DF Previews…

The Tilehurt End preview their teams upcoming season.

Reading

Manager: Jose Gomes

Last season: 20th   

key player 

Andy Rinomhota, an all-action central midfielder who can both break up opposition attacks and start some of his own with powerful forward runs. His presence balances out the side a lot and allows the more naturally creative players to express themselves properly, not to mention protecting the defence. Plus, as an academy graduate, he’s extremely popular with the home crowd. 

SIGNINGS SO FAR

At time of writing it’s just Joao Virginia, a 19 year-old goalkeeper from Everton on loan for the season. It’s a big ask to use such a young guy as our new first-choice ‘keeper, but he’s certainly got the talent to excel at this level – shot-stopping, command of his penalty area, and the ability to play out accurately from the back. 

Who TO SIGN

A deep-lying playmaker. Without one, our midfield badly lacks creativity and the ability to dictate the tempo of a game, so recruiting someone to sit in front of the back four and spray passes around is crucial. We had that last season with Lewis Baker, and replacing him (or bringing him back) will be a big boost to this side. 

EXPECTED FINISH

Around 14th. We should still be able to bring in first-team quality to improve what’s currently a very young, inexperienced side, but even then it’ll be a big ask to get into the top half of the table. That said, we’ve got a much better manager, squad morale and fan connection than this time last year, so should be able to steer clear of the bottom three by May 2020. 

EXCITING GAME

Wycombe Wanderers away in the League Cup. It’s the closest thing we’ve had to a derby match in a competitive game for at least 15 years – even if more animosity is reserved for lower-league sides Oxford United and Swindon Town. It’s bound to be an entertaining cup match under the lights in August. Charlton Athletic- A noisy sell-out against our South London rivals and normally a win!!

TROPHY?

Bar a shock run in the FA Cup or League Cup, no. The closest we’ve come to winning either trophy was getting to the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1927 and 2015, but I don’t see us getting any further any time soon.

@TheTilehurstEnd  on Twitter

DF Previews…

Leeds United

Manager: Marcelo Bielsa

Last season: 3rd  

key player 

Kalvin Phillips.  He’s been the most improved player under the current manager and has become un-droppable and dictates how we play.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Jack Harrison (Loan), Ben White (Loan) and Helder Costa as well as Rafa Mujica initially to join the U23 squad. Costa is the most promising so far. First class with Wolves at this level.

Who TO SIGN

I’d like a centre half just because we are short in that area, and a 20 goal striker. Although injury free seasons for Bamford and Roofe could see either of them reach the mark.

EXPECTED FINISH

Where do you expect to finish and why? Top 2. Close last year when unexpected and I think every player has bought in to the managers ideas and now know what is required.

EXCITING GAME

So many Yorkshire derbies in the Championship so bragging rights in all of those would be good

TROPHY?

I think we can win the Championship but the domestic cups will be out of reach

@dlturner4 on Twitter

DF Previews…

Paul previews his teams upcoming season.

Millwall

Manager: Neil Harris

Last season: 21st   

key player 

Jake Cooper-  Strong and resilient centre back who is very dangerous at set-pieces.  Steven Gerrard has tried to sign him for Rangers!

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Matt Smith – Forward from QPR

Alex Pearce – Centre Back from Derby

Frank Fielding – Goalkeeper from Bristol City

Jon Bodvarsson – Forward from Reading

Connor Mahoney – Winger from Bournemouth

Connor Mahoney excites me most. He looks like an exciting young prospect who creates chances and has had a good schooling at Bournemouth.

Who TO SIGN

I think our business is done but we still need to strengthen the squad. A quality ball-playing midfield is a must, any other acquisitions would be very welcome.

EXPECTED FINISH

Hopefully mid-table , but this is all dependent on the new players clicking and someone reaching 15 goals for the season.

EXCITING GAME

Charlton Athletic- A noisy sell-out against our South London rivals and normally a win!!

TROPHY?

No chance , but hopefully we will have another cup run and knock out a premier league side again!

@paulfields197 on Twitter

DF Previews…

George previews his teams upcoming season.

SALFORD CITY

Manager: Graham Alexander

Last season: 2nd (Promoted via Play-Offs)

key player 

Adam Rooney. Top scorer last season, Rooney has played at the top level in Scotland which should hopefully stand him in good stead for a season in League 2. His physicality and nack of being in the right place at the right time could be key.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Richie Towell, Dan Jones, Oscar Threlkeld, Kyle Letheren, Joey Jones. The signing of Towell is an exciting one. Towell was on loan at Rotherham in the Championship last year making over 30 appearances for them, so a drop down to League 2 should really make him one of the stand out players in the division.

Who TO SIGN

There’s been some talk of David Wheater coming in, which at league 2 level would be a brilliant signing. His mix of experience and presence at the back could be a really solid foundation to build the team on. Other than that full back cover should be a priority, as should a pacey winger and another striker.

EXPECTED FINISH

Play offs. Looking at the other teams in the league I don’t think there is too many stand out teams who could dominate. With 3 automatic promotion places and the 4 play off positions, a top 7 finish should really be the minimum expectation.

EXCITING GAME

Bradford City away is a huge game for a club like Salford. To come from where Salford have come to then be playing against an ex Premier League time like Bradford is an incredible journey. 

TROPHY?

The only trophy on offer is the Checkatrade trophy. Most teams don’t really care about the trophy, with poor attended games last season. This could give Salford a real chance to sneak in another appearance at Wembley.

@GeorgeBG123 on Twitter.

DF Previews…

Ryan talks about his teams upcoming season.

BIRMINGHAM CITY

Manager: Pep Clotet

Last season: 17th   

key player 

With 2 weeks until the season starts and 3 weeks until the end of the transfer window, the squad is around 5/6 players short with key players lost who have not been replaced. In my opinion, one player who has the potential to be key player this season for blues is Isaac Vassell. There are big shoes to fill with the loss of 22 goals from Che Adams. Juke and Adams partnership threw up nearly 40 goals between them last season and there is massive responsibility on Vassell’s shoulders, especially with the lack of transfer business. The £2 million striker showed bags of potential when he first came onto the scene under Redknapp and Cotterill and he will take part in his first pre-season at the club after a long spell on the side lines with injury. This could be a massive year for the striker.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

With three weeks until the transfer window shuts the new signings sit at a grand total of ONE. That is Gary Gardner. The Gardner deal had a mix response from the blues fans but for me the deal was a very good bit of business by the club, the only thing being if it is followed up with more deals. The deal included Jota going in the opposite direction and £4million also a part of the deal coming to blues, it was a good bit of business by blues in the fact that Jota flattered to deceive at the club and didn’t live up to his £6 million price tag. Also, Gardner played a very big part in last year’s side, so I was pleased to see him back in a blue shirt.

Who TO SIGN

How long have you got? First and foremost, the priority is the replacement of Che Adams and Michael Morrison. I would have liked to have seen Blues go out and sign Lyle Taylor from Charlton with him scoring 22 goals last season in League 1, but it is very unlikely that will happen. As for the replacement for Morrison, Kristian Bielik a lad that played for blues under that dreaded Zola rein seems to have came on leaps and bounds since leaving, he played last season on loan at Charlton from Arsenal and played for Poland at this Summers U21 European Championships. He could be worth a punt with Roberts already on the books also? Again, it is looking very worrying with only two weeks until the season, the lack of business the club has done, with 4/5 minimum still needed.

EXPECTED FINISH

As much as everybody is tipping Blues to fall to relegation, I really don’t think it will come to that (I hope). It all depends on the signings brought in in these next few weeks and whether Clotet can get them playing as to how well or badly we do this season, a good start is vitally important. My prediction would be a mid-table finish for blues around 12th position, challenging at which end is though is another question!

EXCITING GAME

There are a few new grounds for me to tick off in there this year, Luton, Charlton and Portsmouth are all grounds I have yet to go to, so they were ones that were looked out for on the calendar. Fulham’s always a good away day and the local ones in Stoke and Baggies.

TROPHY?

I’ll let you all answer this one, but you never know!

@rybcfc_ on Twitter.

DF PREVIEWS…

Luke previews his teams upcoming season.

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Manager: Tony Mowbray 

Last season: 15th   

key player 

Bradley Dack – The mans a magician when the balls at his feet. Takes players on with ease. He links defence to attack and to say he’s an attacking midfielder he scores plenty of goals. When he plays well we’re superb and if he has an off day we seem to struggle as a team.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

So far we’ve signed Stewart Downing, Bradley Johnson and Sam Gallagher as well as a couple of young lads for our under 23’s. If I had to pick a favourite I’d say Sam Gallagher, we’ve had him before on loan and he was superb for us in a poor team which seen us get relegated. He’s only 23 so has bags of potential and he’s a big, strong, pacy striker who can also play on the wings. He’s a real presence and a physical nuisance. 6ft 4” inch and he’s pretty quick.

Who TO SIGN

Since we’ve sold our no.1 goalkeeper (David Raya) to Brentford we’re in desperate need of a new one. There’s not many out there who are available but we’ve been linked with Joe Hart and I’d be delighted with that. Even though he currently plays for our fierce rivals in Burnley he’s a very experienced goalkeeper who’s played at the highest level for both club and country. I believe he’d be a coop if we could get him and arguably the best keeper in the championship.

EXPECTED FINISH

Top 10 has to be our aim, to play-offs at a push. We played excellent last season bar from a 2 month bad spell in February and March which seen us drop from just outside the play-offs to just above the relegation zone. With this being our second season back in the championship we have a real opportunity to push on with a young squad.

EXCITING GAME

Preston at home for me. They’re our biggest rivals in the championship and they always bring a good following. They’ve had the better of us in recent history and it will be great to get one back over on them.

TROPHY?

Absolutely not and if we did there would be scenes. Think it’s nigh on impossible for a championship club to win the FA Cup or Carabao Cup at the moment. If we were to win a trophy the most realistic would be the play-off final but that’s the aim for all the other clubs in the league too.

@Luke_Bradderz on Twitter.

DF Previews…

Adam Humphreys previews his teams upcoming season.

SWANSEA

Manager: Steve Cooper

Last season: 10th  

key player

For me personally it’s Oli McBurnie! Scored 22 league goals last season and helped us a lot with our results.  

SIGNINGS SO FAR

So far we only signed 1 player and that’s Jake Bidwell. A good LB who’s had over 200 appearances in The Championship and could do well for us.  

Who TO SIGN

I’m hoping we sign Kasey Palmer on loan because he will contribute a lot in the team whether it’s scoring goals, making key passes or defending.  

EXPECTED FINISH

In my opinion 9th because we got a good team but we still need to sign players that could get us in the top 6 plus will be a lot of competition for the new season.  

EXCITING GAME

Easily Cardiff because it’s the South Wales derby! Swans would love to win the double over Cardiff.  

TROPHY?

Sadly not I’m afraid but would be great for Swans to be at Wembley and win the FA Cup trophy.

@AdamAce1066 of @Swanseabeat on Twitter.

Zaha x Palace

Zaha x Palace. Goodbye, again.

In an unsurprising move, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has told the South London club he wants to leave and Arsenal are the front runners for his signature.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, the mercurial talent said “I have to experience the Champions League. I just need the opportunity, that’s it.”

It doesn’t take a genius to see why the Gunners are interested in the Ivory Coast international. In fact he was 1st in the Premier League rankings of forwards for dribbles attempted (224) and penalties won (6).

However, for Zaha it would be a brave move. Having left Palace in 2014 for pastures new at Manchester United, it turned sour for him. The winger only made two appearances for the Red Devils before returning to Palace in 2015.

In the season just passed, Zaha scored 10 goals in 34 appearances for Palace. His best goalscoring season in the Premier League to date.

With a £100million price tag on his head, it’s. difficult to see Zaha moving anytime soon unless Crystal Palace loosen there resolve on the price. It’s reported a £40million offer from Arsenal has been rejected by the powers that be at Selhurst Park.

Jones X Stoke

Jones x Stoke. Game. Set. Match.

The Championship can, at times, be a cruel mistress. Stoke City are one of many teams that have found it hard to adjust to life in the second tier, despite pre-season expectations of total dominance.

In fact, the Potters placed a meagre 16th,in their first season out of the Premier League in 10 years, in the Championship season just passed.

Once viewed as Premier League stalwarts, City, found themselves embroiled in controversy and a relegation battle come January 2018, where they changed manager for only the second time in their ten year Prem stint. When Paul Lambert replaced the outgoing Mark Hughes, Stoke were flirting with relegation, but just two wins in 2018 saw them finish the season 18thand condemned them to at least one season in the Football League’s second tier.

The end of the 16/17 season bought a host of changes. Gary Rowett replaced Scotsman Lambert and employed an almost completely fresh backroom staff in an attempt to fire Stoke straight back to the big time. Big signings like Benik Afobe, Tom Ince and James McClean were completed giving the squad a fresh look from the woes of the season before.

But, in Rowett’s first competitive game in charge, Stoke fell to an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Leeds on Elland Road turf. A stark contrast to what was expected and hoped for by Stoke fans.

Rowett showed some promise when his Stoke side reached the dizzy heights of the top ten in his first few months in charge, but a baron spell over Christmas saw Stoke decline to the bottom half of the table. With hopes of promotion now fading away, the Stoke board made a quick decision in relieving former Derby man Rowett of his duties, almost a year to the day that Mark Hughes suffered the same fate.

In came Nathan jones. An almost unknown entity in football, Jones had taken London club Luton Town to the dizzy heights of the pinnacle of the League One table following a successful 2017/18 campaign that saw the Hatters promoted from League Two to the third division.

The Welshman entered the bet365 Stadium, with a fresh boost of enthusiasm and passion that Potters fans had craved for so long. Not only that but a reputation that is ever-growing in the English game. Luton fans praised his attacking intent alongside a defensive solidarity and a real hunger in every game. Something that Stoke had lacked for so long

However, Jones seemingly inherited a squad with no motivation, no togetherness and no confidence. The new man had a lot of work to do. His first half season with the Potters ended with a 2-2 draw to newly promoted Sheffield United on home turf. Perhaps a sign of things to come with results before that beginning to look promising.

It is, without a doubt, one of the toughest jobs in football at the moment (trying to turn the fortunes of a team bereft of confidence), but Jones clearly feels he and his team have the ability to do so.

With an apparent squad overhaul on the horizon, Potters fans will hope that this season will show stark contrast to the disappointing fate that came with last. At least a top six finish is a realistic expectation for the team from Stoke-on-Trent and will certainly be the ambition that they will show.