Fan Previews: Part Two

WITH the new season almost upon us, Alex Grace spoke to fans of Championship clubs to gather their thoughts ahead of 2019-20.

Charlton – Nikos Roub [@nikroumpis]

What have you made of Charlton’s business so far?

Charlton did a wonderful job to win promotion through the play-offs last season. Not many people were expecting us to be a serious promotion contender, but we finished the season strong and we carried this momentum into the playoffs. But the Championship is a completely different story and operating under the league’s smallest budget will be really challenging. We are way off filling all the gaps created by players departures, so I don’t think we have done a good job during the transfer period. Just to clarify, that’s not the manager’s fault, it’s clearly the owners.

Where do The Addicks need to strengthen?

Midfield. We lost our key players Joe Aribo, Josh Cullen and Krystian Bielik. And we brought in… em… nobody! On a positive note, we have Jake Forster-Caskey coming back after a long-term injury and we also kept Jonny Williams. We still need 3-4 top class midfielders though.

How did the speculation around Lee Bowyer affect things this summer?

The news that Charlton didn’t renew Lee Bowyer’s contract brought a huge wave of anger among fans. Thankfully, the situation was resolved within 24 hours, but we certainly missed valuable time in the summer. Bowyer should have had his contract renewed straight after the play-off final, or even before that.

There have been rumours of takeovers almost there and then being shut down again. How difficult has it been for the fan base this summer?

I don’t think that any Charlton fan realistically believes that a takeover will take place anytime this season. If it does, it would be a very welcome surprise. For the time being, we are all bracing ourselves for another season under Duchatelet, hoping his disastrous spell at Charlton will not continue.

What style do you expect Lee Bowyer to play?

In League One, Bowyer basically played a classic diamond 4-4-2. During the pre-season he has experimented between this formation and a 5-3-2 formation with three central defenders. This is something that he used on a few occasions in League One as well. Recognising our weaknesses, I believe he will go for the 5-3-2, though he has proved that he is quite open to trying new things, especially when things don’t go well.

Who will be your key men?

Lyle Taylor, hands down. A very gifted striker who hasn’t been tested at Championship level. Our survival really depends on his ability to do well against bigger and better defenders.

And then comes Williams, if he stays healthy, he can create problems for our opponents.

Are you happy with the players that left?

We lost too many important players and we haven’t really replaced them. Loanees Cullen and Bielik are two players that the fans would be delighted to see back, but I'm not very confident that both of them will be playing at The Valley this season.

What are your overall expectations?

I expect to see the togetherness that Bowyer has brought to the team since day one. This togetherness will be tested more than ever this season following hard defeats or games that opponents will simply outplay us with their quality. Given our lack of quality in midfield, I expect us to fight for survival, it won’t be easy, but we can make it.

Derby: Ewan Bryan

What have you made of Derby’s business this summer?

Business has not been good. We’ve brought in two players and seven have left. We are currently not bringing any players in. I’m not sure why that is but it is a bit concerning because we need to replace the likes the Harry Wilson and Mason Mount who were so key to the success that we had last season.

Where do the Rams need to strengthen?

Our defence is not the strongest, there were members of it last season that we have now lost and they do make us weaker. The loss of Tomori is a big one. He played a big part in getting us to the play-off final last season. The fact we have only signed two players does concern me going into the season.

Are you happy with the appointment of Phillip Cocu as Manager?

Yes, very much so. I think he's a manager who comes to Derby with good pedigree and will relish the chance to manage in the Championship. He is one of the highest profile managers we’ve had at Derby.

What style do you think he will play?

Looking back at his previous clubs he favours a passing style of football. That is something that would suit the Championship. He also favours attacking players which is something we want to see at Derby especially after the success we had at the club last season.

Who will be your key players?

Considering we have lost Tomori, Mount and Wilson who were three of our most key players last season it’s hard to say. From the current squad, if there were to be no new blood, I would say our key players will be Jack Marriott, Mason Bennett and Kieran Dowell.

What are your overall expectations?

It will be tough but I reckon that if Cocu can get all the players playing to the level they need to be at and they all fit into his system and style of play, then we can challenge for a top-six place.

Fulham: [@DrewHeatley from @fullhamishpod]

What do you make of Fulham’s business this summer?

I think this summer will be defined by the players we managed to keep, rather than the ones we signed, with Tom Cairney and Aleksander Mitrovic both penning news deals. I write this a week before the end of the transfer window, but so far we’ve only brought in Ivan Cavaleiro and Anthony Knockaert to improve the first XI. It’s certainly a case of quality over quantity in that sense, with both players providing significant contributions to Wolves and Brighton respectively when those sides got promoted in recent years.

Where do you think the Cottagers need to strengthen if at all?

The biggest gripe (and it’s a big one) is once again the lack of defensive reinforcements. Alfie Mawson limping off in our final pre-season game against West Ham showed just how light we are in central defence (we’ve been crying out for a right-sided CB for more than a year), while not many are convinced that Cyrus Christie is the right man for that right-back berth. If we don’t do business there before the door slams shut, we might struggle if we’re looking at being in the mix for promotion.

Were you happy with the appointment of Scott Parker as Manager?

After the failed appointment of Claudio Ranieri, Shad Khan had to get it right. Scott’s tenure as caretaker was hardly the best we’ve ever seen, but it was enough to convince the powers that be that, with the right players, he was a safe – and let’s not forget, cheap – choice. But he has the respect of players like Cairney, and that counts for a lot.

What style do you think he will play?

I think one of the things that helped him bag the job was his apparent philosophy for attractive, attacking football – not too dissimilar to Slavisa Jokanovic, who he was of course a player and coach under. The familiar 4-3-3 remains, if pre-season is any indication, and that will please many. Towards the end of last season we saw that Parker’s not afraid to use a plan B and get the dirty work done, which is something Slav would never, or could never, really do.

Who will be your key players?

It’s got to be Mitro, plain and simple. He needs to fire enough goals to get us up there – because I’ve a feeling our defence will have their work cut out for them. Similarly, the service he gets from new wingmen Knocky and Cavaleiro will be crucial – and they’ll need to chip in with double figures of their own if we’re to mount a realistic challenge.

What are your overall expectations?

My heart says top two, but my head says play-offs. It really hinges on any defensive signings before the window closes. But we’re in a hell of a lot better shape this time round than we were when we were last relegated in 2014 – and the importance of that can’t be overstated.

Huddersfield: James Copley

What have you made of Huddersfield’s summer business?

Not too bad, to be honest this summer was more about who has going to leave rather than who was going to come in. We had two years in the Premier League which meant we had a lot of players on big wages.

Where do the Terriers need to strengthen?

The goalkeeping department is one that needs improvement. Our current keeper is going to need to prove himself. He will be thrown right in at the deep end and the Championship can quickly swallow you up if you don’t hit the ground running early on. It will be nice also too see how our youth perform.

What formation do you expect to play?

I think we will play 4- 3-3.

Who will be your key men?

Our key men will be Karlan Grant who was superb when he came in from Charlton last January. He did the best he could in a side that just couldn’t score goals against top-class opposition. Aaron Mooy will also be key, he has that extra bit of quality that many in the Championship don’t and that will be key if we are to achieve anything this season.

What are your overall expectations?

 This season will be a challenge, I would be happy with a mid-table finish. This would allow us to develop our youth through our academy and could allow for us to make a push for promotion next season.

Hull: Tom Edmiston [@tomedmiston]

What have you made of Hull’s summer business?

For a club who in the past few seasons haven’t really done an excessive amount of business, but have had a lot of players leave, I am pleased that we are getting some signings across the line for a change. The only issue is, nearly all of these have never played a game at this level, so are yet to prove themselves.

Where if anywhere do you think the Tigers need to strengthen?

The Tigers need to strengthen up front. With Tom Eaves already carrying a groin injury, and Nouha Dicko hardly being the most clinical striker in the world, we have been struggling with getting goals this pre-season. If we don’t get another striker, then I feel like we could really struggle this season.

What did you make of Nigel Adkins leaving the club?

Nigel Adkins' departure from the club was a real blow for all the fans. He was a man that had a lot of experience and we were all optimistic that if he was maybe given another season we could’ve challenged for the play-offs. However, having owners that are so strict on financial input, it is no surprise that they wouldn’t budge on the deal we offered him. It is just one of many problems which are dampening the spirits of the fans.

Are you happy with Grant McCann as his replacement and what system are you expecting him to play?

With Grant McCann, we all are hoping that his experience with Doncaster (getting sixth in League One on a low budget) can be done here due to the fact that we are in a similar position to them. After being to a few pre -season games, he seems to really be struggling to embed his style of play into the team, with many of our players looking so confused and backing off the ball against Doncaster.

If he can pull the squad together, and get a few signings over the line, then I believe we could surprise the teams in the Championship.

I expect him to play very attacking football, but that will leave us open at the back due to its narrow shape leaving the oppositions wingers free.

Who will be your key men?

If we keep hold of Jarrod Bowen, he will be our key man. The problem is, he seems to be developing an attitude as if he doesn’t want to play for us anymore, amid the Newcastle United interest. If McCann can manage to get him out of his little strop that he’s been showing in the past two pre-season matches, then we have one hell of a player on our hands.

Are you happy with the players that have left, and do you think it was the right time for them to move on?

I believe that the fact we were unable to keep Frazier Campbell was disappointing, but not a surprise. Being run by owners who hate the fans and would penny-pinch in any way possible, it seemed inevitable whatever he asked for he would not get. When speaking to him after our final game of the season at home, he seemed so keen on staying with the club.

Marc Pugh would have been an amazing addition to the squad, however he was snapped up by QPR due to his unwillingness to move up north. Losing David Marshall was something that many fans didn’t care about. However, reading about Matt Ingram, we haven’t got the best replacement.

What are your overall expectations?

Overall, I believe that the next week is crucial. With many fans staying away due to the dreadful treatment of us by the owners, our attendances will dwindle, the money will dry up, and signings won’t find us very appealing.

At the end of the day, I would take anything in the mid-table positions with the current squad. I believe we need to pull together our playing style fast, because if we play how we did against Doncaster when we travel to Swansea, then we will get absolutely demolished.

If we can make some last-ditch signings in the attacking department and iron out a leaky defence, then I’d say we could push for sixth place. But I'd say that’s optimistic!

Leeds: Graham Smeaton

What do you make of Leeds’s business this summer?

Business this summer is essentially the capture of Helder Costa. A great signing at this level and will slot into the Leeds side well with the attacking focus that Marcelo Bielsa sides show. Other than that, business has been underwhelming. Any other business than football and we'd have to shed some workers with that level of business.

Where do you think the Whites need to strengthen if at all?

Where do Leeds need to strengthen? Easy – centre of defence. We've got strength elsewhere but other than youngster Pascal Struijk stepping up from the under-23s we are threadbare in the middle. Dan White looks good, but Leeds United fans can be very forthright and pounce on any mistakes.

To be honest, the Liam Cooper/White combination doesn't fill me with the confidence that a Cooper/Pontus Jansson combination did.

What style do you expect Marcelo Bielsa to play?

Bielsa's style will be the same as last season – it'll be up to other teams to break us down. Possession-based football dictates the style of play. Build up from the back, quick transitions and ball out wide and worked down the flanks.

Getting the ball at goal with speed is how he plays and having Costa onboard should help that. When they don't have/lose the ball it's constant pressure and harrying that Leeds do and they do it well

Who will be your key players?


Key players? Hmm, you can't look past Pablo Hernandez for that. Thirty-four he may be but he was class last season with 12 goals and 12 assists.

Also, Mateusz Klich, from almost sold to 10 goals and 8 assists. Obviously, Costa has got to weigh in with his contribution and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Keep an eye out for Mateusz Bogusz, 17-year-old Polish youngster we brought in from the third tier of Polish football. Ran the game in the first half against A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers and looked good when he came on against Cagliari on Saturday night

What are your overall expectations?

Promotion must be on the cards. Last season was a pleasant surprise but in getting Bielsa it just showed what Leeds had been missing with their appointments ranging from David Hockaday to Paul Heckingbottom.

Luton: Neil Doney

What have you made of Luton’s summer business?

To be honest, Luton’s business has been very good. We know it’ll be a tough season ahead and we needed to bring in players that have Championship experience. We’ve even broken our transfer record, which had stood for years, by paying £1.3million for Simon Sluga from Croatian club HNK Rijeka.

Where if anywhere do you think the Hatters need to strengthen?

I'd say we still need another striker and maybe a right-back and centre-half. I think we're still a little short in those areas and that could be a problem if we get things like injures begin to set in.

Luton signed former Millwall man Ryan Tunnicliffe this summer, what is your opinion on him?

Ryan Tunnicliffe is a fantastic player and I honestly think he will be a brilliant signing for Luton. We lost 5-1 to Norwich in pre-season and I think he was one of the highlights of our team.

Are you happy with the appointment of Graeme Jones?

Well chuffed with the appointment of GJ. He knows his football and has great contacts in the game. We will see how his tactics work this season.

Now we’ve lost our most potent full-backs I can’t see the diamond working any longer, but I'm still expecting us to play attacking football. I just don’t want us to over-expose ourselves.

Who will be your key men?

Key player will be James Collins. We will need his goals, and J just hope he can step up to this level. If he can’t then I think we could be in a little bit of trouble because you have to be able to score goals if you want to survive in this division.

Are you happy with the players that have left, and do you think it was the right time for them to move on?

The two full-backs left with my blessing, you can’t stand in a player’s way and when they only have one year left on their contracts you risk losing them for nothing. So to get nearly £18 million was a bonus as long as we spend that money wisely. If we do that then we should be okay.

We have a great board. They now have planning permission for the new stadium which will be completed in four years’ time. With the playing staff we are at the top end of our budget and only having a 12,000-seater stadium the need to sell players was expected.

What are your overall expectations?

My personal opinion and the opinion of a lot of the supporters is all we want is survival then try and establish ourselves again. We’ve been to the bottom of the barrel after the 30-point deduction. We were kicked into the abyss of the Conference for five years, now we’ve started to rise again so as long as we don’t get relegated, I'd say that was a successful season.

Middlesbrough: Thomas Peacock [@thomasp16x]

What have you made of Middlesbrough’s summer business?

Underwhelming so far. However, I think that’s because we had to get a number of players off the wage bill. Now we have done that, I do expect us to make some key signings. We have seen a number of links with players but so far nothing has come through. I do expect the new management to make some good signings.

Where if anywhere do you think Boro need to strengthen?

There are areas we need to strengthen in, but the main positions are down the wings and at full-back. We are short in those areas and have seen players leave this summer in those positions, and they need to be replaced with quality.

What are your thoughts on Tony Pulis leaving the club?

I was really happy when I heard the news that Tony Pulis was departing the club. The football that we played was awful and was really hard to watch. I’ve never hated watching a Boro team more than his. I think this was a common thought among much of the fan base, with most happy to see him gone.

Are you happy with Jonathan Woodgate as his replacement and what system are you expecting him to play?

Yes, I'm very happy with Woodgate as his replacement. He is someone who knows the club and has worked his way up the ladder. He is someone who is very well respected by the fans. I think he will play a 4-2-3-1 system or a 4-3-3, it will depend on who we manage to sign in the time the window remains open.

Who will be your key men?

Britt Assombolanga will be our key man, he scored 14 goals last season in a team that didn’t score many. If Woodgate chooses to play a 4-2-3-1 formation, then Assombolanga will be the key man up top to find the goals. He will be able to score more in the new set-up.

Are you happy with the players that have left, and do you think it was the right time for them to move on?

I was very happy with the players that left and it was the right time for Aden Flint and Martin Braithwaite. It should have been earlier, the latter just didn’t manage to settle into the club which is a shame. If he had settled he could have become just as important as some of other players at the club because he is not a bad player, it just hasn’t worked for him here.

What are your overall expectations?

I feel we will have a decent a season. A transitional one where initially we will struggle because  we will be bedding in younger players causing us to have a slow start to the season. However, I think we will come on strong at the end of the season to just miss out on the play-offs, but putting down the building blocks for the 2020-21 campaign.

Millwall: Michael Avery [@mavery1986]

What have you made of Millwall’s summer business?

I think the players brought in for those who have left are good replacements. They may not be as inspiring as when we signed Jake Cooper, Jed Wallace and George Saville seemingly all in one swoop, but it’s certainly better than last August when the signings left us a bit deflated.

What system are you expecting Neil Harris to play?

That’s a tough one to call. Chopper has mostly preferred 4-4-2, but I think as the modern game changes so will this idea. It’s certainly interesting as in the past when managers have tried to change the formations or style, Lions fans have always said that 4-4-2 was the “Millwall way" of playing the game. We’ll have to wait and see.

Who will be your key men?

It’s still Jed for me as he makes the team tick and we seem to put all our eggs in one basket attack-wise when he is playing.

The loss of Lee Gregory and Steve Morison means that Tom Bradshaw and Matt Smith have huge boots to fill, but both have pedigree at this level and should do well. Shane Ferguson is another player who is key to us. It is also a big season for Mahlon Romeo who is now seen as the club's first-choice right-back.

Do you think it was the right time for those who have left to move on?

Gregory went the right way. He saw out his contract, kept putting the effort in and left with the player of the year trophy. We couldn’t have kept him even if we had offered a king’s ransom, so though it’s disappointing for us that he left, I’m happy for him as a person.

Morison leaving was one that surprised me as Harris always said that there was a place for him at the club. But ultimately he felt he could do a job somewhere else and thought it was best to move on.

What are your overall expectations?

Expectations? I’m not going to get too carried away and say we’ll make the top 10, but I’ll be happy with a lower mid-table finish.  Let’s just hope that there’s not a repeat of last season…

Nottingham Forest: Jay Stanley

What have you made of Nottingham Forest’s summer business?

So far, I'm happy with the summer business we have managed to do. Albert Adomah is someone who has played at this level for a number of years. We saw how good he was last season for Aston Villa. Aro Muric is also a good capture.

Where if anywhere do you think Forest need to strengthen?

We are a little light up front. So I think we definitely need another striker. Lewis Grabban is still a good player, but he needs help. Daryl Murphy is also a good option but is in the twilight years of his career.

Are you happy with the new managerial appointment and what style do you expect him to play?

I along with a number of other Forest fans were shocked at Martin O’Neil’s departure but were even more shocked when Sabri Lamouchi was confirmed as his replacement just two hours later. I was also shocked because I didn’t know who he was, but I will back him and hopefully he comes good

The style of play is a hard one to guess. In pre-season teams play different styles so they work out which one is best. It will be interesting to see what one he picks for Saturday.

Who will be your key men?

Joe Worrall will be key at centre-back and if he performs well then our defence should stand strong, but he will need help from the others around him.

Joao Carvalho is our record signing and did not get off to the best start last season so he will want to improve.

Joe Lolley will also be key for us. His delivery from the right was good last season and we need that to continue going into this campaign.

What are your overall expectations?

Hopefully we have a better campaign than last season. It would be nice to keep a manager for the whole season. It is something that does not happen too much at the City Ground nowadays. Last season we were aiming for a play-off place and it started well but then fell away. Aitor Karanka left and it all fell apart. Hopefully this year we can challenge for a play-off place.

Preston: Niki Trueman [@niki_trueman]

What have you made of Preston’s business this summer?

I think we've left it too late – again! We sold Callum Robinson for £8 million to Sheffield United a few weeks ago and haven't bothered to replace him. It was the same when we sold Jordan Hugill to West Ham for £11 million. We sell but never replace and I'm fed up with that.

Where do Preston need to strengthen?

We needed, according to Alex Neil at the start of the window, to get some experience into the squad from this division. However, we signed Patrick Bauer from Charlton who played in League One last season. I mean, come on, that's a bit of a cop-out to me. We signed David Nugent but he doesn’t have 60 minutes in him, in my opinion.

Who will be your key players?

I'm hoping Josh Harrop will do something special this year, he is someone who has a lot of significant potential and could become a very key player at this level.

Ben Pearson will be another key player – that is if he stays on the pitch. Should he manage to sort out his discipline problem then he will become someone who is very key to any success that we could have.

What are your overall expectations?

We came close to the play-offs in the last two seasons but I feel this year we may not have that kind of season. I’m expecting us to be around mid-table but we could also struggle and end up in a relegation battle.

QPR: George Hayselden [@QPR_George]

What have you made of QPR’s business so far?

Overall, I’m very happy with Rangers’ business so far with 14 signings with maybe one more CB to be confirmed before Saturday. Over recent years we’ve been pretty dull in the transfer market, but this year I really think we have pulled it out the bag!

Where do The Hoops still need to strengthen?

No places to strengthen now, though I think probably one more centre-back wouldn’t do any harm. Just in case we get any injures.

Are you happy with the appointment of Mark Warburton and what style do you expect him to play?

Definitely. He seems to have brought a good feel to the club and a new way of attacking play which we all like here at Loftus Road. I expect him to play an attacking style according to his interviews, a direct style of play seems to be what he wants to do.

Who will be your key men?

Luke Amos, a great midfielder who has a great attacking brain and loves a tackle.

Also, Marc Pugh and Jordan Hugill, two great signings for the R’s this summer. Pugh will bring a healthy option on the wing as well as plenty of experience on and off the pitch. Hugill is a good goalscorer which is one thing we have been lacking for a while now.

 Are you happy with the players that left?

 Yes, as the amount of money we have made with Luke Freeman leaving for £5million and Darnell Furlong for £2million is great. We have signed some great replacements for them.

What are your overall expectations?

I'm hoping for a top-half finish this season with the quality we have added and the belief is back around the club now, I feel. Me, being an optimistic fan, has placed £10 on getting promotion at 20/1 as I always have that hope.

Image: Millwall FC