Championship 2014/15: Team-by-team guide to the new season

Fulham and Norwich have spent big in a bid to bounce straight back to the Premier League, Blackpool finally have 11 players and life at Leeds will be rarely dull with Massimo Cellino around. Jack Pitt-Brooke sorts out the second-flight’s contenders from the strugglers

Birmingham City

Lee Clark’s attempts to run a competent football team amid the chaos at St Andrew’s have been impressive, and he has added grit and experience this summer, mainly from League One, in the hope of avoiding another relegation battle. But it might not be enough.

Manager: Lee Clark

Key player: Darren Randolph

Last season: 21st

Prediction: 22nd

Blackburn Rovers

After years of mismanagement, Blackburn Rovers have finally stabilised under Gary Bowyer. The squad is trimmed and focused, with uninterested big earners moved out. Jordan Rhodes, though, is still there and they can aim for the play-offs.

Manager: Gary Bowyer

Key player: Jordan Rhodes

LS: 8th

Prediction: 12th

Blackpool

Like a canny Christmas shopper, Blackpool have left all their spending until the very last minute. With Joe Lewis, John Lundstram and Ishmael Miller joining this week they finally have enough players, but it would be a real surprise if they ever resemble a team.

Manager: Jose Riga

Key player: Peter Clarke

LS: 20th

Prediction: 24th

Bolton Wanderers

After a season in which Bolton got worse rather than better, Dougie Freedman desperately needs a good start if he is not to go the way of Owen Coyle before him. The new signings, such as they are, need to click.

Manager: Dougie Freedman

Key player: Tim Ream

LS: 14th

Prediction: 14th

Bournemouth

Eddie Howe has done an excellent job in his second spell on the south coast, with Bournemouth challenging for the play-offs in the spring. Despite the departure of Lewis Grabban to Norwich, they still have goals in them, especially since the arrival of Callum Wilson from Coventry.

Manager: Eddie Howe

Key player: Matt Ritchie

LS: 10th

Prediction: 13th

Brentford

In their first season back in the second tier for over 20 years, Brentford are focused, ambitious and hopeful of a mid-table finish. Mark Warburton has added Moses Odubajo from Orient for £1m but looks set to lose key midfielder Adam Forshaw.

Manager: Mark Warburton

Key player: Andre Grey

LS: 2nd (L1)

Prediction: 19th

Brighton & Hove Albion

Another narrow miss on promotion, another managerial change and now Brighton – arguably the best-run club in the Championship – start their latest assault. Sami Hyppia should provide a steadying influence and less drama is probably precisely what Brighton need.

Manager: Sami Hyypia

Key player: Jake Forster-Caskey

LS: 6th

Prediction: 6th

Cardiff City

Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer might find the Championship a better platform for his expansive football than the Premier League, and despite selling some big names they are still well-equipped to challenge for the top six: Adam le Fondre is a proven goalscorer at this level and Kagisho Dikgacoi can anchor a midfield.

Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Key player: Mats Daehli

LS: 20th (PL)

Prediction: 4th

Charlton Athletic

The first season proper of the new Roland Duchatelet era at Charlton and there is a new manager – Bob Peeters – and a host of new players. But there is still some disquiet at the whole project and the treatment of Chris Powell.

Manager: Bob Peeters

Key player: Jordan Cousins

LS: 18th

Prediction: 20th

Derby County

Last season showed, with Watford, how psychologically difficult it can be following a defeat in a play-off final. Steve McClaren did brilliantly last season and has done well to keep his young squad together. The injury to £2m signing George Thorne is a blow, though.

Manager: Steve McClaren

Key player: Chris Martin

LS: 3rd

Prediction: 3rd

Fulham

After a season of drift and bad decisions, Fulham find themselves back in the second tier for the first time since 2001. They have retained manager Felix Magath though and produced the most eye-catching signing of the summer in the Championship, the £11m spent on striker Ross McCormack from Leeds.

Manager: Felix Magath

Key player: Ross McCormack

LS: 19th (PL)

Prediction: 5th

Huddersfield Town

There is potential in this Huddersfield side if only manager Mark Robins could get all of his best players fit and playing together, in particular James Vaughan and Nakhi Wells.

Manager: Mark Robins

Key player: James Vaughan

LS: 17th

Prediction: 18th

Ipswich Town

Steady improvement during Mick McCarthy’s tenure so far has bred more optimism at Portman Road than there has been for years. They have a solid squad, with real quality in David McGoldrick.

Manager: Mick McCarthy

Key player: David McGoldrick

LS: 9th

Prediction: 7th

Leeds United

Even by the unique standards of Leeds, this has been a bizarre summer, in which new owner Massimo Cellino has stamped his eccentricities upon the club. Manager David Hockaday – a strange appointment itself – may not last long, having been undermined by Cellino already. What will happen on the pitch is anyone’s guess.

Manager: David Hockaday

Key player: Alex Mowatt

LS: 15th

Prediction: 17th

Millwall

Millwall needed Ian Holloway’s rescue job to keep them in the Championship last season but this season they are hoping to build from a more solid base.

Manager: Ian Holloway

Key player: Ricardo Fuller

LS: 19th

Prediction: 16th

Middlesbrough

After the successes of Swansea with their continental style, Middlesbrough are trying to go up the same way. Aitor Karanka has spent some money and brought in players who know his  approach – Tomas Mejias, Kike and Emilio Nsue – and it could well work.

Manager: Aitor Karanka

Key player: Kike

LS: 12th

Prediction: 2nd

Norwich City

Neil Adams has been given the chance to bring Norwick straight back up when they could have chosen a bigger name. Lewis Grabban and Kyle Lafferty will provide the goals that were desperately missing and promotion is plausible.

Manager: Neil Adams

Key player: Nathan Redmond

LS: 18th (PL)

Prediction: 8th

Nottingham Forest

The appointment of club legend Stuart Pearce should mean a fresh start at the City Ground but Fawaz al-Hasawi’s erratic ownership does not inspire confidence after the recent sale of promising youngsters Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles to Newcastle United. A lot rests on £5.5m record signing  Britt Assombalonga.

Manager: Stuart Pearce

Key player: Chris Cohen

LS: 11th

Prediction: 10th

Reading

Another club whose summer has been disrupted by worries about their future, with Anton Zingarevich stepping aside in favour of a Thai consortium. Nigel Adkins still does not have enough quality to push for promotion this year.

Manager: Nigel Adkins

Key player: Hal Robson-Kanu

LS: 7th

Prediction: 11th

Rotherham

The surprise League One play-off winners, Rotherham have been working hard to add the necessary quality this summer but it is far from clear that abrasive manager Steve Evans has what he needs to stay up.

Manager: Steve Evans

Key player: Kieran Agard

LS: 4th (L1)

Prediction: 21st

Sheffield Wednesday

With Hafiz Mammadov’s takeover yet to be fully completed, there is little room for optimism yet at Hillsborough and the sale of Michail Antonio is worrying.

Manager: Stuart Gray

Key player: Sam Hutchinson

LS: 16th

Prediction: 23rd

Watford

The third season of the Pozzo era at Watford sees them assemble the strongest squad yet for another promotion push. Matej Vydra is back at Vicarage Road and, if they can keep Troy Deeney, the side is full of goals.

Manager: Giuseppe Sannino

Key player: Troy Deeney

LS: 13th

Prediction: 9th

Wigan Athletic

Their heavy workload – the Europa League, an FA Cup run to the semis and then the play-offs – eventually proved too much for them last year. If Uwe Rösler can lift the players again, they will take some stopping.

Manager: Uwe Rösler

Key player: Callum McManaman

LS: 5th

Prediction: 1st

Wolves

Kenny Jackett has impressively rebuilt Wolves since the traumas of going down from the Championship last year and with the momentum of winning League One behind them they could challenge for the play-offs.

Manager: Kenny Jackett

Key player: Bakary Sako

LS: 1st (L1)

Prediction: 15th

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