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View From The Town End: 2018/19 Season Preview (Part Three)

Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Millwall.

Leeds United v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Today’s Town End season preview turns to Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Millwall.

Is Paul Hurst the right man to take you forward?

That remains to be seen, we’ve tried experienced Championship managers during our everlasting stay in the division so it’s certainly a welcome change.

What’s the mood in the fanbase like at the moment?

The mood is a mixture of optimism and fear over the unknown quantity that Hurst currently is - we all know that things truly shape out around game 10.

How would you sum up last season?

Last season was totally overtaken by the saga of the previous manager, his contract and his leaving. It was at best average and at worst not a fun way to spend your evenings and weekends!

What are your expectations for this season?

Expectations are for stability and potential progress going forward, a top half finish would be nice but bottom half with signs of a system and young players going in would be accepted by many.

Who’s your player to watch out for?

Last season ended up being based around Bialkowski in goal and Waghorn up front, Bialkowski has signed a new deal but Waghorn could well be off - new signings Harrison and Edwards could be crowd pleasers and hopefully a couple more come before day one.

A younger name who could break through?

André Dozzell has his season ended 40 mins in last time out, hopefully he can develop and become a first teamer

Where will you finish the season?

11th.

Benjamin Bloom appears on Ipswich Town podcast Blue Monday.

Is Marcelo Bielsa the right man to take the club forward?

We certainly hope so! He’s got an impressive CV, especially for the Championship, so he’s always got that going for him. He’s got a reputation as a tactical genius, but also as someone who’s hard to get along with and has been known to walk away if things aren’t to his liking.

Fans of Athletic Bilbao had nothing but good things to say about him and his style of play from his time in the Basque country, so we’re all hoping that Bielsa shows up, not the one that walked away from Lazio after a few days over transfer targets.

How would you sum up last season?

A disaster. The team started out brightly under Thomas Christiansen, even going top of the league in August. However, titles aren’t handed out in August, and the team seemed to go on a few roller coasters until a trip to Newport County in January, where the team lost and the wheels came off.

Christiansen was sacked and Paul Heckingbottom was brought aboard. He saw the team only win four games from the final 16 matches of the season, which would have been good enough for relegation. He was sacked this summer.

What are your expectations for this season?

Automatic promotion, of course!

Seriously though, a top six finish would be the minimum requirement for a team that goes out and gets a manager with the CV of Bielsa, wouldn’t it? The team needs to invest a bit more in the transfer market if they plan on matching the ambition of the management appointment.

Who’s your player to watch out for?

Pablo Hernandez is the obvious choice, as he was far and away the best player on the team last season. Also look out for Adam Forshaw, who looks to have a key role to play as a central midfielder in Bielsa’s 3-3-1-3 system.

A younger name who could break through?

Tom Pearce came on near the end of last season and did wonders at the left-back position. He’ll be playing a left wingback position under Bielsa, which plays more to his strengths than a traditional left-back role. He’ll have to fight for playing time, but if he does get into the team on a more regular basis, he’ll turn some heads.

Where will you finish the season?

Top six, but only if a few of the rumoured names like Matej Vydra sign for Leeds. The team is currently lacking a true scoring threat, so landing someone with the ability of Vydra would do wonders for Leeds. Without a decent striker, it’s gonna be a tough season for Leeds, as all the passing and pressing will look pretty until the team doesn’t finish.

Pete Schlenker writes for our Leeds United-supporting SB Nation cousins over at Through It All Together (@ThruItAllLUFC)

What have you made of the job Tony Pulis has done so far?

So far, so good. Steadied an under-performing team that we’re languishing in mid table and kicked them on for a play off push. Some are still unconvinced by the usual Pulis style, and so far out transfer business compared to last year has been quite frustrating. But overall, I think the majority are happy to see the vast strides made after Tony has come in.

How would you sum up last season?

First half of last season we seemed weighed down by price tags and expectation. Monk couldn’t get a talented bunch performing consistently and ultimately paid with his job, we seemed to win a couple of games and then loose a couple. Also worrying was how the team folded to a battle, Millwall away and Bristol away highlighted Boro’s weak underbelly.

Second half, much improved and looked like the Boro of old, steady at the back and solid in midfield.

What are your expectations for this season?

After having a disappoint taste of the Premier League two years ago and a mixed season last year, the target is very much promotion again.

Who’s your player to watch out for?

Adama Traore. As Pulis began getting the best out of Adama last season we quickly became over reliant on the blistering winger, so in bigger games we often looked one dimensional.

A younger name who could break through?

Dael Fry, the England youth player is calm beyond his years and also technically gifted. If Ben Gibson leaves this summer it could be the making of him.

Where will you finish the season?

Initially I felt we could go for top 2, after only two signings and the potential of Adama leaving I’m going to say top 6.

Matt Strachan (@MattStrachan89) blogs for Middlesbrough website One Boro - you can find them on Twitter here and their website here.

How important has former Reading man Jake Cooper been for Millwall, and how big would his loss be?

Last season he was absolutely vital. He started the first game of the season but then picked up an injury, allowing Byron Webster to get back into the side. After Webster’s season-ending injury, Cooper missed just one league game through suspension and was a crucial part of the Championship’s joint third best defence.

This summer he’s been linked with a move to Rangers and we are under no pressure to sell. Even if he wants to go, if he has another good season for us then Premier League clubs would be interested, allowing him to play at a higher level and us to get more money. Last season, his loss bothered me much more due to a replacement of one of Tony Craig or Jason Shackell at the back and I certainly still wouldn’t want to lose him, though we have much greater depth at centre half now following Webster’s return and the addition of Murray Wallace.

What have you made of the job Neil Harris has done so far?

Simply amazing – when he took over we were a total mess and in some ways needed to go down to re-build and bring the youth players through. I think the summer that he came in we released about seventeen players and had a huge squad, which has now been trimmed massively, creating a more harmonious dressing room atmosphere too.

His experience of playing with some of the squad may have also done him some favours, whilst his success at the club as a player certainly has. It takes a certain character to succeed for us, something which Harris knows all too well and thus regards character references very highly in transfer negotiations.

The original idea seemed to be a three-year plan to get out of League One, which was almost completed in one, but ended up being two after the play-off final win against Bradford. Add to that the restoration of the link between players and fans, and the cup run where we beat Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester, and he has only furthered his legendary status in SE16.

How would you sum up last season?

Again, incredible really. Working on a bottom three budget, and expected by most to finish in that bottom three, to finish eighth is quite an achievement. I think we were just three points off the play-offs in the end and we were disappointed to miss out which shows just how far we came during the campaign.

With a few less mistakes and a bit more of a clinical nature up front, we’d have been in the top six given the run from January onwards, coinciding largely with the arrivals of Tim Cahill and Ben Marshall. One was a huge influence off the pitch (Cahill), whilst Marshall added some much needed quality on the left, with an excellent crossing ability.

What are your expectations for this season?

The aim has to be the same as last year – to get to fifty points as soon as possible and look to build from there. That’s the benchmark to stay up and as small fry in this league, that’s what we have to do. Having missed out on a couple of transfer targets that becomes even more pivotal as we look to stabilise in the second tier and be more of an attractive option.

Who’s your player to watch out for?

Probably Jed Wallace, although George Saville is certainly an honourable mention. Take Wallace out of the side and we look like a totally different outfit, with his pace causing defences all sort of problems. His crossing is usually quite good too, though some would argue it needs some work, but his goals last season came at key times and he steps up when it matters.

The former Wolves winger is our key creative man but also does some excellent defensive work, having formed good partnerships with both Mahlon Romeo and Conor McLaughlin on the right hand side last season.

A younger name who could break through?

Some would say that this is the make or break season for Fred Onyedinma, whilst Ben Thompson will also be looking to win his place back in the team after the arrivals of Ryan Tunnicliffe and Saville pushed him down the pecking order. He seems to have started pre-season well, but could look to go out on loan if he isn’t in the team come August 4th. Being a Millwall fan, he’s well-loved by the fans and his never say die attitude is certainly a useful attribute. More regular football may help him develop technically, which is arguably the aspect of his game which requires the most work.

For Onyedinma, he needs to find his best positon and work hard to win his place in Harris’ starting eleven. Whether that be out wide or as a striker, he has work to do, particularly finishing and crossing-wise though his pace off the bench last season late on caused lots of problems and helped massively as we looked to counter attack late on in games which we were leading. His end product isn’t quite there yet but when it comes, Fred’s ceiling will be very high.

Where will you finish the season?

I’d say lower than last season to be honest. I think around 13th or 14th is more realistic this year as the quality of the league has increased and those already near the top have spent big again. It’s going to be tough to compete for the top ten again but if we can string a run together like last year there’s no reason why that couldn’t happen.

I also don’t see relegation troubling us though, and think we will be comfortable in that mid-table position. With a couple of good additions though, that could certainly change, with Harris admitting that we’ve put bids in for two attacking players on Saturday.

Lucas Ball writes for Millwall website News At Den.