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Town End 2019/20 Season Preview: Part Six

What do fans of Stoke City, Swansea City, West Brom and Wigan Athletic think of their sides ahead of the new season?

Swansea City v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

We come to the end of our season-wide preview by talking to fans from the last four Championship clubs. Many thanks to David Cowlishaw (Wizards of Drivel) of Stoke City, Declan Terry of Swansea City, Alex Newton of West Bromwich Albion and The Pie at Night of Wigan Athletic.

How would you sum up last season?

Pretty dreadful. All the gear, no idea. Assembled one of the most expensive squads in the league and finished 16th.

How do you rate the job Nathan Jones has done so far? Will there be much pressure on him this season?

He’s talked a very good game and we’ve seen glimpses of what he wants us to become. Results were not great at the end of last season but that was understandable given the state of the squad. With a leaner, hungrier side we’re all hoping for improvement. If we don’t see it by the end of the season though he could be out the door.

Stoke have been one of the busiest Championship teams in the transfer market this season, which of the new signings are you most excited about and why?

Nick Powell has the most match-winning potential, providing he stays fit. However, I really like the look of Liam Lindsay, the centre-half from Barnsley, who looks like a really assured presence.

What are your expectations for this season?

Just...progress. Whether that’s higher mid-table, top half, or top six I just want to see that we’re going in a positive direction under Nathan Jones. I’ll say 11th.

Who’s your player to look out for?

Peter Etebo, possibly the best midfielder in the league for my money. Has pretty much everything in his arsenal. Of course, if anyone from a Premier League club is reading this, I mean Joe Allen.

A younger name that could break through?

Tom Edwards broke through properly last season and became one of the first names on the teamsheet - a locally born right back with a great cross. Also keep an eye out for Tyrese Campbell (son of Kevin) who may challenge for a starting berth up front after a good loan spell at Shrewsbury. Also, Thibaud Verlinden and Nathan Collins are two more youngsters we’re really positive about.

Where will you finish the season?

11th. Because I have no idea.

You can find David Cowlishaw on Stoke City podcast Wizards of Drivel.

How would you sum up last season?

Last season was all about transitioning and getting back to the Swansea way of playing. We were struggling in the Premier League for years and in the end it was tiresome to watch but last season, after the astute appointment of Graham Potter, the Swansea fans got to enjoy going to the Liberty Stadium again.

We played some magnificent football at times with players who were giving 100% for the badge. The Swans fielded young and hungry players, with many excelling in the second tier, a chance they’d never have been given in the top-flight. In the end I think it was due to inexperience that we couldn’t quite make the play-offs but it was the most I’ve enjoyed a season since our Europa League campaign in 2013-14.

What was your reaction to Graham Potter joining Brighton, and what have your first impressions been of Steve Cooper?

I was gutted to see Potter leave. We made so much progress last season that I was excited to see what he could’ve done with the club long-term. One of the most disappointing things is that when he joined last summer, Potter always talked about the ‘project’ he was going to undertake at Swansea... but after a year he decides to jump ship.

On the other hand, I do believe he earned his shot at the Premier League and I wish him well at Brighton. Steve Cooper seems like the ideal replacement for Potter, as he excels with working with young players having won the under-17 World Cup with England and bringing through the likes of Raheem Sterling at Liverpool. It’ll be a test for him coming to a first-team environment for the first time and I don’t think it’ll come without its challenges but after an encouraging pre-season I’m excited to see what Cooper can do.

How will Dan James’ departure affect the dynamic of the team? Would losing Oli McBurnie be worse?

Everyone in Swansea was resigned to losing Dan James this summer after a phenomenal breakthrough campaign in 2018-19. I remember Reading at the Liberty was actually one of his first starts for the Swans and he won a penalty and assisted another. He then kicked on from there and tormented many full-backs.

We haven’t replaced James this summer - with a very tight budget it’s going to be near impossible - however I would worry a lot more if McBurnie left too. McBurnie is a focal point in attack, is a big character in the changing room and not to mention he netted 24 goals last term.

Not having McBurnie I really think we’d become unstuck up front and I’d struggle to see where goals are going to come from. Courtney Baker-Richardson is not good enough to be our starting striker. We do have £15m striker Borja Baston still at the club although it’s quite evident the Swans are trying to shift him and his wages out of the club.

Editor’s note: Oli McBurnie has since signed for Sheffield United

What are your expectations for this season?

I’m expecting something similar to last season really. We’ll play attractive football with young, hungry players but may come just short of promotion as Cooper tries to put his swing on things and gets to grip with first-team football. I wouldn’t say top six is completely out of the question if everyone plays to their potential and we keep McBurnie but as long as we continue to enjoy watching Swansea like last season, I’ll be a happy man.

Who’s your player to look out for?

Matt Grimes has been given captaincy after a faultless 2018-19 season. It’s crazy to think that in 2017-18 he got relegated on loan with Northampton Town but he came back last summer and has been an absolute revelation. He possesses everything an all-round midfielder needs and at time carried the Swans last campaign. It’s no wonder he picked up four trophies at the end of season awards!

A younger name that could break through?

Highly rated with the under-23s, Jordan Garrick has been tipped to make it into the first-team this season. However, in our first pre-season friendly the pacey winger sadly picked up an injury which has halted his progress, though I’m sure he’ll be fit and firing again soon. I’d also love to see midfielder Jack Evans in the first-team this season. He’s been involved in pre-season and has looked very sharp, which is amazing when you consider he hasn’t long recovered from cancer. It’d be a great story if he was to make his senior debut this year.

Where will you finish this season?

As mentioned before with such a young squad - and manager for that matter - I’m not going to be pinning all of my hopes on promotion. I think we’ll come close to the play-offs again but just miss out - I’ll say 8th.

You can find Declan Terry on Twitter here.

How would you sum up last season?

A real rollercoaster. We had some great times under Darren Moore and James Shan but some real low moments too. If you look at the other relegated teams in Stoke and Swansea, it was a successful season. That being said, we let in far too many goals to ever be serious contenders for automatic promotion. All in all, it was a much more enjoyable season that trying to get to 40 points in the Premier League.

What are your expectations for this season?

It’s a wide-open Championship this season, more so than ever. The Baggies won’t have a better chance to go up. I think playoffs have to be the minimum target again with a serious push for the automatic places.

Appointing Slaven Bilic as manager seemed a big statement. What have your first impressions been of him?

He’s just such a likeable manager. While that doesn’t count for any points it makes you believe in his ideas. He’s saying all the right things and we’ve played some good football in pre-season. He’s been happy to use the youth and always looked to be on the front foot. Given time and money and he could build a real legacy here.

Dwight Gayle has returned to Newcastle and Jay Rodriguez has signed for Burnley. Are you worried about the lack of firepower in the team?

You take 40 goals out of any team in one summer and it’s a big concern. At the time of writing, we still need another striker with real firepower to help the new signing of Zohore. Gayle’s movement upfront caused havoc against teams last season which will be the biggest miss.

Who’s your player to look out for?

Romaine Sawyers. The Albion fan finally came back home after seven years away from The Hawthorns. He’s the one who can pull the strings in the system Bilic is trying to implement. At £2.9m we’ve got one of the bargains of the summer. He’s in his prime and this club means so much to him.

A younger name that could break through?

Kyle Edwards. Look at his goal against Brentford last season where he took on half the team and you can see how good he is. Bilic has used him in every pre-season game, so is obviously a big fan. A small a tricky winger with a burst of pace and an eye for goal.

Where will you finish this season?

Second. As long as we get another striker in before the window closes.

Alex Newton is editor of Read West Brom and founder of The Boing Cast

How would you sum up last season?

A mixed bag. We definitely took some momentum into the start of the season and got off to a flyer. A few injuries couple with a couple of shocking performances led to a mid-season where it looked like the players doubted themselves, and the manager who doubted himself and his tactics and the players who like girls to be boys who do boys like they’re girls... sorry, am still in holiday mode... which led to a real depression on and off the pitch. Things picked up and the end, which gave a real feeling of relegation survival, but personally, I think it was a lot more comfortable than that.

What are your expectations for this season?

It’s going to be tough. We’ve lost our main catalyst in Nick Powell and our “play him any position and he’ll be better than what you have there” loan starlet Reece James. Both were key at times last season and will be hard to replace, but it’s a tough division for a small town team with no cash these days.

Only Derby lost fewer home games than Wigan in the Championship last season. How important will your form at the DW Stadium be in 2019/20?

It should be essential. Away form being better than home isn’t unusual for us, but it’s usually linked to the state of the pitch. The grass was wonderful and our lack of form really came down to that mid-season slump where we didn’t really seem to have a way of taking the game to teams.

Last season’s top scorer Nick Powell has joined Stoke City. Will he be difficult to replace?

See above. Powell is a rare sort of player with the capability to be as important to a team as, say, Sherringham and Berbatov have been in the past.

Who’s your player to look out for?

I’m hoping it will be one of a couple of signings that come in over the next week or so. Otherwise a lot will be put on the likes of Gavin Massey and Michael Jacobs who are decent players, but have shaky injury records. I’m also hoping that Chey Dunkerley can continue his growth into a proper centre back.

A younger name that could break through?

After being talked up through the youth set-up and having a couple of decent loan spells, this could be Callum Lang’s season.

Where will you finish this season?

Ask me again after deadline day, but at the moment, between 18th and 21st

You can find The Pie at Night on Twitter here.