|The signing of Kevin Nolan signals |
West Ham's intent of returning to the
Following Norwich's back to back promotions the likes of Brighton and Southampton will be hoping that history can repeat itself. The Saints were relegated from the Championship in 2009 amidst financial problems but their return to the second tier sees them much more secure off the pitch, and arguably in much better shape with regards to their playing squad as well. Following their promotion from League One, Nigel Adkins will be hoping he can return Southampton to where both the owners and fans believe the club belongs - in the Premiership. Brighton, meanwhile, have every reason to be optimistic of a successful season. Saturday will see the first league game at their new 22,000 seater stadium, and Seagulls fans will be hoping that new signing Craig Mackail-Smith can spearhead a push for the playoffs. Brighton's gain is Peterborough's loss however, and the sale of Mackail-Smith along with the rumoured departure of George Boyd could see The Posh struggle to avoid relegation as they did in 2010.
|Eriksson will be happy with his |
Of course it would be foolish to write off the likes of Nottingham Forest and their new manager Steve McLaren, while Cardiff will be hoping that Malky Mackay can get the best out his new side as he did at Watford. However, with the Championship becoming increasingly competitive, both Forest and The Bluebirds may find it more difficult to secure a playoff spot than in previous seasons. Cardiff in particular could suffer from the departure of their entire front line, although the signings of Kenny Miller and Robert Earnshaw will go some way to fill the gaps left by Jay Bothroyd, Craig Bellamy and Michael Chopra. Last seasons playoff finalists Reading will be hoping to go one better this campaign, but after losing Matt Mills to promotion rivals Leicester, The Royals need to keep hold of key players Shane Long and Jimmy Kebe to have a realistic chance of repeating last seasons success.
After suffering a difficult time last season, Middlesbrough may fancy their chances going into this campaign as underdogs. Tony Mowbray is an experienced head to have at the helm, and having turned around Boro's fortunes after taking over as manager last October, he will be hoping that his side will be challenging at the right end of the table come April. Another side hoping to achieve more than last season will be Ipswich Town. Paul Jewell has been working tirelessly throughout the transfer window to ensure his squad is fit to challenge for the playoffs. The additions of Michael Chopra and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas will make The Tractor Boys more potent up front, and coupled with a solid back four, Ipswich have a realistic chance of pushing for the playoffs this campaign. Similarly to Ipswich, Hull will be hoping that they too can force their way into the top six following a disappointing campaign last season. Nigel Pearson now has the pace up front to supply goals in the form of Matty Fryatt and Aaron McLean while the arrival of Paul McKenna will add steel to the midfield of a side who pride themselves on conceding very few goals. Furthermore, despite undergoing a rather subdued summer, it would be naive to discard the likes of Leeds and Burnley who are once again likely to be in the mix of teams challenging at the top come the end of the season.
|Testing time ahead - Dougie Freedman|
Barnsley and Doncaster are two sides often tipped for relegation at the start of the season, but it would come as no surprise if they were to prove their doubters wrong once more. Tykes manager Keith Hill has got his new side playing some beautiful football in Pre-Season and will be hoping that his players can carry that form into Saturday's game against Nottingham Forest. Donny meanwhile will be relishing their title of underdogs. Sean O'Driscoll has the advantage of a settled squad and has strengthened his side over the summer without making any spectacular signings. Rovers have often earned praise for their style of football, and O'Driscoll will be hoping that James Coppinger and Billy Sharp stay fit to give his side the best opportunity of breaking into the top half of the table. Coventry meanwhile may find this season a struggle. With financial problems looming over the Ricoh Arena, the loss of last seasons top scorer Marlon King has done The Sky Blues no favours going into this campaign. With a new manager at the helm, a good start will be essential for Coventry if they are to steer clear of relegation.
If asked, I'm sure Keith Millen would tell you that the most exciting prospect about tomorrow's opening game with Ipswich is that he has been able to keep hold of Nicky Maynard. After a lacklustre campaign last season it is essential for The Robins to keep Maynard beyond the transfer period if they are to stay out of trouble. Derby County meanwhile, look set for another season of ups and downs despite manager Nigel Clough claiming this is the season for his side to take their football to the next level. Clough is yet to live up to his famous name at Pride Park, and the arrivals of Jamie Ward, Nathan Tyson and Kevin Kilbane are unlikely to cause The Rams Championship rivals any sleepless nights.
Football supporters up and down the country will go to sleep tonight dreaming of the season ahead and what might be come the end of April. However, one thought to leave you with, although the sound of the new football season sounds appealing now, we may wish it was the summer break again when sitting in sub zero temperatures at three o'clock in December. Then again, it beats an afternoon shop with the wife. Bring it on!