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2009/10 SEASON PREVIEW - A VIEW FROM THE WEST

BARNSLEY
The Tykes have been on a downward spiral for a few years now and the loss of keeper Heinz Muller is a huge blow to their chances. Iain Hume should come back but whether or not he`s the same tenacious player after last season`s horrific injury remains to be seen. Lacking the inspiration and goals to survive. 23rd

BLACKPOOL
Skeletor`s back in management, this time at Bloomfield Road and the signing of Jason Euell doesn`t fill Seasiders fans with joy! Charlie Adam will be relied on to produce the goods again after finalising his 500k move from Rangers but their home form will be crucial in the battle to beat the drop. They`ll surely miss the leadership of Shaun Barker at the back. 21st

CITY
Well, what do I say about my side?! We`ve certainly improved the squad and added two vital ingredients - pace and experience - that were lacking over the last two campaigns. We`ve got more firepower and should see more goals but not replacing McIndoe could prove costly and the whole Basso situation has seen us go from a very strong position with keepers last year to very weak one now. Need to bring in a good keeper, left-winger and a target man if we`re to trouble to the top-six but I worry for a plan B if this new 3-5-2 formation comes unstuck early on. 8th

CARDIFF
I would dearly love to say these lot will go down but they sadly, they won`t! Chopra will get them goals but I don`t think they`re as strong this season as they have been. Losing Roger Johnson is a huge blow and teams often struggle to settle into new surrounds. Can`t see them challenging but more like finding their feet at their new Lego-brick stadium. 10th

COVENTRY
The Sky Blues have lost key players Scott Dann to Birmingham and Danny Fox to Celtic but managed to fend off interest in highly-rated keeper Kieran Westwood. Sammy Clingan`s arrived from Norwich to shore up the midfield and Michael McIndoe`s signed from Bristol City. Both are no more than average players at this level. More will be expected of Freddy Eastwood after a poor season last year. 16th

DERBY
Improved under Nigel Clough last season, who has weeded out a lot of deadwood during the close season. There`s been a high turnover of players at Pride Park but Derby will rely on Rob Hulse to hit the goal trail again with the form of Lee Croft and Giles Barnes crucial to their chances. If it knits together soon, they could surprise a few people but I expect another season of transition for the Rams. 17th

DONNY
Kept the nucleus of their squad from last year, only losing Richie Wellens to Leicester. Prompted by the superb playmaking of Brian Stock, Donny play a tidy brand of football that will see them top at the top end of mid-table come May barring any mishaps along the way. 9th

FOREST
The league`s major spenders have undoubtedly the most firepower at their disposal this year following the signings of McGoldrick, Adebola and Blackstock but getting the best out of them and keeping them all happy could be another thing all together. They weren`t too bad at the back last year and improved under Billy Davies towards the end. Play-offs with possibilities of Wembley, if they can get all their new signings to blend together quickly. 5th

IPSWICH
Gaffer Roy Keane knows his way around the Championship having guided Sunderland to the top-flight in 06/07. Spent reasonably well but lack quality to be at the sharp end of the promotion hunt. Expect the Keane effect to just about scrape a Play-off berth come May, if he doesn`t get bored on the way! 6th

LEICESTER
Back in the Championship at the first test but the team is lacking pace to make its mark again. The Foxes have signed a good keeper in Chris Weale, an experienced campaigner in Wayne Brown and tenacious midfielder Richie Wellens but Matt Fryatt didn`t set the league on fire when last at this level two years ago and Leicester`s chances will lie at his door again this season. 13th

MIDDLESBROUGH
In the strongest position to bounce straight back out of the three relegated teams. They`ve managed to keep hold of a young core of players with Premiership experience, including young stars like Wheater and Johnson who should dominate at this level. The signing of Leroy Lita will provide proven pedigree up front. 1st

NEWCASTLE
Where do I start with this lot?! Still without an owner or manager, the whole club looks a shambles from the outside. Without any direction or guidance and with a host of 'names` likely to be on the wage bill come the end of August, a big struggle looks likely. Much will rely on the shoulders of young Andy Carroll but with a serious lack of strikers, the Geordies could face a tough season ahead. 20th

PALACE
Warnock will do well to guide his team to the top-half this season after the football league placed a transfer embargo on them today. Stern John is lazy and past his best but Darren Ambrose could be a bright spark in a poor season. It`ll be interesting to see how Freddy Sears adapts to Palace`s direct football too. Another season of disappointment for the Eagles` demanding fanbase. 14th

PETERBOROUGH
The Posh could well be this season`s surprise package. Back-to-back promotions has given them momentum, which is crucial in this competitive league. Holding onto Aaron MacLean, Craig Mackail-Smith and George Boyd is a real coup and if they hit the ground running, they will upset a few sides and could break into an open chase for the top-six. 7th

PLYMOUTH
Argyle were on a terrible run of form towards the end of last year that saw them narrowly avoid the drop. Bradley Wright-Phillips will be relied on for goals but that`s optimistic given his lack of fight for Southampton last term. Sturrock`s short of funds to improve the squad so a season of struggle looms large. 22nd

PRESTON
Keeping hold of Alan Irvine was a major plus for North End and he`s continued to steadily build on the squad which just missed out on the top-six last term. Paul Parry is a good boost to the attack and will help take the load off Wallace and Parkin. Tight squad who play decent football, I expect them to go one better than last year. 4th

QPR
More upheaval at Loftus Road this summer will see them to a top-half finish this year and the season long loan signing of Spurs youngster Adel Taarabt if shrewd business from Magilton. They lack the firepower to challenge but the Play-off`s is the best Hoops fans can hope for, especially if Briatore decides to meddle in things again. 11th

READING
New manager and a new era in Berkshire but with no new signings to date and the departures of Doyle and Lita, a season of consolidation could be on the cards. Remains to be seen if they can keep hold of Stephen Hunt before the window shuts but it will take a few shrewd signings from Brendan Rogers to guide them towards the top. 12th

SCUNTHORPE
Scraped through to the League One Play-off`s on the final day of last season and stuck up at Wembley. Their optimistic manager Nigel Adkins will be hoping Gary Hooper will fire the Iron to survival but with the small squad and tiny budget, a swift return to League One looks inevitable. 24th

SHEFF UTD
Blackwell`s bought well this summer, particularly with the capture of Ched Evans from Man City. But the loss of full-backs Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton, combined with the suspension of Paddy Kenny between the sticks, leaves them sort of pace and experience at the back. The keeper situation is their Achilles heel. Their season could go either way, but I see them as no more than Play-off contenders as it stands. 3rd

SHEFF WEDS
The Owls have added experience in this summer with the signings of Tommy Miller and Darren Purse but their best business was persuading Tudgay to sign a new deal. Darren Potter`s a good signing but Brian Laws will do well to get some consistency out of his side as another season in United`s shadow beckons. 15th

SWANSEA
Fared really well in their first term at this level under Roberto Martinez last season but the Swans have lost him, Jordi Gomez and top scorer Jason Scotland to Wigan. A lot will depend on whether than can keep the inspirational Ferrie Bodde, either fit or at the club. They`ve got enough to stay up but will struggle to hit the heights of last season. 19th

WATFORD
The inexperienced Watford stalwart Malkay McKay has taken over the reigns at Vicarage Road but he`s been given little funds to turn the clubs fortunes around. The signing of Danny Graham is a gamble but one worth taking. He will be relied on to grab the headlines but another season in the lower reaches beckons for the Hornets. 18th

WEST BROM
Their squad is still strong but not as dominant as the last time they were at this level two years ago. If they`d kept hold of Mowbray, I`d have them down for the title but a lot of expectation lies on the shoulders of ex-Swindon youngster Simon Cox. He`s never played at this level before and could be found wanting but proven players like Ishmael Miller and Robert Koren will see them amongst the promotion pack. 2nd


* Graham's latest book 'I Heard a Robin This Morning' is on sale now.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tin Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday August 6 2009

Time: 3:08PM

 

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