Championship 2015/16 Preview – Part One

Championship 2015/16 Preview – Part One

It’s been a long and arduous break. It’s time to cast aside a summer spent shopping, tending the lawn, eating under-cooked meat and pretending you like tennis, the 2015/16 SkyBet Championship is here.

Such is the unprecedented level of anticipation amongst Wednesday fans ahead of the big kick-off that, here at OwlsAlive, we thought we should do something about it.

So, here we have it, a run-down of every Championship team that Carlos Carvalhal will pit his charges against this season.



STADIUM – St Andrew’s
MANAGER – Gary Rowett
LAST SEASON – 10th | TITLE ODDS – 50/1
STAR SIGNING – Jon Toral | KEY MAN – Demarai Gray

Replacing Lee Clark with former Burton Albion manager Gary Rowett turned out to be a master-stroke by Birmingham City. The former’s overdue departure gave way to a remarkable turn in results that saw cash-strapped and relegation threatened Birmhingam eventually finish in the top half.

Keeping Demarai Gray at the club has been important for Rowett as other young Championship stars have moved for mega-bucks. His new creative partner Jon Toral will have to provide for Clayton Donaldson, who is looking to improve on 15 league goals last term.


STADIUM – Ewood Park
MANAGER – Gary Bowyer
STAR SIGNING – Sacha Petshi | KEY MAN – Jordan Rhodes

The chances of Blackburn’s return to the Premier League are becoming ever more slim as the Lancashire club battle against tumultuous owners, a transfer embargo, and a star player who wants to leave. Tom Cairney has moved to Fulham, Rudy Gestede looks set for the Premier League, and Jordan Rhodes has publicly slammed the club for refusing him the chance to speak to Middlesbrough.

Without significant investment in the first team, and with transfer fees received servicing the club’s finances, Blackburn look set to go backwards rather than forwards this season.


STADIUM – Macron Stadium
MANAGER – Neil Lennon
STAR SIGNING – Derik Osede
KEY MAN – Mark Davies

Staying in Lancashire and with perilous finances, Bolton are another side battling against throwing money against over-priced players with an inflated sense of their own worth. There are some talented players in their squad; Derik Osede joins after spending a decade at Real Madrid.

Josh Vela, Zack Clough and Max Clayton are all raw talents that will play some part in Bolton’s season and will rely on the Championship experience of Neil Danns and Liam Feeney alongside them. Mark Davies is a talented and accomplished player at Premier League level but spends far too long out injured.

Gary Madine has raised the Bolton town tw@t-o-meter a few notches.


STADIUM – Griffin Park
MANAGER – Marinus Dijkhuizen
STAR SIGNING – Andreas Bjelland
KEY MAN – Toumani Diagouraga

Brentford’s curious experiment in statistical models faces it’s toughest challenge next season. Under the guidance of a new manager after the dismissal of Mark Warburton, and after the wider public are more aware of their squads rather extensive abilities, their progress will be finely analysed.

Andreas Bjelland is capable of playing in the Premier League and will be a terrific addition at centre-back, his experience of European competition will be invaluable. The talents of Jota, Josh McEachran and Alan Judge are all reliant on the defensive protection of Toumani Diagouraga, who excelled last season. He will have to fill the void of departing captain Jonathan Douglas.


STADIUM – AmEx Stadium
MANAGER – Chris Hughton
STAR SIGNING – Jack Harper | KEY MAN – Lewis Dunk

The facilities at Brighton are now ready for Premier League football, but progress seems to have stalled since their excellent first season in the Championship. There seems to have been a realisation at the club that throwing silly money at players will not fire them to promotion – see the aforementioned examples.

Inigo Calderon and Bruno Saltor join Lewis Dunk and new signing Liam Rosenior in a solid looking back four. Youngster Jake Forster-Caskey will look to continue making a name for himself alongside Rohan Ince. Scoring goals will be Brighton’s problem as they look to Chris O’Grady and Sam Baldock to provide.


BRISTOL CITYBristol_City_FC.svg
STADIUM – Ashton Gate
MANAGER – Steve Cotterill
LAST SEASON – L1: 1st | TITLE ODDS: 22/1
STAR SIGNING – Jonathan Kodija | KEY MAN – Aden Flint

Bristol City were completely comfortable in winning League 1 last season and have completed the first aim of a recently promoted side in holding on to their talented players. However, Steve Cotterill is yet to add real Championship experience to his squad, with French forward Jonathan Kodija the only addition so far.

Aden Flint scored 16 goals from centre-back last season and Luke Freeman finally got promoted from League 1 after four years of trying. Cotterill will rely on the know-how of Aaron Wilbraham in what is currently a very small squad.

I look forward to their 3-0 demolition of Wednesday this Saturday.


STADIUM – Turf Moor
MANAGER – Sean Dyche
STAR SIGNING – Jelle Vossen
KEY MAN – Michael Keane

Burnley were *that* side last season – gaining ‘many friends’ for their application and entertainment in the Premier League, but were ultimately not good enough. Jelle Vossen had a good season at Middlesbrough last year and will be a good signing alongside Ashley Barnes.

George Boyd, Scott Arfield and David Jones return to the Championship, and while Burnley carry good squad depth, they will miss Michael Duff (retired), Jason Shackell (Derby) and Kieran Trippier (Spurs) at the back. Trippier was Burnley’s biggest creative talent as they followed Leicester to the Premier League, and Burnley will look to former Blade Matthew Lowton as a like-for-like replacement.


CARDIFF CITYCardiff_City_Crest_2015
STADIUM – Cardiff City Stadium
MANAGER – Russell Slade
STAR SIGNING – Sammy Ameobi| KEY MAN – Kiko Macheda

Cardiff’s poor start last season made another promotion tilt unlikely by October. Unfortunately for the Bluebirds/Red Dragons, their situation never really improved and were one of a clutch of sides, including Wednesday, that had their Championship status for the upcoming season more or less determined by February.

Battling against a high wage bill, Cardiff are looking to move players on, with ‘business decisions’ at the forefront of Russell Slade’s mind. Today, Wednesday target Adam Le Fondre has completed a season-long loan to Wolves.

Peter Whittingham is a mercurial Championship player and will look to work alongside other talents such as Craig Noone, Joe Mason and Anthony Pilkington; all proven players at this level. Federico Macheda, now 23, is due a prolific season if he is to realise the potential lit under his backside after that famous title-sealing goal for Manchester United in 2009.


STADIUM – The ValleyCharltonCrest1
MANAGER – Guy Luzon
STAR SIGNING – Alou Diarra
KEY MAN – Johann Berg Gudmundsson

Wednesday’s faux-rivalry with Charlton looks set to continue this season and nobody is really sure why. Charlton are surprisingly second favourites for the drop and look to have enough across all areas of the pitch to survive.

Jordan Cousins and Callum Harriot are both targeted men, their staying in London will be important to the Addick’s chances. Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Johnnie Jackson are two talented players and will be supported by former Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Marseille and West Ham midfielder Alou Diarra. Charlton look to be lacking a centre-forward, and will be relying on Igor Vetokele and Tony Watt to provide the goals. Mid-table security beckons.


STADIUM – iPro Stadium
MANAGER – Paul Clement
STAR SIGNING – Tom Ince| KEY MAN – Jason Shackell

Are Derby the new Forest? The Rams have spent big this summer on some very talented players, with Jason Shackell perhaps the best of the lot. No stranger to his surroundings, he was sold by Nigel Clough, promoted and relegated with Burnley and now finds himself back at the iPro.

Tom Ince is simply a puppet with his father as a mouthpiece. He’s talented, but needs the Guiseppi who controls those legs of his to work consistently to justify the £4.5m spent on his transfer. Andi Weimann also joins from Aston Villa looking to prove a point in a new division.

Former Real Madrid coach Paul Clement gets his first management job and will need to quickly unite a squad of highly paid, under-achieving players if Derby are to realise their title-winning aims.


STADIUM – Craven Cottage
MANAGER – Kit Symons
STAR SIGNING – Tom Cairney | KEY MAN – Tom Cairney

Fulham’s progress over the upcoming season will be worth keeping an eye on. Dwight Gayle is rumoured to be signing on loan and having already signed Tom Cairney from Blackburn, the Cottagers are certainly bringing in talented players with the £12m received from Manchester City for starlet Patrick Roberts.

Kit Symons is well liked at Fulham but is yet to prove himself as a manager, who has a job on his hands in solving Fulham’s defensive issues. Behind Matt Smith and Ross McCormack, Fulham have a very young squad; captain Scott Parker is almost twice the age of several squad players. The 2011 Football Writer’s Player of the Year has somewhat fallen from grace in his semi-retirement.

Barring Fulham’s young stars all coming of age at the same time, another bottom half finish is likely.


HUDDERSFIELD TOWNhuddersfield-town-fc-hd-logo
STADIUM – John Smith’s Stadium
MANAGER – Chris Powell
STAR SIGNING – Kyle Dempsey | KEY MAN – Dean Whitehead

Huddersfield will probably finish 19th, or something. Dean Whitehead could have done better since leaving Middlesbrough.

Let’s hope Sky don’t televise our fixture this year, unless they *really* want people to cancel their subscriptions or move to BT.



So, there we have it – the first twelve of Wednesday’s opponents for the upcoming season. Questionable recruitment and the same tried and tested Championship managers will make it a long season for certain clubs, while Bristol City and Cardiff City in particular will have to add players to small squads.

The high spending at Derby and Brentford’s persistence with a new and unusual model make both clubs interesting ones to watch in the opening months.

Stick with tomorrow, when we preview the second half of the Championship; and then on Wednesday as we bring you a mammoth preview of The Owls’ chances ahead of Saturday’s opener against Bristol City.


Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive and @hugh_wragg

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