Championship 2015/16 Preview – Part Two

Championship 2015/16 Preview – Part Two

The long wait for the 2015/16 Championship season to commence is nearly over. After running down half of the wannabes, never-will-bes and the also-rans in the 24-horse race, the attention turns to the others.

So from Hull to Wolverhampton and a few places in between, here’s the run-down of the rest of the contenders.

 

 

HULL CITYHull_City_Crest_2014
STADIUM – The KC Stadium
MANAGER – Steve Bruce
LAST SEASON – PL: 18th | TITLE ODDS: 10/1
STAR SIGNING – Ryan Taylor | KEY MAN – Tom Huddlestone

Prepared for relegation and with most players having 50 per cent pay cut clauses in their contracts in the event of a relegation, Hull City come into the season in better shape than most relegated sides. That said, losing James Chester, Robbie Brady, Stephen Quinn and Paul McShane won’t help the Tigers’ cause. The summer recruitment to date has consisted of Ryan Taylor and Chesterfield’s Sam Clucas.

Steve Bruce will be hoping for a bit of better luck on the injury front this season, having spent £6m on Robert Snodgrass only to see him go down with a season-ending knee problem 40 minutes into the first game hurt, as well as losing Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson for chunks of the year.

Hull are expected to be in the promotion hunt and should be up there come May.

 

IPSWICH TOWNipswich_town
STADIUM – Portman Road
MANAGER – Mick McCarthy
LAST SEASON – 6th | TITLE ODDS: 22/1
STAR SIGNING – Jonas Knudsen | KEY MAN – Ted Bishop

Mick McCarthy slightly overstated reality when he said his Ipswich side were cobbled together with buttons and luncheon vouchers but, like most McCarthy sides, he’s moulded them into a coherent unit that is fairly difficult to beat.

Signing the ‘new Rory Delap’ in Jonas Knudsen and Brett Pitman to aid the goals scored by Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick could push the Tractor Boys into the Premier League but losing Tyrone Mings to AFC Bournemouth will hurt.

They’ll be top half but will fall short of the play-offs.

 

LEEDS UNITEDeuropean-shield
STADIUM – Elland Road
MANAGER – Uwe Rosler
LAST SEASON – 15th | TITLE ODDS: 33/1
STAR SIGNING – Chris Wood | KEY MAN – Alex Mowatt

Leeds nowadays seem to be known more for their off-pitch affairs than events on it courtesy of chaotic Italian owner Massimo Cellino. Adam Pearson was recruited from SWFC after his brief stay on the ‘committee’ and Neil Redfearn was the latest manager bundled out of Elland Road following David Hockaday and Darko Milanic.

The uncertainty that surrounds Leeds makes it hard to believe they’re destined for any sort of success despite the makings of a half-decent squad; Chris Wood being an impressive signing. Uwe Rosler’s last job was at Wigan, who were relegated last term after Rosler guided them to the 2014 play-offs. Young Alex Mowatt is the beacon of hope for Leeds fans, being home-grown and in excellent form in the latter days of last season.

Rosler won’t see out the season and it’ll be a long one for Leeds with a possible relegation dogfight looming.

 

MIDDLESBROUGHMiddlesbrough_crest
STADIUM – The Riverside Stadium
MANAGER – Aitor Karanka
LAST SEASON – 4th | TITLE ODDS: 6/1
STAR SIGNING – Stewart Downing | KEY MAN – George Friend

Meekly surrendering at Wembley to Norwich City was an unfortunate way to end Boro’s season. At times they looked the class of the division by a clear mile, at other times (largely against Wednesday) they looked utter garbage.

Karanka’s most important task is replacing the goals of Patrick Bamford but a tight defence and a good midfield marshalled by Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton could go some way to compensating. Add the creativity of Stewart Downing and Albert Adomah on the wings and a goalscorer should see Boro move into the top two.

 

MILTON KEYNES DONSMilton_Keynes_Dons_logo
STADIUM – stadium:MK
MANAGER – Karl Robinson
LAST SEASON – L1: 2nd | TITLE ODDS: 67/1
STAR SIGNING – Dale Jennings | KEY MAN – Carl Baker

After a few years of threatening to get promoted, the 21st century Millwall finally did it by nipping in on the final day after Preston slipped up at Colchester.

The Dons’ transfer signings to date have been low profile, with former Bayern Munich reserve Dale Jennings the pick of them but what Robinson has done well in recent times is play the loan market – Will Grigg and Lewis Baker contributed to the promotion but with those two and Dele Alli departed, Robinson is under pressure to find someone to step up and replace them.

They’ll be relegation contenders but should survive.

 

NOTTINGHAM FORESTNottingham_Forest_logo
STADIUM – The City Ground
MANAGER – Dougie Freedman
LAST SEASON – 14th | TITLE ODDS: 33/1
STAR SIGNING – Jamie Ward | KEY MAN – Michail Antonio

A bright start completely petered out and big spending Forest ended up below little old Wednesday, much to the chagrin of some of their fans.

A transfer embargo, losing Britt Assombalonga until the new year and an eccentric chairman means expectations are slightly lowered for Forest but as ever, they seem to find a talented crop of youngsters to insert in the first team. There are high hopes for Oliver Burke and Tyler Walker (son of Wednesday and Forest legend Des).

If Freedman manages to get some consistency out of the likes of Henri Lansbury and Michail Antonio – should they stay moored at the Trent – Forest could well be dark horses in the play-off race.

 

PRESTON NORTH ENDPreston-North-End-icon
STADIUM – Deepdale
MANAGER – Simon Grayson
LAST SEASON – L1: 3rd | TITLE ODDS: 50/1
STAR SIGNING – Jermaine Beckford | KEY MAN – Joe Garner

After slipping up on the final day against Colchester, lesser teams would have crumbled in the League One play-offs. But under Simon Grayson – who is no stranger to the League One play-offs having been there with Blackpool, Leeds and Huddersfield – the North Enders comfortably dispatched Swindon at Wembley.

Grayson has moved to add goal-scoring options alongside Joe Garner, sealing the permanent transfer of Jermaine Beckford and acquiring former SWFC loanee Will Keane. Aided by a solid defence featuring Tom Clarke, Paul Huntington and Bailey Wright, PNE should be comfortably mid-table.

 

QPRQPR_Crest
STADIUM – Loftus Road
MANAGER – Chris Ramsey
LAST SEASON – PL: 20th | TITLE ODDS: 16/1
STAR SIGNING – Massimo Luongo | KEY MAN – Rob Green

Rangers’ policy of spending a load and hoping for the best yet again didn’t work as they came crashing back down from the Prem at the first time of asking. Harry Redknapp left and Chris Ramsey was left to pick up the pieces and begin rebuilding.

Ramsey has looked to League One for reinforcements and signed a bit of quality in Massimo Luongo, Ben Gladwin and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. Some of the big earners have departed too – Adel Taarabt, Joey Barton, Rio Ferdinand and Shaun Wright-Phillips have departed whilst the R’s have netted a bit of money courtesy of Raheem Sterling’s big money move to Manchester City and the sale of Alex McCarthy to Crystal Palace.

The term we’re looking for regarding QPR is ‘transitional season’. They won’t bother the promotion race nor the relegation places.

 

READINGreading_badge4
STADIUM – The Madejski Stadium
MANAGER – Steve Clarke
LAST SEASON – 19th | TITLE ODDS: 40/1
STAR SIGNING – Stephen Quinn | KEY MAN – Hope Akpan

A run to the last four of the FA Cup masked what was an awful season in Berkshire. Tipped as promotion contenders last August, the Royals were closer to relegation come May. Losing Adam Federici, Alex Pearce and Jem Karacan for nothing won’t help the mood but Steve Clarke has made a couple of good signings in Stephen Quinn and Paul McShane.

Orlando Sa has been brought in from Poland to solve the Royals’ scoring woes and as Clarke starts with a clean slate, he’ll hope the late season slump was due to the FA Cup distraction rather than an uphill battle to get Reading back into play-off contention. Another season of transition awaits in Berkshire.

 

ROTHERHAM UNITEDRotherham_United_logo
STADIUM – New York Stadium
MANAGER – Steve Evans
LAST SEASON – 21st | TITLE ODDS: 200/1
STAR SIGNING – Aidan White | KEY MAN – Richard Smallwood

Steve Evans’ summer recruitment has been Wednesday-centric with Lewis Buxton (who for some reason turned down the lure of the USA to go to Rotherham), Chris Maguire and Joe Mattock among the arrivals. That said, Greg Halford and Aidan White are also solid Championship players and could well be shrewd signings.

They suffered a big blow losing Ben Pringle to Fulham and struggled on a consistent basis away from home last season. Evans is a controversial figure and with the new arrivals in the Championship appearing stronger than the teams who departed in May, Rotherham could well be relegated.

 

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERSWolverhampton_Wanderers_FC_logo
STADIUM – Molineux
MANAGER – Kenny Jackett
LAST SEASON – 7th | TITLE ODDS: 18/1
STAR SIGNING – Conor Coady | KEY MAN – Benik Afobe

The job Kenny Jackett has done in halting Wolves’ slide into obscurity and back towards the top table has been fairly unheralded. After being promoted from League One in 2013/14, only goal difference saw Wolves fail to make the Championship top six last term.

There’s a good vibe in the Black Country and even though Bakary Sako has departed, Wolves look to have goals in them courtesy of Benik Afobe and Nouha Dicko.

Wolves will have a serious tilt at the top six this season.

 

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAYSWFC OWL
STADIUM – Hillsborough
MANAGER – Carlos Carvalhal
LAST SEASON – 13th | TITLE ODDS: 25/1
STAR SIGNING – Marco Matias | KEY MAN – Keiren Westwood

‘Flexible’, a ‘lack of clear thinking’, ‘a change in direction’ or ‘no effing clue’ are all terms used to describe Dejphon Chansiri’s hiring of Carlos Carvalhal. Stuart Gray isn’t the second coming of Jurgen Klopp but perhaps his only fault was his inability to exceed expectations as he took a mid-table bunch of players to mid-table.

The average have departed in Jacques Maghoma, Chris Maguire and Gary Madine and have been replaced by Alex Lopez, Vincent Sasso, Jack Hunt, Marco Matias and Ross Wallace among others, while Lewis McGugan has made his loan spell from Watford permanent.

Wednesday’s away form was among the best in the division but their home form was simply awful and the Owls were remarkably goalshy. The Owls’ summer spending apparently hasn’t finished but the hopes are Stevie May will progress and start to look the predator he did in Scotland and somehow Atdhe Nuhiu will find a way to not miss the sitters he manages to create for himself.

Chansiri is determined that Wednesday will return to the top flight by 2017. Achieving this target  a year early is a long shot in my eyes but definitive progress has to be seen. The minimum aim has to be a tilt for the top six and a top half finish at the very least, especially given the controversy surrounding S6 ticket prices.

 

 

That concludes the two-part Championship preview but we’re not done there. Tomorrow we will bring you an in-depth preview of Wednesday’s hopes before the regular match-by-match previews return on Thursday.

Danny
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive and @DGood83


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