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Town End 2021/22 Season Preview: Part Two

Up next in our season-wide preview are Bournemouth, Bristol City, Cardiff City and Coventry City.

Bristol City v AFC Bournemouth - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

All this week in the build-up to the start of the new Championship season, we’ll be speaking to fans from around the division to get the lowdown on their team. What are their aspirations and fears going into the new campaign? Which member of their squad is most likely to stand out? And of course how their season - and Reading’s - pan out?

In this second part, we move onto a side that were denied a return to the Premier League via the play-offs, two more that fell away from the top six, and one making a long-awaited return home.

You can find Tom Jordan on The Back Of The Net podcast on Twitter @TomJordan21

Is Scott Parker the right man to take you forward?

Ideally I’d like to think Parker is the right man long term, but the proof will be in the pudding I guess! Majority of fans excited about his arrival though.

How important is it for Bournemouth to get back into the Premier League?

Financially its massive if we could get back into the top flight. But ultimately we’re a small club who always saw the Championship as a dream!

How would you sum up last season?

Last season was a frustrating one. The squad we had should have been closer to the top two for sure. Having said that, we all know how tough and competitive the Championship is. Frustrating is definitely the best way to some it up, we were still a mistake away from making the play off final in fairness.

What are your expectations for this season?

With our current squad I’d expect top six again, but that is no guarantee. As we speak we still have Lerma and Danjuma… That could change by the close of the window.

Which player of yours should we look out for this season?

David Brooks is due a top season for me. We know the quality he has, but injuries have stunted his consistency I’d say. He’s fit and raring to go, could be our key man.

Where will you finish?

I’m going to say we’ll finish fourth.

How will Reading’s season go, and where will we finish?

Reading overachieved last season, impressed many and just fell short of play-offs in the end. I’d be surprised if they were as high again, but then again you never know with Reading! I’ll go 13th.

You can find The Exiled Robin on Twitter @TheExiledRobin

How would you sum up last season?

Where to start?! We made the wrong appointment in Dean Holden as manager when there were better, more ready-made options to step in. Appointing a guy with almost zero managerial experience at any level to a team that was challenging for promotion hitherto and had just started to wane seems crazier and crazier the more you think about it!

We looked short of serious cover at centre-back and across the full back positions throughout the summer and with a catalogue of injuries, failed rehabilitations and a long stretch of poor form, this came back to haunt us.

Ultimately, we just weren’t good enough and personally I have had a feeling we were punching above our weight somewhat for the last two seasons (I still believe Lee Johnson did a better job than many gave him credit for, even when we started to drop off). Last season felt a bit like us “averaging out”, albeit with an injury list that even whinging Liverpool fans admitted was worse than theirs, and led to celebrations amongst the fan-base when it was announced our Fitness & Conditioning Manager was leaving for Ipswich without outgoing CEO Mark Ashton.

Nigel Pearson replaced Dean Holden in February and later signed a three year contract. Is he the right man for the job?

I think the overwhelming view of supporters right now is if he isn’t, who is? We desperately needed some added steel and organisation, someone to come in and make a few shrewd signings and someone to get us back playing some sort of football that actually brings fans through the turnstiles.

The football, at home especially, has been dire now for two years and on many of the myriad analysis graphs you see shared, we’re miles off the chart in terms of shots taken, attacking intent and similar elements. Last season we had fewer shots than any other team in the history of the Championship – which says all you need to know.

Pearson seems to be getting the Leicester band back together by signing Andy King and Matty James - what other signings need to be made?

As you say, most of the business has been focused around bringing in some of Pearson’s generals – Danny Simpson re-signed after a short stint last season, whilst the midfield axis looks likely to involve both boyhood City fan, King, and James, who both served with him at Leicester.

The squad has been naturally trimmed, with the likes of Famara Diedhiou, Jamie Paterson and Jack Hunt allowed to run their contracts down and leave, amidst nearly a dozen others. The squad is now a mixture of experienced players and a clutch of youngsters who are promising to various degrees. It appears a few of them will need to truly blossom this season.

Personally, I feel we’re still short of left-back cover for Jay Dasilva, who has spent a fair chunk of the last 18 months injured, and need some pace, skill and creativity in wide positions, plus an additional striking option. We’re a touch heavy in central midfield in terms of numbers, and there remain whispers over the future of the Czech’s star defender in Euro 2020, Tomas Kalas, so it will be interesting to see if any of them will be moved on to accommodate a few more Pearson signings.

What are your expectations for this season?

It really depends on how much of last season’s dreadful form was down to the volume and severity of our injuries, as the more positive of fans maintain is the case, or how much is down to a core of senior pros who simply aren’t quite good enough. We’ll hopefully find out this season under the tutelage of the no-holds-barred Pearson that it was the former.

Which player of yours should we look out for this season?In terms of players then it’s a tricky one. Hopefully a fully fit Jay Dasilva can add a lot and recapture his England U21 form whilst we desperately need Nakhi Wells to find the net more regularly. I think a lot of the focus this season will be on new £1.6m centre-back signing from Oxford, Rob Atkinson, and some of the youngsters who look to be on the brink of breaking through, notably 17-year old Alex Scott who came on at half-time against Villa at the weekend.

Where will you finish?

Having seen one Football League tipster predict us finishing 16th, I’ll be honest and say I’d shake hands on that here and now if we had the option – providing that’s aligned with progress in terms of performance, style and further integrating some of the youngsters.

How will Reading’s season go, and where will we finish?

Last season you looked to build nicely on the previous year’s in-season progress, and any team finishing seventh has to have more than one eye on the promotion and play-off picture.

But the transfer embargo clearly won’t have helped Paunović build the squad as he’d have liked and I believe I saw Meite is out for a fair chunk at the start of the season also? How he recovers could be key and whether Lucas João can get towards 20 goals again. I’d have to assume you’ll be similarly positioned all things being equal, and with the right additions – when allowed – could be nudging into that top six

You can find Dan Lewis on Twitter @Daniel_Lewis92

How would you sum up last season?

We started slowly but had an impressive bounce when McCarthy took over from Harris. We even broke into the top six at one point, but it was inevitable that we would eventually drift away and an eighth-placed finish was about right. Given we reached the play-offs the season before, and were expected to do at least the same last time out, that’s ultimately a disappointing outcome.

Mick McCarthy took over from Neil Harris and then signed a contract extension until 2023. Is he the right man for the job?

The jury is still out. Not many, myself included, wanted McCarthy to be appointed in the first place. Credit to him for the way he turned things around by going on an 11-game unbeaten run, winning seven of those, but the club were perhaps a bit too hasty in offering him a two-year deal at that point. Still, he deserves a full season at the absolute least and maybe he will go down in folklore in the same way that Neil Warnock did. Maybe.

The back end of last season saw opportunities for younger names such as Mark Harris and Rubin Colwill - could we see Cardiff take a more youthful approach this season?

It was good to see those youngsters given minutes, though it would have been nice to have seen even more academy players used in the closing stages of the season with very little to play for. Cardiff have a pretty terrible return in bringing through players, but fingers crossed Harris, Colwill or one of the other academy graduates can finally hold down a place in the side.

What are your expectations for this season?

Finishing top of the table while fielding a number of academy players would be nice, but realistically it will just be great to be inside a football stadium again and hopefully watching some entertaining football.

Which player of yours should we look out for this season?

Kieffer Moore is undoubtedly the key to any hopes we have of earning promotion. His absence during pre-season has given James Collins an opportunity to impress, and he’s taken his chance with four goals in four pre-season outings. I’m not saying you should read too much into friendly results, but Collins is finishing as the Championship’s top scorer this season and will lead the line for Real Madrid next season.

Where will you finish?

If last season is anything to go by, the top three spots can be written off already. There’s then a list of about eight or nine teams in contention for the playoffs, and I have us in that group. A top-six finish will be the aim and, even though pre-season results have been underwhelming, I can see us nabbing that final playoff spot.

How will Reading’s season go, and where will we finish?

*Checks latest odds*

You’ll finish 13th, between Blackburn and Millwall.

Dominic Jerams runs the Sideways Sammy website and can be found on Twitter @SideSammy. We very highly recommend his encyclopedic season preview, which you can find here

The Sky Blues are finally returning to playing in Coventry this season – how big a boost is that for your fanbase?

While this is a situation that we have been through before in the past decade (after a year-long spell in Northampton) the fact that this coincides with the return of fans following the pandemic should make the first few games an especially sweet release of emotion.

The difference to the last time that it happened is that the team were much more successful in exile, so it’s not being seen as something that will just make Coventry City a better team in and of itself – it was apparent last time around that the Sky Blues can be as bad in Coventry as they were outside it.

While the novelty of the re-return will wear-off quickly, it can’t be understated just how important it is for the club’s much longer-term future that this situation has, seemingly, been resolved.

Coventry stayed up pretty comfortably last season after promotion from League One. Is the club’s main ambition still to stay in the Championship, or will they be aiming higher?

Looking at last season’s final league table makes Coventry City’s survival in the Championship look much more comfortable than it was. It was only a late flurry of wins that took the team from potentially being dragged into the bottom three towards lower mid-table.

While there was a belief around the club a few months ago that we could kick on from survival, the realities of trying to compete in the Championship with a lower-end transfer budget have been apparent this summer. Only the most deluded of Coventry City optimists believe that the target this season is anything more than staying up again.

How would you sum up last season?

From seeing the team struggle to the absence of fans to the ridiculously congested fixture list, watching Coventry City last season was a grind. Learning that what had worked so well in League One was not applicable to the Championship was a slow and painful process, and it was only in the final month of the campaign that the team had finally got to grips with the division.

What are your expectations for this season?

As mentioned above, I had been fairly hopeful that survival in the Championship would allow the team to kick on – we have always improved season on season under Mark Robins – but this looks to be a year where the team will go sideways at best and maybe even a little backwards.

It’s clear that the club has missed out on quite a few of its preferred targets in key positions, leaving the team arguably a little weaker than it was last year. It hasn’t helped that pre-season has been disrupted by injuries and a small Covid outbreak at the club, making preparations seem a little slapdash and chaotic.

Specifically, the team looks short in defence, hasn’t replaced the key leadership figure of Matty James in midfield and hasn’t made the improvement in goal that it was obvious was needed for almost the entirety of last season. Quite a few players already at the club will need to step up to new levels just to keep the team at a similar level to what it was last year.

Which player of yours should we look out for this season?

It is a close call between Gustavo Hamer and Callum O’Hare, but the latter comes into the new campaign in better form and has a better framework around him to succeed again this year.

O’Hare’s energy and relentlessness just behind the strikers makes him a key outlet in getting the team up the pitch. His end product can be very frustrating, belying a slight lack of composure, but O’Hare showed over the second half of last season that it is improving. If he can build on that form this year, he may prove to be one of the better players in the division in his position.

Where will you finish?

Somewhere above the relegation zone, no higher than the 16th-placed finish we achieved last year.

How will Reading’s season go, and where will we finish?

Reading have, once again, made themselves a very difficult team to predict. Any Championship team with John Swift and Lucas Joao should not be taken lightly, but there is a chronic lack of depth to the squad now that Michael Olise and Omar Richards have left from last year.

A lot depends on who, if anyone, arrives before the end of the transfer window, but I would expect Reading to drop slightly lower than they were last year, towards mid-table.