Full Championship Season Preview Guide – 2021/22

A new league means new predictions and we’ve spoken to fan groups and supporters of each Championship rival this year to get the lowdown on what each fan makes to their club’s summer so far, their thoughts on the manager, their key player and where they think they’ll finish in the 2021/22 Championship season.

AFC Bournemouth
Keith Thomas – @Cherriesredarmy

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
We’ve only had one first team signing so far, Emiliano Marcondes from Brentford. We are still waiting to see if some of our key players leave, like Jefferson Lerma or Arnie Danjuma, but we have some exciting prospects coming through from the development team like Gavin Kilkenny, Jordan Zamura and Jaidon Anthony, who many Cherry fans are hoping to see going forward.

Thoughts on the manager?
Scott Parker and his new team have only come in this summer, so it’s early days. However he is very articulate, speaks well of the game, and is seemingly ready to relish a fresh start at Bournemouth. With Parker’s emphasis on pressing and possession based football work, potentially he could be the catalyst for a Cherries revival.

Key man?
The player to look out for is Ben Pearson, our rugged, no-nonsense holding midfielder. Since coming in from PNE, he has really impressed, with his work rate and high energy performances. He also shows excellent composure on the ball, as well being a character within the squad. 

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Last year was a difficult season with Eddie Howe leaving after a traumatic relegation, then a number of managerial appointments thereafter. However, we got into the playoffs only to fall at the final hurdle to Brentford in the semi finals. Nonetheless, looking at the calibre of the squad, many Cherry fans rightly feel that we underperformed last season. This season hopefully Scott Parker can reenergise and refocus the club, so I think it would not be unreasonable to expect to challenge for the play-offs. 

Barnsley
@BreatheBarnsley

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
The squad is fairly strong but we’re still lacking a few players. We’re yet to make a marquee signing so we’re expecting one in the coming weeks. A couple of big signings are needed if we want to be as successful as we were last season. Losing our manager Valérien Ismaël and our captain Alex Mowatt is painful but I still think that with the correct additions we can have another great season.

Thoughts on the manager?
None of us had ever heard of Markus Schopp before he arrived at Oakwell. However, we will put full faith in him and will support him throughout the season. It’s hard to say anything at the moment but after a couple of games in the Championship – hopefully we can say he’s doing a good job. A long-term manager would be nice, as the past few have left after under a year in charge, so hopefully Schopp can be just that.

Key man?
Our key man is definitely Cauley Woodrow. Following Mowatt’s departure, he will most likely captain the club and I see him as a leader, one of the more senior players in a young squad. Let’s hope he can have a decent season and score plenty of goals in the process!

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
II don’t think many people are expecting us to reach the play offs again. Last season was a massive overachievement and it didn’t seem real at times. I’d be happy with a high mid table finish. I don’t want us to drop of drastically and I see somewhere around 12th place being a respectable finish. But I wouldn’t rule these lads out of another play-off finish, because they’re definitely capable of it!

Birmingham City
@Bcfcextra

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
Recruitment so far has been good, haven’t spent anything but picked up some potential gems from the lower leagues and brought in some good loans. I think we need to bring in another striker that is mobile to play next to Lukas Jutkiewicz.

Thoughts on the manager?
Since Lee Bowyer has come in he has bought the connection back with the fans and saved us from League One, the fans love him and are optimistic this season.

Key man?
Key man for me is Ryan Woods, Bowyer wants to get us playing this season and Woods is key to doing that as our other centre midfielders aren’t ball players.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Mid table.

Blackburn Rovers
@Roverschat_

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
God, where do I start? We’re not looking good at all in terms of squad depth, and we’ve not made a summer signing at the time of writing. Our starting eleven would have a decent season, but we all know that changes will have to be made through injury and suspensions. It’s not been an exciting summer for Rovers fans.

Thoughts on the manager?
I’ll be forever grateful to Tony from taking a club that was on its knees to one that has the chance of competing in the play-offs in the coming years. However, it feels like his time is coming to a natural end and this season could be his last as Rovers manager. It’s becoming stale and if results don’t go our way early on in the season, the crowd will turn and it has been a while since Ewood was like that.

Key man?
If he remains with the club, it simply has to be Adam Armstrong. However, with it seemingly unlikely, I’ll go for Ben Brereton Diaz. After a summer none of us could have ever expected playing and scoring for Chile in the Copa America, Mr. Diaz has looked impressive in his few pre-season matches and will look to take his confidence into the new season. Expect big seasons from Lewis Travis and Thomas Kaminski as well.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
To be honest, I’m expecting anywhere between 15th and 21st. We might start well, but when the injuries come, our form will drop off. I’ll go for 18th, and if we can finish mid-table, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Blackpool
Dan Hopwood – @utmp_

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
In all honesty, the players that left weren’t going to be up for a season in the Championship. There is no room for passengers or inconsistencies, that’s where the likes of Robson, Kaikai and Thorniley fell to the Critchley axe.

The new boys look promising: Sonny Carey looks a real find and the prospects of Oliver Casey, Callum Connolly and Tyreece John-Jules in the Championship are exciting. The search for a new RB still goes on, with Mitch Clark not deemed to be up to the standard. This area on the pitch has to be filled as a matter of urgency. It’s very much square pegs in round holes at the moment. I also expect a couple more forward options in before the window closes.

Thoughts on the manager?
Bloody hero. What is there to dislike about the main man? Critchley promised he’d challenge for promotion and that’s what he delivered – with some style too. I have some fears that a repeat of last season’s slow start could happen at the moment with a slow start. But once Critch finds his feet, he will surely excel in this league. I’m excited for the new season and new recruitment at the seaside. With a thinker, a tactician and a meticulous man leading the line of tangerine shirts, we’ll be just fine.

Key man?
The spine is absolutely essential for any footballing team. Jerry Yates, Kenny Dougall and the most important key man, in my opinion, Chris Maxwell. Without any of them in the team, we would struggle. The reason for focusing on Chris Maxwell is down to how much he improved his game last season and how much we missed him during that Christmas period. He will again be a crucial part of this Championship team and I’m hoping he will continue to lead by example. Producing match-winning displays and working on areas of his game that need fine-tuning, such as his distribution.

Season expectations & where we’ll finish?
It’s been an ongoing argument amongst the utmp members – a piece we will release soon. The expectations are for Pool to survive this season, in what has been deemed a weaker Championship League in comparison to the past. Personally, I believe we could do one better than that, and be brave – attacking teams and trying to dominate them. Like Alan Nixon mentioned in our podcast, it all hinges on our next few signings to finalise the squad. Anywhere above that 22nd position and I’ll be happy, but I think if we continue in the same manner of last season then we’re genuinely capable of lower mid-table. I will go with 14th.

Bristol City
@FevsFootball

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
I’m sat here with a week to go generally content, based on how we ended last season. I think most squads outside of the top few would struggle with the long-terms injuries we had. Andi Weimann, Jay Dasilva, Nathan Baker, Chris Martin, Callum O’Dowda missed huge chunks of the season, and last summer’s purchase of that bit of steel in midfield – Joe Williams – played twice, and those were comebacks. All six will feature heavily this season. So although the second half of last season was a disaster and form was terrible, it’s unlikely the line-up pretty much forced on Nigel Pearson will be seen this term. One of the potentially best bits of recruitment is ironically the “capture” of Dave Rennie as Head of Medical. Not the only ex-Leicester connection in BS3. “Fit and Robust” is the phrase doing the rounds at the Failand Training Ground (sorry, can’t get used to Robins’ High Performance Centre)! Player-wise, having released 11 players, including players we paid over £13m in fees for in Famara Diedhiou, Nathan Baker, Liam Walsh, Jack Hunt and Liam Walsh, the subsequent re-contracting of Danny Simpson, Weimann and Baker made sense. Rome wasn’t build in a day, and not during a period of financial stress brought about by Covid. We have laid out £1.6m for Oxford’s Rob Atkinson, and assuming Euro-star Tomas Kalas remains, we have a good pair of left-sided CBs to compliment the Czech. We’ve also added ex-Pearson men in Matty James (more on him later) and self-confessed Bristol City fan, Andy King. That’s not to forget the glut of youngsters coming through, many of whom made debuts, some really breaking through, some showing huge promise. Han-Noah Massengo, just turned 20 is now a veteran of over 50 Championship appearances and a growing maturity in his game. Whilst supporters of other clubs will look at last season and think City are on the decline, I’m pretty happy.

Thoughts on the manager?
I think he’s exactly the character we need, a proper football man having full influence on the football side and knowing exactly what he’s trying to achieve. Hamstrung (no pun) by the previous regimes who’ve wasted so much money, Pearson has focussed on the spine of the team. We might not always be pretty this season, but the signings suggest we may have lost that soft under-belly. There are mixed feelings from City fans, but he wasn’t give a full deck to play with last season. It’s too easy to look at results, but there appears to have been some bad apples in the squad, and couple that with many players uncertain about their future – not helped by the now departed CEO Mark Ashton, “Nige” had very few options. That’s not to say he gets a free pass. This is now his team, his tactics, I’m looking forward to seeing this form over pre-season. Some encouraging signs versus MK Dons, Exeter and Plymouth so far.

Key man?
Quite simply Matty James. Nige’s lieutenant. We needed someone with nous in the middle of the park. We’ve got one on a free transfer, amongst interest from other clubs. He had good spells last season at Barnsley and Coventry, and for me, he’s the player Gary O’Neil would’ve been, had he not had such bad luck with injuries. He was that next level, and I expect James to be that missing piece in the jigsaw. Also got a sneaky feeling Nahki Wells might have a good season, I don’t see him being wasted on the left wing and he’ll get better service too. Of the youngsters, I’m really excited by Tommy Conway (CF) and Alex Scott (CM). Conway (18) has a mature game in his locker whilst England u18 international Scott (17) has some swagger and delightful technique. Without going mad, they have the ability to come into the Championship and contribute.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
We have a decent enough squad, but it is mixed with a lot of similar ability players. I don’t see us having a relegation battle, nor do I see us making the playoffs. I see us being one of those middle eight teams (9th-16th). If you pin me down I’ll say 13th….but it’s the start of better things!

Cardiff City
@Cardiffcitymad

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
I think we go into the new season weaker than last season. We lost loan players from Premier League clubs and replaced them mostly with Championship players or below. I don’t think we have signed bad players, far from it, but they will need to fit in quickly and work hard to give us a chance at competing at the top end of the division. We have a worrying injury list with several senior players having little or no pre-season.

Thoughts on the manager?
Mick McCarthy is very experienced but typecast, he started with a superb run of results but at the moment we seem to be a side with little dynamic content and one happy to concede possession, look to counter and get it forward as quick as we can before giving the ball away again. When we play like that you can see why fans are a bit fed up of the style of football.

Key man?
If he is still with us Kieffer Moore, and if he is still with us, if he is fit. Top scorer last season, went to the Euros, scored a goal there but with barely a week until the start of the season (at time of writing) he’s not had any pre-season minutes under his belt.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Not as confident this time out. A season we start with a different manger than last season. Top 10 would be some effort, realistically my gut is telling me middle third, should have enough to avoid a relegation battle but would be some achievement if we were challenging at the other end.

Coventry
@SkyBluesExtra

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
There was some concern in early July from the Sky Blues that no signings had happened but a flurry of activity saw six names come though the door including some decent signings at the top of the pitch, a high priority in terms of strengthening the side. Our wildcard signing of the summer is Bright Enobakhare who had a spell at the Sky Blues on loan from Wolves in 2019 and impressed scoring 6 goals in 18 appearances. He hasn’t kept up any kind of form since so time will tell whether Mark Robins’ gamble will pay off. Attention now turns to our defence where we expect 2-3 signings to sure things up.

Thoughts on the manager?
I can’t really say enough good things about Mark Robins. As the 10th longest serving manager in the Football League he has guided the Sky Blues from League Two to a 16th place finish in the Championship and overseen a massive transition period for the club in which they’ve returned to Coventry and to the newly named “Coventry Building Society Arena”.

Key man?
I would have to say Callum O’Hare. Signed from Aston Villa after an impressive loan spell with the Sky Blues in the League One winning season, the attacking midfielder will no doubt reach another level this season building on a strong first season at this level. Also look out for Tyler Walker who will be looking to improve on his seven-goal tally last season and will be a key part of the Sky Blues attack.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Not expecting it to be easy again this season. Having finished 16th last term I would expect something similar and I think most Sky Blues fans would be very pleased with that. If we can tighten up the defence whilst also getting our strikers firing then a top half finish / play off push isn’t completely out of the question.

Derby County
@Ramsreview1

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
The squad right now is currently weaker than the one that survived the drop on the final day. There are less than 10 senior players under contract (at the time of writing), one of those is recovering from an ACL tear (Krystian Bielik) and the other has just been injured (Jason Knight) for three months (reportedly by Wayne Rooney). The squad is short on numbers and on quality and recruitment is needed fast. The Rams are currently under a transfer embargo which is a stumbling block to bring in the trialists that have been training with the club. Hopefully, Derby can register some new players soon or else, they will not be competitive.

Thoughts on the manager?
Wayne Rooney hasn’t shown anything right now to prove that he’s the right man for the job, but I am willing to give him a bit of time this season to show something. When he took over last season, Derby were listless and he did eventually save them (well, a Marlon Pack goal did). Rooney chopped and changed too much but that was a result of Derby needing to get points on the board. Hopefully, we can see what “Wazza-ball” looks like this season and see his managerial ideas. He’s on a very short leash (and that was before the latest hotel incident).

Key man?
Tom Lawrence. The Welshman tends to divide Derby fans, but he has been named captain for the upcoming season. On his day, he is a fantastic talent who can dribble and shoot from distance. He missed a lot of last season with injury and has personal troubles off the field. Hopefully, he can kick on this season and be a big player for The Rams, they will need him to be at his best.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Season expectations & where you’ll finish? This will be another season of struggle for Derby. Relegation is a real threat and with the current squad, it looks extremely likely. Also, the potential points deduction threat will not go away. If Derby were to get a points deduction, it will mean definite relegation. I’d snap your hand off right now for either 20th or 21st.

Fulham
Jack Stroudley @J_Strudders@FulhamishPod

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
So far this recruitment has been promising, Harry Wilson and Paolo Gazzaniga are both shrewd assets to add to an already quality squad. Players who are young enough to shine this season but also progress and become potential Premier League players with us in the future. Fulham do have a habit of leaving business to the last minute, so expect more additions.

Thoughts on the manager?
I wasn’t too keen on Marco (Silva) when he came in due to his patchy record in England. However I’ve slowly warmed to him, he is taking a hands on approach with transfers. And, after reading more about his expansive style of football, his appointment is exciting me.

Key man?
All eyes will be on Aleksandar Mitrovic to be our main talisman, and fire us back to the big time. But I think one to keep an eye on is Harrison Reed. The former Blackburn midfielder was my POTS last year and goes about his business in the midfield in a composed manner, and often under the radar.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
The expectation has to be promotion, we’ve got a squad possessing quality in abundance, and ultimately that will be the goal of the owners too. I’m willing to stick my neck out and say we will finish in the top two, but there is a long way to go!

Huddersfield Town
@TheTerriersTalk

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
I think we’re all quite the same with how we feel on the squad currently, the squad lacked depth with quality and we’ve got that for sure this summer whilst adding starting players to the squad where possible in the likes of Levi Colwill (on loan from Chelsea) and potentially even Jordan Rhodes. However, a few more creative players will be needed to establish a good finish this season.

Thoughts on the manager?
Carlos Corbéran is definitely a debated figure within our setup with the fanbase often split on if he’s the right man for the job, however, we think he is – when having his full squad available to him he’s shown promise.

Key man?
Without a doubt Josh Koroma. The winger always is mesmerising on the ball and always has that part of him that wants to cut inside and shoot which is vital in a modern winger and almost very reminiscent of how Karlan Grant was for us a few seasons ago.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
We’re all in agreement that we’d love a midtable finish after the past few seasons – the fanbase needs it to stay in belief of the board and more importantly the manager. 15th is where we think we will finish come May. However, any improvement on last season and no relegation scrap would be welcomed.

Hull City
@Hull_And_Back

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
Squad at the moment is pretty thin, especially in centre half and midfield, but summer recruitment has been good. Cannon, Williams, Moncur, Baxter and Longman all seem to be astute signings with no fees paid.

Thoughts on the manager?
Grant McCann is very marmite with the City fanbase. The disastrous end to the 19/20 Season still hurts the majority of us, but he recovered well by bouncing straight back with our first league title in 55 years, so has essentially earned himself a clean slate.

Key man?
Key man is definitely George Honeyman. 14 assists and 4 goals from midfield make for good reading, but everything not recorded like his boundless energy, ability to break up play and get us going forward is pivotal to our style of play. He’s out injured for a few weeks so we’ll definitely miss him.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Season expectations are mixed. We know how difficult the Championship can be but we have plenty of goals in this squad and should be lower mid table. We’d definitely take 20th upwards though! 15th at a guess!

Luton Town
@wearelutontown

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
Strong recruitment in terms of quality this summer, heavy numbers and a small rebuild. Hoping they all gel quickly enough and it doesn’t disrupt our momentum. The squad is looking strong overall, more athletic and more quality up top.

Thoughts on the manager?
Nathan Jones just fits Luton like a glove, he’s key to our trajectory and his record for Luton speaks volumes.

Key man?
Difficult with the number of new additions, but I’d say Elijah Adebayo is going to be the difference this year.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Play-offs isn’t out of the question, but as most Luton fans are, progression would be a success. 8th or 9th is our prediction.

Middlesbrough
@Boro_Breakdown

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
Boro’s summer has been nigh on perfect; they’ve added to the ranks exceptionally well on paper, bringing in players to flesh out the squad and add to the positions that were vacated by those that departed the club. Uche Ikpeazu is my pick of the signings so far. He’s looked good in his pre-season appearances, boasting plenty of strength and physique but also looking more than adept technically as well. He scored a fantastic goal against Bishop Auckland in which he out muscled a defender before unleashing a curling long-range drive past the goalkeeper. Of course, that came against opposition whose standard is far inferior than that of Boro’s, but Uche has scored that type of goal before… in the Championship. Joe Lumley (26), Sammy Ameobi (29), Matt Crooks (27), and Lee Peltier (34) make up the rest of the additions, and with Neil Warnock having previously stated his desire to sign players in the ‘middle age bracket’ of 25-30, it’s a wish that has been delivered by the recruitment team. On paper, they’re decent additions that give Boro the ability to be flexible in system, but alas football is never played on paper, so we’ll have to wait and see how they fare!

Thoughts on the manager?
Neil Warnock is a character, everybody knows that. He was walking around Cornwall handing out signed photos of himself from a bum bag the other day, which was rather amusing. Aside from being a character though, he’s also shown he’s not exactly one of those set-and-forget managers of the older breed, in terms of formations anyway. He flickered between a 3-5-2 and a 4-3-3 for Boro last season, rarely opting for his tried and tested 4-2-3-1. His football, however, hasn’t really strayed too far away from his usual direct style. It isn’t my preferred style as a spectator, but this is a manager that cannot be knocked for his success in getting out of the division, so that will stand Boro in good stead.

Key man?
Marcus Tavernier. He was my pick of Player of the Season for 2020/21, and I can only see him going from strength to strength this season. When he first broke through under Garry Monk in 2017 he looked incredibly raw and played mostly within himself, but the Tavernier that we see now is much more confident and expressive. He’s either a wide player or a number 10, but when out wide – usually on the right – he’ll cut inside onto his favoured left foot, and try to get shots off at goal. Most of our play comes through him and he’s always trying to carve out chances. He’s the linchpin of this side and I can definitely see him bagging a few goals and assists this coming campaign.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
InI’m expecting us to finish higher than last season, where we fell out of the play-off picture towards the latter stages to place 10th. I do think we’ll be in and around the top 6 again, but I can see us just coming up short. 7th for me.

Millwall
Kai Bennett – Millwall Fan Tv

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
The summer recruitment has been very good so far with five good signings. Been very impressed with Daniel Ballard, he looks very good on and off the ball, whilst being very good in the air too. Bringing Malone back was a shrewd bit of business after his fantastic return last season. Bringing George Saville back to the club will give us an attacking intent from the midfield whilst Afobe will hopefully be the answer to our goalscoring difficulties. George Long will provide good competition to Bartosz Bialkowski, who has been fantastic for us. Overall a very good summer so far.

Thoughts on the manager?
I’ve been very impressed with Gary Rowett since he joined us in October 2019. He is tactically very aware of the opposition and has kept us very solid at the back, with one of the best defensive records since he came in. The formation he likes to play is 5-3-2, which has worked reasonably well. He has the ability to change it in a game if something is not working. The only thing I would like him to do is make us a little more unpredictable by changing the formation depending on the team we are playing and when we play at home. Overall Rowett has kept Millwall as a solid top ten club, which with a bit more attacking prowess could force its way into the play-offs.

Key man?
Millwall’s key man is Jed Wallace. The influential winger has got into double figure for goals for the past two seasons. Wallace’s creativity is crucial for Millwall. This season with George Saville and Benik Afobe returning, hopefully the creativity will be spread around a little bit more than previous seasons. Jed Wallace has an incredible work ethic and works so hard up and down the pitch for the Lions.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
This season, I’m really hoping Millwall can force their way into the play-offs. The last two seasons have been top 10 finishes, whilst the 2019/20 season the Lions missed out on the top six by just two points. However with the signings that Rowett has made, I’m hoping they can give us more of an attacking edge and if are defence can stay as solid as it has been, I see no reason why we can’t make the play-off. Prediction – 6th.

Nottingham Forest
@AnalyticsForest

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
Recruitment has been slow this summer, which is understandable as our new CEO Dane Murphy has only had his feet under the table for a couple of weeks. The squad is still light in areas which I’m sure will be addressed in time. Last season we saw 13+ new players arrive through loans and perms, that strategy clearly didn’t work, we’ve wasted a hell of a lot of money signing the wrong players in recent years, so this slower, more dialed in approach can perhaps be seen as a positive. Those failed signings have perhaps caught up with us now, their may have to be a sale of one of prized younger assets this summer if 4 or 5 quality additions are wanted to be brought in.

Thoughts on the manager?
Chris came in at a difficult time. Confidence of the whole club was absolutely shot from dropping out of the play-offs in dramatic fashion after the first lockdown. He did well to stabilize the ship and guide us away from a real relegation battle in the end. Performances have still been slightly underwhelming under Chris, especially in the final 3rd, we ranked 6th lowest for xG last season with 51.60 (Wyscout) and only managed to score 37. The underlying data numbers are going to have to improve this season, the new CEO will certainly be keeping a close eye on them, Hughton is very well respected however and will get time.

Key man?
Brennan Johnson and Alex Mighten- You can have two. Brennan Johnson coming back after a very successful loan with Lincoln last season is a big boost, it’s pretty much a top level signing. 11 goals and 5 assists for Lincoln and he’s going to give us a goal threat from an attacking midfield position, something we lacked massively last season. Brentford are rumoured to be very interested in him, that would be a blow if he was to be sold but we’ll certainly be asking for a decent fee. Alex Mighten, another academy graduate, got a taste of things in the Championship last season and I’m expecting him to kick on again. He’s already impressing in pre-season and he’ll be one to watch. A small word for Joe Lolley- really struggled with injury last season after being one of the best wingers in the league previously. If he can recapture some old form he can be like a new signing for us.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
This almost feels like a transitional season for Forest. The squad has been trimmed and youngsters will get given their chance. It’s obviously tricky to give a great prediction with so much of the transfer window left but I’m honestly struggling to see a way in which we secure a top 6 finish, unless we can keep everyone at the club, add 2 or 3 of quality and Johnson/Mighten have excellent seasons. I really don’t mind us having a transitional season, as long as we bring through youth and buy players who can flourish in the seasons to come. I actually think that’s what we should be doing instead of the short-termism we have seen recently from the club. I’ll go for 12th.

Peterborough
@TheYellowBlock

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
The squad looks good at the moment, we’ve recruited players that bolster our attack, which gives us the impression that we’ll be going into games with a Vindaloo approach (we’ll score one more than you). Defence is still our weak point, Josh Knight is a decent acquisition at CB but overall I would expect us to leak a fair few goals against the top sides.

Thoughts on the manager?
They say third time is a charm, but overall I would say that every time has been. The Posh fans love Fergje (Darren Ferguson) and he loves us, it should be a match made in heaven for many more years to come. There have been times that he has approached games too defensively and that has backfired, but with the attacking strength of the side, it looks like that might not be the plan this year.

Key man?
Probably Clarke-Harris, whole attack revolves around getting the ball to him for the poach, if we don’t have him we have no outlet

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Our owners have claimed our target is mid-table. I understand it, if we target mid-table and fall just short, we still survive. If we target survival and fall short, it could be another eight years before we’re back in the Championship. I don’t think we’ll go down, there are some poor teams at the bottom end of the league that will struggle both on and off the pitch, so 18th is my prediction, anything higher is a bonus.

PNE
@Foreverinourshadow

Queens Park Rangers
@W12Podcast

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
This season however has a different feel to it. We ended last season as the most in-form side, since the turn of the year, moving from a relegation scrap to a game or two away from pushing for playoffs.

How did this happen? – January’s four summer signings, form a couple of key players and a change in formation (from a usually stubborn Warburton). We have subsequently signed all of those 4 players (spending no more than 1.2 million) as well as a few other signings in key areas. The squad this season looks the best we’ve had for the last 6/7 seasons, possibly more. We have signed Charlie Austin, who made a massive difference on and off the pitch last season, Sam Field and Jordy De Wilj, who we know can perform at this level and will add some steel through the spine of the team. We have improved our full back options with Sam McCallum (had a great season on loan at Coventry last season) and Moses Odabajo.

The key signing we all wanted, if you like – the final piece, was Stefan Johansen. We are all amazed Fulham let him go and for 600k, which is a bargain. Absolutely class at this level, he is a leader, loves a tackle and works endlessly. As well as that he is cool, calm and collected on the ball which in this league is priceless. We have signed Andre Dozzell from Ipswich too who is a bit of an unknown but adds to our CM options. Keeping our key players has also been a big plus. The likes of Ilias Chair, Rob Dickie and Seny Dieng, to name a few.

Thoughts on the manager?
Mark Warburton was possibly a game or two away from getting the chop last season. Since then he has turned it right around and the fans. New formation fits the players we have as well as those we have signed. He is expected to sign a new contract in the coming days, which he deserves. However, this season will be a different kind of pressure as expectation is high amongst the supporters. Still question marks on his “in game” management and something he will need to improve on.

Key man?
Tough. You will get a different answer whoever you ask. Lyndon Dykes and Charlie Austin are absolutely key, we need both to score 10+ goals. Seny Dieng in goal. Stefan Johansen, for the reasons above. However, Ilias Chair is going to be vital for us. On his day he is unplayable. He is improving every season but this one is where we expect him to be take off and start hitting the real high numbers for goals and assists.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
As mentioned, expectation around the fans is high. It’s a different kind of pressure for the players and manager to deal with. Money has been spent on this squad and it’s time (with the league seemingly open) to give it a real go. Pushing for the playoffs is a realistic goal. I’ll go 6th- 9th. Next season could see those key players move on, so, it has that now or never feeling to it.

Reading
@TheTilehurstEnd

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
This summer’s been a killer really. Reading went into it needing to boost an already-small squad, adding the depth and variety that were lacking last season. However, we’ve lost our best left back on a free transfer (Omar Richards to Bayern Munich), sold our breakout playmaker for a relative pittance (Michael Olise to Crystal Palace for £8m), seen a key goalscorer be ruled out with an ACL (Yakou Meite) and had the squad be further diminished by loanees and out-of-contract players leaving.

That’s before we get to recruitment – or, rather, the lack of it. A transfer embargo prompted by FFP breaches has meant that, with just over a week to go until the start of the season, no one has come in. I went into the summer hoping for seven recruits (rising to nine to replace Olise and Meite), but would be very happy if we ended the window with four.

Thoughts on the manager?
The first thing that springs to mind – a small thing but one that shouldn’t be understated – is how long he’s lasted already. Reading have had a torrid time with managers in recent years, sacking one midway through the campaign in each of the three seasons leading to Veljko Paunovic’s arrival. Ending that run is certainly no huge achievement, but it does underline the fact that Paunovic is a cut above his predecessors.

His biggest asset is how well he pulls everyone together. ‘Pauno’ as he’s affectionately known has a great mix of charisma and steel, which allowed him to set a high bar for the squad as soon as he arrived. That was crucial given that he didn’t have a pre-season, in fact orchestrating his first match in charge (a League Cup win over Colchester United) over Zoom.

That said, Paunovic has been a bit naïve in some regards. He could have done more to prevent Reading’s drop-off last season: more substantial rotation of the first team (which ended up being battered by injuries and fatigue) and more tactical variety (Reading became too predictable). I’m hoping to see improvements on both fronts this season.

Key man?
When fit, John Swift is one of the best players in the division. Best described broadly as a playmaker, he typically starts as a number 10 in Pauno’s 4-2-3-1 but has the license to drift around the pitch. He can do that terrifically well: one moment dictating play from deep, the next looking for a defence-splitting pass in the final third. “When fit” is the operative phrase though. Swift’s Reading career has been battered by injuries and that came to a head last season, with him missing most of the campaign. Few Royals fans would disagree that, had Swift not had those issues, we’d have finished in the top six.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
At this stage, we could genuinely finish anywhere between 4th and 24th. Our season will not only rely on new bodies coming in, but injury-prone players staying fit, the manager learning from last season’s mistakes and youngsters from the academy stepping up to play key parts in the first team. Get all (or almost all) of those things right and we might surprise the division. Get them wrong and we may well end up in League One. I’ll go straight down the middle and say 14th.

Sheffield United
@Blades_Mad

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
You have to say that we are stacked with quality when it comes to players and who have already proved themselves at this level. Many of this side got promoted with us a couple of years ago, whilst there are others who have achieved promotion with other sides in this division. In terms of recruitment, well there’s nothing much to say on that one really, because we haven’t made a single signing yet. Still time, but would like a couple in to freshen up certain areas of the side (midfield and left centre-back).

Thoughts on the manager?
The general consensus on Slavisa Jokanovic is a positive one from Blades fans. Whoever took over from Chris Wilder had huge shoes still fill, but the Serbian doesn’t seem the type to be fazed by that and has pedigree at this level also with two promotions on his CV. May take a short period of time to implement his ideas and style, but we’re confident he will be the right man to take us back up.

Key man?
Hard to say who our key man is really. We’ve a strong squad for the Championship, but I wouldn’t say we have a real stand out player as such. If Sander Berge stays, we have a player with Champions League experience in our midfield, but he is likely to attract interest before the window closes.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Expeditions are that we should be battling for an instant return to the Premier League. The Championship seems quite a weak league to me, and with our parachute payments, experienced coach and a capable squad, we surely have to be one of the favourites, despite a turgid season last time around in the Premier League. I’ll go for a 2nd placed finish! Fingers crossed, eh

Stoke City
@benarowley

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
A lot of high earners have Stoke have left for good this time (not just on loan as in previous seasons) and we’re trimming the squad down to a much more sustainable size and wage bill. Although this means we’d be hard pushed to spend any sort of significant transfer fee on any players this season, it should mean that we’re much more free financially heading into next Summer once all these losses are behind us. Our current squad is filled with either relatively inexperienced young players, or ageing veterans, with very few players at their career peak. Ben Wilmot stands out as a great replacement for outbound Nathan Collins and I expect more frugal business to be carried out this Summer.

Thoughts on the manager?
Michael O’Neill was the God of the Potteries when he saved Stoke from relegation in 2019/20, however the 2020/21 season has exposed some of his flaws. He’s a great manager who has a flexible syste, which is catered to getting the best out of the squad he has, rather than splashing out to personalise it. He’s got an air of authority about him while seeming calm and pleasant enough. However, game management could be his downfall. Too often have Stoke succumbed to injury, tiredness or a lack of concentration, and not being able to revert momentum if they go behind. It’s all down to substitutions. He may argue that his squad wasn’t good enough to bring on replacements, hopefully that won’t be an excuse this season.

Key man?
I’m going to have to go for two. On a game-to-game basis: Nick Powell possesses such control in football matches that, when he delivers, Stoke win games solely through his influence. In crucial games, he’s the difference maker and I’d be confident in allowing Powell to carry Stoke through the business end of the season particularly. The way Stoke’s season goes, however, could be entrirely reliant on Tyrese Campbell and his return from a nine-month injury layoff. If he comes back the same dynamic, confident player then Stoke will be electric and he’ll be one of the Championship’s best forwards. If he comes back a more timid, conservative one then Stoke will be lacking the piercing outlet that saw them completely flunk the second half of last season.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
I’ve gone for ninth. This is providing we manage to sign a striker to provide cover, if not start in place of, Steven Fletcher. I think Stoke will manage to forge a play-off push – early or late – at some point this season but I don’t think Stoke will have the depth or consistency to reach the top six. Stoke much much more balanced and hungry heading into this new season, more so than any of our recent Championship campaigns for sure.

Swansea
Colin George – Swansea fan

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
I hope recruitement will get supercharged now that Russell Martin has been appointed. He’s brought in 32 players in his last two seasons – so he is clearly a manager who wants to go out and get people! Unfortunately, I doubt – given the circumstances under which Cooper left the job – that Martin will get that much backing!

Thoughts on the manager?
After this circus, Russell Martin is going to have to be phenomenal. I doubt he will have the funds made available to really push on for promotion, but I’m confident he can help us avoid falling to the bottom half of the table.

Key man?
Ben Cabango. The Welshman was rock-solid in the middle of our defence last season, and I expect him to be again.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
Difficult to predict with new management. I expect we’ll miss out on the play-offs, but still finish in the top-half of the table.

West Bromwich Albion
@TheBaggiesPod

Thoughts on squad & summer recruitment?
The squad has a strong nucleus of Championship quality, with only a couple of additions which have been very astute in Alex Mowatt and Matt Clarke who should both walk into Valérien Ismaël’s first XI for the opening day against Bournemouth. The overall Albion squad has the potential to challenge for promotion but the Championship is more unpredictable than ever so we shall see.

Thoughts on the manager?
Our new boss is former Barnsley manager Ismaël, an appointment that was received well among the Baggies fanbase. His high-pressing system should suit the current crop of players and I’ve been very impressed with the adaptation of the players to this new style. Ismaël’s appointment has all the hallmarks of a long-term managerial solution. I for one am optimistic about the season ahead under him.

Key man?
Our key man this season is likely to come in the shape of Grady Diangana who shone during the promotion season under Slaven Bilic. The former West Ham man had a rough ride under Sam Allardyce after a false dawn of promise earlier on in the PL season but I’m confident that under Ismaël he’ll be firing on all cylinders yet again in the Championship.

Season expectations & where you’ll finish?
A promotion challenge is tipped by most Albion fans. I’d be inclined to agree but it won’t be a walkover in any way shape or form. I’m putting the Baggies’ forward for a 3rd placed finish just missing out on the automatic places and falling into the play-offs.

Summary and Final Thoughts

Overall the Championship is surely the hardest to call. While it’s clear to see those who are most likely to challenge at the top – those relegated from the Premier League and those who have strengthened this summer – it’s anyone’s race from 4th-24th. Talking about ourselves, we know exactly what can happen when you have a good squad and manager, and it all comes together for you to have a good run of form. So we’re definitely in the bracket of 4th – 24th – most likely towards the bottom end but you just never know. It’ll be a tough challenge for us to stay up, but if we can get above that red line then let’s see how far we can finish!

Published by Dan Hopwood

Life long Blackpool fan, thanks to my older brother for dragging me to Bloomfield Road in days of Colin Hendry! Currently a seaside exile living in London.

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