IN our final set of previews ahead the new season, Alex Grace takes a look at the sides he expects to be in a relegation battle.
It has been difficult ride for Rangers since they were relegated from the Premier League in 2015. They are now on their seventh manager since Harry Redknapp and things have been extremely turbulent in west London over the last few years.
Following promotion to the Premier League, Rangers brought in a lot of players on high wages and have had to cut their wage bill massively. The 2017-18 season saw them compete with a fairly small squad as former Millwall manager Ian Holloway tried to bring in some of the club’s younger players he did that well. He managed to blend youth with experience. Considering the players that he lost that summer a 16th-place finish was a good achievement.
Last season saw new ownership at the club. After an awful start things improved through the middle part of the season. However, after Christmas the form took a nose-dive and Steve McClaren was sacked. John Eustace led the R’s to safety but it looks as if it could be another challenging campaign.
Mark Warburton is the man that was chosen to replace McClaren on a full-time basis and there have been a number of new arrivals this summer. That could work in one of two ways. It could propel Rangers up into the play-off mix or it could see them battling for survival.
Promotion Odds [Sky Bet]: 16/1
Relegation Odds [Sky Bet]: 7/2
Millwall record vs QPR: Won 31, Drawn 23, Lost 20
Last meeting: Millwall 0-0 QPR – Championship, April 10, 2019
Ins: Yoann Barbet [Free– Chelsea]; Dylan Duncan [Free – Tottenham]; Liam Kelly [£50,000 – Livingston]; Lee Wallace [Free – Rangers]; Dominic Ball [Free- Rotherham]; Connor Masterson [Free – Liverpool]; Dillion Barnes [Undisclosed – Colchester]; Geoff Cameron [Free – Stoke]; Todd Kane [Free – Chelsea]; Marc Pugh [Free – Bournemouth]; Luke Amos [Loan – Tottenham]; Matthew Smith [Loan – Manchester City]; Jan Mlakar [Loan – Brighton]; Jordan Hugill [Loan – West Ham]
Outs: Paul Smyth [Loan – Wycombe]; Giles Phillips [Loan- Wycombe]; Seny Dieng [Loan – Doncaster]; Jake Bidwell [Free – Swansea]; Jordan Cousins [Free- Stoke]; Charlie Fox [Released]; Charlie Fox [Released]; Matt Ingram [Undisclosed – Hull]; Joel Lynch [Released]; Matt Smith [Undisclosed – Millwall]; Luke Freeman [Undisclosed – Sheffield United]; Darnell Furlong [Undisclosed – West Brom]
Another summer, another period of disaster for Hull. It seems as if things are repeating themselves. Off-the-field problems have continued to cast doubt on any success that Hull can have on the field. The Tigers had a better season last season than what many thought they would. After a difficult start, things turned out well and even provided fans with the chance to dream of the play-offs. However, a slump saw that end.
It’s not been an easy summer with discontent from fans once again. Nigel Adkins left the club in the summer which has left a sour taste in many of the fans’ mouths. The appointment of Grant McCann has left some wondering what direction the club is going in. I think if he is given the time then he could build something good at the KCOM Stadium.
Once again it leaves the club in an uncertain position. There has been some transfer activity this summer but not as much as the fans would have liked on the incoming front. On the other hand, at the time of writing the likes of Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki were still there. The only downside to that is no one quite knows what state of mind they may be in.
I feel that the squad remains rather thin. The capture of big striker Tom Eaves is a smart deal. I think he could cause some problems at Championship level but there will be pressure on him right away to deliver.
Promotion Odds [Sky Bet]: 12/1
Relegation Odds [Sky Bet]: 5/1
Millwall record v Hull: Won 22, Drawn 18, Lost 24
Last Meeting: Hull City 2-1 Millwall – Championship 26th February 2019
Ins: Tom Eaves [Free – Gillingham]; Ryan Tafazolli [Peterborough – Free]; Matt Ingram [QPR – Undisclosed]; Sean McLoughlin [Undisclosed – Cork]; Josh Bowler [Undisclosed – Everton]; Max Sheaf [End of loan – Cheltenham]
Outs: Evandro [Santos – Free]; Max Sheaf [Cheltenham – Loan]; Callum Burton [Cambridge – Free]; David Marshall [Wigan – Free]; Will Keane, Fraizer Campbell, Liam Ridgewell, Ondrej Mazuch [All Released]
Much like Hull, Charlton’s off-field problems are what has made the headlines this summer. At one point we didn’t even know if Lee Bowyer was going to carry on in his job. Following promotion to the Championship last term the fans would have been hoping that the club would finally be sold and that the nightmare tenure of Roland Duchatelet was over.
There was hope when news broke that Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman was interested in the club. However, it failed to happen. There have been updates from the owner throughout the summer and he continues to say he wants the club sold.
On the pitch, following promotion things have not been plain sailing. Failure to secure targets and have their own players tied down to long-term contracts has cost them. Joe Aribo left to join Rangers for a small fee while Wembley hero Patrick Bauer also departed and joined Preston.
However, despite all the negativity I do believe that the Reds have done some very good business. Keeping Jonny Williams is a massive plus, he proved just how good he can be last season. I was at the play-off final and he made a big impact when he came on, so for them to tie him down is a big positive. It will be a tough season for Bowyer’s men. He has the ability to be able to keep Charlton up, but it will be tough.
Promotion Odds [Sky Bet]: 28/1
Relegation Odds: [Sky Bet]: 9/4
Millwall record v Charlton: Won 35, Drawn 27, Lost 12
Last Meeting: Charlton 0-0 Millwall – Championship 14th January 2017
Ins: Macauley Bonne [Leyton Orient – £203,000]; Tom Lockyer [Bristol Rovers – Free]; Chuks Aneke [Mk Dons – Free]; Adedeji Oshilaja [AFC Wimbledon – Free]; Ben Amos [Bolton – Free]; Conor Gallagher [Chelsea – Loan]; Nathan Harness [Stevenage – Undisclosed]; Ben Purrington [Rotherham – Free]
Outs: Mark Marshall [Gillingham – Free]; Nicky Ajose [Exeter – Free]; Patrick Bauer [Preston – Free]; Josh Parker [Wycombe – Free]; Jamie Mascoll [Wycombe – Free]; Igor Vetokele [Westerlo – Free]; Joe Aribo [Rangers – Free]; Tarique Fosu [Oxford – Undsiclosed]; Ben Reeves [Released]
It has been an incredible few years for Luton. I was young at the time but I remember when they were handed that 30-point penalty that meant they started the season on -30 and let’s be fair to them they nearly stayed up. They gave it a great go that year but just fell short. It was a long spell away but I am glad to see them back in the Championship.
They are under new management this year after Mick Harford decided he didn’t want the job on a permanent basis. He was able to step aside in the best way by leading the club to promotion as champions, a fitting way to go after complete back-to-back promotions following Nathan Jones the previous season. That is a big achievement and not something we see too often.
Graeme Jones is the man in charge and it will be tough for them back at this level with so many massive clubs. I do think they can stay up but in my opinion they do lack depth to their squad and if injures set in they could be in big trouble towards the end of the campaign. A lot of these players won’t have played at this level before.
Promotion Odds [Sky Bet]: 14/1
Relegation Odds [Sky Bet]: 4/1
Millwall record v Luton: Won 33, Drawn 25, Lost 22
Last Meeting: Luton 1-3 Millwall – Football League Trophy, 8th November 2016
Ins: Simon Sluga [HNK Rijeka – £1.53m]; Martin Cranie [Sheffield United – Free]; Brendan Galloway [Everton – Free]; Ryan Tunnicliffe [Millwall – Free]; Jacob Butterfield [Derby – Free]; Callum McManaman [Wigan – Free]
Outs: James Justin [Leicester -£6.03M]; Jack Stacey [Bournemouth – £4.01M]; Luke Gambin [Colchester – Free]; Alan McCormack [Northampton – Free]; Aaron Jarvis [Sutton – Free]; Arthur Read [Brentford – Free]; Jack James, Jack Senior [Both Released]
Barnsley are the typical yo-yo side between the Championship and League One. They were relegated two seasons ago before bouncing back last season in very good fashion. It was a job well done last season to clear the deadwood and get the club back up as soon as possible. Everyone knows how tough a division League One is. All you have to do is look at the clubs there.
It’s been a busy summer at Oakwell with 10 players coming through the door and nine departing. Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock will be big loses to the club but have both gone for fees of around a combined £5million. That is business well done for the club.
I think it will be a tough campaign for the Yorkshire side because once again while the squad might be bigger than a lot of their rivals it is not the strongest and you feel that if they were to be without a first-teamer for too long or a few got injured it would be hard for them to compete in games.
If they stay up they would have done well and I think a lot of Barnsley fans would be satisfied with that.
Promotion Odds [Sky Bet]: 25/1
Relegation Odds [Sky Bet]: 5/2
Millwall record v Barnsley: Won 23, Drawn 12, Lost 24
Last Meeting: Barnsley 0-2 Millwall – Championship 17th March 2018
Ins: Luke Thomas [Derby £1.22M]; Mads Juel Andersen [Ac Horsens -£900,000]; Mike Bahre [Hannover 96 – £135,000]; Samuel Sahin – Radlinger [Hannover 96 – Free]; Brad Collins [Chelsea -Free]; Aapo Halme [Leeds – Undisclosed]; Conor Champlin [Coventry – Undisclosed]; Toby Sibbick [AFC Wimbledon – Undisclosed]; Malik Wilks [Leeds – Undisclosed]; Bambo Diaby [KSC Lokeren – Undisclosed]
Outs: Ethan Pinnock [Brentford – £3.02M]; Liam Lindsey [Stoke – £2.03M]; Victor Adeboyejo [Bristol Rovers – Loan]; Lloyd Isgrove [Swindon – Free]; Ryan Hedges [Aberdeen – Free]; Adam Jackson [Hibernian – Free]; Zeki Fryers [Swindon – Free]; Adam Davies [Stoke – Free]
Image: Millwall FC