As QPR embark on a new season in the Sky Bet Championship, Vital QPR aims to predict and speculate over the outcome of the most unpredictable league in the world…
Name: Charlton Athletic
Manager: Chris Powell
Stadium: The Valley
Also Known As: Addicks
Last Season Finish: 9th
This Season Prediction:17th
Last Meeting: December 2008, Charlton 2-2 QPR (Bailey 2 – Cook, Blackstock)
Summer Transfers (Out): Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), Danny Haynes (Notts County), Scott Wagstaff (Bristol City), John Sullivan (Portsmouth), Ricardo Fuller, Salim Kerkar, Yado Mambo, Matt Taylor (All Released)
Summer Transfers (In): Richard Wood (Coventry City), Mark Gower (Swansea City)
One to Watch: Chris Solly
A Few Thoughts: Chris Powell has performed a fantastic job at Charlton – a 9th placed finish in their first season back in the Championship, following promotion from League 1, went above and beyond all expectations. Expectations that may have been moderated since a minority of Charlton fans decided regular top half Premier League finishes weren`t good enough, leading to the sacking of Alan Curbishley and a subsequent slide down to the football league thereafter. Much like other clubs featured in this preview, Charlton failed to get their managerial replacements spot on, and assigning Iain Dowie, Les Reed, Alan Pardew and Phil Parkinson the job of following in Curbishley`s footsteps was always going to end badly. Powell, with no real managerial experience at the time of his appointment, was left to pick up the pieces and he managed to oversee a record points total that saw the club return to the Championship in 2011. Powell has managed to blend a mixture of youth, Michael Morrison, Chris Solly and Ben Hamer the standout performers, with the experience of Leon Cort, Dorian Dervite and Bradley Pritchard to fashion a solid Championship side.
Unfortunately for Charlton numerous contracts are due to expire at the end of the season, most notably Chris Powell himself, and with co-owners Tony Jimenez and Michael Slater seemingly reluctant to both back Powell in the transfer market and extend player contracts, this season looks rather bleak for The Addicks. A case of second-season syndrome could be the order of play for Charlton which will not be helped by fierce rumours of the owners looking to sell the club to a Russian group of investors. Lacking any sort of firepower up front, goals could be hard to come by for Charlton and I predict a season of struggle and uncertainty surrounding the club, despite hanging on to their Championship status for another season.
Manager: Mark Robins
Stadium: John Smith`s Stadium
Also Knows As: The Terriers
Last Season Finish: 19th
This Season Prediction: 18th
Last Meeting: March 2003, Huddersfield 0-3 QPR (Furlong 2, Shittu)
Summer Transfers (Out): Scott Arfield (Burnley), Tom Clarke (Preston), Lee Novak (Birmingham), Chris Atkinson (Loan, Tranmere), Alan Lee, Israel Johnson, Scott Kay, Connor Loftus (All Released)
Summer Transfers (In): James Vaughan (£750k, Norwich), Jake Carroll (£130k, St Patricks), Jon Stead (Bristol City), Martin Paterson (Burnley), Adam Hammill (Wolves), Jonathan Hogg (Watford)
One to Watch: Jack Hunt
A Few Thoughts: I can remember Huddersfield always getting promoted to the Championship in my first season on Football Manager, whatever year it was. Perhaps the nerds at Sports Interactive were either all Huddersfield Town fans or they knew something we didn`t, and despite being a little premature with their predictions, they must have got their wish as The Terriers finally got promoted to the Championship in 2012. Huddersfield were always there or thereabouts in League 1, finishing below 10th only once in the last 8 seasons, and the appointment of the experienced Simon Grayson seemed to finally get them over the finish line. They possess a committed, and lifelong Huddersfield Town fan, chairman in Dean Hoyle who has continued to back his managers` in the transfer market – the signings of Lee Peltier, Jordan Rhodes, Alan Lee, Adam Clayton and Sean Scannell have all turned out to be shrewd, profitable acquisitions.
Huddersfield tailed off towards the end of last season and with the impressive appointment of Ross Wilson as Head of Operations they have managed to recruit some notable summer signings – last year`s Player of the Year James Vaughan has joined on a permanent basis, and has been united with Jon Stead, Martin Paterson, Jonathan Hogg and Adam Hammill as Huddersfield`s latest recruits. They now, admittedly, have a rather large squad and new manager Mark Robins may need to cull his group of players in order to sustain both finances and the playing squad. I can expect a more solid campaign from Huddersfield but will finish around the same position as last year as they battle through a strong Championship this season.
Name: Doncaster Rovers
Manager: Bryan Flynn
Stadium: Keepmoat Stadium
Also Known As: Rovers
Last Season Finish: 1st (League 1)
This Season Prediction: 19th
Last Meeting: March 2011, Doncaster 0-1 QPR (Ephraim)
Summer Transfers (Out): Lee Fowler (Kidderminster Harriers), Martin Woods, Jordan Ball, Gary Woods, Paddy Mullen (All Released)
Summer Transfers (In): Luke McCullough (Man Utd), Mark Duffy (Scunthorpe), Dean Furman (Oldham), Marc de Val (Olimpic de Xativa)
One to Watch: Dean Furman
A Few Thoughts: Whilst Brentford were, and probably still are, rueing the selfishness of Marcello Trotta and his harrowing last minute penalty, Doncaster fans were, and probably still are, jumping in joy at his greediness. Having gone up the other end and scored with the last kick of the game they managed to not only secure promotion back to the Championship, but in fact win League 1. Quite remarkable considering their plight the previous season; a squad overburden with huge names on huge wages failing to live up to their reputations and ultimately leading to the ignominious relegation of a small South Yorkshire club. Habib Beye, Pascal Chimbonda, El Hadj Diouf, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Herita Ilunga and Frederic Piquionne the culprits in bringing shame to a club that really had no reason supporting such mercenaries. Sounds a bit all too familiar doesn`t it? These venal players` poor performances should be chastised and highlighted even more considering the remarkable job Sean O`Driscoll and John Ryan managed in guiding Doncaster to a safe position in the lower mid-table echelons of the Championship, and owning the reputation of a ‘mini-Arsenal`.
It is, therefore, a surprise to see Doncaster back in the Championship so soon, but credit to Brian Flynn and his coaching stuff for finishing the job set up by Dean Saunders and guiding them back to the second tier in such quick fashion. Flynn stepped down as first team manager at the end of the season to take up his more familiar role of recruitment and development officer, and the appointment of their new manager, Paul Dickov, seems a little surprising if anything. Dickov spent three years at Oldham Athletic, ending up with a win percentage of 30% and guiding them to no higher than a 16th place finish in his time at the club. Whilst questions marks may be raised over their new manager, they have kept their promotion-winning squad together and added to it with the sensible signings of Dean Furman and Harry Forrester. Don`t expect any fireworks from Doncaster and with only three relegation places to pick from, I had to place Doncaster just outside the bottom three, hovering nervously, anxious at the sight of another big name arriving through the door at the Keepmoat.
Name: Derby County
Manager: Nigel Clough
Stadium: Pride Park
Also Knows As: The Rams
Last Season Finish: 10th
This Season Prediction: 20th
Last Meeting: April 2011, QPR 0-0 Derby
Summer Transfers (Out): John Brayford (£1.5m, Cardiff), Gareth Roberts (Bury), Frank Fielding (Bristol City), Conor Doyle (Loan, DC United), Ross Atkins (Loan, Alfreton)
Summer Transfers (In): Adam Smith (Loan, Tottenham), John Eustace (Watford), Johnny Russell (£750k, Dundee United), Craig Forsyth (£150k, Watford), Chris Martin (Norwich City), Lee Grant (Burnley)
One to Watch: Will Hughes
A Few Thoughts: We find ourselves previewing another club that has had to contend with the recovery of overspending and indulgence in players that both aren`t really needed and can`t really be afforded to support. QPR competed marvellously in trying to beat Derby`s lowest ever points tally in the Premier League, and their sorrowful season was often compared with the plight of Derby. QPR will be hoping that, much like The Rams, they can get their managerial appointment spot on when trying to regroup from a disastrous relegation; Derby did just that when appointing Nigel Clough as Paul Jewell`s replacement, who saw fit to overspend, overindulge and add to an already meagre Premier League squad with the likes of Robbie Savage, Emmanuel Villa and Roy Carroll. Nigel Clough has coped commendably in keeping Derby away from relegation, whilst rebuilding a squad that had 46 professional players on their books at the time of his arrival.
Clough`s quiet curatorship of such a mediocre side deserves special praise, but we must not forget that Derby are still fundamentally rubbish. The likes of Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes have been a shining light for the youth of the club, but when you still set up with a side consisting of Shaun Barker, Theo Robinson and Connor Sammon you really are struggling to make any sort of impact on the Championship. The fact they paid a fee, let alone signed, Craig Forsyth from Watford doesn`t bode particularly well for their transfer activity this summer; however, the acquisition of Johnny Russell from Dundee United looks like a good bit of business and the experience of the level headed John Eustace could assist in guiding the youngsters through to the first team. Unfortunately for Clough and Derby I can predict another season of mediocrity that may culminate in a battle to steer clear of relegation.
Manager: Steve Lomas
Stadium: The Den
Also Known As: The Lions
Last Season Finish: 20th
This Season Prediction: 21st
Last Meeting: March 2011, Millwall 2-0 QPR (Morison, Trotter)
Summer Transfers (Out): Shaun Batt (Leyton Orient), Chris Taylor (Blackburn Rovers), Tamika Mkandawire (Shrewsbury), Steven Mildenhall (Bristol Rovers), Therry Racon (Released)
Summer Transfers (In): Scott McDonald (Middlesbrough), Nicky Bailey (Middlesbrough), Richard Chaplow (Southampton), Lee Martin (Ipswich), Jermaine Easter (Crystal Palace), Stephen Bywater (Sheffield Wednesday), Steve Morison (Loan, Leeds )
One to Watch: Dan Shittu
A Few Thoughts: Having taken over at The Den in 2007, Kenny Jackett consolidated a flailing Millwall side, got them to the playoff final in 2009 before returning to beat Swindon 1-0 in 2010 and take his side back to the Championship. He managed to establish Millwall as a genuine Championship team and as it was about as far as he was ever going to take them he parted ways to take on a new challenge at Wolves over the summer, having been in post longer than all but five of his managerial equals at the time of his exit. How Millwall will respond to Jackett`s departure remains to be seen, especially as they faltered so dramatically following the departure of their main striker Chris Wood last season.
In Jackett`s place, however, is Steve Lomas, an ex-Ranger with two UEFA League qualifications with St Johnstone behind him and a full mop of ardent ginger hair. The Northern Irishman`s arrival brings the start of a new era to Millwall; the list of successful managers to have managed in Scotland and replicate their successes in England continues to grow and having acted quickly to bring back Steve Morison to the club, along with Scott McDonald and Stephen Bywater, Millwall possess a half decent squad. Jackett had struggled to add the quality his team so desired, and the lovely Millwall fans were growing tiresome of the same depleted and under-confident squad flirting with the jaws of League 1. Despite a promising start over the summer, Steve Lomas has a tough job on his hands, and with Chairman John Berylson stating his aim is to establish Millwall as a top 10 Championship side before taking a step towards an eventual tilt on the Premier League, he may want to get off to a good start.
Name: Sheffield Wednesday
Manager: Dave Jones
Also Known As: The Owls
Last Season Finish: 18th
This Season Prediction: 22nd
Last Meeting: April 2010, QPR 1-1 Sheff Wed (Faurlin – Soares)
Summer Transfers (Out): Nicky Weaver (Aberdeen), Chris Lines (Port Vale), Bastien Henry (Rochdale), Nejc Pecnik (Red Star Belgrade), Stephen Bywater (Millwall), Chris O`Grady (Barnsley), Matthew Fletcher, Julian Bennett, Harry Grant (All Released)
Summer Transfers (In): Atdhe Nuhiu (Rapid Vienna), Jeremy Helan (£350k, Man City), Rafael Floro (FC Porto), Jacques Maghoma (Burton)
One to Watch: Lewis Buxton
A Few Thoughts: Whispers of The Owls doing a Norwich or Southampton echoed around the messageboards at the beginning of last season but were soon wiped out as Wednesday struggled to cope with the extra quality on offer in the Championship. Michail Antonio and Jermaine Johnson were rare bursts of energy and flair that had to contend with the less easy on the eye viewing of Miguel Llera prancing around with his silly Petr Cech-esque cap on. The monotonous Dave Jones continues to be monotonous, and a comical touchline altercation with Charlie Oatway against Brighton last season was probably Wednesday`s only interesting highlight from an otherwise lowly Championship campaign. Despite Jones` lacklustre side failing to make any dramatic impact in their new league, they did manage to accumulate a total of 58 points, a total that would have seen them take 16th place the year before.
The acquisition of Jeremy Helan from Manchester City indicates Jones will continue to utilise his wide players, and with no player getting into double figures in the league, one, maybe two, new strikers are a must if Wednesday are to compete for a mid-table finish. Unfortunately their squad lacks the quality to contend with some of the other relegation candidates and I can see a swift return to League 1 for Wednesday.
Manager: Gary Johnson
Stadium: Huish Park
Also Known As: The Glovers
Last Season Finish: 4th (League 1)
This Season Prediction: 23rd
Last Meeting: October 2001, Yeovil 3-0 QPR (Giles 2, Grant)
Summer Transfers (Out): Richard Hinds (Bury), Ben Gordon (Ross County), Dominic Blizzard (Plymouth), Reuben Reid (Loan, Plymouth), Gavin Williams (Woking)
Summer Transfers (In): Alan Tate (Loan, Swansea), Danny Seaborne (Southampton), Billy Clifford (Loan, Chelsea), Michael Ngoo (Loan, Liverpool), Kieffer Moore (Dorchester Town), Sam Hoskins (Southampton), Joel Grant (Wycombe Wanderers)
One to Watch: Ed Upson
A Few Thoughts: Having fought week in week out against sides with budgets and stadiums that eclipsed their own, Yeovil finally managed to leap out of the lower echelons of League 1 and mount a surprise promotion campaign that eventually ended with a stunning playoff victory over Brentford. Gary Johnson, who returned to the club for his second spell as manager, took over from Terry Skiverton, who joined him as assistant manager, in January and managed to propel Yeovil up to the scary heights of Championship football. Long gone are the days of short contracts and the need to turn over mass amounts of personnel each summer and Yeovil now possess a good squad that was assembled on a shoestring budget. This change in attitude from a club that only entered the Football League ten years ago has enabled a successful chapter in the club`s history and every football league fan will be rooting for Yeovil at any occasion this season.
Of course, The Glovers face a momentous uphill battle to sustain a campaign that will see them steer clear of relegation. As Gary Johnson rightly pointed out, ‘there are quite a few players at QPR who will be earning more in a week than [his] entire squad combined`. No team will want to lose to Yeovil, and it is from this that the Somerset club must take heart; play to the other teams` fears and spring a few surprises along the way. Johnson enjoyed a successful spell at Bristol City with a team full of comparative unknowns, and so he must utilise the unfamiliar sight of men in green and white to the best of his ability; loan signings Billy Clifford and Michael Ngoo could have a point to prove and the promotion heroes Marek Stech, Joe Edwards and Ed Upson all could prove to be Championship hits. It`s a division that is unforgiving to big reputations that rest on their laurels and while Yeovil can profit from that, I can see a season of struggle for The Glovers.
Manager: David Flitcroft
Also Known As: The Tykes
Last Season Finish: 21st
This Season Prediction:24th
Last Meeting: April 2011, Barnsley 0-1 QPR (Taarabt)
Summer Transfers (Out): John Rooney (Bury), Matt Done (Rochdale), Stephen Foster (Tranmere), Marlon Harewood, Rob Edwards, Lukas Lidakevicius, Toni Silva (All Released)
Summer Transfers (In): Jean-Yves M`voto (Oldham Athletic), John Cofie (Man Utd), Lewin Nyatanga (Bristol City), Dale Jennings (£250k, Bayern Munich), Christian Dibble (Bury), Chris O`Grady (Sheff Wed)
One to Watch: David Perkins
A Few Thoughts: Barnsley managed to retain their Championship status last season by the skin of their teeth; David Flitcroft will go down in Reds` folklore as he achieved the mammoth task of keeping them up, uniting a dressing room and club along the way. Barnsley`s stint in the Championship has hardly raised any eyebrows, a 17th placed finish in 2011 their highest since their promotion back in 2006, and with uncertainty over the board, crowd attendances and season ticket prices, Barnsley must decide in which direction they would like to take their club. The club fail to push 9000 at some home games, and despite almost 100% of fans behind Flitcroft, this is a big issue that needs to be addressed as Barnsley aim to get to a stage where finishing 21st isn`t ‘lucky` or an achievement ‘beyond belief`.
Despite Flitcroft`s colossal achievement, the hard work for Barnsley has just begun. In a division where the strength of competition seems to increase each year, Barnsley will again have their work cut out in order to achieve even a lower mid-table finish. The appointment of a seemingly talented manager will go a long way in replicating their mission impossible, and the intriguing signing of youngster Dale Jennings, and permanent contracts offered to Lewin Nyatanga and Chris O`Grady will bolster a largely mediocre squad. Unfortunately for the Yorkshire club, however, I can see the end of the road in their quest to be labelled as a genuine Championship side as another arduous campaign takes its toll on a club that will have spent eight years in England`s second tier.
Abuse me on twitter @harrod11. A special thanks to @N_Harrod for his valued help and assistance
Season Preview – Part III (17th – 24th)
As QPR embark on a new season in the Sky Bet Championship, Vital QPR aims to predict and speculate over the outcome of the most unpredictable league in the world…