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 Championship Preview 2012-2013

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PostSubject: Championship Preview 2012-2013   2012-08-17, 21:45

Championship 2012-13 season: Club-by-club guide.

The Championship will be as competitive as ever this season with all
of the relegated Premier League clubs looking to return to the top
flight at the first attempt.


But Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton will be facing stiff
competition from plenty of other ambitious sides, including last
season's play-off runners-up Blackpool plus semi-finallists Birmingham
and Cardiff.


Before the action kicks off this weekend, BBC Sport
experts assess each side's preparations with a club-by-club guide to the
new season.

Barnsley

Manager: Keith Hill


Last season: 21st


Best summer signing: Jacob Mellis


One to watch: Paul Digby






BBC Radio Sheffield's Andrew Giddings:

"Keith Hill's side will have to defy the odds to stay up again, but
that is a battle Barnsley face every season at this level.



"Hill's pre-season plans have been hampered by the
injury to marquee signing Mido, who looks likely to miss the first three
months of the season.

"The Tykes started well last campaign and their brand
of football served them well until Christmas but once Ricardo Vaz Te
left and Jacob Butterfield (who joined Norwich this summer) got injured,
they really struggled. If they can get Mido fit and scoring goals they
can survive and that will be their aim."



Birmingham City

Manager: Lee Clark

Last season: 4th


Best summer signing: Peter Lovenkrands


One to watch: Ravel Morrison






BBC Radio WM's John Platt:

"Birmingham approach their second successive season in the second
tier in much better shape squad-wise than they did this time 12 months
ago.

"Only young midfielder Jordon Mutch has departed so
far, but this has been more than compensated for by the arrivals of
Darren Ambrose, Hayden Mullins and Ravel Morrison. Another newcomer,
Peter Lovenkrands, looks set to form a potent strike force with Marlon
King.


"The goalkeeping position is interesting with the rise
to prominence at the Olympics of Team GB's Jack Butland. Another tilt at
the play-offs isn't beyond Blues."


Blackburn Rovers

Manager: Steve Kean

Last season: 19th (Premier League)


Best summer signing: Danny Murphy


One to watch: Nuno Gomes






BBC Radio Lancashire's Andy Bayes:

"When you speak to people at Blackburn, they tell you it does not
do any good to spend time dwelling on last season. It is hardly a
surprise, as last season was disappointing on and off the pitch.

"With the exception of Yakubu, last season's signings
didn't prove to be good enough to help the club beat the drop. Promotion
back to the Premier League is their one and only target.

"Attendances will take a substantial knock, with some
fans refusing to return to Ewood Park until Steve Kean is removed as
manager. The loss of Leon Best to injury is a huge blow, and a
goalscorer has to remain a priority in the transfer market."



Blackpool

Manager: Ian Holloway

Last season: 5th


Best summer signing: Scott Robertson


One to watch: Tom Ince






BBC Radio Lancashire's Ian Chisnall:

"Having lost to West Ham in the play-off final, many thought that
Ian Holloway would have been lured away. The fact that he and young
stars Matt Phillips and Tom Ince are still at the club could promise
another successful campaign.

"The squad has a good balance. Veterans Barry Ferguson
and Kevin Phillips will look to bow out in style and, with the
development of Angel Martinez allied to the return of Elliot Grandin,
the midfield has both creativity and strength.

"Goalkeeping cover for Matt Gilks and some physical
presence up front are still priorities but the team will play with flair
and again be easy on the eye. A play-off place is the minimum
requirement."


Bolton Wanderers

Manager: Owen Coyle


Last season: 18th (Premier League)


Best summer signing: Keith Andrews


One to watch: Tim Ream






BBC Radio Manchester's Jack Dearden:

"A summer clearout has seen most of the big earners move on but
manager Owen Coyle has retained some key personnel who could provide the
platform for promotion.

"The big problem last season was the number of goals
Bolton conceded, and that is one area they must improve on this time
around. The fact they have only kept one clean sheet in seven pre-season
matches might give some cause for concern.

"I don't expect as many problems at the opposite end of
the pitch, with Marvin Sordell set to make up for lost time and the
arrival on loan of Arsenal striker Benik Afobe, whilst Kevin Davies will
surely be a handful for most Championship teams."



Brighton & Hove Albion

Manager: Gus Poyet

Last season: 10th


Best summer signing: Bruno Saltor


One to watch: Andrew Crofts






BBC Sussex's Jonny Cantor:

"Albion finished a creditable 10th last season after flirting with
the play-offs in their first year back in the Championship. The form of
Vicente, who has committed to another season, will be key to their
fortunes.

"Thomas Kuszczak and Bruno are solid signings, Wayne
Bridge could play an important role after signing on a season-long loan
from Manchester City.

"Craig Mackail-Smith has struggled for goals but he and
Ashley Barnes have given the Seagulls two consistent performers. Gus
Poyet is still searching for another forward - a masterstroke could be
required for promotion, similar to that of Jason Roberts at Reading last
season."



Bristol City

Manager: Derek McInnes

Last season: 20th


Best summer signing: Jody Morris


One to watch: Albert Adomah






BBC Sport's Caroline Chapman:

"After scrapping for survival last term, manager Derek McInnes is
under pressure to keep Bristol City out of a relegation battle.

"The Scotsman has spent the summer reshaping the squad
he inherited from predecessors Keith Millen and Steve Coppell, but they
still seem to be missing that marquee signing that would signal their
intent and direction for the season.

"However, the arrival of experienced midfielder Jody
Morris certainly whetted the appetites of expectant City fans, and if
McInnes can bring in the prolific goalscorer they have craved since
Nicky Maynard's departure - along with a strong centre-half - things
could be looking up."



Burnley

Manager: Eddie Howe

Last season: 13th


Best summer signing: Jason Shackell


One to watch: Charlie Austin






BBC Radio Lancashire's Scott Read:

"Eddie Howe is about to embark on his second full season in charge,
after suffering a dip at the end of the last campaign which saw them
win just three of their last 15 games.


"Howe will once again do things his way. He has strong
beliefs on how the game should be played and is building a young team
that will be coached and encouraged to pass the ball.


"Tasked with replacing Jay Rodriguez this summer, the
Clarets will rely on Charlie Austin, who scored 17 goals last season,
along with Sam Vokes, Martin Paterson and Danny Ings to try and fire
them into the play-off places."



Cardiff City

Manager: Malky Mackay

Last season: 6th


Best summer signing: Craig Bellamy


One to watch: Jordon Mutch






BBC Wales's Mark Poyser:

"Amid the backdrop of the Malaysian owners' controversial decision
to change the club's home colours from blue to red, Cardiff manager
Malky Mackay has been making some shrewd signings.

"Craig Bellamy's arrival could bring the fans together
after the split over the re-branding and the new players could add the
'X-Factor' that some claim was missing last year.


"If the fans put their opposition to the off-field
changes to one side to support the team, and the new players gel,
Cardiff will be there or thereabouts again at the top of the table after
three successive play-off disappointments."



Charlton Athletic

Manager: Chris Powell

Last season: 1st (League One)


Best summer signing: Salim Kerkar


One to watch: Bradley Wright-Phillips






BBC London 94.9's Jamie Reid:

"Charlton were the best side in League One last season, finishing
eight points clear of second-placed Sheffield Wednesday. Chris Powell's
side broke all sorts of records on their way to their 101-point total,
and justifiably won the league.

"Life in the Championship promises to be much tougher.
So far, the Addicks have only signed three new players so lots will be
expected of those who performed so well last season.

"Powell is a highly respected young manager and, you
feel, he will have to use all of his tactical nous if the club is to
enjoy life back in a higher division."


Crystal Palace

Manager: Dougie Freedman

Last season: 17th


Best summer signing: Joel Ward


One to watch: Jonathan Williams






BBC London 94.9's Jamie Reid:

"Crystal Palace manager Dougie Freedman should be proud of his
achievements at Selhurst Park. Idolised as a player by the club's fans,
the Scot has adapted well to life as a manager.

"Freedman has made Palace hard to beat with a mix of
experienced heads, together with some youthful exuberance. It looks like
his talented young troops will continue to get their opportunity with
new signings in short supply over the summer.

"Goals were hard to come by last season but if Freedman
can sign someone to make the net bulge then a mid-table finish
shouldn't be beyond them."



Derby County

Manager: Nigel Clough

Last season: 12th


Best summer signing: Richard Keogh


One to watch: Michael Jacobs






BBC Radio Derby's Colin Bloomfield:

"Derby's finish in 2011-12 was their highest in five seasons.
Appointed in January 2009, Nigel Clough is the second longest serving
manager in the Championship and the emergence of five players from the
academy into the first team suggests the Rams continue to build for the
long term rather than overnight success.



"The summer sale of star defender Jason Shackell
angered supporters, but his replacement, Richard Keogh from Coventry,
should be a more than capable replacement.

"New signings Paul Coutts and Michael Jacobs should
provide energy and versatility to the midfield but, with money tight,
the search for a prolific, proven Championship striker continues and
could be the stumbling block to sustaining a credible top-six push."


Huddersfield Town

Manager: Simon Grayson
Last season: 4th and play-off winners (League One)


Best summer signing: Oliver Norwood


One to watch: Jordan Rhodes (if he stays)






BBC Radio Leeds' Paul Ogden:

"Watching Huddersfield compete in the Championship should be
fascinating; they routinely looked too good for League One, but left it
very late to finally secure promotion in a bizarre Play-Off final
penalty shoot-out. However deserved it was, many fans would have
preferred something more convincing.


"Their stadium and infrastructure will fit easily into
the higher environment, but to survive in the Championship the squad
needs to be consistently better for longer periods than in recent
seasons.

"A third consecutive summer of fairly heavy recruitment
could well make this possible, but Jordan Rhodes will be heavily relied
on again for goals."


Hull City

Manager: Steve Bruce

Last season: 8th


Best summer signing: Nick Proschwitz


One to watch: James Chester






BBC Radio Humberside's David Burns:

"When the owners, the Allams, rather disgracefully pressed the exit
button on home-town hero Nick Barmby at the end of last season, you
feared for the future. In fairness though their appointment of Steve
Bruce has dug them out of a hole and optimism levels are rising among
the support.


"The owners' backing so far suggests a play-off place
is achievable. Much may depend on what sort of return they get from
German striker Nick Proschwitz.

"The last two seasons have faltered on a lack of goals,
but if Proschwitz can dovetail with Matty Fryatt then I think they'll
be play-off contenders. My only caveat is the owners don't do anything
daft."



Ipswich Town

Manager: Paul Jewell

Last season: 15th


Best summer signing: Luke Chambers


One to watch: Michael Chopra






BBC Radio Suffolk's Graeme McLoughlin:

"Last season's influx of established names promised so much at
Ipswich but failed to deliver, and manager Paul Jewell knows his team
will need to get off to a decent start this time around in order to
satisfy a Portman Road faithful who have had little to shout about in
recent years.

"Striker Michael Chopra appears to have put last
season's off-field woes behind him and has had a good pre-season in
terms of both goals and performances.

"However, it's at the back where Ipswich are most in
need of improvement. There'll also be pressure on new goalkeeper Scott
Loach to establish himself as the number one Town have been in need of."



Leeds United

Manager: Neil Warnock

Last season: 14th


Best summer signing: Lee Peltier


One to watch: Tom Lees






BBC Radio Leeds's Adam Pope:

"A lot depends on if the prospective takeover occurs. If it comes
in time for funds to be released for Neil Warnock to really strengthen
his side then Leeds will be at the sharp end of the Championship table.

"Fans in general want a change in regime as they feel the club lacks ambition under current chairman Ken Bates.

"However, despite the loss of star player Robert
Snodgrass to Norwich City, there appears to be genuine optimism amongst
fans. Warnock is desperate to win his eighth promotion with Leeds and if
he does then he claims it will be his finest achievement."


Leicester City

Manager: Nigel Pearson

Last season: 9th


Best summer signing: Jamie Vardy


One to watch: Kasper Schmeichel







BBC Radio Leicester's Ian Stringer:

"The Foxes are some bookmakers' favourites for promotion but the
expectation in the city has been tempered by the ever level-headed
manager Nigel Pearson.


"I'm not too sure it will have the desired effect
though, as the Leicester public believe Premier League football is
around the corner. The new-look defence will need time to settle but the
strikeforce looks incredibly potent and Pearson has an embarrassment of
riches in midfield.

"The Blue Army should secure a play-off place at worst with a top-two spot desired by all at the King Power Stadium."



Middlesbrough

Manager: Tony Mowbray

Last season: 7th


Best summer signing: Jonathan Woodgate


One to watch: Adam Reach






BBC Tees' Alastair Brownlee:

"Boro finished just outside the top six last season which was a
disappointment as for the majority of the campaign they had been in a
play-off position.


"The close season has brought more change at the
Riverside with Tony Mowbray bringing in seven new players and six of the
previous squad have moved on.

"Marvin Emnes had a terrific season last time around
scoring 18 goals. If he can keep up that standard and a few more goals
can be found from elsewhere, then the team should at least compete for a
top-six finish."


Millwall

Manager: Kenny Jackett

Last season: 16th


Best summer signing: Scott Malone


One to watch: Andy Keogh






BBC London's Deano Standing:

"Millwall finished the 2011-12 campaign in promotion form. The
Lions will be looking to keep that momentum going but Kenny Jackett's
men are relative minnows in financial terms.

"The manager has a settled and well balanced squad but a
significant improvement on their 16th-placed finish last time round
will depend on some good fortune with injuries and effectively replacing
the goals of Spurs loanee Harry Kane.

"Jackett wants his side to play a passing game, and
considerable investment in a new pitch at The Den should help. Add in a
passionate home support and it is possible to make a case for Millwall
to be one of the dark horses."



Nottingham Forest


Manager: Sean O'Driscoll

Last season: 19th


Best summer signing: Adlene Guedioura


One to watch: Dexter Blackstock







BBC Radio Nottingham's David Jackson:

"After such a traumatic season last year, it's been a summer of
change at the City Ground with new owners - the Al-Hasawi family - and a
new manager, albeit last season's first-team coach, in Sean O'Driscoll.


"Most fans would now happily take a season of
transition - as long as that still means they stay clear of the
relegation zone this time.

"Realistically they'll need their entirely new-look,
and rather hastily assembled, defence to gel quickly if they're to pose
any threat to the top half of the division. They're also crying out for
another goalscorer."



Peterborough United

Manager: Darren Ferguson

Last season: 18th


Best summer signing: Bobby Olejnik


One to watch: Kgosi Ntlhe






BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Peter Swan:

"Posh beat the drop by 10 points last time out, despite winning
just four matches after New Year's Day. Darren Ferguson has continued to
invest in youth over the summer and will hope to have uncovered at
least a couple of rough diamonds.

"Goalkeeper was a problem position last season so Bobby
Olejnik looks like a sound investment from Torquay. Scottish midfielder
Danny Swanson could prove to be a steal should he recapture his best
form.

"Overall, a third successive season of Championship
football would be a great achievement for a club the size of
Peterborough."



Sheffield Wednesday

Manager: Dave Jones
Last season: 2nd (League One)


Best summer signing: Michail Antonio


One to watch: Rhys McCabe






BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton:

"Expectations are high among Sheffield Wednesday fans after winning
promotion back to the Championship in dramatic style last season.

"Dave Jones knows the division better than anyone and
he'll be backed by an ambitious chairman in Milan Mandaric. Jones has
added experience with goalkeeper Chris Kirkland and defender Anthony
Gardner and promise with Chris Maguire and Rhys McCabe.

"This should complement a solid backbone led by the
popular Jose Semedo. Wednesday might not do a Southampton this year, but
a top-half finish is achievable and it won't be a total shock if they
challenge the top six."



Watford

Manager: Gianfranco Zola

Last season: 11th


Best summer signing: Almen Abdi


One to watch: Sean Murray






BBC Three Counties Radio's Jon Marks:

"After another summer of huge change at Vicarage Road, there is
cautious optimism amongst Watford supporters who wait to see how a new
team and style of play under head coach Gianfranco Zola fares in the
Championship.

"There is now off-field stability following the
acquisition of the club by the Pozzo family, who have achieved great
success with the clubs they own in Italy and Spain.

"The link between the Hornets, Udinese and Granada has
already begun with new players arriving to bolster Zola's squad. If the
likeable Italian can get his side off to a good start then maybe last
season's highly commendable mid-table finish can be bettered."



Wolves

Manager: Stale Solbakken
Last season: 20th (Premier League)


Best summer signing: Bjorn Sigurdarson


One to watch: Anthony Forde






BBC Sport's Steve Marshall:

"The surprise appointment of Norwegian Stale Solbakken as manager
in May helped lift some of the gloom that enveloped Molineux following
last season's relegation.

"But the departure of Michael Kightly to Stoke, with
probably Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis to follow him out of the door,
has now left Wolves fans wondering what this term will bring.

"There should be enough talent left at the club to
mount a serious promotion challenge, but after getting into the habit of
losing games last season, Wolves could do with getting off to a fast
start."
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