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Championship In Their Own Words 2017/18 - Part Three

We give the floor to fans of Hull City, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Millwall, as our journey through the Championship in supporters’ eyes continues apace.

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Hull City - Les Motherby, Amber Nectar

How would you sum up last season?

Trauma-inducing. A circular tale of misery, raised hopes, dashed hopes and more misery.

What went wrong in the Premier League?

We entered the season with the lowest of expectations after the worst preparation for a Premier League campaign ever. This was adequately summed up by a photo showing the senior squad at a training camp in Austria. It wasn’t the picturesque mountains that caught the attention, but the lack of squad depth, as it contained only 9 players. Relegation seemed nailed on, yet somehow we started the season well, besting champions Leicester on opening day.

By the end of 2016 though, reality had reasserted itself and we propped up the division. All seemed hopeless, but then Mike Phelan was replaced by dashing Portuguese head coach Marco Silva, who added a raft of loan players that were undoubtedly talented, but all were seen as failures by their parent club, Ranocchia from Inter Milan, Markovic from Liverpool, Niasse from Everton. The infusion of players with points to prove had an immediate impact, and City went from relegation certs to the form team in the Premier League.

In January the idea of still having our fate in our own hands by the penultimate game seemed fanciful, yet we entered the game against already relegated Sunderland with a real chance of staying up. Psychological collapse in that game though, ended all hope.

I’m not sure whether Hull City fans are grateful for the hope or resentful that having previously been resigned to relegation, the hope opened us up to more hurt. Most put relegation down to appalling preparation in the summer though, and that is down to the owners.

Are you confident Leonard Slutsky can lead you straight back to the Premier League?

Slutsky’s affable nature has endeared him to the supporters, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be given the tools to do the job. The club haven’t learnt from the mistakes of last summer, and preparation for 2017/18 has largely revolved around players leaving. Once again we’re leaving recruitment till last minute so at this point it’s hard to assess our chances, we seem intent on relying on loan signings which is always a crapshoot.

What are your expectations for this campaign?

There isn’t the same expectation of bouncing back from relegation as there was in 2015/16, and our owners seem more focused on agitating supporters than preparing for promotion.

Who's your player to watch out for?

He clearly doesn’t want to play in the Championship, but Polish winger Kamil Grosicki could finally come good on his obvious potential if he stays. Lightning fast and eager to bomb down the wings, we clearly haven’t seen the best of him so far, but if he adds end product to his game he could tear up the division.

One younger name who could break through?

Given the firesale of senior players this summer, it’s mostly just young players left. Defender Max Clark, who has represented England at junior levels, seems the most capable of stepping up.

And where are you going to finish the season?

At this point, a play off berth seems the height of our ambition, but late recruitment might improve that.

Les writes for Hull fanzine Amber Nectar.

Ipswich Town - Susan Gardiner

How would you sum up last season?

I'm not sure why, but it felt like the worst season I'd experienced as an Ipswich Town fan. I'm not sure that bears examination. Things were far worse under Paul Jewell, for example, but there seemed to be so many areas where we were just getting it wrong, on and off the pitch, culminating in an unedifying public dispute between the manager and some supporters.

In terms of football, I think we probably improved slightly on the previous season, especially with some good loan players like Huws and Lawrence, but we missed Murphy, or rather someone like him who could score a lot of goals (or any goals!)

It seems to have been another relatively quiet transfer window at Portman Road, but are you happy with what you've got?

Very happy to have Emyr Huws as an Ipswich player. I feel much more optimistic about this summer's new signings. I'm, at the very least, open-minded about them. If Joe Garner scores goals the way he can, he will fill what was a gaping hole in last year's squad. I don't know much about our loanees, Celina from Man City and Iorfa from Wolves, but I've heard good things especially about the former.

Mick McCarthy will celebrate his five-year Ipswich anniversary in November - still happy with him at the helm?

Nope. I changed my mind last season, mainly because he decided to have a go at the fans. I think he's had to put up with a lot of abuse, which I don't condone, but he has to take responsibility for some of the problems. The supporters don't decide on the team selection or tactics, which were sometimes poor last year. He also seems happy to go along with the owner's policy of not spending money (on anything, not just signings!)

However, I still feel he's done a great job of finding good players on a tight budget. If we start playing decent, or even watchable, football again, I'm prepared to give him longer. If he continues with the dour, negative stuff we've had to watch in the last few years, then I'd like him to go. Roy Keane said he was not "a good fit" as our manager. Well, I'm not convinced McCarthy is ever going to be a good fit at Portman Road either.

What are your expectations for this campaign?

I'm more optimistic than I have been for about three seasons, but I fully expect to be disillusioned by, say, late September! We have some decent players. I'm still a bit worried that their abilities will be subsumed by our negative tactics. I'm afraid that style of play is in Mick's DNA. Still, I'm hopeful!

Who's your player to watch out for?

I'm hoping that Celina and Garner are going to live up to expectations. What I'd really like to see is Teddy Bishop come back to form. He's had some real setbacks with injuries, and perhaps he'll feel he has something to prove this season.

One younger name who could break through?

Flynn Downes is a young midfielder who has been creating a real buzz around the club recently. He may be a bit too young right now, but you never know. He's a very exciting prospect.

And where are you going to finish the season?

I have absolutely no idea, so - what the hell! - I'll predict we'll finish sixth (but please don't ask me in September!)

Susan is a lifelong Ipswich fan and can be found on Twitter here.

Leeds United - James Mahoney, Nowt For Second

Leeds and Reading developed a bit of a rivalry over the course of last season's two games - do you think that'll continue in 2017/18?

The Championship is a hostile league so I fully expect the rivalry to continue. I think both teams will push for promotion, and the rivalry and mind games that go along with that mean that the rivalry may become more intense.

Also, Jaap Stam played for Manchester United and that will always be a cause for disdain between the two clubs.

How damaging is the loss of Garry Monk? And are fans happy with the appointment of Thomas Christiansen?

Garry Monk’s decision to leave did leave the whole Leeds fan base in shock. However, it’s hard to judge if his departure will have a lasting damaging effect because the season has not played out yet. Monk chose money over loyalty but the club will move on and, in Thomas Christiansen, may have a better long-term solution.

Christiansen’s appointment came out of left field but we all support him. He worked under Johan Cruyff and he is just as tactically astute, so expect a more attacking aggressive Leeds side than you saw last season.

How would you sum up last season?

Last season was a roller coaster ride for Leeds. Going into the season, expectations were considerably low and if you had offered me a 7th place finish last August I would have bitten your hand off and run for my life. However, because of the success we had for the majority of the season, for me last season was a failure.

After we beat Brighton, the idea of us not finishing in the top six wasn’t even plausible but for some reason we collapsed and ended up finishing out of the playoff places.

Although, a positive from last season is that now the fans and the club are on the same page and that in the long run can be more important.

What are your expectations for this campaign?

The expectation this season is promotion. We saw the team come on so much last season and with club finally investing under new ownership in players, we need to be challenging at least in the top six.

The club has changed drastically in the last twelve months and now we expect a real and sustained push for promotion.

Who's your player to watch out for?

Ronaldo Vieira.

The 18 year old is a powerhouse in the middle of the park. He’s a strong and dominant player. He’s now had a full season to get used to the division and will be one of the stand-out players of the season. I personally cannot see any faults in his game and I think he will be the main reason behind any success Leeds have in 2017/18 season.

One younger name who could break through?

Madger Gomes.

The academy at Leeds is currently going through big transition as, over the last few seasons, it has not been run in the correct way. What is happening is that the club are now investing in youth players from elsewhere.

One of those players is Madger Gomes - we signed him from the academy at Liverpool. I personally didn’t know much about the lad but watching during the preseason he looks like a really good talent and could be another one to watch this season.

And where are you going to finish the season?

Second - I am always an optimistic fan at this stage of the season and, watching the lads gel as Thomas Christiansen implementing his philosophy, I genuinely feel automatic promotion is a real possibility.

James is the lead writer at Nowt For Second, and tweets from @JM_Lufc.

Middlesbrough

We’re still waiting for some replies from Middlesbrough! We’ll bring them to you when they arrive...

Millwall - Mark Dillon

How happy are Millwall fans with the return of Jake Cooper?

Delighted. He made a good impression while here on loan, and at the reported price of £300k he should be an absolute steal. If he can kick on there's definitely a player there.

How well has Neil Harris taken to senior management?

He's gotten more leeway than some would, but he's earned that as a club legend. He can sometimes be tactically naive and struggles to find a plan B, but he's galvanised the squad and is building an exciting young side, which after frauds like Holloway and Lomas we were all desperately wanting.

I hope he's up to the step up in level, which judging him on his summer business he seems to be doing. Pre-season has been a struggle, but the hope is come Friday (thanks Notts CCC) he'll have them up for the challenge.

How would you sum up last season?

Nailbiting? Started slowly which killed off any hopes of automatic promotion but the run of form from December onwards should've locked up a playoff spot, but as with anyway season we never do it easily requiring a late winner on the last day of the season to lock up the spot. The spirit within the side showed at Scunthorpe, and while we didn't dominate at Wembley we were worthy of the win. Throw in a decent cup run and it was a successful season all round in the end.

What are your expectations for this campaign?

Survival has to be the baseline. It's a very different division to the last time we were here, and the money flying around at the likes of Villa and Boro show how much of a battle we have in store.

Who's your player to watch out for?

Hopefully Jordan Archer can put in the performances which saw him solidify his spot as number one at the club, as we'll need a strong defence to build upon if we hope to stay up. As goalkeepers aren't headline grabbers though Fred Onyedinma needs to step up to the plate following a protracted contract issue over the summer and show why he was linked to Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and others not too long ago.

One younger name who could break through?

Ben Thompson is already well known and loved around the club as a young Millwall fan breaking through as a ball winning midfielder, hopefully he can have an impact on the division and show the rest of the country what a player he can be.

And where are you going to finish the season?

I'd hope for 18th and a comfortable Easter. Knowing Millwall I'd take 21st with a last minute goal on the last day of the season.