Championship new boys face testing times

NEXT season’s Championship promises to be one of the tightest ever.

After experiencing promotion celebrations or relegation heartache, the six new teams in next season’s Championship are now turning their attentions to next season. Here, six local journalists in the know assess the chances of the league’s new boys.

West Ham

Last season: 20th in Premier League

“Everything is still a bit up in the air with concerns about our new manager, Sam Allardyce, and his style of play. But of course that will change if results pick up, after all it has been a few years since West Ham had a winning team. From what Sam has been saying, he wants to play a passing game at home and be resilient away – and West Ham were powder-puff away from home last year. There will be something of an exodus with the likes of Scott Parker and Rob Green going while Thomas Hitzlsperger and Demba Ba might also go. There will be a lot of change and the team will be built around the kids like Mark Noble and Freddie Sears. The only aim next season is to go straight back up but it will be difficult as there are a lot of good teams in the Championship. West Ham might start as favourites but if they think it will be easy, they will be in for a rude awakening.” Dave Evans, Newham Recorder.


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Blackpool

19th in Premier League

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“It is hard to say how Blackpool will do next season, it all depends on how they adjust to relegation. It is a bit messy at the moment with the likes of David Vaughan, Stephen Crainey and Matt Gilks out of contract and worries about the future of DJ Campbell (right) and Charlie Adam. There are concerns that the team will be ripped apart and in fact people are more worried about who is going to leave rather than who might be sold. The emphasis is on keeping the side together to make sure Blackpool are challenging again. It is unlikely that someone like Adam will stay, but only some of the money coming in will be reinvested. That said, our chairman, Karl Oyston, is unbelievably stubborn so don’t be too surprised if everyone, bar the out-of-contract players, are still here at the start of pre-season.” Steve Canavan, Blackpool Gazette.

Birmingham

18th in Premier League

“After releasing a few of last season’s fringe players, it now comes down to whether Birmingham can keep the rest of their squad together. I am not sure what is going to happen over the next few weeks but City have to keep the nucleus from last season or they won’t go back up. They need to be a little brave and not sell, like Newcastle two seasons ago. They will be competitive in the Championship but I don’t see them starting as one of the favourites. City don’t have the resources that they had in previous years so it does all depend on what players they can keep hold of, while maybe bringing one or two decent ones in. There is not much young talent coming through so if they do sell a few, the board must reinvest. One thing is certain, it will be really interesting to see what happens in the summer.” Colin Tattum, Birmingham Mail.

Brighton

Last season: 1st in League One

“Even after the departure of last season’s leading scorer Glenn Murray to Crystal Palace, there is still a sense of euphoria around Brighton FC at the moment. Everyone is really positive about the Championship next season and, of course, going to our new ground. As well as working at the Argus, I have been supporting Brighton for 30-plus years and I can’t remember a bigger buzz around the club. Manager Gus Poyet will understandably play things down but the quality of football played last season was absolutely outstanding and so a top ten finish has to be the aim. As for Murray, there are mixed feelings as he was a really good player, but only when he was in the mood. And the club have already moved to replace him with Will Hoskins for a club record fee of �500,000. We were hoping to keep hold of Elliott Bennett, but this looks more unlikely.” Howard Griggs, Brighton Argus.

Southampton

2nd in League One

“The aim of last season was to win the division and everyone was pretty confident that would be achieved. But promotion was actually a lot closer than most would have liked, in truth we scraped second place. But people are still optimistic about next season and hope that Southampton have the sense of momentum that many promoted sides have. With regards to manager Nigel Adkins, the Saints fans will reserve their judgement until next season. He arguably had the most expensive squad and biggest wage bill League 1 has ever seen – he had to get us up. I don’t expect a host of signings, just a few to add an extra bit of quality to what we already have. I don’t think Rickie Lambert (right) will go but the realists expect Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to leave for the Premier League. That said, the squad, which was almost exclusively bought by Alan Pardew, will still be expected by the board to challenge at the top of the Championship.” Adam Leitch, Daily Echo.

Peterborough

4th in League One (promoted via the play-offs)

“One of the main aims for the club is to avoid the same disaster we had the last time we were in the Championship (two seasons ago). It is early days but so far we have released quite a few and our best player, Craig Mackail-Smith (far right), will be going to the Premier League. Manager Darren Ferguson has said on-record that he was naive and too loyal to his players when they got promoted last time. He thought they would cope comfortably after two successive promotions. But I believe the fact Ferguson has let some of last season’s regulars go just means he has learnt from some of his past mistakes. He knows these players are good in League 1, but can’t cope with the Championship. The fans would have loved to have seen Mackail-Smith stay, but no one begrudges the fact he is set to move on.” Alan Swann, Peterborough Evening Telegraph.

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