Football: Club-by-club guide to the FA Premiership

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This time last year, were parting company with Bruce Rioch, their ageing squad had not been augmented and an early-season crisis looked likely. But after starting well under Pat Rice, they were finally coaxed into third place by Arsene Wenger, thanks in no small measure to Dennis Bergkamp's sustained excellence.

What then this time when all appears in place for a more thorough challenge? Under Wenger, 10 new players have arrived - seven this summer - and the signing of Marc Overmars looks exciting. With Luis Boa Morte also a flyer, they should not want for pace.

With 11 of his squad from overseas, Wenger will have to blend disparate characters into the integrated 4-4-2 he plans. Should he fail, xenophobia could surface among fans willing so far to indulge him, despite the sale of Paul Merson. The likelihood is that he will succeed, at least in part.

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Coach: Pat Rice

In: Marc Overmars (Ajax) pounds 7m, Matthew Upson (Luton) pounds 1.5m, Luis Boa Morte (Sporting Lisbon) pounds 1.75m, Emmanuel Petit (Monaco) pounds 3.5m, Gilles Grimandi (Monaco) pounds 1.5m, Alexander Manninger (Casino Graz) undisclosed, Alberto Mendez Rodriguez (FC Feucht, Germany) pounds 250,000

Out: Paul Merson (Middlesbrough) pounds 4.5m, Matthew Rose (QPR) pounds 500,000, Lee Harper (QPR) pounds 250,000, Adrian Clark (Southend) free

Last season: 3rd

Odds: 5-1 Prediction: 4th

Aston Villa

VILLA really should have built last season on their fourth place and Coca-Cola Cup victory of the previous campaign. Then, they had looked a neat passing team, with Dwight Yorke a revelation up front, their 3- 5-2 shape efficient and effective. They had, though, lacked a dash of inspiration and while it seemed as if the signing of Sasa Curcic might provide it, in fact it disturbed their rhythm, with midfielder Mark Draper particularly affected. Mark Bosnich's disaffection seemed to sum up the frustration of under-achievement.

The main question now is whether Stan Collymore - outrageously talented despite the doubts about his temperament - can knuckle down with his home comforts closer and deliver the dash. Certainly Yorke needs a more consistent partner than Savo Milosevic. Wisely, the restrained Brian Little has eschewed serious surgery for the moment, Simon Grayson being his only other significant signing. If early results fail to match potential, changes can be expected from the privately tough Little, and Villa should be once more near the peak, as well as challengers for the cup honours.

Manager: Brian Little

Assistant: Allan Evans

In: Stan Collymore (Liverpool) pounds 7m, Simon Grayson (Leicester) pounds 1.35m

Out: Gareth Farrelly (Everton) pounds 700,000

Last season: 5th

Odds: 20-1 Prediction: 6th


EVERY dog deserves his day, and although it may offend the new money-men in the game who want the Premiership reserved for the "superclubs", Barnsley are a welcome addition for their first season at the top level.

And their last, according to the bookmakers. But under Danny Wilson, one of the brightest managerial prospects in the game, they played some enjoyable passing football last season and they might just be suited, as Derby County were before them, to the higher class.

They have moved to strengthen their squad, too, and the signing of the Macedonian striker Georgi Hristov, for a club record fee of pounds 1.5m, looks interesting. The South African Eric Tinkler could also be suited to the Premiership, though less is known about the Slovenian defender Ales Krizan. With several solid British elements already in place - Neil Redfearn is a good captain and the strikers Paul Wilkinson and John Hendrie provide experience - and a hint of the exotic in such as Clint Marcelle, Barnsley could well surprise a few teams this season.

Manager: Danny Wilson

Coaches: Eric Winstanley, Peter Shirtliff

In: Eric Tinkler (Cagliari) pounds 650,000, Ales Krizan (Maribor) pounds 500,000, Georgi Hristov (Partizan Belgrade) pounds 1.5m, Lars Leese (Bayer Leverkusen) pounds 250,000, Tony Bullock (Leek) undisclosed

Out: None

Last season: Promoted from First Division

Odds: 1,000-1 Prediction: 16th

Blackburn Rovers

ROY Hodgson has been a successful coach on the continent for some years, with the Swiss international team and latterly Internazionale of Milan, and represents a shrewd recruitment. After the restrictions of Inter - they agree to his release then sign Ronaldo - he should enjoy a return to his homeland. His task will be to return the club to the top echelon, Tony Parkes having done an excellent stabilising job. It will not be easy.

Already Hodgson has shown in the signing of Martin Dahlin the value of his contacts in Europe. Strong and direct, Dahlin should be well suited to the Premiership. Closer to home, the likes of Lars Bohinen need to recapture their appetite. It will take time for all to adapt, especially for Hodgson to carry with him a group of players who have been treading water for two seasons, and to attract more quality, but they should be capable of returning to the top half of the table.

Manager: Roy Hodgson

Assistant: Tony Parkes

In: Stephane Henchoz (Hamburg) pounds 3m, Patrick Valery (Bastia) free, Martin Dahlin (Roma) pounds 2.5m, John Filan (Coventry) free, Anders Andersson (Malmo) undisclosed

Out: Shay Given (Newcastle) tribunal, Paul Warhurst (Crystal Palace) pounds 1.5m, Niklas Gudmundsson (Malmo) pounds 300,000, Matt Holmes (Charlton) pounds 250,000

Last season: 13th

Odds: 66-1 Prediction: 7th

Bolton Wanderers

WANDERERS have clearly learnt much from their previous foray into the Premiership two seasons ago, when even then they almost saved themselves with a late rally. Their dominance of the First Division last season, coupled with their defeats of Chelsea and Tottenham in the Coca-Cola Cup, suggest that they should not struggle so badly this time. However, they will miss the injured John Sheridan for the early weeks of the campaign.

Their manager Colin Todd has moved cannily to strengthen the defence with the signing of the experienced Robbie Elliott which should help the team avoid undermining some good attacking work with a frailty at the back, as happened on their last visit to the Premiership. Back then, Nathan Blake did not look to have quite the touch necessary to succeed at the top level but his confidence should have benefited from a season of scoring goals lower down while John McGinlay's cocky craftiness will serve them well. In Alan Thompson, they have a player who is back where he belongs. With a new stadium also firing enthusiasm, this season should be a more enjoyable experience.

Manager: Colin Todd

Coach: Phil Brown

In: Robbie Elliott (Newcastle) pounds 2.2m

Out: Scott Green (Wigan) undisclosed, David Lee (Wigan) undisclosed

Last season: Promoted from First Division

Odds: 200-1 Prediction: 14th


ANOTHER clutch of summer signings has brought the total of foreign players at Chelsea to 13. With 11 different nationalities, the canteen at the club's training ground at Harlington could come to resemble Terminal Two at nearby Heathrow. Should Ruud Gullit successfully blend the elements, Chelsea can be expected to progress from exciting FA Cup winners to consistent title contenders.

Despite the new, blue dawn of recent seasons, Chelsea have retained a fragility away from home. Ed de Goey in goal, Bernard Lambourde in defence and Celestine Babayaro will be expected to add some solidity. Now well acclimatised, Roberto di Matteo in midfield will be crucial. Going forward Chelsea have the equipment to cut through any defence. Tore Andre Flo could eventually replace Mark Hughes and it will be interesting to see where Gustavo Poyet fits in. One only hopes that the neat young Jody Morris is included in the party. Vibrant times at the Bridge.

Manager: Ruud Gullit

Assistant: Gwyn Williams

In: Celestine Babayaro (Anderlecht) pounds 2.25m, Ed de Goey (Feyenord) pounds 2.25m, Bernard Lambourde (Bordeaux) pounds 1.5m, Gustavo Poyet (Real Zaragoza) undisclosed, Tore Andre Flo (Brann) pounds 300,000

Out: Craig Burley (Celtic) pounds 2.5m, Scott Minto (Benfica) free, Erland Johnsen (Rosenborg Trondheim) free, Chris McCann (Southend) free, Paul Parker (released), David Rocastle (Aberdeen) trial

Last season: 6th

Odds: 12-1 Prediction: 5th

Key man: Di Matteo ...TEXT: Coventry City

HOW do they keep on doing it? A familiarity with the demands of a relegation struggle partially explains Coventry's continuing top-level survival - 31 seasons now - but equally, sooner or later, the very familiarity with those demands is going to prove too wearying for them. This could be the season. With only the additions so far of Kyle Lightbourne, unproven at this level, and some barely known Scandinavians, they scarcely look any stronger. After the spending spree of 12 months ago, belts appear to have been tightened - and may need to be loosened as the season progresses. The ageing process may catch up with the inspirational keeper Steve Ogrizovic while Gary McAllister appears on the wane. In addition, Gordon Strachan cannot again be expected to swap his tracksuit for a Superman outfit. The spirit of Dion Dublin may continue to infuse them but this still looks a squad short of the necessary quality for anything other than their annual travails.

Manager: Gordon Strachan

Assistant: Alex Miller

In: Simon Haworth (Cardiff) pounds 500,000, Martin Johansen (Copenhagen) undisclosed, Kyle Lightbourne (Walsall) pounds 750,000, Magnus Hedman (AIK Solna) undisclosed, Roland Nilsson (Helsingborg) undisclosed, Trond Egil Soltvedt (Rosenborg) pounds 500,000

Out: Eoin Jess (Aberdeen) pounds 700,000, Peter Ndlovu (Birmingham) pounds 1.75m, John Filan (Blackburn) free

Last season: 17th

Odds: 400-1 Prediction: 19th

Key man: Dublin

Crystal Palace

PALACE will take heart from the performance last season of Leicester City, their predecessors - and previous conquerors - as sixth-placed, last-minute play-off winners. They are likely to need any encouragement they can get. They look long on youthful willingness, well organised under Steve Coppell, but short on quality despite the exciting introduction of the Italian winger Attilio Lombardo. The loss of David Hopkin, scorer of the curled Wembley winning goal, may be keenly felt. The replacement, Paul Warhurst, needs to show his appetite has been renewed.

Kevin Miller should be a safe acquisition in goal and Simon Rodger is a busy midfield player. Up front, Dougie Freedman will embarrass a few defenders but Palace will need Andy Roberts to become more assertive, as well as several others to discover hitherto concealed depths. Avoiding relegation will be the goal, but they could be a few feet wide of the post. Ray Wilkins's recruitment to the coaching staff is encouraging.

Manager: Steve Coppell

Coach: Ray Lewington

In: Attilio Lombardo (Juventus) pounds 1.6m, Kevin Miller (Watford) pounds 1.25m, Paul Warhurst (Blackburn) pounds 1.5m, Jamie Fullarton (Bastia) free, Herman Hreidarsson (IB Vestmannaeyjar) pounds 400,000

Out: Ray Houghton (Reading) free, Chris Day (Watford) pounds 220,000, David Hopkin (Leeds) pounds 3.25m

Last season: Promoted from First Division

Odds: 350-1 Prediction: 20th

Key man: Roberts

Derby County

DERBY will be optimistic about the campaign, with their new stadium, a successful season of rather more than survival behind them, and the signing of two Italians. Life in the Premiership is rarely that simple, however. Jim Smith's team played attractive football last season and were well-suited to the top level despite the gloomy predictions made about them at the start of the campaign. Doing it twice is another matter, however, and it could be that away teams enjoy visiting Derby's new home more than they did the atmospheric cockpit that was the Baseball Ground.

In Igor Stimac, Derby possess a defender of high calibre and Aljosa Asanovic can unpick any defence with his left foot when the mood takes him. He, like other elements of the team, can be inconsistent. Jonathan Hunt needs to re-establish a once-promising career and it will be crucial whether or not the developing Dean Sturridge stays. As they do not look noticeably stronger this time, Derby could labour more than they did last season. The third relegation place already seems to be tugging at them.

Manager: Jim Smith

Assistant: Steve McLaren

In: Francesco Baiano (Fiorentina) pounds 650,000, Jonathan Hunt (Birmingham) pounds 750,000, Stefano Eranio (Milan) undisclosed

Out: Darren Wassall (Birmingham) undisclosed, Martin Taylor (Wycombe) free

Last season: 12th

Odds: 400-1 Prediction: 18th

Key man: Asanovic


THERE seems to be a touch of desperation in everything Everton do these days, on and off the field, as they cling to the coat-tails of the biggest clubs, whom they resemble now in terms only of support. Like Tottenham, they have tried to link themselves with every big-name player going but it has been a sign of their declining status that none has come. Even on the managerial front, they had to delve into their past by recruiting Howard Kendall.

Slaven Bilic appears a good signing and should bring some solidity to defence but the real problems are elsewhere. Hitherto, the midfield has comprised mainly scufflers with the temptation therefore simply to lump the ball towards the under-productive Duncan Ferguson. It is why the talented Nicky Barmby, neck stiff from watching it all, has looked so ordinary. One hopes that the elegant Tony Grant will finally fulfil his potential there, Michael Branch develop up front, and new signing John Oster takes to the higher level. Then again, they could be submerged by the struggle. Progress of sorts likely, but equally a dice with relegation could ensue.

Manager: Howard Kendall

Assistant: Adrian Heath

In: Slaven Bilic (West Ham) pounds 4.5m, John Oster (Grimsby) pounds 1.5m, Gareth Farrelly (Aston Villa) pounds 700,000

Out: None

Last season: 15th

Odds: 80-1 Prediction: 11th

Key man: Bilic

Leeds United

IT were grim going up North to watch Leeds last season as George Graham began a rebuilding process designed to drag the team back into contention with clubs of comparable size and status. It is clearly going to be a big job. His fabled powers of defensive organisation may have steadied the ship but creativity and goalscoring have still been lacking. We will have to wait to see whether Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's talents match his exotic and intriguing name and if Pierre Laurent shapes up.

Amid the dead wood Graham seems to have chopped - Carlton Palmer, Tomas Brolin, Tony Yeboah, Ian Rush - there were successes last season: Nigel Martyn in goal, Gunnar Halle and Lucas Radebe. It requires other senior professionals, notably Lee Sharpe, to match performance to reputation and for the new blood to bed in quickly. Breath should not be held. Improvement should be made, but another season of treading water beckons.

Manager: George Graham

Assistant: David O'Leary

In: David Hopkin (Crystal Palace) pounds 3.25m, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Boavista) pounds 1.6m, Alf Inge Haland (Nottingham Forest) pounds 2m, David Robertson (Rangers) pounds 500,000, Bruno Ribeiro (Vitoria Setubal) pounds 500,000

Out: Brian Deane (Sheffield Utd) pounds 1.5m, John Pemberton (Crewe) free, Mark Ford (Burnley) pounds 275,000, Andy Couzens (Carlisle) pounds 100,000

Last season: 11th

Odds: 80-1 Prediction: 10th

Key man: Hasselbaink

Leicester City

SO English football does still have a soul. Last season's Coca- Cola Cup winners - they were promoted only through the play-offs the previous season, remember - gave us a thoroughly enjoyable story but they are likely to find life much more difficult this time. It is what is called in the music business "that difficult second album".

Cup competitions may provide some sentiment, but the Premiership offers little. With teams likely to have worked them out it could be more of a struggle, less of an exciting journey. Garry Parker turned in an excellent season in midfield and Steve Claridge enjoyed his time in the sun but repeating it would be a great achievement. They will need Emile Heskey to continue his development, and improve his goal output. One to watch out for is young Stuart Campbell in midfield.

Martin O'Neill made some astute signings last season, but has been unable to add this summer beyond the promising Robbie Savage. Leicester's best signing, though, was O'Neill himself, with a contract that dissuaded him from moving. His motivational powers and eye for a player will be needed.

Manager: Martin O'Neill

Assistant: John Robertson

In: Robbie Savage (Crewe) tribunal

Out: Simon Grayson (Aston Villa) pounds 1.35m, Jamie Lawrence (Bradford City) pounds 60,000

Last season: 9th

Odds: 400-1 Prediction: 17th

Key man: Parker


NOW is the hour for Roy Evans, with the board considering foreign coaching input in the near future. His pure, elegant team were shown to be temperamentally flawed last season and he has pinned expectations on Paul Ince bringing drive to the midfield. The hope must be that the balance of fluent passing and movement is not disturbed.

The worry will be David James and his defence, who undermined each other's confidence at times last season. The presence of Ince just ahead of them will provide reassurance. Further forward, the options are manifold. A partnership of Karlheinz Riedle and Robbie Fowler should in time be potent, while Steve McManaman, Patrik Berger and Oyvind Leonhardsen can create and score goals. The lack of a midfield player ahead of the strikers should be rectified by Leonhardsen. Michael Owen, though probably not ready for a full season, should chip in as cover for Fowler and Riedle. With the deepest squad in the Premiership, all should be in place. No excuses this time.

Manager: Roy Evans

Assistant: Doug Livermore

In: Paul Ince (Internazionale) pounds 4.2m, Oyvind Leonhardsen (Wimbledon) pounds 3.5m, Danny Murphy (Crewe) pounds 1.5m, Karlheinz Riedle (Borussia Dortmund)) pounds 1.8m

Out: Stan Collymore (Aston Villa) pounds 7m, Lee Jones (Tranmere) pounds 100,000

Last season: 4th

Odds: 4-1 Prediction: 1st

Key man: Ince

Manchester United

IT seems almost to have been written in the Premiership's handbook: whoever wishes to win the title must first overcome Manchester United. This season is likely to be no different. Alex Ferguson's priority now is the Champions' League, but the same was said last year and United went on to take their fourth title in five years. They will not concede their crown lightly.

There is no Cantona, but Teddy Sheringham should be more than adequate compensation, if he stays fit. United, however, have been somewhat fortunate to win the title the last two seasons, being helped by first Newcastle's and then Liverpool's deficiencies. They cannot rely on as much this time. Injuries and the failure to land Celio Silva heighten defensive worries, and accommodating all talents in preferred positions - Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Andy Cole - could be an issue. This may be splitting hairs - Ferguson does have the happy habit of getting wheels back on when they threaten to come off - but even minor faults could be enough this time to let in a rival... the rival.

Manager: Alex Ferguson

Assistant: Brian Kidd

In: Teddy Sheringham (Tottenham) pounds 3.5m, Erik Nevland (Viking Stavanger) pounds 1.5m

Out: Eric Cantona (retired), Patrick McGibbon (Wigan) pounds 250,000, Jonathan Macken (Preston) pounds 250,000, Simon Davies (Luton) pounds 150,000

Last season: 1st

Odds: 13-8 Prediction: 2nd

Key man: Scholes

Newcastle United

AMID the scent of sadness, Kevin Keegan's cavalier era has passed but Kenny Dalglish's team can be expected to make up in organisation what they lack in panache. If they finally win some silverware, Tyneside will banish the nostalgia. Dalglish's more pragmatic ideas are taking ominous shape, even allowing for Alan Shearer's serious injury. With the signings of Shay Given, Stuart Pearce and Alessandro Pistone, the defence, bolstered by Steve Howey's return, looks less of a problem.

In addition, Temur Ketsbaia should prove a more willing defensive worker than David Ginola was, while Jon Dahl Tomasson could be Newcastle's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Certainly Dalglish sees him as a more complementary partner for Shearer than Les Ferdinand was. With the waning of Peter Beardsley, Faustino Asprilla will be expected to provide the ingenuity. Less thrilling, but the potential is high when Shearer does return, if not through the Premiership then in the cups.

Manager: Kenny Dalglish

Assistant: Terry McDermott

In: Alessandro Pistone (Internazionale) pounds 4.3m, Jon Dahl Tomasson (Heerenveen) pounds 2.5m, Shay Given (Blackburn Rovers) tribunal, Bjarni Gudjonsson (Akranes) pounds 500,000, Temur Ketsbaia (AEK Athens) free, Stuart Pearce (Nottingham Forest) free

Out: Les Ferdinand (Tottenham) pounds 6m, David Ginola (Tottenham) pounds 2.6m, Lee Clark (Sunderland) pounds 2.5m, Robbie Elliott (Bolton) pounds 2.2m

Last season: 2nd

Odds: 9-2 Prediction: 3rd

Key man: Asprilla

Sheffield Wednesday

LAST season Sheffield Wednesday surprised everyone by setting the pace, testimony to David Pleat's eye for a player and his ability to produce passing teams. His move of playing Guy Whittingham wide on the right was ingenious while Andy Booth showed promise up front. Kevin Pressman and Peter Atherton were solid components while Benito Carbone also showed in patches that he was not just here for the money.

Once the element of surprise had gone, however, Wednesday faltered in the second half of the season. Their feeble finish undermined much of their good work and saw them just miss out on a place in Europe. A now well-briefed Premiership will be the Owls' biggest problem, though Pleat will hope the contribution of his new signing Patrick Blondeau is meaningful. This could also be the season when Richie Humphreys establishes himself more consistently as a significant talent. Still, Wednesday retain enough lively components to hold their own; this will probably mean avoiding the pull from the Premiership's bottom tier while aspiring to its top one.

Manager: David Pleat

Assistant: Peter Shreeves

In: Patrick Blondeau (Monaco) pounds 1.8m

Out: Michael Williams (Burnley) free, Brian Linighan (released)

Last season: 7th

Odds: 100-1 Prediction: 9th

Key man: Carbone


THE Saints have secured themselves a promising young manager in David Jones, their fourth in four seasons, and if he eventually brings with him the talented Alun Armstrong from Stockport, along with two others so far, they could offset the considerable early loss of the injured Matthew Le Tissier. Eyal Berkovitch's departure to West Ham will also be a blow and, for all Jones' abilities, this looks like being another season mainly preoccupied with avoiding relegation.

There were consoling signs last term, notably in Micky Evans and Egil Ostenstad, and Jim Magilton brings an experienced head to proceedings, but elsewhere there remains too much of a journeyman look about the team. With limited funds available, which prompted the sudden and dramatic resignation of Graeme Souness, it looks as if Jones will have to wheel and deal in the Nationwide League. Saints will do well to avoid ending up in that shopping area. You hope, like Danny Wilson at Barnsley, the manager gets more than just one shot to prove himself.

Manager: David Jones

Assistant: John Sainty

In: Paul Jones, Lee Todd (both Stockport) pounds 1.7m, Kevin Davies (Chesterfield) pounds 750,000

Out: Eyal Berkovitch (West Ham) pounds 1.75m (paid to Maccabi Haifa), Paul Tisdale (Bristol City) free

Last season: 16th

Odds: 500-1 Prediction: 15th

Key man: Ostenstad

Tottenham Hotspur

CHAOS at White Hart Lane: the best player, Teddy Sheringham, sold because he doubted the club's ambition and ability to attract quality players; growing worries about the type of functional football Gerry Francis has been serving up. But wait. The recruitment of Les Ferdinand and David Ginola may smack of some desperation, an attempt to inject charisma to appease a grumbling support, but it might all just work. Not necessarily because of those two, but because of other elements Francis has been bedding in.

A back line that comprises John Scales, Ramon Vega and Sol Campbell should be impressive, while up front Steffen Iversen had moments of great promise last season. The problem has been a lack of creativity but if Darren Anderton remains fit, and Ginola plays behind the strikers, these Spurs might resemble their entertaining predecessors. Whether they have the durability to achieve results consistently remains to be seen. A place just outside the top tier is attainable, and at least there should be more to enthuse about.

Manager: Gerry Francis

Assistant: Roger Cross

In: Les Ferdinand (Newcastle) pounds 6m, David Ginola (Newcastle) pounds 2.6m

Out: Teddy Sheringham (Manchester United) pounds 3.5m, Ronny Rosenthal (released)

Last season: 10th

Odds: 40-1 Prediction: 8th

Key man: Ferdinand

West Ham United

HARRY Redknapp learned a painful lesson about foreign footballing tourists this time last year and it took him three quarters of the season finally to rectify the mistakes. In the end, though, the signings of John Hartson and Paul Kitson up front, along with Steve Lomas in midfield, proved astute and were enough to keep West Ham in the Premiership with the new enthusiasm they brought.

Whether Hartson and Kitson have the quality to sustain their goals over a whole season appears dubious, however. Combined with the loss of Slaven Bilic, for whom David Terrier looks only scant replacement, as well as a fragile midfield, it appears unlikely there is scope for much improvement on last season, even allowing for Eyal Berkovitch's recruitment. Encouragement for West Ham comes in the shape of the promising young Rio Ferdinand and they will also hope that the absence through injury of the inspirational Julian Dicks does not prove protracted. But another struggle near the bottom of the table looks probable, however.

Manager: Harry Redknapp

Assistant: Frank Lampard

In: Eyal Berkovitch (Southampton) pounds 1.75m (paid to Maccabi Haifa), Andy Impey (QPR) pounds 1.2m, Craig Forrest (Ipswich) pounds 500,000, David Terrier (Metz) pounds 1m

Out: Slaven Bilic (Everton) pounds 4.5m

Last season: 14th

Odds: 200-1 Prediction: 13th

Key man: Berkovitch


The Dons' strategy almost worked last season: functional football designed to keep a team in the Premiership and perhaps lift the odd cup. The style embraced less of the long ball early in the season, and indeed they led the table for an impressive period, but when the business end came around, and weariness set in, they reverted to type. Still, the formula of an unfussy defence, a competitive midfield and an attack that can feed on the knock-downs will again be formidably hard to beat.

And they do have components of quality, despite the departure of Oyvind Leonhardsen. Chris Perry could develop into an England defender and Dean Holdsworth, now that problems in his personal life are less pressing, could well return to the live-wire form of two seasons ago. The new

Norwegian money, though clearly not being splashed about just yet, could even take them the extra step to repeating that famous cup success.

Manager: Joe Kinnear

Coaches: Lawrie Sanchez, David Kemp

In: Ceri Hughes (Luton) pounds 400,000

Out: Oyvind Leonhardsen (Liverpool) pounds 3.25m, Aidan Newhouse (Fulham) pounds 150,000, Scott Fitzgerald (Millwall) pounds 80,000

Last season: 8th

Odds: 150-1 Prediction: 12th

Key man: Holdsworth