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2015/16 Championship Previews: In Their Own Words: F-MK

Our team-by-team previews continue, with bloggers from around the Championship giving us their thoughts on the new season.

Pete Norton/Getty Images

(If you happen to be wondering where B-F went, well we're giving a few extra hours for our Cardiff and Charlton representatives to have their voices heard. It'll be posted one way or the other before Saturday)

Use the links below to jump to the relevant preview.

*****

Fulham

Andrew from Cottagers Confidential@CottagersC

You were one of the hot favourites for promotion this time last year but endured a pretty miserable campaign. What went wrong?

I could probably answer this question in two words: Felix Magath. He was pretty much a crazy person. Other than Ross McCormack (and I'm not sure Ross was his idea) most of his transfer dealings were very weird. Hardly anyone he brought in is still here. He also alienated many of the players and treated the young players in a way that may have hurt their development. He dug such a big hole that even though the team performed about league average under Kit Symons, they still were in a relegation fight.

What changes has Kit Symons made so far this summer?

Kit has brought in quite a few players. Best of all the players they are focusing on have experience at this level and are still in the primes of their careers. The team seems to have focused on players in the 22-28 age range, which is a far cry from the kind of players that Magath and Jol wanted. There was also a lot of uncertainty about exactly how Kit would have the team play. Last year they were almost entirely a 4-4-2 diamond. The question though was whether that was out of necessity, or whether that was his preference. It seems from this preseason that the team will be playing a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 and that the diamond is gone. That can only be considered a good thing as the squad still doesn't have a lock down CDM who can shield the back four. With the fullbacks forced to push high to give you width in the diamond, a CDM is paramount to keep the defense working. As you can tell from the defensive record last year, it didn't really work at all.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

Fulham have depth in the midfield (maybe for the first time since the 2011-2012 season). Their forward depth is great (maybe too great if Mitroglou can't be unloaded and Dwight Gayle does come in on loan). The full back spots were addressed in the window already. What hasn't been addressed at all is the center back position. One could argue that the center backs are fine and that they only gave up so many goals last year because of a midfield hanging them out to dry, but to be honest, that isn't entirely true. A new center back really could be the capper on a really good window. Fulham have been connected with a few, and hopefully one actually happens. Other than that, the biggest things to get done are to get some of the younger players to sign new deals (and avoid another Patrick Roberts situation) and to find homes for some of the players that don't really fit (Kostas Mitroglou and Fernando Amorebieta to be specific).

Which Fulham player should we look out for this season?

The easy answer is Ross McCormack. He was quietly one of the best players in the league last year. If he repeats that performance and Fulham have a good season, he might finally get the recognition he deserves. People might also stop bringing up his transfer fee all the time.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

Well, Patrick Roberts went to Manchester City, so I can't say him. There's a good chance that we never hear from him again given City's history with prospects. The next three I'd suggest are Emerson Hyndman, Lasse Vigen Christensen, and Moussa Dembele. All are talented, but they have good players in front of them. Moussa Dembele is frustrated enough that he may be trying to move. Hyndman and Christensen are going to have a hard time breaking into a crowded midfield. Perhaps than the easier answers are Cauley Woodrow and Marcus Bettinelli. Neither has a ceiling as high as any of the others, but both actually should see a lot of playing time.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

I'm actually fairly optimistic. Under Symons the team was basically league average. This squad is a lot better. Is it good enough to get promoted? I don't think they finish top two without a lot of luck (but stranger things have happened). But I'd probably guess they are fighting for a playoff spot for most of the season.

Finally, what have you made of Reading over the past 12 months and what do you expect of them going forward?

I honestly haven't really kept up with Reading transfers as much as I should have. I would like to apologize in advance for Orlando Sa however. Quite a few Fulham fans chuckled when they heard his name. If it wasn't for Mitroglou he might be one of the most disappointing transfers Fulham have made. Also, why the love for ex-Fulham strikers (first Pogrebnyak now Sa)? If you're going to sign cast offs from other clubs, you should probably pick a better side than Fulham.

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*****

Huddersfield

Terriers fan Scott Castle - @Terrier1987cas

How do Terriers fans look back on last season?

If you'd have told any Town fan before last season started we'd finish 14 points clear of the relegation zone they'd have taken it. How we got there however was a bit of a chore and overall it was a season to forget. It couldn't have started much worse as Mark Robins quit (he wasn't sacked as some poor journalists stated) after one game - a 4-0 pummeling by Bournemouth in which we conceded after less than a minute of the season. Mark Lillis steadied the reigns as expected, before we appointed Chris Powell. A decent start, then a pretty devastating blip in which we seemed to set up ready for defeat every game, before a promising end to the season as we went seven games without defeat. Definite progress as we finished well clear of danger, but hardly a brilliant season.

What changes has Chris Powell made so far this summer?

Not the ones that were needed. Our defence has been a source of embarrassment for a few years now but every summer we seem to refuse to make the necessary changes. Instead we've seen one of our most promising players leave (Conor Coady to Wolves) and signed a few players on the cheap. The two signings that involved fees are the ones that have caused excitement as both look to be very good home grown prospects - Kyle Dempsey from Carlisle and Jordy Hiwula from Man City. If they gel into the team we could cause some real damage going forward this season. Dean Whitehead joined on a free to provide experience while Jason Davidson and Martin Cranie were also freebies to add depth to the defence, whether they provide quality remains to be seen.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

We need to sort the defence if we're ever to push on at this level. I rate our midfield and attack but I'd be very surprised if there was a defence in this league that gifts the opposition as many goals as ours. Joel Lynch is quality on his day but also injury prone, after that I couldn't name another one of our defenders who I wouldn't replace. Chris Powell was a top flight defender and even has a few England caps under his belt - I struggle to believe he can't see this is our one big weakness so assume we're sticking to our philosophy of doing things on the cheap and hoping things end well.

Which Huddersfield player should we look out for this season?

I'll give you two. Nahki Wells has yet to impress me in a Town shirt but has looked sharp in pre-season and with our options greatly improved up top and in midfield he could have a good season if he takes advantage of the service he's sure to get. Jacob Butterfield was our player of the season last year and I honestly can't say enough good things about him - if he kicks on again and manages to find another level he'll be gone in January or next summer at the latest. Unfortunately we cannot keep players of his quality at our club for too long.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

Harry Bunn had a very good season last season - you might remember him as the lad who tore you to pieces at the Madejski on his full debut for Town last season. He suffered a bit with injuries later in the season and couldn't recapture that form but hopefully he can kick on this season and make a name for himself. Our academy has had some great success in recent seasons but not many players have made the jump to the first team - Duane Holmes, Philip Billing and Jake Charles are possibly our best three current prospects, although I imagine they might have to make their mark out on loan before doing it for us.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

I expect us to struggle. As strong as we look in midfield and up front (although we could do with one more striker given Vaughan's injury problems) I think our defence will be our undoing unless we make a couple of signings before the window closes. I'm not sure if I see us being a bottom three team but I think we'll be there or thereabouts, in a relegation battle for sure. However, given the spending power most teams in this league possess surviving again would be a great achievement, and if we can get anywhere near a top half finish Powell will have done a brilliant job.

Finally, what have you made of Reading over the past 12 months and what do you expect of them going forward?

I can't say I've ever looked too closely at Reading, but on paper you seem to have lost a fair few players recently - Karacan, Federici, Pearce and Morrison off the top of my head. Then again you still have some big names in your squad such as Cox, Blackman and Robson-Kanu. I've also heard a lot about some of your youth prospects - Obita, Akpan and Kuhl from FM alone are surely going to go on to big things! I don't rate Ollie Norwood based purely on his time at Town so I'm keen to see how he gets on again as I heard good reviews from your fans last season. Overall I don't think you'll struggle the top 6 but don't expect you to be in a relegation battle either - middle of the road nothingness this season for Reading I think.

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*****

Hull

Les from Amber Nectar@Amber_Nectar.

After the highs of a cup final and solid return to the Premier League, it was a nightmare 2014/15 for City. What went wrong?

We didn't beat the teams around us at the bottom, a fundamental we got right in 2013/14 but got wrong last season. A side that can beat Liverpool shouldn't lose twice to Burnley, but we did, and maybe that has something to do with how many changes we made. We spent £40M and signed 11 players, declaring ourselves ‘transfer window winners', but we lost the spirit displayed the last year by a tight knit group of British and Irish players, and while individuals players motivated themselves against bigger sides, they didn't seem to care enough as a collective to win games against beatable opponents. The toxic atmosphere created by the owner didn't help either, his laughable name change (ostensibly to increase revenue in Asia but really just to get one over Hull City Council who built the stadium and won't sell him it) split the fanbase, with those who love the City part of our name vehemently protesting becoming Hull Tigers getting into heated exchanges with those who feel the club is just a business giving the owner the right to change the name or fearing the owner's threats to walk away. It is a rift that will be felt for many years to come and has left a pall over the club.

What changes has Steve Bruce made so far this summer?

We've recouped some of the money spent last year with sales, but sadly those sold have been long serving and adored players rather than the big money mercenaries signed last summer that we desperately want to shift. Jelavic, Hernandez and N'Doye all want to go but firm offers have not materialised, meanwhile the losses of James Chester and Robbie Brady (sold), as well as McShane, Quinn and Rosenior (free agents) have been painful to witness as the financial reality of relegation starts to bite.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

We need someone to score goals. A failure to do that enough last year was costly, and the players who share that failure are also costly, and unlikely to be with us by the time the transfer window closes, so we need a cost effective replacement adept at scoring at Championship level. A decision needs to be made on Jake Livermore, he's suspended after testing positive for cocaine use, and Tom Huddlestone needs a rocket up the arse or a one way ticket to wherever there is a club who'll have him, he thoroughly underperformed last year and seems to coast through games he should be driving.

Which Hull player should we look out for this season?

Andy Robertson was signed from Dundee United for relative pennies and has proven quite the find. He has explosive pace and a refreshing eagerness to bomb down the left wing but needs some work on defensive discipline. If he can kick on from the impressive though occasionally erratic start he made to his Tigers career, the sale of Robbie Brady won't be as painful as it could be.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

Hull City have an appalling track record of developing home grown players. Steve Bruce has installed Tony Pennock to develop an academy, but how quickly we'll see fruit from that set up is anyone's guess. Young talent then, has to be bought in, and on that front the signing of Sam Clucas from Chesterfield could reap dividends.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

I really don't know, some bookies tip us for the title, alarmists have suggested a successive relegation is possible, it's hard to say while incoming signings hinge on the departures of big earners from our abortive Premier League campaign. I'd be happy with being in the hunt for a play off place and the owner making good on his oft stated threats to sell the club, maybe then the fanbase can put discord behind it.

Finally, what have you made of Reading over the past 12 months and what do you expect of them going forward?

You know, when Hull City were in the lower divisions I loathed fans of Premier League teams who had no knowledge of what was happening outside of it, but I became such a person last year. I put it down to the name change rancour and the soulless state of the modern game meaning City games were all I could stomach, well, beyond the odd peek at how Leeds were failing each week. As a result my knowledge of Reading's last year is pitiful, but I've always found you a likeable club and they are few and far between. Seeing Quinn and McShane in blue and white hoops will be bittersweet, but I wish them well.

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*****

Ipswich

Susan from Turnstile Blues@Turnstile_blue

You predicted a 6th placed finish to us last summer and that's where you ended up before losing in the play-offs. How do Ipswich fans look back on last season?

I think most Town fans will look back on last season quite fondly. Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor continue to be very popular, mainly because they have achieved such a lot whilst spending a minuscule amount on players compared to most other clubs in the Championship. We've also got a core group of players who have been around for a while and who genuinely seem to care about the club, a great example of whom is our captain, Luke Chambers. Of course, the way the season ended was painful. The sense of dread that we would have to play our great rivals in the play-offs was almost overwhelming towards the end. At least that can't happen again this season.

What changes has Mick McCarthy made so far this summer?

The biggest change is the sale of Tyrone Mings to Bournemouth. It wasn't a big surprise and for most people it seems to have been an excellent bit of "business." I'd have liked to have seen him play for us for one more season, mainly to see how he developed. He's a good player but far from the finished article, so I can see that it was a no-brainer to let him go for a fee rumoured to add up to £8 million. In return, we got Brett Pitman and Ryan Fraser (the latter on loan) from Bournemouth. I reckon we probably got the best out of the deal.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

We need a right back so that Chambers can play as a central defender. He does his best playing out of position but it isn't really fair on him - and he's indispensable for many other reasons. Town fans are always hoping for a creative midfielder but we'll also be missing the more combative, break-up play of Luke Hyam who has a long-term injury. Between them Teddy Bishop, Kévin Bru and Ainsley Maitland-Niles should bring something to midfield. Hopefully that will include more goals, as our defenders have been more likely to score in recent seasons.

Which Ipswich player should we look out for this season?

Although Freddie Sears is well-known, he's still only 25, I have a feeling that he will be our best striker this season. Given that our other forwards are Murphy (27 league goals), McGoldrick and Pitman, he'll have to play well, but I think he could be a key player.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

Ainsley Maitland-Niles is on loan from Arsenal for the season and has impressed in pre-season. He's only 17 but is an exciting prospect and McCarthy will play youngsters if they're good enough. Teddy Bishop is another talented young player, only 19. I think he could do very well.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

Heart says 2nd, head says 4th or 5th, so I'll go for 4th. So much depends on things like injuries and other things that aren't controllable, but at least we have some strength in depth for the first time in ages.

Finally, what have you made of Reading over the past 12 months and what do you expect of them going forward?

If I remember correctly, I got this completely wrong last season, as I thought you'd end up with us in the play-offs. Despite your poor league form, you beat us both at home and away so I don't know what went wrong for you in the league. I was surprised when Adkins was sacked and I'm not sure what bringing in Steve Clarke has achieved, although the fantastic FA Cup run must have made up for the poor Championship form. You've brought in quite a few new faces. I don't know much about most of them but I think McShane and Quinn are both good acquisitions. Most Hull City fans seem to be upset that they've gone.

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*****

Leeds

Ben Smith from Through It All Together@TIAT_LUFC

How do Leeds fans look back on last season?

I think it was a rough season for Whites fans, but there's still optimism and hope

The off-field situation at the club has been a constant talking point for the past decade, are things settling down anytime soon?

I really hope so. The Cellino situation didn't really help, nor did the fighting in Frankfurt...

What changes has new boss Uwe Rosler made so far this summer?

He's brought a new identity and culture to the team. Not to mention bringing in guys such as Chris Wood, Adeyemi, Dallas, Bamba, Sharp, just to name a few... There's a premium on skill for Uwe Rosler.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

I think we need a stronger defense, as well as strong goaltending, but we're in very good shape at the moment

Which Leeds player should we look out for this season?

Sol Bamba is going to be a fantastic leader, Stuart Dallas will be fun to watch, as will Chris Wood. I personally really like Liam Cooper too.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

Biggest names for me would be Lewis Cook and Sam Byram. The two look incredible and it's going to be fun to watch them grow.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

I would of course like them to finish 1st. My gut tells me somewhere between 12-14 though.

Finally, what have you made of Reading over the past 12 months and what do you expect of them going forward?

I hate to be a drag, I honestly haven't followed them enough to put together a solid opinion. But one things for sure: Regardless of how the teams finish, the Whites have by far the better blog ;)

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*****

Middlesbrough

Steve Welsh from minoboro@minoboro_dotcom

You came within one game of making it back to the Premier League before falling short in the play-off final against Norwich. How will Boro fans look back on 2014/15

As a huge stride forward but a painful experience right at the death, especially as we had numerous occasions to pull away from the top 4 or 5 teams in last few games. It was our first credible attempt at a promotion season for a long time and you get the feeling we'll be going for broke this time round

What changes has Aitor Karanka made so far this summer?

Not too many really, some loan signings have regretably left (Bamford) and some have thankfully returned (Kalas).
But the real coup has been the homecoming of Stuart Downing, who Karanka will surely be building the team around (providing he gets all his summer targets)

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

Replacing Bamford (hopefully with Rhodes)

Which Boro player should we look out for this season?

Stuani, with Downing supplying the bullets expect goals

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

I think he already did last seaason, but you cant look past Ben Gibson, improving in every game he plays

Where do you expect to finish this season?

Top 2

Finally, what have you made of Reading over the past 12 months and what do you expect of them going forward?

Having been in the Championship for a while ourselves now i can empathise with any relegated club coming to terms with life outside of the EPL. I wasnt expecting you to struggle quite as much you did but when clubs dont bounce back immediately this is often the way it goes (ourselves inlcuded) I'm afraid i dont know enough to suggest how you'll do going forward but best of luck for the season

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*****

MK Dons

MK Dons fan Matt Viney - @TheRealVinnie

You flirted with promotion for several years before finally making it over the line last season. What was the difference last season?

I think the summer signings we made last year, especially in the striker department, were crucial. We've always had good midfielders who have been able to provide good service up front, but often we have lacked a cutting edge striker to finish the move off. The likes of Afobe and Grigg last season allowed us to be more clinical and really push higher up the table.

The formation of the club still wrangles with a few football fans, what would you say to those still skeptical and resentful about the MK Dons?

I agree with anyone who wants to talk about some of the errors made when MK Dons were created. However the club itself is proving itself to be a real ambassador locally, and is providing many people with a means of live sport in a very competitive environment. Though it was wrong at the time, there really was no other options for the old Wimbledon FC, as the supporters group chose to leave the club in debt, rather than buy it for £1 and bring it back to life. The most important thing is that the MK Dons fans can't be blamed for what happened, and we're merely supporting our local team. Now let's enjoy the game!

What changes has Karl Robinson made so far this summer?

As of very recently, Keith Andrews (former legendary player for the Dons) has been appointed first team coach, he has been hanging around MK for a while now and it's great to see such an important figure, having a role in coaching our team. Former Royal Simon Church has also been added to the ranks this summer.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

Aforementioned strikers have both now left, and although Robbo has brought in replacements, many Dons fans (including myself) would like to see another brought in to firm up that position, neither Sam Gallagher or Simon Church are proven enough in this league so an actual big hitter will be the most important signing we make. Also a back up left back to provide cover for Dean Lewington should he get injured or tired would seem in order.

Which MK Dons player should we look out for this season?

If  he stays fit enough. Ben Reeves is a very promising attacking midfielder with a very sweet left foot. He can score from very long range and has an eye for a pass as well, 3 assists against Manchester United should give you an idea if his value to the team. Our player of the season last year was Carl Baker, one of our more senior player at 31, but a wide player with a lot of trickery and can bag a goal or two.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

As for a younger player. Samir Carruthers is a favourite in MK. Versatile midfielder who has the potential to be in the premier league one day. He came through the academy at arsenal and then Villa, but came to us to invigorate his career. Only 22, but will be looking to prove himself at this level.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

The most realistic of dons fans would tell you that the ultimate aim will be to avoid relegation. We definitely have a squad and management capable of it. However we want to show our worth in the championship and compete with every team we face. I predict to finish somewhere around 15-18th, but i would take 21st if offered to me.

Finally, what have you made of Reading over the past 12 months and what do you expect of them going forward?

Reading seem like a team that haven't clicked for a while and hung around the bottom of the table. However an excellent cup run last season was the highlight of the last 12 months and if Reading are to succeed this season, they need to stick by Steve Clarke and work as team. Otherwise i see them finishing lower mid table for the foreseeable future.

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*****

Thanks once again to those who have helped us out for this latest instalment! We'll have part 4 up in the next 24 hours.