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2015/16 Championship Previews In Their Own Words: Br-De

We continue our look at the Championship on a team-by-team basis, getting the views from the people that know them the best.

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Bristol City

Paul from The Exiled Robin @TheExiledRobin

After a tough couple of seasons, City stormed their way to the title last season. Was it the perfect campaign?

Absolutely. Reading fans will know what last season felt like for us after their 106(?) point haul a decade or so ago but yes, quite simply the best season of my lifetime.

From going top by winning away at the pre-season favourites Sheffield United live on Sky before anyone else even kicked off, being unbeaten until November, 5,000+ fans travelling to MK Dons on a sunny February, a JPT Trophy win in front of 42,000 City fans at Wembley to a truly unbelievably memorable finish to the season.

If you thought winning 6-0 away from home to seal promotion couldn't be bettered, we came close by beating Walsall 8-2 on the last day with cult hero, tattooed, 6ft 6in centre-half Aden Flint scoring a hat-trick of volleys, including a remarkable rabona (look it up on YouTube!!) to reach 99 points and cap an amazing nine months.

I guess the danger is that life may never be as good again, and expectations have to be somewhat reined in.

What changes has Steve Cotterill made so far this summer?

Very few, to the concern of many. We've shed some of our better paid squad players who weren't going to get much of a look in, including the relatively experienced Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Wade Elliott and Greg Cunningham, signed up some of our young players on long term deals but only signed ONE new player!! Jonathan Kodjia is a £2m striker who was Ligue 2 player of the season last year (Giroud and Sakho are previous winners of that particular award so one can only hope), but aside from that it's been so quiet it's almost a bit surreal.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

Plenty. Our first XI has been maintained, critically, but beyond that we are weaker and need at least six more signings in my opinion. We had an incredible run of luck with injuries and suspensions last time out and played the same XI in long runs of consecutive games a number of times but that surely won't be the case again. Plus at a higher level we need more strength in depth and I can see

Which Bristol City player should we look out for this season?

Whilst the whole team were immense, four players stand out for me. Aden Flint had a nightmare the previous season after signing from Swindon for £300k, but scored 15 goals last season, dominated the air at the back and is the biggest cult hero we've had in years.

In midfield, Korey Smith is most unsung but is one of those key players doing the dirty work to enable the more creative players to flourish, including the likes of Luke Freeman, arguably the division's outstanding player last season. His slight figure and long hair belie a huge amount of skill and his accuracy of crossing was a huge factor in our success.

Finally, Joe Bryan is the Bristol-born star who started last season on the bench but came in and made the left wing back spot his own. Pace, an unerringly accurate curling left foot cross which he slots in that corridor of uncertainty like between keeper and back four on a regular basis and a fantastic leap, he touched up last year and is no longer 'Little Joe'. Probably the most likely to sign for a medium size Premier League club and couldn't have been far from England's under 21 set up in the summer

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

Aside from Bryan who already has, his buddy and fellow youth team partner in crime is Bobby Reid. When we were struggling two years ago, Reid, 19, stood out as the one with a touch of quality, creating time and space in the hectic midfields of league one. He was the one player who looked like he wouldn't be out of place when we played Southampton in the league cup, but his form suffered with that of the team and has spent the last 18 months out of favour and on loan in league two.

If he can come back to anything like his best, he might just burst onto the scene this year.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

Wow, who knows? In May everyone was gunning for the play offs, but with time and the lack of signings, I think the tempered view is that we'd be delighted with a top half finish. After four successive years of struggle before being relegated last time out, anything that is nice and comfortable would be good!

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

I must admit I haven't kept too close an eye on the Championship since we were relegated but Reading appear to be that classic case of being a bit stuck between a club who want to spend big to get back up but don't quite know what money to spend on whom, is that fair??
I love going to the Madjeski though and am really looking forward to making our shortish trip up the M4 again this season.

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Jamie Smith from Burnley blog NoNayNever@NoNayNeverNet

After looking so impressive in winning promotion you struggled back in the Premier League. What went wrong and did you finish where you deserved?

A few things really. The first was we didn't do good enough business in the summer transfer window. Only George Boyd was good enough for the team of the eight or so we signed - you can't just supplement your first XI with back up players and expect everyone to step up a level. Signing Lukas Jutkiewicz and Marvin Sordell as a Premier League club was an absolute joke, so it's no surprise we struggled for goals, they scored none between them. We missed Sam Vokes badly - his partnership with Danny Ings was a huge factor in our promotion. Ings himself was perhaps distracted at times by his transfer saga, but the pressure on him to shine was massive, too much for a young player to deal with. We didn't always defend well enough, particularly from set pieces, where we gave away far too many cheap goals.

But essentially I just don't think we believed, as a club, we belonged in the Premier League. This is despite the fact it was our second season there in five years. We're a lot more comfortable in the Championship.

What changes has Sean Dyche made so far this summer?

I haven't seen any of the pre-season games yet so can't comment on the pitch, but we've been fairly quiet in the transfer window. We've lost three of our best players - Shackell, Ings and Trippier - with only three in - Long, Lowton and Vossen - but we seem to have experimented with different formations a bit more. Last season and the year before we basically played 4-4-2 every week. We need to be more flexible this season.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

I think we're two or three short of being real challengers. Shacks is a huge loss and many think we need a direct replacement for him. I'm happy enough to shuffle the pack and add a defender as cover but we certainly lack leaders - a new defender as captain might fit the bill. Nathan Baker from Villa has been mentioned. We're short in central midfield with Dean Marney out injured, Henri Lansbury is the main target but I'm not sure we can get him. And I still want to see more pace, flair and creativity in the squad, perhaps a young flying winger for the bench as a gamechanging option.

Which Burnley player should we look out for this season?

George Boyd is our key player. He blew a bit hot and cold last season and for every memorable moment like his winner against City at the Turf there was a game he didn't accomplish much apart from a lot of running. In my mind he is a quintessential too-good-for-the-Championship-not-good-enough-for-the-Premier-League type man. He should be looking for ten goals and ten assists this season as a minimum, he ought to look to dominate matches rather than flit in and out of them.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

Erm, not really. We haven't produced a player since Jay Rodriguez. New signing Chris Long looks to have a lot about him and Everton fans are disappointed to have lost him. He could be one for the future or he could make an immediate impact. He scored against Rovers while on loan at Brentford last year so that's already endeared him to the Clarets faithful.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

The issue I have is that half the team we got promoted with two seasons ago has gone - Ings, Trippier, Shackell have left, Barnes and Marney are out injured long-term. The new arrivals look good but you never know how they're going to settle. I suspect we're good enough for the top half as things stand but if we get Baker and Lansbury we should be challengers. Top six has to be the goal, with the new PL TV deal coming in it's a fantastic chance to set a club up for a long, long time.

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

Honestly, I haven't seen anything of you. Too caught up in the Premier League bubble ;-)

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Bluebirds fan and freelance journalist Dan Lewis - @Daniel_Lewis92

Cardiff spent heavily last summer but failed to make it back to the Premier League, what went wrong?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted for quantity rather than quality, spending big on players that were either not needed or brought little to the current squad. That said, the additions only added to the strength of backing, with many tipping us to go straight up. In the end the team spirit just wasn't there, and Russell Slade was given a near-impossible task in trying to find a more settled starting line-up when taking over.

Two of those signings came from Reading with Sean Morrison and Adam le Fondre heading down the M4. What did you make of their first season and future prospects?

Sean Morrison was one of those who fell firmly into the 'unneeded' category. We already had options at the back before splashing out £9m on two new players. Morrison certainly improved as the season went on, and he is likely to start throughout this campaign thanks to his ability to score goals from set-pieces. But while that transfer can be seen as a positive on the whole, Adam Le Fondre's move was just a complete disaster. It all went wrong for him when he was shoved out wide to accommodate others (see what I mean about the squad being too big), yet when given a chance up top he forgot how to put the ball in the net.

What changes has Russell Slade made so far this summer?

Not many, in truth. Just one new senior player has come in - Sammy Ameobi on loan from Newcastle United. Semi Ajayi spent the end of last season on loan and new joins on a permanent deal from Arsenal, but he is firmly down the pecking order for a centre-back berth. The lack of spending isn't such a bad thing, though, as long as the team spirit on and off the field improved with a more settled squad.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

More players need to depart in order to help balance the book. The likes of Joe Lewis, Fillip Kiss, Etien Velikonja and Javie Guerra were either never given a chance or simply weren't good enough. Either way, they are not part of Slade's plans this coming season so hopefully we can get them off the wage bill.

Which Cardiff player should we look out for this season?

Joe Mason. It's funny in many ways that, after successive summers of heavy spending, we are now relying on a player who joined us on the cheap four years ago. Mason has had a solid pre-season after returning from Bolton Wanderers and will now be given plenty of time in the starting lineup.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

It also promises to be a big campaign for Joe Ralls in the middle. Not since the days of Joe Ledley, Aaron Ramsey and a familiar face in Chris Gunter have we brought talent through the ranks. Ralls joined from Aldershot at the age of 16, showing glimmers of potential last season. Hopefully he can now form a partnership with Mason through the middle, unless he is shoved out wide for the long term - as is looking likely.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

Somewhere between ninth and 15th - mid-table mediocrity, basically. Even the most ardent of City supporters are expecting us to be lingering well out of reach of the playoffs by the time the business end of the season comes around.

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

Two wins from 14 at the end of last season hardly offers hope, but of course a large part of that can be put down to the FA Cup run. From the outside Reading appear to be in a state of flux, losing certain key figures but also recruiting well (you beat us to the signing of Stephen Quinn!) .Goals seemed to be a major issue last season, so unless that is rectified then I expect the Royals to be joining us for a highly entertaining mid-table tussle.

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Addicks fan Simon Newport - @ChicagoAddick

How did Charlton fans view last season?

A mix of good bad and indifferent and generally all carried out under a cloak of darkness by our owners. A great start was undone by a lack of investment in an obviously small and inexperienced squad. Bob Peeters' lack of tactical ability and man-management was then exposed, he got the sack with Luzon already waiting in the wings. His appointment was met with farce and then for a couple of games we looked shocking before the owners added that much needed experience and to Luzon's credit he played players in the right positions, got across his instructions to players and with a higher tempo of play we moved away from relegation. Once safety was secured though, we ended the season poorly.

What changes has Guy Luzon made so far this summer?

He has added some better quality after being left with a depleted squad in the summer. One thing he has added is a lot of height and strength to the squad.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

For all the quality on paper, each signing has no English or Championship experience. I like to see this addressed. I think we still need another defender, a left winger and a striker.

Which Charlton player should we look out for this season?

I'll let you know when we see them all for the first time! In all seriousness I'm looking forward to seeing Ahmed Kashi play and Cristian Ceballos. From the players already there we are hoping for another good season from Johan Berg Gudmundsson, who we were all thrilled to see sign an new contract in the summer.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

We have a left back called Tareiq Holmes-Dennis. Think he will be next off the production line. Whether we will have another Joe Gomez come along for while I am not sure.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

A challenge for the play-off's is probably the best we can hope for, but the squad lacks depth for a solid 9 month promotion challenge. Hopefully we won't be facing another relegation struggle, which the bookies are predicting.

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

I have watched the ownership change with some interest. I think you have shown some ambition in the transfer market. Quinn and McShane are good signings imo. Like us I think you are still shy of enough quality to make a real challenge. I do wonder how long it will be before the Thai owners are breathing down Steve Clarke's neck though.

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Ollie from Derby County Blog - @derbycountyblog

After you thrashed us at The Madejski Stadium I thought there was no stopping you on the way to the title but on the last day you collapsed to a team that had barely found the net in 2015 to slip out of the play-offs all together. What on earth went wrong for Derby?

At the end of February, it looked nailed on. However, we lost Chris Martin and Darren Bent to injury and when Steve McClaren didn't move to replace them with a loan signing, things started to go badly wrong. The team which sat top of the league on 28 February performed like relegation fodder for the final two months, culminating in the staggeringly pathetic capitulation you saw on the final day.

We also lost all three of our senior defensive midfielders and by the end of the season, had our senior centre back playing at right back while a left back played at centre back. In the final game, McClaren tried to play left back Stephen Warnock as a holding midfielder and had to hook him by the half-hour mark, which pretty much summed up the way in which things had totallly unravelled.

In the background, ever since January, there had been a persistent buzz of gossip linking McClaren to Newcastle, which the manager failed to convincingly deny when it was first put to him by BBC Radio Derby. This badly upset fans and, most of us believe, unsettled the players (the speculation turned out to be completely accurate).

What changes has new boss Paul Clement made so far this summer?

The head coach works in collaboration with recruitment head Chris Evans, so several deals were already lined up before Clement's appointment was confirmed. These included the permanent signings of Bent and your centre back Alex Pearce. Since Clement joined, several more high profile players have joined, including Tom Ince, who was huge hit on loan with us last season and whom Steve Bruce didn't want to sell; Andreas Weimann from Aston Villa and Jason Shackell (much to Burnley's anger). The investment has been more than £10m in transfer fees alone, financed by the new chairman, local-boy-made-good Mel Morris.

What still needs to be done before the window closes?

Nothing, really. The squad is pretty much in place now and plenty of money has already been spent to provide Clement with suitable options across the pitch.

Which Derby player should we look out for this season?

I'm hoping that Will Hughes, now 20, will continue his mercurial development even further. He's well known as one of the best players outside the Premier League and as long as he's with us, in my opinion the team should be built around him.

Any younger player that could burst on to the scene?

One prospect who may get a chance is right back Isak Ssewankambo, a Sweden under-21 cap and former Chelsea academy player. Jamie 'Bruiser' Hanson is a Derby academy product who could get some game-time in midfield. However, I don't expect any youth teamers to be leaned on overly much this season. We have plenty of experience across the board - and if any young players come into the equation, they will most likely be loanees from the Premier League.

Where do you expect to finish this season?

The club's aim is promotion, pure and simple. I expect us to finish in the top six as a minimum, with Middlesbrough and Burnley likely to be our toughest competition. The play-offs would be a real test of everyone's nerve, after what has happened in the last couple of seasons - but if it has to be that way, so be it.

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

I knew that Reading were undergoing a reconstruction after relegation, but didn't expect them to struggle as badly as they did last season. I think the Royals are in much better shape than a lot of clubs at this level, but the rebuild might take a little while longer yet and I have you down for a mid-table campaign.

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