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Home » Season Previews » Sky Bet Championship 2014/15 Season Preview – Part Two

Sky Bet Championship 2014/15 Season Preview – Part Two

Read Part One HERE

Brighton and Hove Albion 

A capitulation in a play-off semi-final, leading to a relatively popular manager leaving the club and all-round confusion reigning at the AMEX; I could probably have copy and pasted my 12/13 season preview and changed the names. Oscar Garcia goes, Sami Hyypia arrives. erberberber

But, where Brighton were hugely disappointed not to achieve promotion two seasons ago, it’s fair to say last season was something of an achievement. They stuttered, they went on unstoppable runs of form, they stuttered. In fact, for much of last season it seemed like they wouldn’t have their season extended by two games; only Leonardo Ulloa’s last minute goal at Nottingham Forest on the final day gaining them a place in the top six.

This season, it’s fair to say the Seagulls look even less likely to achieve promotion, but by no means are they in a bad place or on the slide. The club remains full of potential but it needs time to take stock and find a boss they want to support. Who knows, instead of unrealistically demanding Premier League football immediately, they might even give Hyypia some realistic targets and a bit of time in which to achieve them.

The Manager – Sami Hyypia

The Liverpool legend seems like an incredibly shrewd acquisition for Brighton. In fact, that may be understating it; Hyypia was incredibly impressive in his first job at Bayer Leverkusen, in a tough German league, and knows English football like Stephen Hawking knows the universe. At the age of 40, he seems like the perfect boss for Brighton’s board to put their long term faith in, if that’s a concept they understand.

Also, if a club playing in a new stadium with fantastic facilities in a wonderful part of the country wasn’t attractive enough, the name alone is bound to attract interest from those who might have previously turned down a move to the South Coast.

Transfer Business 

Worryingly quiet, especially with a number of first team players departing. Matthew Upson, a constant figure at the back over the past 18 months, will be as big a loss as Leonardo Ulloa, a physical presence with an eye for goal, who have both left for Leicester, while ‘keeper Tomasz Kuszczak, playmaker Andrea Orlandi and full-back David Lopez don’t leave with celebration.

The few they have brought in, however, have all been excellent signings, and go someone to replace the departed. David Stockdale is an excellent young ‘keeper, arguably as good as Kuszczak, while Aaron Hughes’ versatility will be vital at the back and Chris O’Grady, replacing Ulloa, is a guaranteed goalscorer and something of a bargain. Young winger Nzuzi Toko also looks like an interesting addition, arriving from Grasshoppers with some hype.

But more are needed, and you would expect some additional names coming through the AMEX door soon given the £8m made from Ulloa’s sale.

The Squad 

While a plethora of wingers and creative midfielders make the situation slightly better, Brighton severely lack numbers at top and at the back. In fact, their squad boasts barely 20 players at the time of writing; nowhere near enough bodies to sustain a serious promotion push, especially in such a competitive edition of the Championship.

Nonetheless, there’s the skeleton of a talented side, with a great deal of flesh on the bones, within Brighton’s small squad. The fit again Andrew Crofts and Craig Mackail-Smith will have huge roles to play, while Dale Stephens and Will Buckley are among the best in the division in their positions. A mention, too, to Brighton’s crop of emerging young players, with Solly March and Rohan Ince impressing last season and keen to do so again.

Fans View: Harriet Fuller 

1) Another new season after another play-off semi-final defeat with another new manager. Will Sami Hyypia follow if he doesn’t achieve promotion or expectations slightly more grounded this time around?

I really hope not. Would be the last thing we need, the play-offs seem to be a poisoned chalice so I’d rather we steered clear and kept Hyypia for a few years. We need to let somebody build their own squad here, like we did with Gus, and before we do that we all need to lower our expectations.

“We need to let somebody build their own squad here”

2) How big of a loss is Ulloa?

He’s a loss…but he’s not huge. Yes he scored goals and did the things strikers should, but both play-offs he hasn’t turned up in. We can do better, somebody who is a bit more of an all round player. Take the money and reinvest. O’Grady is a erm interesting signing? He’s a proven goalscorer in the Championship though, and thats what we need. So I’m positive about him, and I hope we don’t put too much pressure on him, he will come good.

3) You’ve been slightly slow movers in the transfer market, how happy are you with the current state of your squad?

It’s been a bit weird not being linked with Michael Owen, Joe Cole, and Bobby Zamora, but i’m quietly confident we will get the deals done. We aren’t in Blackpool’s situation, we do need a couple of new faces, but patience is a virtue. But I will be worried if we don’t get a goalkeeper, we need one. I heard Neuer is looking for a new club? (daydreams)

4) Who will be your key player this season?

Crofts. When he is back. That is, if he can get to the form he had before his injury, if he can, he will be vital. Last season we really showed we needed him. I just hope he can recover that form.

5) If you could sign one more player, within reason, who would it be?

The problem with that question is the ‘Within reason’ bit. But I’ve got a player in my head, it’s realistic…and it begins with…Aye Aye Ashley Ashley Barnes…joking aside we desperately need a goalkeeper to replace butterfingers Brezovan and anxious Ankergren, so David Stockdale I wouldn’t cry over.

Summary: A highly rated young manager is the perfect man to let build a ‘project’ at Brighton. Project’s take time to complete. Brighton would do no harm to themselves if they lowered expectations for just one season. 10th 


Cardiff City 

There was one thing David Marshall couldn’t stop at the Cardiff City Stadium last season- booing. They were all at it. The fans. Old Vinny Tan himself. Jordan Mutch probably booed the tea lady when she only put one sugar in his tea. wrgwg weg ewg w

What was meant to be an enjoyable first season in the Premier League, a reward for putting up with Tan’s shirt changing antics, turned into yet more turmoil. The unwarranted and largely unfair dismissal of Malky MacKay, the dire defeats under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that led to a tame relegation and Vincent Tan being Vincent Tan made it a season that most Cardiff fans would rather just forget ever happened.

And now they must attempt to get out of the Championship, a division they famously tried and failed to escape from on several occasions, in arguably a weaker, or at least more disorganised, position than they’ve been in before. Uncertainty reins.

The Manager – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The jury’s still out on whether the former Manchester United super sub is the right man to take the Bluebirds forward; the forward that Cardiff fans understand, not the forward that gives Tan more power.

Results failed to improve under the Norwegian, performances were largely discouraging and the heroics of ‘keeper Marshall often kept Cardiff’s defeats to a sensible margin. Should the Bluebirds begin this season how they ended the last, Tan will be dismissing another boss early on in the season.

However, Solskjaer’s record at Molde was excellent, winning two title and a Norwegian cup. Surely he’ll come good?

Transfer Business

With relegation comes unavoidable losses; Steven Caulker, Frazier Campbell and Gary Medel, who looks set for a move to Italy, were always going to depart. There will of course be groans that players of such quality have left the club, but the departures themselves are not the issue; it’s how those players are replaced.

Campbell has been replaced several times over. In fact, if I was offered Campbell or Cardiff new boy Adam Le Fondre, I’d choose the former Reading forward. While Campbell may be the more complete package, Le Fondre is a guaranteed 15-20 goals a season. In addition Federico Macheda, after failing to score for Manchester United and three loan clubs over the course of a three-year league goal draught, proved himself to be an adequate goalscorer at this level, notching three for Doncaster and ten for Birmingham, and he joins alongside prolific Spanish striker Javi Guerra, who had agreed a move from Valladolid in February.

Elsewhere, Kagisho Dikgacoi, a hard worker in Crystal Palace’s midfield during their promotion winning season, comes in to replace Gary Medel, who failed to make an impression in a Cardiff shirt despite his World Cup exploits.

It’s just that, well, no one at the club seems to think it would be a good idea to replace Caulker, leaving an already less than impressive back four looking a little weak…

The Squad

Cardiff conceded 74 goals last season. That’s 74 goals conceded with arguably the league’s best ‘keeper between the sticks; 74 could have easily been 104. In fairness, the back four missed the leadership of Mark Hudson, injured for the season, while John Brayford should have a big impact at this level after being shunned last season, but it still comes as a surprise that the back four hasn’t been strengthened. Another top-end Championship centre back and a full-back wouldn’t go amiss, nor would keeping Marshall locked away underground until the beginning of September.

However, if the defence can be strengthened, Cardiff would arguably have one of the strongest squads in the division. If not, then they’ll probably go for the ‘you score four, we’ll score five’ approach, given the wealth of creative options, Jordan Mutch, Craig Noone and Mats Moller Daehli the standouts, and decent finishers at their disposal.

Fans View: Dean Rood 

1) Has the season in the Premier League made you stronger as a club, with the potential to get back into the top flight at the first attempt, or was it really just a case of selling your soul for one Premier League season?

In terms of stability, we are in a far worse position now than we were pre-Premier League. The promised debt > equity scenario is yet to have happened and we’ve now added further debt by increasing the stadium, recruiting new players and also taking losses on players we over spent on under the rein of Malky Mackay. In terms of progression, I think we are taking all the right steps forward to get our Premier League status back as soon as possible. We’ve spent well in the transfer market and also shipped out a lot of the dead wood. Vincent Tan has a massive role to play in Cardiff’s short stay in the top flight and from now on, I think he’s better off leaving the footballing stuff to his right hand men.

2) How much pressure is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under given his failure to make an impression last season and Vincent Tan’s trigger happy finger?

Last season there was very little pressure on OGS. He was working with Malky’s players, results weren’t exactly thriving and we seemed to play for 0-0’s and the odd set piece every game. With the sacking of MM and the hiring of OGS came a whole different philosophy. We went from defend, defend, defend to attack, attack, attack. Majorly neglecting an already shaky back line in sacrifice of a strong attack saw us ship more goals than we did under MM but on the other hand, we scored more. I think now that OGS has had two transfer windows and a full pre-season the pressure is very much on. His own players and his own moulded philosophy, so no excuses. He needs to deliver or I fear he’ll get the chop after Christmas.

3) In a squad that seems somewhat forward heavy and lacking options at the back, how crucial is it to keep a hold of David Marshall?

You’re right, we seem to be over-run with attacking options and lacking in defensive options. There’s players who didn’t feature much last season, the likes of Hudson and Brayford who can be key to our defence this season. I think keeping hold of Marshall is key. With no bias intended I think he was arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League last season and since the sacking of Dave Jones, has dramatically improved as the seasons progress. A back five of Marshall, Brayford, Cala, Hudson and Fabio is very strong, with the likes of Turner and young Declan John as adequate replacements.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

Definitely Jordon Mutch. As the season went on Mutch went from strength to strength. He’s calm on the ball, likes to drive forward and can really link up well with the strikers, he’s one player every Cardiff fan is excited to see and I’m definitely one of them. A young talent who is hungry to succeed.

5) If you could sign one more player, within reason, who would it be?

I think we are there or there abouts regarding signings now, but as you mentioned earlier we are a little short in the defensive department, so I’d like to see us go in for Harry Maguire of Sheffield United. A very strong centre half and still very young. A raw player with plenty of potential. Could link up well with Brayford too after his short stint on loan with the Blades.

Summary: This is going one of two ways. Solskjaer proves himself and Cardiff come good, or Solskjaer fails, Cardiff have a new manager in by January and the season is effectively wasted. Inclined to lean towards the first option. 6th


Charlton Athletic

Few clubs can claim to have experienced as much change as Charlton in the past six months. Even fewer have such a divided fan base.ehergergergergergerhe

On the one hand, there’s those who are delighted with what Roland Duchatelet has done since the Belgian took over the club in January. The Addicks, after all, maintained their Championship status, now have a degree of financial stability and Duchatelet has exploited his network of clubs, in addition to recruiting from elsewhere, to improve Charlton’s squad for the coming season. The Valley’s also had £1m’s worth of work done to it.

On the other, there’s those who are disillusioned with goings on at The Valley. The controversial sacking of Chris Powell was followed by his unwarranted ditching of Jose Riga, the man who kept Charlton in the Championship, while key player after key player has departed. In addition, Duchatelet’s network system has plenty of critics, while the owner attempted to influence team selection by pressuring Powell and Riga to play his largely dire January signings. There’s also been a failure to communicate with fan groups, and no explanation of plans or ambitions.

There is, however, a middle ground. Excited by positives, worried by the negatives. Willing to go along with it all, but not totally convinced Duchatelet or his model will work out. Certain either Powell or Riga should still be in the job, but unwilling to write off new head coach Bob Peeters. Angered by the departures of key players, but looking forward to seeing the new recruits in action. The cautious optimists.

There’s at the very least some intrigue as to how this season will pan out for the Addicks.

The Head Coach – Bob Peeters 

Big Belgian bloke. Coached a few mediocre Belgian sides, impressing at some and under performing at others. Once played for Millwall and wasn’t very good. There’s some talk he likes to get his sides playing football in the right way. Apart from that, there isn’t a lot that can be said about Peeters.

Regardless, Charlton’s new boss has an unenviable task on his hands; to gel a diverse squad containing a number of players who will need to adapt to English football. On top of that, there’s likely to be pressure from supporters, who have witnessed two well liked managers depart in unsavoury circumstances, expecting something big from the big Belgian, and even more pressure from Duchatelet, who will want results and may well attempt to influence team selection again.

Either way, the 12-month contract Peeters has means he wont be in SE7 long if the Addicks are near the foot of the table.

Transfer Business

There is no doubt Charlton’s squad needed a face lift, especially in the final third were the curse of Bradley Pritchard’s finishing seemed to have infected every Addick. But the club’s reluctance to make player contracts a matter of urgency over the course of two successive ownerships means some important players have departed for little or nothing.

It seemed pretty clear that the likes of Dorian Dervite and Ben Hamer, not to mention Yann Kermorgant in January, would have stayed put had their contract situations been dealt with appropriately, whilst, at the very least, a bigger fee could have been demanded for starlet Diego Poyet.

Nonetheless, the Addicks have moved quickly to rebuild a squad that lost 15 men over the course of the summer. That’s especially true in the forward positions, an area that needed addressing with Charlton scoring just 41 times last season, and that was bumped up by ten in their final four games. Igor Vetokele, who will be looking to live up this reported £1.8m price, joins with some pedigree from Copenhagen, while highly rated winger-cum-forward Johann (if you say it quickly enough, it’s sort of like Yann) Berg Gudmundsson arrives from AZ Alkmaar. Franck Moussa, who scored 14 goals for Coventry last season, has also been snapped up.

At the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Stephen Henderson is a solid replacement for Ben Hamer, while Andre Bikey, if not the most technically gifted defender, offers some brute force at the back.

They’ve also exploited their Standard Liege link to sign midfielder Yoni Buyens, a replacement for Poyet, forward George Tucudean and defender Tal Ben Haim, presumably in the name of entertaining opposition supporters with his unique brand of comedy defending.

However, few Addicks will be carried away until they’ve seem their new signings in action. The players that Duchatelet recruited in January failed to adapt to the English game, including Piotr Parzyszek, a reported £900K replacement for Kermorgant, and the majority of those won’t be appearing in a Charlton shirt this season.

The Squad

Arguably, amidst the large turnover of players, the most important element among Charlton’s squad will be those who have remained in SE7.

First of all, there’s relative Valley veterans. Chris Solly, when fit, and Rhoys Wiggins, when on form, are two of the best full-backs in the division, while the influence of Michael Morrison, who recently signed a new deal, across the back line will be crucial.

Then there’s the academy graduates. Callum Harriott and Jordan Cousins showed glimpses of their ability last season, and will be looking to be more consistent this term, while the slightly older Lawrie Wilson had a storming season in place of Chris Solly, and will now be looking to make the right wing spot his own. Elsewhere, 17-year-old Joe Gomez, who impressed with the England U17s this summer, will be looking to break into the side.

Finally, there’s a a leader. In fact, there’s arguably no better leader in the division than Johnnie Jackson. Not only does he martial his troops superbly, at times last season telling Morgan Fox and Harriott what positions to take up, but he could also inspire a tortoise to out-sprint Usain Bolt. In gelling this bits and pieces side together, Jackson will be crucial to Charlton’s season.

Fans View – Jon Brand

1) Two managers dismissed in controversial circumstances just half a year into Roland Duchetelet’s rein, how much pressure is on both Duchatelet and Bob Peeters for Charlton to have a successfully season?

I think Duchatelet needs a successful season to silence his critics (of which I am one) and get the club moving in the right direction again after dividing the fan base with the two managerial changes so far. I think Peeters seems under less pressure with more of the attention focused on Duchatelet and his network model.  Hopefully we won’t be in a relegation scrap again and that we can go through the season without changing manager.

2) Key player after key player has departed, but some of the signings Charlton have made appear to be quite exciting. How do you assess your transfer dealings overall?

Although I was disappointed to lose Poyet and other players, this summer has surpassed my expectations and I’m cautiously optimistic right now. Key players have been replaced, whether the new signings are better than some of last year’s squad remains to be seen, but signing players like Gudmundsson and Vetoleke shows intent from Duchatelet. Hopefully Bob Peeters can get the team to gel and play his way.

“this summer has surpassed my expectations and I’m cautiously optimistic right now”

3) Will the players who have remained at the club play a big role, or will they be side-lined?

Chris Solly, Michael Morrison and Rhoys Wiggins will make up three of Charlton’s back four and will play a key role once again. In midfield there is competition for places with the new signings arriving and it’s difficult to predict Peeters’ strongest midfield. Skipper Johnnie Jackson will play a crucial role again this season with his leadership and experience and his habit of scoring important goals. Up front I doubt Simon Church will play much of a role with Igor Vetoleke and George Tucudean ahead of him.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

Big things are expected from Johann Berg Gudmundsson, signed on a free from AZ Alkmaar which seems a real coup. The Icelandic international has a lethal left foot and has scored some stunning goals (on his YouTube compilation video) and scored a hat trick for Iceland against Switzerland in World Cup qualification. Hopefully he’ll provide us with creativity and be a real star player in the championship next season.

5) If you could sign one more player, within reason, who would it be?

Can I say Yann Kermorgant? Yann Kermorgant then. If not, I’d like to see us sign Sam Baldock from Bristol City.

Summary: Like putting your faith in a ten-fold accumulator, there’s far too many variables that need to work out favourably for Charlton to enjoy relative success this season. Comfortable survival would be enough for most supporters, but would it be enough for Duchatelet? 17th


Derby County

If football worked in such a way that meant you always got what you deserved, the Rams would currently be preparing for life in the Premier League. Instead, Richard Keogh has filled several wells across six Ethiopian towns and Derby fans are still scratching their heads as to how their dominant displaying against QPR in the play-off final wasn’t enough to win them promotion to the Premier League.gergergergergeger

The challenge for the Rams this season will be to avoid following in the footsteps of other losing play-off finalists and not struggle in the season after. Some call it a ‘play-off hangover’, implying that the biggest impact on those losing finalists is based around confidence. However, largely it’s do with important players departing and the squad being a fraction weaker. But the Rams have managed to keep their side together.

If Derby’s squad is hungover, it’ll still be better than most in the division.

The Manager – Steve McClaren

Oh how they laughed. The Wally with a Brolly in to replace Nigel Clough; a has-been who has ruined his reputation for a young coach full of potential. Nottingham Forest fans howled, having experienced McClaren themselves, and planed their Derby relegation parties.

But the former England boss, who also didn’t unanimously excite Derby supporters, quickly proved the doubters wrong. No team in the division scored more than Derby’s 84; a tally achieved as a result of the brutal attacking football McClaren had his side playing.

In fact, there was division wide acceptance that Derby were the best footballing side as the season grew to a close. Their demolition of Brighton was a joy to watch, and the pressure they applied in the play-off final might well have counted for more on another day.

McClaren’s task this season is a simple one. Lift heads and get his side playing the opposition off the park once again.

Transfer Business

The key for Derby was keeping such a promising squad together, but the additions they’ve made have been smart.

Defender Cyrus Christie joins from Coventry having impressed for the Sky Blues over the past few seasons, and will cover for the loss of Andre Wisdom who has returned to Liverpool, while the arrival of a host of promising youngsters, including former Arsenal man Alban Bunjaku, gives the Rams strength in depth.

It’s just a shame that George Thorne, signed for £2m after impressing on loan last season, has been ruled out for the season. It would appear McClaren is hoping to sign Nathan Ake on a season long loan from Chelsea, which would go some way to filling the void left by the former West Brom man.

The Squad

It’s good. Really good. In fact, as they proved last season, Derby’s side is capable of being the best in the division.

The 4-3-3 used by McClaren for much of the season accommodates Derby’s best XI perfectly, with the front of three of Jamie Ward, Johnny Russell and Chris Martin exceptionally good. You only need to see how easily the trio tore apart Brighton in the play-off semi-final last season to see just how potent they can be.

The midfield is packed with playmakers, not least the impressive Craig Bryson and 19-year-old Will Hughes, while the back four is solid, regardless of Keogh’s error in the play-off final. They also have one of the division’s best ‘keepers in the form of Lee Grant.

If you had to pick a fault with it, it’s that there isn’t enough cover for the forward players; a few injuries and suddenly Derby will be asking Conor Sammon to score their goals.

Regardless, in what will be their first full season under McClaren, this is a squad capable of winning the division.

Fans View: Kristian Haynes

1) Without wanting to remind you of that painful day back in May, losing play-off finalists often struggle to mount a serious promotion challenge in the following season. Are you confident Derby can buck that trend?

Yes, of course. We have kept most of our play off final squad together so I’m very confident we can be a success this season.

“I’m very confident we can be a success this season”

2) You’ve made some decent signings, but is it more important that you’ve kept such a promising side together?

Like I said previously, keeping a strong squad together is key. Look at what Southampton have done with pretty much the same team for many years, that’s what we’re aiming to do with Derby.

3) Last time you achieved promotion to the Premier League, it appeared to set you back a few years. Are you ready for the top flight now should you achieve promotion?

Definitely. The club are in a far better place now, on and off the pitch. The foundations are there to have a very successful future.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

I think Craig Bryson. He was key to our success last season.

5) If you could sign one more player, within reason, who would it be?

A similar sort of player to Jack Cork on a season long loan. With George Thorne recently ruled out for the season we need someone with the same quality to full the defensive midfield role.

Summary: How the Rams begin the season will be crucial. Stutter, and there’s every chance they’ll become another team who failed to recover after a play-off final defeat. Get off to a flyer, and they’ll be right up there. 1st


Fulham 

Turning a well-run, overachieving club into something of a state in less than 12 months is quite an impressive feat. It’s something that Shahid Khan, after taking over from Mohamed Al-Fayed in July last year, managed to achieve.wegwe gweg wg weg

While the Cottagers had diced with relegation before, rarely had you been able to question decisions from the top of the club, and even less often was the owner so strongly criticised. Becoming the first Premier League club to go through three permanent managers in one season since Charlton in 2006/07, Fulham’s relegation season was as chaotic off the pitch as it was on it.

Even Khan’s attempts to appease fans by bringing down that awful Michael Jackson statue didn’t have much of an impact. It was replaced by Konstantinos Mitroglou shortly after.

The comparisons with Charlton aren’t bad ones to make, and Kahn will be hoping Felix Magath and co. can prevent Fulham from free-falling through the leagues.

The Manager – Felix Magath 

Everyone’s favourite part-time Penfold impersonator may not have been able to keep Fulham in the Premier League, but his character and charisma made him a popular figure.

There were also some positive signs on the pitch towards the end of the season that, despite some disconcerting voices over the summer, will have Fulham fans hopefully of an immediate return to the top flight.

In fact, Magath’s commitment to notions of physical fitness and effort seem suited to this division. A determined and hard working side often reap some rewards over the course of this gruelling 46 game season.

Transfer Business

A plethora of bang average journeymen have left Craven Cottage, which is no bad thing, and Konstantinos Mitroglou will no doubt depart before the end of August, again, no bad thing, but the outs have left Fulham a little weak on the ground. At the time of writing, the Cottagers have just one ‘keeper and are lacking central midfield options.

There have, however, been moves to cover for those losses. The defence has been completely remoulded, with Tim Hoogland, Kostas Stafylidis and Kay Voser arriving from the continent in addition to Shaun Hutchinson, who has joined from Motherwell. Not necessarily household names, but players with decent enough records to be considered solid signings. Nonetheless, Fulham still look a little short of numbers at the back, and an extra defensive addition or two wouldn’t go a miss.

Elsewhere, winger Adil Chihi has been snapped up from Koln, who he represented over 100 times, while promising youngster Thomas Eisfeld joins from Arsenal. Adam Taggart, a 21-year-old Australian striker, has also arrived from Newcastle Jets.

Then there’s the £11m spent on Ross McCormack. The transfer fee has drawn plenty of criticism, but few Fulham fans will complain if the forward’s goals lead the club back to the Premier League.

The Squad 

There was always an impression that once Fulham, arguably the Premier League’s smallest club during their 12 year stay in the top flight, finally suffered the relegation they apparently deserved, they wouldn’t come back.

But, in a rare positive from last season, the youngsters blooded in towards the end of the campaign have given the Cottagers not only hope of an immediate return to the top flight, but a bright future.

Fulham’s U18 side has been successful for several years, and now those players are of an age where they can display their ability in the first team. Dan Burn, a central defender who impressed on loan at Birmingham last season, Patrick Roberts, a winger who was sensational for England’s U17s in the summer, and Moussa Dembele, a pacey and prolific forward, are among the most highly rated.

The downside, however, is that it’s fair to say Fulham may well become over reliant on youngsters, making the role of experienced players, such as Scott Parker and Bryan Ruiz, all the more important. Either way, Fulham’s future looks an exciting one with such a talented crop of players.

Fans View: David Field 

1) Do Brede Hangeland’s recent comments about Felix Magath have you a little concerned or are you confident the German can take you back to the Premier League at the first attempt?

Not at all, I have known about Magath since 2009 when he led Wolfsburg to the Bundesliga title. I have known about his style of management for many years and a lot of his ex-players say the exact same things as Hangeland has. I’m slightly concerned but I very much hope he is the man to take us back up.

2) The emergence of a number of promising youngsters made last season at least slightly more bearable, how crucial will they be during this campaign?

Spot on, last season was horrible bar the introduction of youngsters such as Moussa Dembélé, Patrick Roberts, Chris David, Lasse Vigen Christensen etc. I think some will have a bigger impact than others, for example Chris David, who looks to be our replacement for Mousa Dembélé who left in 2012.

3) Ross McCormack. £11m. Discuss.

I can see why the club went for McCormack, top goalscorer in the Championship last season in a struggling side, along with many assists and is also a good leader on the pitch. The £11m is based on performance add-ons with £7m being the up-front fee, not that it makes it any better but if he scores the goals to get us back to the big time, will the transfer still be questioned? I don’t think so. So overall I’m happy with the transfer.

“if he scores the goals to get us back to the big time, will the transfer still be questioned?”

4) Who will be your key player this season?

I’m going to go for Ross McCormack for obvious reasons, experience, goals, assists, leadership. Other important players are Scott Parker, Dan Burn and Kostas Stafylidis.

5) If you could make one more signing, within reason, who would it be?

I think it would be Massimo Luongo. Very decent player at Swindon and he’s one I’d like to see at Fulham. Would add good energy to an already talented midfield.

Summary: In a better place to bounce straight back to the top flight than some would have you believe, and Magath’s nous and McCormack’s goals give them an advantage, but the squad’s inexperience and size might well mean Fulham full just short. 7th


Huddersfield Town

Never too high; never too low. At no point last season did Huddersfield seriously threaten the top half of the table nor the bottom three. A success, of sorts, given that the Terriers only survived on the final day of their 2012/13 campaign.gergergregerg

But this will be Huddersfield’s third season of Championship football, and there’s an expectation that now would be the time to start looking up as oppose to worrying about surviving.

The Manager – Mark Robins

A Robins side won’t be organised into a quirky formation, nor will Robins appear on the touchline as if he’s just fallen out of a Topman dressing room, but the old-fashioned boss gets the job done.

At Rotherham, he almost got the club into the League Two play-offs despite a 17 point deduction, at Barnsley, he kept the club in the Championship year after year, and at Coventry his 51% win percentage says it all.

Keeping Huddersfield in the Championship for two consecutive seasons is not be sniffed at, either, but he himself will now be looking to move his side forward. It’s arguably his toughest task.

Transfer Business

Worryingly quiet for a club that has top half ambitions. Joe Murphy, signed from Coventry, is unlikely to be anything more than back up to Alex Smithies, while Lee Peltier failed to impress at Leeds.

However, the signing of Radoslaw Majewski, on loan from Nottingham Forest, is a superb addition. A playmaker who, when on song, is one of the most creative players in the division. A few more signings of that nature before the season starts and Huddersfield won’t be in a bad place at all.

The Squad

While several teams in the division hunt desperately for a 15-goal-a-season forward, the Terriers can boast two strikers capable of notching upwards of 20.

If, and it’s a bit if, James Vaughan can go a whole season without injury and Nahki Wells can build on some promising displays during the final half of last season, then Huddersfield will be consistent scorers.

When you also consider their creativity in midfield, Danny Ward, Adam Clayton and youngster Duane Holmes especially, they’re a force going forward.

However, Huddersfield’s problem is twofold. First, if an injury were to occur to either of their front men, Jon Stead is dangerously close to getting game time. Secondly, both in terms of quality and numbers, their options at the back don’t inspire confidence. With goals likely to go in at the other end, one of their forwards being absent for a lengthy period of time could seriously hinder any top half ambitions Huddersfield may have.

Fans View: Matthrew Reaks 

1) After two seasons as a Championship club, is it time to push on and look for a top half finish or would safety again be enough?

Definitely. After surviving on the final day in our first season in the Championship, and finishing comfortably in the bottom half last season, anything from 14th down would be deemed a poor season in most fans’ eyes.

“anything from 14th down would be deemed a poor season in most fans’ eyes”

2) From what you saw of Nahki Wells in the second half of last season, could he bas prolific as Jordan Rhodes was for you given a full campaign?

Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Rhodes is an exceptional finisher and his eye for goal was amazing. Wells can hit the 25 goal mark, but the fitness and form of James Vaughan will be key for Wells.

3) With speculation mounting, how devastating would it be to lose Adam Clayton, and specifically Adam Clayton’s beard?

The beard has already gone, but to lose Clayton would be a step backwards. We should be looking to build around the key players in the squad, not sell and replace.

4) Who will be your key player this season?

I think Clayton could be a key figure again having stood out last season. Duane Holmes could also play a massive part. Young, quick and can pick a through ball, if he can become stronger and work on his finishing he could become a key player.

5) If you could sign one more player, within reason, who would it be?

It’s hard to pick out an individual, but we need a centre attacking midfielder.

Summary: They’ll score goals at home, they’ll score goals away, they’re probably scoring goals as you read this (it’s James Vaughan, this time). The forward line will be enough to keep them away from danger, but, overall, the squad doesn’t look strong enough to push on. 16th


Click HERE for Part Three

Click HERE for Part Four

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