Championship football is back!
Reading make one of their longest trips of the season as they face Lancashire side Blackpool, who did reasonably well during their first campaign back in the second tier last term.
Both sides are still in need of making further additions between now and the end of the season - but that’s to be expected considering the fact there’s more than a month left to go in this current transfer window. The two sides also have understandable reasons as to why they haven’t managed to get all of their incoming business done and dusted yet.
Looking at the present, we’ve got everything you need to know ahead of this afternoon’s clash!
What? Championship Matchday 1
Where? Bloomfield Road
When? Saturday 30th July 2022 (league football in July!)
Opposition Manager? Michael Appleton
Things haven’t exactly gone to plan for the Lancashire outfit this summer but it isn’t exactly their fault. Neil Critchley’s departure to Aston Villa came as a real blow, so it will be interesting to see whether Appleton can fill his shoes adequately or not.
The latter’s Lincoln City endured a disappointing season last term without the likes of Brennan Johnson and Morgan Rogers at their disposal, perhaps one reason why the Seasiders’ supporters may be concerned about this appointment. He’s still a talented coach though - and there’s every chance he could be a success at Bloomfield Road.
In terms of their first-team squad, it will be fascinating to see whether Theo Corbeanu can take the step up after spending time with Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons last term, two teams that managed to secure top-six finishes at the end of the 2021/22 campaign. If he’s to be a success under Appleton, he will need a sufficient chance to prove his worth and it will certainly be interesting to see whether he’s a starter.
In more downbeat news for them, Cameron Brannagan turned down the opportunity to join and that is a real blow considering how much of a goalscoring asset he was for Oxf*rd United last season. His goalscoring contributions would have gone a long way in keeping the Seasiders afloat in the division for another campaign.
They are also in desperate, desperate need of a right-back - providing the Royals with a key weakness they can exploit.
Well, we’ve done reasonably well this summer considering the EFL business plan we’ve needed to abide by. Tyrese Fornah is an exciting young player, Jeff Hendrick is a forward-thinking midfielder we desperately needed, Tom Ince fully earned an extended stay at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, Sam Hutchinson looks to be a solid addition, Dean Bouzanis could turn out to be an excellent signing and Shane Long is Shane Long.
Obviously, there are concerns regarding Joe Lumley but I wish him the very best of luck during his time here. He doesn’t look to have a future at Middlesbrough and with this, the 2022/23 campaign will be a very important one for him. For his sake and ours, I hope he thrives.
There’s definitely more work to be done in the transfer market, even with Nesta Guinness-Walker joining and Naby Sarr and Mamadou Loum seemingly on their way (writing this on Friday afternoon!). They are all much-needed additions, so it would be ideal if we were able to get those two remaining deals over the line as soon as possible.
Someone like Omari Hutchinson would also be ideal to provide more attacking firepower from midfield following the departure of John Swift, with another left wing-back also required and a striker if George Puscas seals a move away from Berkshire before the window closes.
Opposition Player I’d Like: Josh Bowler
If you want realism, this section isn’t for you! Throughout the campaign, I will be choosing one opposition player that I’d like to see join the Royals.
At this stage, getting a deal over the line for Bowler would be impossible but we do need a bit more firepower in the final third and the Chertsey-born man would certainly provide that.
Recording seven goals and three assists in 42 league appearances last term, he would take pressure off the likes of Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite to score most of our goals and this is where someone like Chelsea’s Hutchinson could come in. It does feel as though we need two more players in the final third to give us enough depth and goals - but that man won’t be Bowler unfortunately.
He’s been linked with a move to AFC Bournemouth this summer and with just one year left on his deal at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool may want to cash in on him now to avoid losing him for free next summer.
But where would he fit into the Royals’ lineup? Here’s my thinking:
The Last Meeting
Blackpool 4-1 Reading
Not a prediction, but the starting lineup I’d go with!
Starting XI: Bouzanis, Ince, McIntyre, Hutchinson, Holmes, Yiadom, Fornah, Hendrick, Ejaria, Meite, Joao
It’s perhaps harsh to take Joe Lumley out of goal - but Dean Bouzanis may end up being a safer pair of hands and I think he’ll become number one at some point this season - so the Australian gets the nod between the sticks.
There are no surprises at centre-back with Tom McIntyre, Sam Hutchinson and Tom Holmes all taking their place in the first 11. McIntyre has looked really good at times in pre-season and Hutch could be the replacement we’ve needed for Michael Morrison, so you can only hope we don’t concede four again today!
Andy Yiadom starts on the right as expected - but I’ve gone with Tom Ince on the left. Previously plying his trade at a wing-back at Stoke City last season and having a strong left foot, he may be a better candidate to have in this position as opposed to Junior Hoilett and Femi Azeez.
It’s not as if we have much of a choice in central midfield (unless Loum has signed in time and is fit enough to start), so Tyrese Fornah and Jeff Hendrick take their places in the middle of the park.
The front three was a difficult one, because there’s a real case for having Ovie Ejaria behind Yakou Meite and Lucas Joao (if the latter is fit). I’ve got with a 3-4-2-1 though, with Ejaria remaining reasonably central and Meite drifting out to the right a little.
Score prediction time! As I mentioned earlier, both sides still need to make additions before the window closes and with this, I believe the two teams will be reasonably even. I’m going with a 2-2 draw!
Score Prediction: Blackpool 2-2 Reading
My predictions for this round of Championship fixtures:
Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Queens Park Rangers
Cardiff City 0-1 Norwich City
Hull City 1-0 Bristol City
Luton Town 2-1 Birmingham City
Millwall 2-0 Stoke City
Rotherham United 1-3 Swansea City
Wigan Athletic 1-1 Preston North End
Middlesbrough 2-1 West Bromwich Albion
Sunderland 2-2 Coventry City
Watford 1-2 Sheffield United