2019/20 The Championship Preview – Part Three
Halfway through our Championship opponents then. Part One is here and Part Two here. Part Three begins with the team geographically furthest away from SE7, Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough’s Jonathan Woodgate is one of three new English managers in The Championship. All three, Scott Parker, Lee Bowyer and Woodgate had very good playing careers and each will hope to be able to transfer their knowledge onto their teams.
Boro have spent 10 of the last 11 years in The Championship, and owner Steve Gibson is admired within the game for his loyalty towards managers, whilst also given them every support. Tony Pulis left at the end of his contract with Woodgate heir apparent.
Interestingly Woodgate has been charged by Gibson to promote youth and work with a much smaller squad. The experience of skipper George Friend, ex-Addick Darren Randolph, midfielder Jonny Howson and striker Rudy Gestede are all still there but Boro have a lot of young players, the picks probably being midfielder Marcus Tavernier and defender Dael Fry. West Ham’s 21-year old Marcus Browne (out of our price range apparently) has been added on loan. Woodgate also signed from Blackpool, Marc Bola, also 21 and hailing from Greenwich.
Many more players were released and this is a new look Boro, and with I suspect Gibson allowing Woodgate some time, this maybe a season of consolidation.
Odds: Promotion 11/2; Relegation 22/1
Player to watch: Marcus Tavernier
Charlton connections: Darren Randolph
CA hunch: Mid table, maybe even a flirtation with relegation.
Next up our friends from down the river Millwall. One of the joys of going up is renewing our rivalry for the first time in a couple years. We haven’t won since last century, but hey let’s not ruin this post.
Neil Harris was ‘their Chris Powell’ but he’s proven to be more durable than Sir Chris, and this season will be Harris’ 5th full season and he has done a remarkable job, and to be fair one that we’d love Lee Bowyer to emulate.
Millwall struggled last season, and Harris has taken it upon himself to embark on a rebuild job moving on stalwarts like Lee Gregory, Jordan Archer and Ryan Tunnicliffe, whilst their 3rd all time goal scorer (Harris is 1st) Steve Morison joined Shrewsbury on loan.
Harris does know how to play to their strengths. It may not be pretty, but has proven effective. This summer they’ve signed three strapping strikers all towering over 6ft – Matt Smith from QPR, Jón Dadi Böðvarsson from Reading and Harvey Bradbury from Oxford.
Defender Alex Pearce made his loan permanent from Derby and after releasing all of their ‘keepers, Frank Fielding and Bartosz Białkowski signed from Bristol City and Wycombe respectively.
Since promotion Millwall have carried one of the lowest budgets in the 2nd tier, and just to show how much lower ours is compared to The Lions’ Harris splashed £1m on quick winger Connor Mahoney from Bournemouth, who spent last season on loan at Birmingham.
Odds: Promotion 33/1; Relegation 4/1
Player to watch: Matt Smith
CA hunch: They’re are a wily old bunch down there. It won’t be pretty, but I reckon they will be alright.
Nottingham Forest are the joint longest serving club in The Championship – 12 season alongside neighbours Derby. Another new man is in the managerial hot-seat at the City Ground, the little known Sabri Lamouchi.
Forest have had a good pre-season. Wide man Albert Adomah (Aston Villa), midfield technician Tiago Silva (Feirense) and striker Rafa Mir (Wolves) have all joined. Many left such as Ben Osborn to Sheffield United.
Forest’s squad pack a lot of experience. Defender Michael Dawson, midfielders Liam Bridcutt and Ben Watson plus strikers Daryl Murphy and Lewis Grabban. As it is called these days, Forest is an interesting project under Lamouchi and Greek owner Marinakis, but the fans’ concern is that they need more than being just a project.
Odds: Promotion 13/2; Relegation 14/1
Player to watch: Albert Adomah
CA hunch: Forest have been so unpredictable and I can’t see that changing. So I’ll go for mid table.
Wembley hero Patrick Bauer’s new club Preston North End are one of many that are trying to emulate Norwich City, heck they’ve even got their old manager Alex Neil. This is the Lilywhite’s 5th season in The Championship and it has been a steady build.
Neil has them playing a high press game with a quick transition and they rely on the tenacity of ball-winner Ben Pearson and the drive of attacking midfielder Alan Browne. Tom Barkhuizen is quick and key to how Preston play.
There has been limited transfer disruption. Local hero David Nugent returns to join Bauer as the only permanent new signings, but after a fruitless year at Pompey Andre Green joins on loan from Aston Villa. They did lose Eire international Callum Robinson to Sheffield United.
Odds: Promotion 10/1; Relegation 10/1
Player to watch: Tom Barkhuizen.
Charlton connections: Patrick Bauer, Declan Rudd (loan), Chris Maxwell (loan)
CA hunch: I like Neil, and I think they will surprise teams. Top half,
Queens Park Rangers have had to cut their cloth quite extensively during the last five seasons, and in that time they’ve had 9 managers with Mark Warburton being the latest. The R’s squad looks like one of mismanagement although most of the big salaried mercenaries are gone.
Nonetheless Warburton is still left with a mixed bag, but this summer he has done a decent job of addressing the squads deficiencies and added the experience of Marc Pugh (Bournemouth) and Geoff Cameron (Stoke) plus left back Lee Wallace from Rangers. Todd Kane and Matt Smith are two good looking loan signings from Chelsea and Man City respectively.
Many more left though including versatile right-back Darnell Furlong to West Brom. They are definitely going to miss striker Luke Freeman, who signed for Sheffield United. Fellow striker Matt Smith went to Millwall, but they will be hoping that West Ham loanee Jordan Hugill can replace the goals and the youthful talent of Ebere Eze and Ilias Chair can shine.
Odds: Promotion 25/1; Relegation 7/2
Player to watch: Matt Smith
CA hunch: I have Rangers down to finish below us. I’m hope I’m right!
Reading’s Jose Gomes made a lot of friends last season after taking over in December. He built a strong togetherness and without any fuss safely saw the Royals away from relegation trouble.
However previous overspending has seen Reading get a transfer embargo limiting their summer recruiting. Gomes has a young squad, but he has added top experience with Michael Morrison joining from Birmingham (I’d have loved to have him back at The Valley) and the ever-youthful Charlie Adam from Stoke. American defender Matt Miazga re-signed on loan from Chelsea.
Morrison’s tough centre-back partner Liam Moore will be key as will box-to-box midfield dynamo Andy Rinomhota. For goals they will rely again on Frenchman Yakou Meite.
Odds: Promotion 25/1; Relegation 3/1
Player to watch: Michael Morrison
Charlton connections: Michael Morrison,
CA hunch: Maybe a tough season, but I think Gomes will go from strength to strength and Reading will be okay. Bottom half.
That’s the end of Part Three. Part Four tomorrow, hopefully.