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Town End 2021/22 Season Preview: Part Three

Rams, Cottagers, Terriers and Tigers come under the microscope in part three of our Championship season preview.

Derby County v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship - Pride Park Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via 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?

Part three includes two teams who could well finish the campaign at polar opposites of the table, and one making an immediate return to the Championship after a year in the third tier.

Ollie Wright runs Derby County Blog, which you can find on Twitter @DerbyCountyBlog

How would you sum up last season?

Diabolical, from start to finish. An absolute nightmare. I still can’t quite believe we stayed up.

Just what the hell is going on behind the scenes at Derby?!

Nothing good. Mel Morris has wanted out for some time, but has been unable to find a credible buyer, despite kissing more than a few frogs. The club has endured three failed takeover bids now and with the pandemic ongoing, it’s hard to see how a struggling Championship club with loan debts to pay, outstanding debts to HMRC and no playing squad to speak of would be terribly attractive to a buyer.

We’re in deep, deep trouble and all we can do is pray that there is somebody out there with the appetite, competence and cash to bail us out.

What are your expectations for this season?

What worries me most of all is reading tweets from our fans who seem to think our team is too good to get relegated. I’m not sure how on earth anybody can reach that conclusion having watched what unfolded last season, especially when you consider that the squad is massively weaker as I type this than it was then.

Of the 15 players who featured in the final day draw with Sheffield Wednesday that kept us up by the skin of our knackers, four have gone - three were loanees (the outstanding Matt Clarke, George Edmundson and Patrick Roberts); Martyn Waghorn has signed for Coventry City on a free transfer. In addition, Curtis Davies is training with us as a free agent, while we try to work out whether we can sign him or not. We have no senior centre backs on the books at all.

Wayne Rooney is embarking on his first full season in charge. What’s the verdict so far on Rooney the manager?

I called for him to go just before the end of last season, when it had become clear that the situation had got too much for him. However, that was mainly because Steve McClaren is on the payroll as an advisor and it seemed obvious that it was worth giving him a go to walk in as a fresh voice and generate some kind of bounce from a side whose form had collapsed into a terrifying nosedive.

However, even when I said he needed to go, I had some sympathy for him, because the situation at the club was so dire that it would have tested Fergie in his pomp, let alone a rookie. He’s clearly determined and driven, but he’s been working with his hands tied behind his back. He deserves credit for not walking out on the club, because most managers would have done by now.

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

Louie Sibley has bags of ability and is one of the very few sources of optimism available to Derby fans at the minute.

Where will you finish?

Unless the club can escape from its current transfer embargo, we will be relegated.

You can find Nik MacNee at Fulhamish (@FulhamishPod on Twitter)

How would you sum up last season?

Overall, a huge disappointment. Despite recovering from four straight losses, Fulham actually played at a points-per-game standard that would’ve kept them up. Unfortunately, following a heroic win at Anfield, Scott Parker dropped the ball big time with ten games remaining and Fulham only picked up two points in their final ten games to be comfortably relegated. The last ten games really sucked the life out of the club and proved to be the end of Fulham’s relationship with Scott Parker. Although not as disastrous as the last relegation, Fulham are once again stuck in a very familiar position to them.

What are your expectations for the season?

Given the squad as it stands, with very few departures outside of the loanees we had in the Premier League, it has to be an automatic promotion finish. The matter of the fact is that Fulham can’t afford to waste anymore time in the playoffs, which really set them back with squad planning last year as well as their previous Premier League season. Everyone knows the squad is more than good enough, it’s just a big question of whether Marco Silva can get the most out of it - something Scott Parker struggled to do in the Championship.

Is Marco Silva the right man to replace Scott Parker?

I was initially skeptical of the choice to replace Parker with Silva. I think Parker had run out his course at Fulham but wasn’t too sure that Silva was the right man to fill the empty seat given his reputation in England after the fallout at Watford and the end of his Everton tenure. That said, he’s come in and said a lot of the right things and a lot of the players do really seem to like him and his way of playing. If we can return to the attractive style of play we had under Jokanovic and finish in the top two, then he is definitely the right man.

What happened to Michael Hector?

It’s a bit of a baffling one really. Hector came in halfway through the 19/20 season and looked like the centre back Fulham had been badly missing since the departure of Brede Hangeland but it all fell apart after promotion to the Premier League. He wasn’t exactly helped on the first game of the season by starting behind a pretty porous midfield in a 3-0 drubbing by Arsenal but since then, he’s rarely been seen.

There’s also been a few murmurs of a falling out with Scott Parker which isn’t altogether surprising. Given that Fulham have so far retained Tosin Adarabioyo and Tim Ream seems to discovered the fountain of youth plus Hector’s Gold Cup adventures, it seems likely at the moment that he’ll be third choice behind those two. Let’s see if he plays his way into Silva’s plans throughout the season.

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

There’s a lot of room for choice here with your Mitrovics, Cavaleiros and Cairneys but I’ll go with a left-field option: Fabio Carvalho. The youngster came into the first-team picture towards the end of last season after relegation was confirmed and immediately looked like one of Fulham’s best attacking players.

That’s not already mentioning a superb debut goal against Southampton. He’s been a big feature throughout pre-season in the number 10 role and scored in the final fixture against Charlton on the weekend, rolling a cool finish under the goalkeeper. It’s certainly possible that he’s starting behind Mitrovic on the opening day and could be Fulham’s next big prospect following in Ryan Sessegnon’s steps.

In terms of more “senior” players, the likes of Kenny Tete at right back and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa in midfield have an extremely strong chance to be among the very best at their position in the division… should Fulham be able to hang onto them.

Where will you finish?

I think we’ll finish in the top two. There’s a strong possibility of a slow start but the squad that Fulham currently have at this level is ridiculously strong, especially given that no player sales have occurred. Silva should restore a bit of pride to Fulham by the river.

Where will Reading finish?

I’ve seen a lot of negativity around Reading given the transfer embargo and departures of Olise and Richards. All that being said though, I can’t see them being involved in a relegation scrap like I’ve seen some pundits say. The likes of Joao, Swift and Ejaria are all excellent players and should comfortably carry Reading to a top-half finish. I’ll say 10th.

Brady Frost (@brady0894) is a writer and podcaster for And He Takes That Chance. You can find them on Twitter @takesthatchance and their website here

Carlos Corberan has now had a full year in the dugout – how’s he done so far?

It would be fair to say it’s a bit split amongst Town fans, some think he should have gone, others think he deserves another shot, but the majority agree that he’s starting the season under pressure.

I have my doubts, which is only natural after the terrible run in the second half of the season where we won just three matches in 25. Initially, I was disappointed to see the Cowleys dismissed but excited for Corberán and the exciting style of football and we saw in the first half of the season results come in.

The caveats for the collapse in the second half were a lack of squad depth and injuries to key players, the new signings address the issues in the squad and we nearly have a clean bill of health for all players so we can’t really make excuses. I think he deserves a crack this season but he’s starting under pressure after that run and if we get off to a bad start, I can’t see him lasting the season.

We don’t talk a lot in football about whether managers and clubs are the right fit for each other and I hope I’m wrong but I have concerns about whether Carlos Corberán and Huddersfield Town complement each other. Corberán is a young coach that needs time to develop and if the target is to remain in the division where every point counts, he’s not going to get that time. Huddersfield are not going to spend big money on players anymore and now seem to be reverting to type, battling to stay up on a tight budget, and personally, I’m not sure you can deliver exciting, attacking football and work with limited resources.

The hope is Corberán has learnt a lot from last season and now with a better squad can improve our league position, we’ll wait and see but of course, I’ll back him and the team.

Huddersfield have finished in the bottom third twice since dropping down from the Premier League and, last summer, you mentioned a ‘mental fatigue that still hangs around the club from the dreadful relegation’. Has the club yet fully recovered from relegation?

I think the mental fatigue has shifted somewhat, most of the players who were part of that team that suffered relegation have now left but we have financial issues that are partly from the parachute payments finishing and also the sale of the club.

Dean Hoyle, our previous chairman and a Huddersfield fan, sold the club to current chairman Phil Hodgkinson with the condition that his investments into the club get repaid. The fans are split on this, I’m not a financial expert and football is a weird business where loyalty is at play, but not every chairman who sells the club does that, like Marcus Evans at Ipswich wrote off his investments when he sold the club recently.

It’s Dean’s money so I can’t judge him for that but it does mean that to repay the debt, millions are paid back to him each year which does affect how much we spend, the rumour is £7m a year for the next few years.

Phil Hodgkinson, our current chairman has also said we want to financially sustainable as a club, which isn’t sexy to fans so we’re not going to spend millions on players any more and all our signings have been frees or loans. Not a lot of clubs are spending millions in this window either but the squad last year barely stayed up and even though it’s improved, without significant investment it’s hard to see the team improving.

How would you sum up last season?

A great first half of the season that saw Town six points off the playoffs, and a second-half to the season which saw us in a desperate relegation battle. Good 2020, bad 2021. Our squad was ravaged by injuries due to the condensed fixture schedule and Corberán’s intense training methods which meant our bench was full of youngsters where some hadn’t played more than 90 minutes of Championship football.

The gap in quality was there to see and that’s why we suffered but the manager can’t make excuses when three wins in five months is just not good enough at any level.

What are your expectations for this season?

I like some of the signings and having experienced professionals in the squad rather than inexperienced kids can only be a good thing. This season will be an improvement on last but not by much, we’ve added to the squad but I’m still concerned by the lack of creativity, although Danel Sinani, who’s joined on loan from Norwich City could make a big impact.

The recruitment doesn’t immediately strike me as players that Corberán wants but when a team concedes the most goals in the division last season, it’s not surprising that the majority of their summer recruitment focuses on defence. That’s certainly the case for Huddersfield Town, who after shipping in 71 goals in a 46 game Championship campaign, have now signed two full backs, three centre backs and a goalkeeper.

We made the most errors leading to goals in the league and we were the team that lost the most points from winning positions last season, so, hypothetically if we turned three narrow losses into wins from the previous campaign then we’re maybe 15th, 16th and we’re having a different conversation about having something to build on and climb up the table. Let’s hope that is what happens this season!

Which player of yours should we lookout for this season?

It’s hard to look past Josh Koroma who scored 8 goals in 20 appearances (7 goals in his last 11 league matches) for a poor Huddersfield Town side is respectable, especially after he’s carried on his goalscoring after a long injury kept him out. Lewis O’Brien is being heavily linked with Leeds United but if he stays, is one to watch.

Elsewhere, the one that seems to be a coup, on paper, is Levi Colwill, an exciting ball-playing centre back from Chelsea on loan. Chelsea fans rate him highly and we’ve seen how two previous young Chelsea centre backs Marc Guehi and Fiyako Tomori performed on loan in the Championship, so here’s hoping we’ve got a gem.

Where will you finish?

My real concern is whether Corberan lasts the season, to be honest. We finished 20th last season, the league looks a bit more wide open from 5th downwards in my opinion, which could throw up a few surprises so I’m going for 18th this season.

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

I’d be lying if I said I follow Reading closely but from the outside looking in, the percentage of wage budget compared to your income looks unsustainable and I’m concerned for the club with it being under a transfer embargo and losing Michael Olise. The EFL has shown they’ll dish out punishments to clubs and Reading could fall foul of their rules and potentially be hit with a points deduction.

You do have quality players in John Swift when he’s fit, Ovie Ejaria and Lucas Joao when he’s in the mood, if I had to make a prediction, I’d say you won’t finish 7th like last season but anywhere between 10th-16th, so let’s go in the middle and say 13th.

You can find Kathryn Batte on Twitter @KathrynBatte

How would you sum up last season?

A great start, a rocky December and January and a brilliant finish. We completely lost our way around Christmas and it looked like we would be in for a fight to make the play-offs but after a 3-0 win at Wimbledon at the end of February we didn’t lose another game until the last day.

There seemed to be doubts over Grant McCann following relegation - how he has turned fortunes around?

We made some astute signings last summer - brought in experienced players like Lewie Coyle and Richie Smallwood. Alfie Jones was another great addition. He also gave youngsters like Jacob Greaves and Keane Lewis-Potter a chance. He managed to rebuild the team spirit and get the players fighting for the badge.

What is the latest on the ownership situation at the club?

All gone very quiet. There were some rumours about interest from Turkey but that seems to have died down.

What are your expectations for this season?

A mid-table finish would be solid. Can’t really see us breaking into the top six but should hopefully have enough to stay up, hoping we’ve learned lessons!

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

Greg Docherty - he was brilliant last season and is more than ready for the step up. Can see him chipping in with a few goals.

Where will you finish?

13th.

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

Now you’re asking! I know you were close to the play-offs last season but have lost Michael Olise. Guessing you probably need to make a few signings to challenge for the top six. I’ll stick you above us at around ninth but that is a complete stab in the dark haha.