Additionally, we still need to shift the high earners off the books who aren't getting a kick. You don't want Doyle back do you? That said, whatever happens in Kenny we trust. He's been a revelation since breezing in last summer and for the first time in a long time, he's united the club.

Which Wolves player should we keep an eye on this season?

Kevin McDonald is the best midfielder I've seen at Wolves since Paul Ince and Alex Rae and that is high praise indeed. He's a massive unit but also a wonderful footballer. I'm not saying he's Yaya Toure or anything, but he has the attributes to run games for us at this level. Michael Jacobs too is a lovely player, getting in those gaps between opposition midfield and defence to drive us forward. Very dangerous at his best and can't believe Derby let him go,

One younger player who might burst on to the scene?

We've got a lad called Eusebio (no joke) who looks like the real deal. Again, big and physical, but also pacey and with an eye for goal. We've got a lot of good wingers at the club so he'll do well to force his way in, but we're looking forward to seeing what he can do when he does.

Where do you think you'll finish?

Tough one. Last time we were in the Championship I said play-offs minimum and we were relegated. The last time you lot went up too, I seem to recall you were languishing down the bottom but then suddenly started beating everyone. It's such an annoyingly brilliant league isn't it? But I do feel we'll be consistent this season, which gives us a chance. I'm cautiously optimistic, so I'll tip us to eek into the play-offs. Sixth.

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

Finding it difficult as an outsider to weigh up Reading's prospects as I know so little about your players. I do know you've got a manager with a proven track record and obviously went very close to making the play-offs last season. But it did seem (as was confirmed by a few Reading fans I know) that you did very well to finish that high with the group of players you had. A handful have left by the looks of it and I see you're in the middle of a proposed takeover which can be brilliant or awful, but normally awful, at least in the short term. I'm going to plonk you in that space between mid-table and play-offs and you can comeback and give me a good old slap if you prove me wrong.

Best of luck for the season anyway. I see our game at the Mad Stad is on the box in September, so will look forward to that one. I still have fond memories of that play-off semi final second leg (no rubbing it in intended). It's funny how many players we've signed from you in recent history too. Have to say Doyle in the early days was magnificent, but overall Hahnemann was my favourite. What an absolute solider he was. Don't know why we didn't offer him another contract. The less said about Gorkss the better though.