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Championship In Their Own Words 2017/18 - Part Five

We wrap up our In Their Own Words preview series with help from both sides of Sheffield, Sunderland and Wolves.

Sheffield Wednesday v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Our preview of the Championship season continues as we ask writers and supporters from around the division to tell us how they think 2017/18 will turn out.

In this entry, we’re grateful for the help of Chris Davis-Smith (Sheffield United), Joe Crann (Sheffield Wednesday), James Copley (Sunderland) and Thomas Baugh (Wolves).

Don’t forget to check out parts one, two, three and four.

Sheffield United - Chris Davis-Smith

Now that United are back in the second tier, are they here to stay?

I believe so, I think the club itself is built for Championship level at the very minimum when you look at the facilities and it's well renowned academy. If we continue to operate as we are doing now-in a sustainable manner-we'll have a chance of reaching the Premier League in three or four years.

However, if we try and rush things, we could end up straight back in League One, so it's important that our co-owner Kevin McCabe has learned from his mistakes of the past.

How would you sum up last season?

Last season was the campaign all Blades fans have been waiting for since our relegation into League One back in 2010/11. The six years in the third tier have been difficult to say the least, with plenty of disappointment and unfulfilled promise.

However, to obliterate the division like we did last season was very pleasing and well overdue, so I think most United fans felt a sense of relief to finally cross the line back into the Championship.

What are your expectations for this campaign?

The Championship has developed as league significantly since we were last involved, so ideally this year we'd like to stay safe I think. Chris Wilder's recruitment since joining the club has generally been very positive, and although some of his signings this summer have raised a few eyebrows, United fans have a lot of faith in him to build a competitive side.

The reality is we don't have the funds what a lot of sides have at this level, but on the flip side, momentum is generally very hard to stop in sport, and all Chris Wilder's Sheffield United team know is how to win football matches-so who knows?

Who's your player to watch out for?

Although Billy Sharp stole the headlines last season with thirty goals in League One, most United fans who watched the club last year will tell you that the creative force behind our goal scoring power was John Fleck. The former Rangers and Coventry midfielder signed on a free last summer and had a memorable year, scoring the winning goal away at Northampton to send us up and forever cement his status as a cult hero.

As well as this, Fleck's assist rate was second to none, combined with his tenacity and overall impressive passing range. For me, Fleck will make the transition to Championship football comfortably and be recognised as a key player by opposition players and staff alike.

One younger name who could break through?

Midfielder David Brooks is a player who could break into our first team this season. He made a handful of appearances last season in the cup and looked very skillful, but this summer he's taken his game to another level. After being named England Under 20's player of the Toulon tournament, Chris Wilder withdrew his decision to allow Brooks to join Chesterfield on loan for the forthcoming campaign.

As a result, the 20-year old has so far taken his chance in pre-season, scoring the winning goal on two occasions against Chesterfield and Stoke. So Blades fans have high hopes for this youngster who is showing plenty of promise, we just hope the transfer rumours linking him with Everton don't have any substance!

How happy are you with the team's summer transfer business?

At the moment I think we still need a few more quality signings to strengthen our chances of fulfilling our ambitions this season. So far, Wilder has signed a lot of players with potential, who may not be able to hack it at Championship level. Despite this, he has brought in the experience of Richard Stearman from Fulham to bolster our defence, but I personally feel we need another top-class centre half to deal with the outstanding range of striker's playing in the second tier.

As for the rest, I'm really happy to have signed Enda Stevens from Portsmouth, as he's had a great pre-season and Pompey fans were gutted to see him go. Players such as Nathan Thomas from Hartlepool have been viewed as a bit of a gamble, but he could prove to be a remarkable piece of business, so we'll have to wait and see! I for one can't wait to see how this bunch of hungry players-who all have a point to prove-cope with the step up.

And where are you going to finish the season?

Well, the money involved in the Championship now makes the league extremely tough to survive in, so we'll need to be at our best every week to stand a chance. Nonetheless, I have faith in Chris Wilder as one of the best young English manager's outside of the top flight, and I believe he will guide us to a mid table finish.

Thanks to Chris Davis-Smith, who tweets from @ChrisDavisSmith.

Sheffield Wednesday - Joe Crann

Jordan Rhodes and George Boyd have arrived on permanent deals this summer - are they the men to get Wednesday promoted?

We shall see. Rhodes didn’t live up to expectations last year and wasn’t the goalscorer that we’ve seen him be in the past. With a full preseason that might change, there’s no doubting his ability. Boyd is a great signing for me, could play a big role for us.

Carlos Carvahal has led Wednesday to successive Play Off defeats - is he still the right man for the job?

I think so. The players love him, he’s got a great relationship with the fans and even though we haven’t got promoted we’ve improved under him. I think we might end up with a change if we don’t go up this season though.

How would you sum up last season?

Disappointing!! We ended the season really well and thought it could genuinely be our time. I flew back from South Africa for the playoff defeat and it really hurt. It was an improvement on the year before though in terms of the league, so there’s still reason to be optimistic.

What are your expectations for this campaign?

After two years of playoffs I think that this season we should really be pushing for automatic promotion. I think winning the league might be a big ask but we should be fighting for second in my opinion.

Who's your player to watch out for?

Forestieri is different class, and if he’s fit and confident then he’s one of the best players I’ve seen in a Wednesday shirt since Carbone and Di Canio. Rhodes could be big this year if he finds his feet and plays like we’ve seen him play in the past.

One younger name who could break through?

It may be the year we see George Hirst - David Hirst’s son - break into the team properly. He’s been doing great for England at youth level and could take the step up if he doesn’t go out on loan.

And where are you going to finish the season?

Like I mentioned before, top two should be the target. If we hit playoffs again though and make a push for promotion again then that won’t be too much of a train smash.

Joe writes about South African football for @Soccer_Laduma, and tweets from @YesWeCrann.

Sunderland - James Copley, Roker Report

Will Sunderland fans miss Vito Mannone?

Vito had a few good seasons for Sunderland and pulled off some heroics to help us get to a League Cup Final and avoid relegation in the 2013/2014 campaign. The fans will remember his early Sunderland career fondly; however, Vito has been largely poor since conceding eight against Southampton following season.

The Italian had some good times with Sunderland, but won’t be massively missed. Jordan Pickford will be a far greater miss following the 'keeper’s departure to Everton

How would you sum up last season?

Simply put, last season was a car crash. Relegation hurts all the more when considering how stable we looked before Sam Allardyce was poached by the FA. David Moyes' negativity has permeated the club from playing staff to fanbase. I fear the wounds from last seasons farce will take a long time to heal.

What are your expectations for this campaign?

Given that Grayson seems to be operating on a shoestring budget, I'd say mid-table. The Championship is so full of quality and we lack the firepower to mount a serious promotion push. The likes of Middlesborough are spending big money, £40 million this season.

Sunderland haven't spent much over £2 million, if that! Although big spending doesn't necessarily translate to results, having quality players certainly stands a team in better stead.

Are you happy with the appointment of Simon Grayson?

Grayson's comments so far have been promising, he understands the Sunderland fans and is attempting to construct a young, hungry team who want to fight for the shirt. So in that sense I'm relatively pleased.

However, It'll be hard for Grayson to operate on such a low transfer budget and with members of the squad, like Darron Gibson, exhibiting obvious unprofessionalism. There seems to be a rotten culture at the Stadium of Light, Grayson faces an uphill battle to reverse that.

Who's your player to watch out for?

If Khazri and Lens stay at the club then they have the potential to light up The Championship, both internationals and both are exciting, flair players. If the duo depart then our most exciting option will probably be Aiden McGeady, he loves a trick and regularly scored and assisted for Preston last season.

One younger name who could break through?

I'm a big fan of our young forward Josh Maja, he's played well throughout pre season, three goals in four starts. Maja looks quick and strong, if he continues to score goals he could be an asset for a Sunderland side lacking in firepower as previously stated.

Josh is still only 18, but with careful nurturing and game time he could develop into a key player for us this season. By all accounts he's a really humble and grounded lad too.

And where are you going to finish the season?

Again, mid-table is about as much as we can hope for given the lack of investment.

Thanks to James, who writes for Sunderland blog Roker Report. He also tweets from @CopleyMoz.

Wolverhampton Wanderers - Thomas Baugh, Wolves Blog

What do you make of Wolves' big spending this summer?

I'm more impressed than last summer because we're getting players with some real pedigree. It's impossible to know whether they'll fancy the 46 game slog that is the Championship, but you can't fault the ambition of the owners.

What went wrong for Walter Zenga and Paul Lambert last season?

Zenga came in at the last minute when they couldn't get the man they'd been tracking all summer (who opted to manage the Spanish national team instead) and was asked to do an impossible job, piecing together a team from an army of players.

Lambert had a similar challenge and even though he probably did a better job or organising the chaos, performances weren't improving considerably under his leadership. I liked him and felt he deserved one full season to have a proper go at things, but the club have gone in a radically different direction.

How would you sum up last season?

Disappointing and generally poor. Despite the hype and spending a lot of money, we finished in the same lower midtable position as the previous year. A decent FA Cup run including victory at Anfield and a few derby wins made it just about tolerable.

What are your expectations for this campaign?

Pushing hard for the top six. We've brought in a manager from Porto and players from Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco. If we can't hope of promotion, what's the point?

Who's your player to watch out for?

The obvious answer would be Reuben Neves who at £15 million looks like one of the signings of the summer from Porto. But I'm going to say Diogo Jota, the attacking midfielder on loan from Atletico Madrid. I've got a feeling he'll be a big hit.

One younger name who could break through?

Connor Ronan. Technically he got through last season with a few first team appearances, but I think he'll go up another level this time. Has everything you'd want from a creative midfielder. He's very slight but makes up for it by being aggressive in his play.

And where are you going to finish the season?

I'll be conservative and say sixth. That has to be the minimum requirement.

Thanks to Thomas, creator of Wolves Blog. You can find him on Twitter @ThomasBaugh.