From prematurely invading the Madjeski Stadium pitch to hoping that each reported takeover would lead to a buy out of the club quickly, it’s been several months of crushed hope for the Royals.
Had Leonardo Ulloa not scored in the last minute for Brighton to pip Reading to the final play-off place, the Berkshire club might well be preparing for a season of Premier League football with a wealthy owner dishing out the cash to improve their squad.
Instead, a weakened squad will represent Reading in the Championship this season, with the takeover by Asian consortium surely occurring too late for Nigel Adkins to improve his squad to the required level for a promotion push.
Nonetheless, that the takeover is about to be ratified is in itself a cause for celebration at the Mad Stad. A season without a charge towards the top six will be considerably more bearable with the club’s future secure.
The Manager – Nigel Adkins
It may well appear to be the case than Reading face a relatively tough season, but that won’t deter the ever ambitious and confident Adkins.
The former Southampton boss has a CV filled with success, two promotions with the Saints and keeping Scunthorpe in the Championship as noteworthy as each other, and did enough last season to convince most Royals that he’s the right man for the job.
At the very least, a potentially troublesome campaign gives Adkins a chance to practice his clichés. Not that he needs an excuse.
Few, if any, club in the Championship can claim to have had a worse summer in terms of transfer activity. Out go eleven, including Adam Le Fondre, Jobi McAnuff and Kaspars Gorkss, in come none.
It’s left Reading somewhat depleted, and time is effectively out for a competitive squad to be built, even with the takeover set to be completed within the next few days.
As small as Reading’s squad may be, there remains an element of quality within it. The likes of goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, newly made captain Jem Karacan and winger Garath McClearly would get into most sides in the division. In fact, you could pick an XI that would be relatively competitive.
However, beyond that, there’s not a lot. Reinforcements are especially needed in attack, where pressure will be on Pavel Pogrebnyak to stay fit and Nick Blackman to stay in form, while injury or suspension to Alex Pearce or Sean Morrison would leave the Royals in a desperate state at the back.
Fans View: Adam Tucker
1) Given how late your much needed takeover occurred, and the lack of incoming transfer activity, is this season something of a write off or do you have faith you can build a competitive squad quickly?
This season is definitely a write off. Mid-table is the expectation, however there is plenty of promise in our youth players to perform and excel this season since so many will get the chance. Wouldn’t expect a squad to be built properly until next season now.
“This season is definitely a write off”
2) You’ve lost several first-team players, who are you most disappointed to lose?
Toss-up between Jobi McAnuff and Adam Le Fondre. We will miss Jobi’s work rate, passion and leadership, and we will definitely miss the goals that Alfie brought to the table considering as it stands we have one recognised striker.
3) Is Nigel Adkins the right man to take your forward?
100%. Already proven his reputation of bringing through academy players well in the emergence of Jordan Obita last season, and I feel given time, with financial support, he’ll build the team to take us back up and hopefully stay up.
4) Who will be your key player this season?
Garath McCleary is a stand out. Obviously scored some very memorable goals last season, most notably against QPR and Burnley, and is a constant attacking threat; had double figures in assists last season. There is also Jordan Obita; player of the season last season and looks as if he’ll only develop more and more.
5) If you could make one realistic signing, who would it be?
Hard to say what a “realistic” signing is in our situation as no one knows what the new Asian Consortium in charge will bring to the table in terms of funds; hopefully enough to build. We are in desperate need of strikers and I like the look of Joe Mason from Cardiff. Clever little player and still quite young. Would work well with Pogrebnyak.
Summary: The takeover means Reading fans can relax with the future of their club secured. They would also do well to take a relaxed approach to this campaign, and come back stronger next term. 15th
Six season ago, Rotherham were beginning their third in succession with a point deduction. Now the Millers will be looking for their third promotion in as many campaigns after following up their 2nd place in League Two two seasons ago with an incredible play-off victory over Leyton Orient last term.
It’s a sensational rise for a club who began the 2008/09 season playing at the Don Valley Stadium with -17 points. They now have their own stadium, the New York Stadium, and positivity is seeping out from every angle of the arena.
However, to expect another success season is asking far too much of Steven Evans and his side. But, if you were to ask Rotherham six years ago whether they would have taken their now stable club entering a season of struggle in the Championship, I’m sure they wouldn’t have said no.
Manager – Steve Evans
There are few men more disliked in football than Evans, and he probably loves it. Besides, the boisterous boss needn’t worry what others think of him when he’s enjoyed so much success at Rotherham.
There were no doubt those Millers who resented the appointment when Evans first took charge, and they had every right to, but two promotions has done more than enough to get the fans onside to Evans.
This season, however, will be a huge test for the former Crawley boss. He’s known little but success in recent years, but Evans might well be facing a difficult challenge down the other end of the table during this campaign.
Cleared the squad of players who had represented Rotherham in League Two (could you have imagined Kayode Odejayi back in the Championship?) and replaced them with players who are desperately clinging onto careers as second tier footballers.
Goalkeeper Scott Loach and full-back Frazer Richardson look the pick of the bunch, while the loan signing of England U19 international John Swift is a risk free addition, but it’s fairly uninspiring thereafter. Jordan Bowery, a £250,000 signing from Aston Villa, seems like a huge gamble, as does Febian Brandy, while Richard Wood and Matt Debyshire were hardly impressive for Charlton and Nottingham Forest last season.
Yes, there’s Championship experience. But it would appear experience has been signed for the sake of experience. The anti-Brentford.
Possibly the weakest in the division. The core of this squad punched above their weight last season to sneak into the Championship, and to expect them to compete in the second tier is probably asking a bit too much.
Nonetheless, there’s a touch of quality going forward. Lee Frecklington and Ben Pringle provide a creative force, while Kieran Agard’s goalscoring instinct at least gives the Millers some hope of staying up.
Fans View: Danny_rufc
1) Six years ago, you were playing the less than comfortable Don Valley Stadium and started the season in League Two with a deduction of 17 points. Now your home is the modern New York Stadium and you’re preparing for life in the second tier. This must feel like a dream?
Most of us knew that we have the fan base to take us back to the championship it just took the right manager to get the right squad. But the first couple of times didn’t go really to plan so we thought it wasn’t meant to be, so to think we are about to kick off at Derby in couple of weeks really makes me think that we are dreaming and I just can’t wait to get started.
2) You’ve added to your squad with some experienced signings, could a little bit more than safety be achieved or are you not looking beyond that?
Some of the signings we have made haven’t been the high profile ones we thought we would get but at the same time we have strengthened with some real championship quality, so I think we shouldn’t have a problem with staying up. However if any football fan says they just want survival, they’re lying!
“we shouldn’t have a problem with staying up”
3) It’s fair to say that Steve Evans doesn’t have many friends in football. Were there reservations when he was first appointed and how do you feel about your boss now?
Everyone was well aware of his past and how it could make the club look, but frankly I love him now and I probably love him more because everyone else hates him so much. He’s done everything we could have asked for and more to get back to back promotions.
4) Who will be your key player this season?
Kieran Agard. His goals last season were vital and if the ball lands at his feet inside the box he’ll take those chances.
5) If you could sign on more player, within reason, who would it be?
I’m a little bit worried about the transfer fee involved, but Stevie May from St Johnstone. If not then a centre back with a bit of pace.
Summary: What Rotherham have achieved in the past few years is commendable, but the Championship looks to be a step too far. 23rd
Four months into last season, it seemed as if Wednesday were certainties for the drop. Just one win from their opening 16 games had left them 23rd, only off the foot of the table on goal difference.
But a change of manager brought about a change in performances and results; wins over Leicester, QPR and Brighton were three of 12 under Stuart Gray in the remaining 30 games. The Owls stayed up with such a buffer that a horrible end of season slump had no bearing on their league status whatsoever.
And now positivity has returned to the blue and white half of the Steel City. A takeover, although yet to be fully ratified, by Azerbaijani businessman Hafiz Mammadov might well mean Wednesday will finally be able to live up to their massive tag and compete with the bigger teams in the Championship.
The Manager – Stuart Gray
While it’s far too simple to say Gray’s appointment as manager, taking over Dave Jones, saved Wednesday from relegation to League One, his appointment certainly kicked the Owls into gear.
It’s also far too simple to blame Gray for Wednesday’s poor end of season form. Just one win from the final seven games put a dampener on the positivity the 54-year-old boss had created around Hillsborough.
Regardless, the majority of Wednesday fans have every confidence that Gray is the right for man. He will, however, have to prove himself again after that poor run, not least to the new owner.
The delay in Mammadov’s takeover going through has meant the Owls have been rather slow to bring in the reinforcements they need to improve their squad that diced so closely with relegation last season.
In fact, a number of crowd favourites have departed, leaving Wednesday with sizable gaps to fill. While it was arguably the right time for Red Johnson, Jermaine Jonson and Miguel Llera, among others to depart, not being able to add to the squad as they might have liked to replace those cult figures is incredibly disappointing.
The signings of Kieran Westwood, Sam Hutchinson, who impressed on loan last season, and Tom Lees at least plug some gaps at the back, but more additions will be needed for Wednesday to avoid being drawn into a relegation battle.
Worryingly short of numbers so close to the season getting underway. There’s certainly plenty of pacey options in wide positions, but there’s no depth to speak of elsewhere.
With Llera and Anthony Gardner among those who had departed, Glenn Loovens is lacking support at centre back, while the lack of genuine forwards is particularly worrying.
Chris Maguire and youngster Caolan Lavery are better suited to wide roles, but the pair might well have to provide support for Atdhe Nuhi without other options available.
Fans View: Joe Shemeld
1) You’ve recently been taken over by Hafiz Mammadov. How positive are you that his rein will bring success to the club or are there any concerns?
I think it’s the first time I’ve really been confident that we’ve got a good few seasons ahead of us. People are concerned with the RC Lens situation, and due to his homeland being a country we don’t know much about, but I am sure we’ll have a positive future under him.
“I think it’s the first time I’ve really been confident that we’ve got a good few seasons ahead of us”
2) You’ve lost plenty of long term Wednesday players this summer. Whilst it might be the case that it was time for a lot of those to move on, who were you most disappointed to lose?
I think all of them were right to leave as you say, I’m really going to miss the two Johnsons, Reda and Jermaine. JJ has to be the most exciting player I’ve seen at Wednesday, on his day he is as good as anyone, he’s given us some amazing memories and he loved every second at the club. Reda was a fan favourite; one of the nicest blokes you could meet.
3) Stuart Gray led you on a fantastic run last season to take you clear of trouble, but you ended the season in poor fashion. Are you confident he’s the man to take you forward?
Definitely, from what I saw last season we play some nice football under him, he’s not a strange one like Dave Jones, says what he means and comes across as quite intelligent. The way he turned us around was unbelievable, so I am fully confident we can have a decent season with him.
4) Who will be your key player this season?
There’s a fair few I think, we don’t really have one stand out player that is above the rest really. Kieran Lee if he stays fit probably, he’s found his place in centre midfield alongside Semedo, has the quality to pick out passes, just needs to score a few more!
5) If you could make one more signing, within reason, who would it be?
We’re in desperate need of a centre back or two, I’d take Roger Johnson at the minute, he was a solid player last season when he was here on loan, doesn’t look like it’s going to happen though.
Summary: The takeover might well have made Wednesday fans hopeful of a top half finish, but its delay has hindered them somewhat. Lower those expectations. 19th
The Championship has this funny knack of being a platform for inconsistency. Starting the season with one league defeat in nine, entering a midseason slump which contained just one win in 15, winning five straight home games without conceding and ending the season with four heavy defeats is the perfect portrayal of inconsistency.
As was the disparity between Watford’s home and away form; eleven wins to four. 13th place the perfect place for the inconsistent to perch.
But, after what can only be described as a disappointing season following Watford’s play-off final defeat in 2012/13, the Hornets look in better shape to find some consistency and stake a claim for a top six spot. A manager who has had time to adapt to the English game, mistakes from the previous campaign hopefully learn and an improved squad have the Vicarage Road faithful hoping.
The Manager – Giuseppe Sannino
With critics of Sannino focusing on those poor runs of form, and those who believe Sannino is the right man for the job looking at the better moments, it’s fair to say the jury remains out on the passionate Italian.
His biggest challenge will be to correct that horrendous away form. On paper, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the Hornets playing away from home like they do at Vicarage Road, but often it’s a physiological barrier that needs to be broken down when there’s such disparity.
No longer can he hide behind the idea that he’s settling in, and Watford fans will be demanding immediate success from Sannino this season.
Where in the past two seasons the Hornets have supplemented their squad with imports from the Pozo network, the majority of those brought into the club this summer have a wealth of experience in England.
However, the most impressive signing of all, despite having an excellent reputation in the Championship and at Vicarage Road, does come from Udinese. Matej Vydra, who scored 20 goals in 40 games for the Hornets two seasons ago, returns with all the excitement you would expect.
Elsewhere, a goalkeeper capable of a howler, Manuel Almunia, has been replaced by a goalkeeper capable of a howler, Heurelho Gomes, while Gabriel Tamas, Craig Cathcart and Keith Andrews add a bit of grit to Watford’s side and Lloyd Dyer, promoted with Leicester City last season, adds some flair.
Re-signing Daneil Tozser, who impressed at Vicarage Road last season, on loan from Parma is also an excellent body to add to the squad for this campaign, and, as you would expect, a pair of signings from the network, Ecuadorian international full-back Juan Carlos Paredes and Nigerian forward Odion Ighalo, increase the depth in already large squad.
With a fair amount of experienced quality, a number of homegrown youngsters and the more than occasional network signing, Watford’s squad is fairly well resourced.
It’s in attack where they look most threatening, with Vydra and Troy Deeney pairing having the potential to be the best in the division, while the likes of Fernando Forestieri and Mathias Ranegie provide alternative options.
There’s also plenty of options in midfield, with the fit again Almen Abdi and Lewis McGugan particularly impressive, while Ikechi Anya will provide a threat from the wing-back position in Watford’s 3-5-2 formation.
The defence will be led by Gabriele Angella and Joel Ekstrand, while youngster Tommie Hoban will be hoping to break into the starting XI this season.
Fans View: Richard Pegden
1) Your away form was horrendous last season, preventing any hopes of a top six finish. What does Giuseppe Sannino have to do get you winning away from home again?
On the face of it, this one is fairly simple. We were good at taking the lead away from home last season but lousy at holding onto it. We often sat back too much on a lead, defending way too deep, and that’s what needs to change. We’re best going forward & we need to keep playing the way that has given us the lead, rather than sitting back.
2) Your transfer dealings have been as impressive as any club in the division, are you confident you’ll be back up near the top of the division this season?
Last season, we were all very confident, perhaps even arrogant, that we’d walk the Championship so I won’t be making that mistake again! We had talent last season but some players lacked the heart and fight that is needed in this division. The players we’ve brought in over the summer appear at this stage to have the qualities needed – they know the division, have the heart and the fight. I’m quietly confident we can challenge but I’m not making the same mistakes as last season & thinking we’re going to walk it!
“I’m quietly confident we can challenge”
3) Does re-signing Matej Vydra mean Troy Deeney leaving the club could be coped with, or is it vital you have the pair playing together?
To be honest, the answer is both. I’d class Vydra as the more talented player but Deeney as the one with more heart, more fight, more guts. Both of them together would frighten any defence in this division so if we can keep them together, it would be a huge plus. At the time of writing my gut feel is that we’ll struggle to keep hold of Troy but financially we don’t have to sell so who knows what might happen?
4) Who will be your key player this season?
That’s a tough one. There’s a number of talented players in the squad. The obvious ones are Vydra or Deeney, if we hold onto him. Less obvious to non-Watford fans would perhaps be Almen Abdi, who was fantastic 2 seasons ago & we missed hugely through injury last season. If I had to pick one, I’d pick Abdi
5) If you could sign one more player, within reason, who would it be?
Our squad is already bloated so I’m expecting a number of players to go out on loan. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Leicester and Burnley used the fewest amount of players in the division last season so my preference is for a smaller, tight-knit squad willing to fight for each other. However, if there was one more player that we could bring in it would be another goalkeeper as we only have 2 right now.
Summary: While there are doubts about Sannino, Watford are in a much better position to challenge for the top six this season. 8th
Wigan’s season certainly wasn’t a failure; far from it, in fact. To get so close to defending their FA Cup crown, losing on penalties to Arsenal in the semi-final, and to be an extra-time defeat away from another trip to Wembley in the play-offs was a fantastic achievement for a club that not only had to bounce back from relegation but also a dire start to the season.
Nonetheless, there was a sense of disappointment among Latics that their charge on two fronts fell at the final hurdle on both counts. The form Wigan found themselves in in the second half of the season was imperious; such was the manner Uwe Rolser had his side playing in, there’s an argument more was deserved than being last season’s nearly men.
At the very least, those performances under Rosler have given Wigan supporters plenty of hope for this coming campaign.
The Manager – Uwe Rosler
Owen Coyle seemed to be helping Wigan fulfil their self-fulfilling prophecy last season. A club that was, apparently, too small for the Premier League and then had to deal with a European competition on top of that was never going to gain promotion.
But when Coyle was replaced Brentford boss Uwe Rosler, Wigan became a changed side. They were full of confidence, decimated sides and went on incredible run of ten wins from twelve.
While they might have just fell short in the play-offs, there were plenty of positives to be taken. The German not only had Wigan winning, but playing an excellent brand of football that exploited their wide threat. A full season of that will make the Lactics a serious force.
Losing your best player after a play-off failure is usually the catalyst for a complete self-destruction. But the loss of Jordi Gomez, however big it may be, has been coped with well.
The signings of Don Cowie, a steady performer for Cardiff, and Emyr Huws, a promising young playmaker who impressed at Birmingham last season, seem adequate, if not exciting, replacements for the Spaniard.
Elsewhere, a forward line that, at times, failed to fire last season has been improved with the signing of prolific Spanish striker Oriol Riera from Osasuna, while Andrew Taylor, James Tavernier and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, a 23-year-old previously at Partick Thistle, give the Latics a wealth of full-back options.
One of the most complete squads in the division. There’s quality within the starting XI, strength in depth throughout and even Grant Holt playing the role of mascot.
Scott Carson, Ali Al-Habsi and youngster Lee Nicholls give the Latics three excellent options in goal, while Gary Caldwell and Emmerson Boyce form part of a solid looking back four.
In midfield, James McArthur plays the deep-lying playmaker role superbly, with fellow Mcs, Callum McManaman and James McClean, providing creativity out wide.
Up top, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Martyn Waghorn will provide support for Riera, along with the option to slot injury-hit Shaun Maloney just behind the front man.
Fans View: Joe Brady
1) For a period, you were the division’s inform team under Uwe Rosler last season. Does a full season under the German make you confident you’ll achieve promotion?
Yes. I’m very confident we’ll achieve promotion with a full season under Rosler.
“I’m very confident we’ll achieve promotion”
2) You’ve made some excellent signings, how happy are you with the state of your squad?
I’m quite happy with the signings. We’ve bought a striker in Riera who scores goals, which is particularly important considering that’s an area we’ve been lacking in for a few seasons now.
3) How big a loss will Jordi Gomez be? Who will replace him as your game changer?
He’ll be a big miss, but Ben Watson or Roger Espinoza will slot into that gap perfectly.
4) Who will be your key player this season?
It’s a tough one. There’s lots of important players within the squad. Riera, Boyce, McArthur and Watson will all be key.
5) If you could make one more realistic signing, who would it be?
I think we need another striker, so someone like Chris Wood, Patrick Bamford or Ricardo Vaz Te would be ideal.
Summary: As impressive as any other side in the division last season and they’ve improved their squad. They’ll be battling for an automatic promotion spot. 3rd
A league title, 31 league wins and a record tally of 103 points; Wolves bounced back from a successive relegation in emphatic style.
But, the infamous pitch invasions aside, the celebrations didn’t match the achievement. The players didn’t even get the chance to attend a civic reception in their club tracksuits, no one bothered to get a double decker bus painted in Wolves colours and the League One trophy is laying underneath Jamie O’Hara’s Wolves shirt.
To those at Molineux, last season was simply a case of job done; nothing more, nothing less. An immediate return to the Championship was the minimum expectation. Being competitive in the second tier will be something worth celebrating.
The Manager – Kenny Jackett
It’s easy to dismiss the job Jackett did at Wolves last season. In fact, most have. He had a decent Championship squad and led them to promotion in League One; every teenage lad who dismisses the idea of hunting females in favour of playing Football Manager will believe they could have achieved the same.
But Jackett got a side who only knew how to lose to win again. He got the experienced players to play at their best again, and blooded in promising youngsters. By the end of the season, Wolves were not only winning, but winning in imperious fashion. Most importantly of all, he created positivity among disillusioned fans. The job Jackett has done has been superb.
Having already proved himself in the Championship with a club whose ambitions are to survive, the former Millwall boss must now show he can lead a side up the other end of the division. Even if it’s not this season, few doubt he can in time.
A failure to shift a number of unwanted players on Premier League and a high-end Championship wages has prevented Wolves from massively adding to their squad.
While the likes of Jamie O’Hara, apparently still desperately holding onto the tag of professional footballer, Stephen Ward and Roger Johnson remain at the club, the chances of strengthening for a potential promotion push look slim.
However, the two players Jackett has been able to bring in, Tommy Rowe and Rajiv van La Parra, look like excellent signings. Rowe, a consistent performer as Peterborough have yo-yoed between the Championship and League One, and va La Parra, an exciting former Dutch U21 winger who was most recently at Heerenveen, give Wolves fantastic midfield options.
The way Wolves decimated the division last season surely means this squad, improvements or not, will compete this season.
A back four of skipper Sam Ricketts, Danny Batth, Richard Stearman and Scott Golbourne was central to Wolves’ success last term and looks as good as any defence outside of those in serious contention for the top six.
The midfield is also impressive, with central options Kevin McDonald and James Henry, in addition to wide men Michael Jacobs and Bakary Sako, giving Jackett’s side reams of creativity.
In fact, the only area of the pitch with a genuine lack of quality and options is among those who will finish from the creativity provided. Nouha Dicko will need to prove himself in the second tier, as will homegrown forward Liam McAlinden, while Leon Clarke is, well, Leon Clarke.
Fans View: Ashley Nixon
1) Did the previous campaign tell you Wolves are back on track or was it just a case of achieving the absolute minimum?
Getting promoted from any division is never “easy”, but I believe that anything other than what we did would have been relative failure. Having said that, in League 1 I saw some promising young players, who should be playing at a higher level. But, I believe that’s a debate for another time. We set the all-time points record for the division, so I suppose I can’t moan too much. Even if I try.
2) On paper, your title winning squad was already good enough for this division. Are you happy with how you side is shaping up for the coming season?
Our starting XI is arguably good enough for a dubious playoff push, but I think the squad needs some bulking up. Unfortunately, to do that we’ll have to sell some players that I blissfully forgot existed. Still, if anyone can rip off some poor souls for Roger Johnson, it’s probably Jez Moxey. I’m happy in the sense that we’ve got a squad who have bought into an idea of playing. But, a little work could still be done, I believe.
3) Is this season about stability, or does Kenny Jackett need to take you back to the Premier League?
Promotion, in my opinion, is rather unlikely. Mainly due to the aforementioned squad issues. In truth, I’d snap your hand off for anything above 12th.
“Promotion, in my opinion, is rather unlikely”
4) Who will be your key player this season?
Without question Kevin McDonald. Successfully turning him into a modern, ball playing, ball winning midfielder is probably Jackett’s biggest triumph, and probably the thing above anything that made me reconsider my opinion on him, and his tactical nouse. I also think new boy Rajiv van La Parra could have a big season for us. Having watched a fair amount of him in the Eredivisie, I think he’s a coup.
5) If you could make one more realistic transfer before kick-off, who would it be?
A striker, of any sorts really. If I could have my pick, it’d have to be Chris Wood. Proven record in this division. Dicko is relatively unproven at this level, and I’d feel a little more secure having back up. Back up that isn’t Leon Clarke.
Summary: Wouldn’t rule out a push for the play-offs, especially with the momentum Wolves have from last season, but a season of consolidation wouldn’t be a bad thing. 13th