The Championship: Your complete guide to the new season...

From Barnsley to Burnley and Ince to Zola, Glenn Moore reveals all the pointers for the latest Championship campaign, which gets under way this weekend

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The Independent Football


The Tykes looked doomed last season before David Flitcroft took over to mastermind a last-day escape, but with one of the smallest budgets in the Championship another tough campaign is in prospect. Flitcroft has been able to spend some cash and looks to have invested well. He also has high hopes of ex-Man United trainee John Cofie but, like several of the lesser resourced clubs, Barnsley will be reliant on keeping their leading players fit if they are to survive.

Manager David Flitcroft

Key player Jacob Mellis: Tipped for stardom when signed as a teenager by Chelsea but lost his way. Settled down at Oakwell and the midfielder is their creative heart.

Key signings C O'Grady (Sheff W, £300,000), D Jennings (Bayern, £250,000), L Nyatanga (Bristol C, free)

Last season 21st

Prediction 24th

Birmingham City

Finance is tight at St Andrew's amid continuing uncertainty over the club's ownership and Lee Clark has not been able to invest the £8m-odd receipts from selling Jack Butland, Curtis Davies and Nathan Redmond. Of the various free transfers and loanees Andrew Shinnie may shine south of the border and Neal Eardley adds experience but the squad looks weaker than last season and that was a disappointing one.

Manager Lee Clark

Key player Chris Burke: Leeds tried to buy him in January and Nottingham Forest have had several attempts but for the moment at least Clark still call on his Scottish wide man.

Key signings N Eardley (Blackpool, free), L Novak (Huddersfield, free), A Shinnie (Inverness, free), S Allan (West Brom, loan), K Bartley (Swansea, loan)

Last season 12th

Prediction 17th

Blackburn Rovers

A byword for managerial instability and executive incompetence last season Rovers ultimately did well to survive. Handing Gary Bowyer the reins may be the first good decision taken at Ewood (or Pune) since Jordan Rhodes' acquisition was sanctioned. A rookie manager he may be but Bowyer showed composure in his spells in charge last season and the players performed for him. The summer signings look shrewd and a better season beckons.

Manager Gary Bowyer

Key player Jordan Rhodes: Whoever is the manager, Rhodes still scores goals. The £7m signing got almost half of Rovers' last season and without him relegation would have been assured.

Key signings DJ Campbell (QPR, free), A Judge (Notts Co, free), M Kilgallon (Sunderland, free), T Kane (Chelsea, loan)

Last season 17th

Prediction 8th


Those heady days in the Premier League under Ian Holloway when the Tangerines worried Manchester's United and City, won at Anfield, and entertained neutrals now look a distant memory. The money has gone and the Oystons' business model now looks parsimonious, not smart. A relaid pitch may at least enable Paul Ince's team to play more attractive football but another difficult season looms, especially if Ince junior leaves.

Manager Paul Ince

Key player Tom Ince: The manager's son was expected to have gone by now and may yet do so before the transfer window shuts. If he moves he will leave a huge void to fill.

Key signings S Davies (Bristol City, £500,000), M Chopra (Ipswich Town, free)

Last season 15th

Prediction 18th

Bolton Wanderers

Scot Dougie Freedman is one of the brightest young managers around and almost hauled Bolton into the play-offs last season with a late-season surge. If the Trotters can maintain that momentum this autumn a return to the top flight is a strong possibility. Much may depend on how quickly Jermaine Beckford settles. The ability is there but since leaving Leeds goals have been elusive. That may change with Rob Hall and Chris Eagles to provide.

Manager Dougie Freedman

Key player Chris Eagles: Leading scorer and provider of most assists the former Burnley winger is the best legacy of Owen Coyle's reign.

Key signings R Hall (West Ham, compensation), A Baptiste (Blackpool, free), M Tierney (Norwich, free), J Beckford (Leicester, undisclosed)

Last season 7th

Prediction 1st


This is Bournemouth's second stab at the second tier, the first having been achieved under Harry Redknapp. 'Arry still lives nearby and Eddie Howe seems equally settled in Bomo having enjoyed two remarkable stints either side of a tough time at Burnley. There is plenty of ambition with the owners talking Premier League, Howe will be happy to consolidate which should be achievable.

Manager Eddie Howe

Key player Brett Pitman: Like Howe, the striker seems happiest on the south coast having struggled when he moved to Bristol City, he then scored 19 goals in 26 matches to spearhead the Cherries promotion when he returned to Dean Court.

Key signings M Coulibaly (Grasshoppers, free), I Harte (Reading, free), E Ward (Norwich, free), A Surman (Norwich, loan)

Last season 2nd (League One)

Prediction 12th


Back in early May the year promised so much. Then Crystal Palace stunned the Amex and everything unravelled with the club and manager at war. Oscar Garcia inherits a decent team but the momentum engendered under Gus Poyet has stalled. Wayne Bridge will be missed, Vicente maybe less so. With the likes of Will Buckley setting them up, Leonardo Ulloa and Craig Mackail-Smith - when fit - should score plenty of goals, but this may be a quiet season by the seaside while Garcia settles in to the rigours of the English game.

Manager Oscar Garcia

Key player Liam Bridcutt: The midfielder earned an international call-up with his form last season. Now he just needs to add goals.

Key signings K Agustien (Swansea, free), M Upson (Stoke, free)

Last season 4th

Prediction 11th


Charlie Austin was always likely to leave but losing him is nevertheless a blow. The season may depend on how much of the £4m Sean Dyche gets to re-invest, and how he spends it. Dyche has made a promising start to management but he will do well to avoid a relegation struggle. If a repeat of last season's top-half finish seems improbable, survival and a first win over Blackburn Rovers since 1979 would probably leave most Clarets fans content.

Manager Sean Dyche

Key player Tom Heaton: If Burnley can keep enough clean sheets Austin may not be too badly missed. Having lost Lee Grant to Derby Dyche has signed a trio of keepers with Heaton earmarked as No 1.

Key signings T Heaton (Bristol City, free), D Jones (Wigan, free)

Last season 11th

Prediction 19th

Charlton Athletic

Chris Powell was the highest-placed ex-England international in management last season, evidence of this calm and astute manager's potential (as well as the paucity of other contenders). Another season of solid consolidation would suit the Addicks as they build towards a return to the top flight. That looks more likely after Simon Church's arrival which alleviated growing concern over where the goals will come from after the departure of several strikers during the summer.

Manager Chris Powell

Key player Simon Church: Busy hard-working striker who is yet to deliver on the promise of his early days at Reading but can settle at The Valley to ease pressure on Johnnie Jackson.

Key signings S Church (Reading, free), M Gower (Swansea, free)

Last season 9th

Prediction 14th

Derby County

Nigel Clough's four-and-a-half years in charge has brought steady improvement to Pride Park and Derby will be expected to challenge for the play-off places provided a fairly thin squad is not stretched by injuries. New Scottish striker Johnny Russell will offer a greater threat up front but the sale of full-back John Brayford to Cardiff will leave them less potent down the right.

Manager Nigel Clough

Key player Will Hughes: Derby have done well to keep hold of the midfielder and their possession game will be based on his educated left foot and eye for a pass.

Key signings J Russell (Dundee United, £700,000), C Forsyth (Watford, £150,000), L Grant (Burnley, free), J Eustace (Watford, free)

Last season 10th

Prediction 9th

Doncaster Rovers

New manager Paul Dickov had a difficult time during his first job at Oldham due to money problems and his task in stopping Doncaster from going straight back down looks just as arduous. The signing of Harry Forrester from old promotion rivals Brentford will add some guile to midfield, yet it is hard to see Rovers scoring enough goals for this not to be a season of struggle.

Manager Paul Dickov

Key player Rob Jones: Helped hold the side together as player-coach following manager Dean Saunders' departure last season and will have to work hard to keep Rovers' defence watertight.

Key signings H Forrester (Brentford, compensation), R Turnbull (Chelsea, free), B Khumalo (Tottenham, loan)

Last season 1st (League One)

Prediction 23rd

Huddersfield Town

The club will have been delighted to clinch the £1m signing of James Vaughan last month after he proved such a hit on loan last season. Manager Mark Robins' (above) hopes of finishing mid-table or higher will depend on the former Everton and Norwich striker staying fit - a big ask - but the manager has improved Huddersfield's squad with several typically astute signings.

Manager Mark Robins

Key player James Vaughan: Responded to Robins' arrival in the spring and his goals kept Huddersfield up. More of the same will be expected - provided he avoids the injuries that have dogged his career.

Key signings J Vaughan (Norwich, £1m), A Hammill (Wolves, undisclosed), M Paterson (Burnley, free), J Stead (Bristol City, free)

Last season 19th

Prediction 20th

Ipswich Town

The Tractor Boys were heading for the wastelands of the lower divisions before Mick McCarthy took over and instilled defensive order into a shambles of a team. Now he looks to develop the team's attacking potential with some intriguing signings. Don't rule out a third promotion for the wily Yorkshireman after Championship titles with Sunderland and Wolves

Manager Mick McCarthy

Key player David McGoldrick: Rediscovered his goalscoring touch on loan at Coventry last season and took it into his loan at Ipswich, now made permanent. The right age (25) to kick on.

Key signings D McGoldrick (Nott'hm Forest, free), C Skuse (Bristol City, free), J Tabb (Reading, free), C Berra (Wolves, free), R Tunnicliffe (Manchester United, loan)

Last season 14th

Prediction 6th

Leeds United

There are mixed emotions at Elland Road. Joy at the exit of Ken Bates and his cronies is mitigated but a nagging suspicion that the new owners are no more inclined to invest in the team than the last one. Brian McDermott has been given £1m to spend on Luke Murphy from Crewe, but it is hard to see he and Matt Smith transforming last season's mediocre side into promotion contenders. Pace and guile remain in short supply, and so, probably, will be the supporters' patience.

Manager Brian McDermott

Key player Rodolph Austin: The Jamacian has all the attributes to dominate Championship midfields if he stays fit and gets support

Key signings L Murphy (Crewe, £1m), M Smith (Oldham, free)

Last season 13th

Prediction 13th

Leicester City

Nigel Pearson was on thin ice last season before hauling City into the play-offs for the second successive year, but the pressure will be on again this campaign. The ambitious Thai owners have had to rein in their spending due to FFP - so far making one signing, and that on a free - but will not have lowered their aims. Having been so close the Foxes may be back in the pack this year, which will not auger well for a promising managerial talent.

Manager Nigel Pearson

Key player Chris Wood: The last of City's big-money buys, secured in January despite strong competition and justified his purchase with a flurry of goals. The powerful young Kiwi will need to deliver again if Leicester are to go up.

Key signings Z Bakayogo (Tranmere, free)

Last season 6th

Prediction 10th


Once upon a time Steve Gibson's largesse brought Fabrizio Ravanelli and Juninho to Teesside, but a small fortune is too small in modern football and Boro are treading water, hoping their academy will somehow deliver a promotion-winning side. It does produce good players with Ben Gibson the latest, but hard experience is required to escape the Championship, thus Dean Whitehead's arrival. He, though, is not enough to compensate for the gradual easing out of the big earners.

Manager Tony Mowbray

Key player Dean Whitehead: Who better to add nous and steel to a young team than one of Tony Pulis's warhorses?

Key signings D Whitehead (Stoke City, free), J Varga (Debrecen, loan)

Last season 16th

Prediction 15th


Kenny Jackett did an outstanding job at the New Den, prior to losing Chris Wood and Darius Henderson in January the Lions were mounting a promotion challenge. Funds were insufficient to sustain that improbable push and will constrain Steve Lomas, too. The Northern Irishman has nevertheless been able to recruit cleverly with Steve Morison's return already looking a coup.

Manager Steve Lomas

Key player Steve Morison: The Wales international never settled at Leeds but returns to south London a more rounded and experienced player than when he left after winning promotion and playing in the top flight with Norwich.

Key signings S Morison (Leeds, loan), R Chaplow (Southampton, free), S McDonald (Middlesbrough, free), S Bywater (Sheff Wed, free), N Bailey (Middlesbrough, free)

Last season 20th

Prediction 16th

Nottingham Forest

Volatile manager plus capricious owners. What could possibly go wrong? Maybe not much if Forest start well because Billy Davies has been given cash to spend and looks to have used it wisely bringing in Premier League experience in defence and proven goalscorers in attack to supplement a squad which already has plenty of midfield craft. Peace on the Trent? Maybe.

Manager Billy Davies

Key player Henri Lansbury: One of many Arsenal graduates who failed to make the grade at the Emirates the midfielder may prove one of the few to have a lasting Premier League career

Key signings D Abdoun (Olympiakos, £1.6m), J Mackie (QPR, £1m), J Paterson (Walsall, undisclosed), G Jara (WBA, free), E Lichaj (Aston Villa, free)

Last season 8th

Prediction 4th


Plenty of good players but there are egos and pay packets to match and even Harry Redknapp's experience may not be able to blend this unhappy squad into a winning team. It could be a season of fine football and success, or it could be another car-crash. A good start is vital if last season's wounds do not fester, and finally shake Tony Fernandes' admirable optimism

Manager Harry Redknapp

Key player Richard Dunne: After a sorry end to his Villa career, the Irishman brings the heart and intelligence required if Rangers are to make a stab at escaping the Championship at the first attempt.

Key signings C Austin (Burnley, £4m), K Henry (Wolves, £1m), D Simpson (Newcastle, free), R Dunne (Aston Villa, free)

Last season 20th (Premier League)

Prediction 7th


High expectations for a team that new manager Nigel Adkins couldn't save from Premier League relegation last season but will be expected to take up this. He has his own way of man-motivation, but it proved successful at Southampton, who he got promoted from the Championship. However, just one goal in three pre-season games has set the alarm bells ringing and led to speculation that owner Anton Zingarevich will have to dip into his great wealth to pluck a striker from the transfer market.

Manager Nigel Adkins

Key player Adam le Fondre: Needs at least to repeat his 14 goals of last season for Reading to bounce back.

Key signings D Williams (Hoffenheim, undisclosed), R Drenthe (Alania Vladikavkaz, free), W Bridge (Man City, free)

Last season 19th (Premier League)

Prediction 3rd

Sheffield Wednesday

Dave Jones worked hard to drag Wednesday out of trouble last season on a meagre budget and you suspect he will settle for the same this time around.

With money still tight at Hillsborough Jones has taken a gamble on Jacques Maghoma, who proved so prolific in League Two for Burton, and been shopping in the European market. He will be hoping the likes of Michail Antonio and Jermaine Johnson find the consistency to keep the Owls in flight.

Manager Dave Jones

Key player Martin Taylor: Has been round the block several times at this level and the rugged centre-half and captain knows what is required.

Key signings J Helan (Manchester City, undisclosed), J Maghoma (Burton Albion, F), K Zayatte (Buyuksehir), A Nuhiu (Rapid Vienna)

Last season 18th

Prediction 21st


Probably the most attractive Championship side last season and Gianfranco Zola's beaten play-off finalists should soon banish the pain of Wembley defeat with more slick, counter-attacking football.

Unfortunately there is no Matej Vydra this time, with the Czech striker back at parent club Udinese, while the hugely promising Nathaniel Chalobah has returned to Chelsea. Yet virtually all of Watford's loans from last season have joined full-time and they should have too much quality for most sides.

Manager Gianfranco Zola

Key player Fernando Forestieri: Showed glimpses of undoubted talent - and a fiery temper - last season but now the Italian striker has settled at Vicarage Road will be expected to shine.

Key signings L McGugan (Nottingham Forest, free)

Last season 3rd

Prediction 2nd

Wigan Athletic

The first FA Cup holders to be playing in the second flight since West Ham in 1980 but, while the Europa League offers adventure, it could also derail Owen Coyle's ambitions for an immediate return to the Premier League.

Coyle has wasted little time in freshening up the squad and will look to Grant Holt to fire a strong promotion challenge.

Manager Owen Coyle

Key player Callum McManaman: Should be the main source of supply for Holt - if Wigan can keep him.

Key signings G Holt (Norwich, £2m), J Perch (Newcastle, £750,000), S Carson (Bursaspor, £700,000), M-A Fortuné (WBA, free)

Last season 18th (Premier League)

Prediction 5th


As Gary Johnson has pointed out, none of the big-name clubs in the Championship will want to come a cropper against a Yeovil outfit who were still knocking around in the Isthmian League 16 years ago. Johnson certainly knows his way around the division and has made a couple of smart loan signings, in particular centre-half Alan Tate from Swansea City. However, he will be aware it will take a minor miracle for a club of such small resources to stay up.

Manager Gary Johnson

Key player Paddy Madden: Madden was the top scorer in League One last season after being picked up from Carlisle in October, and much will depend on the tricky Irish striker flourishing at a higher level.

Key signings K Moore (Dorchester, undisclosed), M Ngoo (Liverpool, loan), A Tate (Swansea, loan), B Clifford (Chelsea, loan)

Last season 4th (League One, play-off winners)

Prediction 22nd