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Page last updated at 14:56 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 15:56 UK

Championship club-by-club guide

Wolves lift the Championship title
Wolves will play in the Premier League this season after winning the Championship last term

A new season of football in the Championship begins on Saturday, with 24 clubs again chasing a place in the promised land of the Premier League.

Amongst them will be North East giants Newcastle United, who were relegated last season, along with Middlesbrough and West Brom.

They help make up a list of former Premier League clubs in the second tier of English football that totals 15.

Included in that list is Leicester City, who last season were promoted from League One at the first attempt, along with Darren Ferguson's Peterborough and Scunthorpe United.

Here is BBC Sport's club-by-club guide.



How did they do last season? Avoided relegation, but it was close. Survival was secured on the final day of the season, with the Reds eventually finishing 20th.

Signings unlikely for opener - Davey

Who's the gaffer? Starting his third season in charge, Simon Davey is still to win over some of the Oakwell faithful despite keeping the club in the Championship for the past two seasons. Needs a strong start from the players that he has kept the faith with.

Who's the player to watch? With 11 goals last season, Jamal Campbell-Ryce continued to prove he is a quality player at Championship level. Should he start the season well, the Reds may again have to fend off bids in the January transfer window. The Jamaica international has added a work ethic to his attacking skills and is one of the best wide men in the division.

Jamal Campbell-Ryce

How will they do? "Simon Davey has been frustrated in the transfer market this summer and begins the campaign with only one new signing," says BBC Radio Sheffield's Seth Bennett. "That will change before the transfer window closes at the end of August. If it doesn't I think it will be a long, hard season for all involved in the club. The last two years they have beaten the drop, but only just, and a 15th-placed finish would be a strong improvement."


How did they do last year? Blackpool overachieved by staying up comfortably in the end. This was a greater achievement than survival in their first season in the Championship when you take into account manager Simon Grayson's departure to Leeds and the number of loan players used.

Ian Holloway

Who's the gaffer? The inimitable Ian Holloway was brought in after Tony Parkes' surprise decision to leave the club in May. Unorthodox, unpredictable, infectious and passionate, the former Plymouth and QPR boss will be hungry to re-establish himself as a Championship manager after a year out of the game.

Billy Clarke

Who's the player to watch? This is a difficult question as the success of the last three years has been based on a collective dressing-room spirit and determination. New captain Stephen Crainey is a class act, Gary Taylor-Fletcher continues to improve and will be a threat at this level and new signing Billy Clarke is promising goals to prove that Ipswich were wrong to release him.

How will they do? "The bookies will again have Blackpool as overwhelming favourites to go down," says BBC Radio Lancashire's Ian Chisnall. "Holloway has promised the chairman that they will kick on and finish in mid-table at least. I will only make a judgement when he decides which players need to be brought in after the dependency on loan players last season."


How did they do last season? Eventually finished 10th, although they climbed as high as fourth in February when the win at Reading made the chance of repeating the previous season's play-off appearance seem like a probability. A total of 13 draws at Ashton Gate proved to be their undoing.

Gary Johnson

Who's the gaffer? Former Yeovil boss Gary Johnson is starting his fourth full season in charge. Despite his often jocular manner in interviews, he takes a tough stance with his players in the sanctity of the dressing room as former fans' favourite Adriano Basso has discovered since handing in a transfer request.

Paul Hartley

Who's the player to watch? Scotland international Paul Hartley, a midfielder with Champions League experience, joined from Celtic in July. Also, keep an eye out for David Clarkson, another Scot, who will be hoping to emulate his former Motherwell team-mate Ross McCormack, who was prolific in the Championship for Cardiff last season.

How will they do? "City have a shot at the top six in the Championship," says BBC Radio Bristol's Alistair Durden. "They are tough to beat at Ashton Gate but need to show a better killer instinct when ahead in games. Johnson looks set to field a younger-looking side without Adriano Basso, Michael McIndoe and Dele Adebola."


How did they do last year? Cardiff were in contention for automatic promotion in the closing stages of the season, but missed out on that and even a play-off place by one goal after a disastrous run-in which saw them pick up just one point from their last four games.

Dave Jones

Who's the gaffer? Former Wolves and Southampton boss Dave Jones, the longest-serving manager in the Championship, will be under pressure from some supporters to produce the goods this time around and they need a good start.

Jay Bothroyd

Who's the player to watch? Former Wolves striker Jay Bothroyd is in his second season with the Bluebirds and could hold the key to their attacking prowess

How will they do? "Difficult to judge as they settle into their new Cardiff City Stadium home," says BBC Wales' David Dulin. "They should be up there or thereabouts again this season, but a lot could depend on them keeping hold of both Joe Ledley and Ross McCormack."

You can hear live commentary on every Cardiff game on BBC Radio Wales SE FM and digital.


How did they do last season? After much promise in the early part of the season, the campaign finished grimly as the Sky Blues tumbled towards an all too familiar bottom-half place. They finished 17th with 54 points, just one point more than they managed when avoiding relegation on the final day of the previous season. They did have a good FA Cup run though, losing in the quarter-finals to eventual winners Chelsea.

Chris Coleman

Who's the gaffer? Former Fulham manager Chris Coleman starts his second full season in charge at the Ricoh Arena. He has brought in a new assistant in former Middlesbrough coach Steve Harrison.

Freddy Eastwood

Who's the player to watch? City fans will be hoping striker Freddy Eastwood comes good after a barren first season. Defender James McPake and midfielder David Bell, both signed towards the end of last season, have yet to have a real opportunity to show what they can do. Ashley Cain, Jermaine Grandison and Curtis Wynter, all products of the City academy, will be hoping to have an impact too.

How will they do? "Unless some new recruits are captured before the kick-off of the new season it could be another difficult campaign for the Sky Blues and their long-suffering fans," says BBC Coventry and Warwickshire's Clive Eakin.

You can hear live commentary on every Coventry game on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire.


How did they do last season? They began the season with high hopes after reaching the play-offs the previous year, but fizzled out ridiculously early, leaving fans more concerned about the bottom than the top. Manager Neil Warnock's hands seemed tied by high wage earners like Shefki Kuqi and James Scowcroft, and the loss of Ben Watson to Wigan was a hammer blow. But, given what happened to Charlton, Southampton and Norwich, mid-table mediocrity was maybe not so bad.

Neil Warnock

Who's the gaffer? Seemingly loathed by fans all over the country, Warnock is a popular figure at Selhurst Park. It's hard to think how the club could do better, and he has achieved what Iain Dowie, Steve Bruce and Trevor Francis et al failed to do and has developed a decent working relationship with chairman Simon Jordan. Doesn't seem fazed by the lack of cash and has made it clear he doesn't intend to waste another season sitting in mid-table. Really, really needs to stop moaning about referees, though.

Who's the player to watch? 18-year-old right-back Nathaniel Clyne made his debut last season and quickly emerged as arguably the pick of a very promising group of youngsters at the club. Pacy, tidy and blessed with a fantastic temperament, he is the best Palace full-back since Kenny Sansom.

How will they do? "Palace could be this season's Burnley, but could just as easily end up like Norwich," says BBC London's Will Shindler. "On-loan Freddie Sears will provide much needed pace up front, and if Darren Ambrose can find some of that lost potential he might prove to be an inspired signing. Mid-table looks the best bet - fans will greet each win as a sign of promotion potential, and each defeat as a guarantee that relegation beckons. Life as normal at Selhurst, then."


How did they do last season? A season struggling in the Championship was not without its highlights, namely two good cup runs and winning at local rivals Nottingham Forest for the first time in 38 years. Nigel Clough replaced Paul Jewell as manager in January and announced his arrival with a sequence of five straight league wins in January and February to helps the Rams avoid the drop to League One.

Nigel Clough

Who's the gaffer? Former Burton manager Clough. The name Clough has been synomonous with Derby for years, with Nigel's father Brian leading the club to the league title and then the semi-finals of the European Cup. His name alone means that Derby fans will be more patient than usual in giving him time to deliver a winning team.

Shaun Barker

Who's the key man? Defender Shaun Barker arrived for £1m from Blackpool in the summer with the mission of shoring up a backline that leaked far too many goals last season.

How will they do? "Predicting what will happen in the Championship is tough," says BBC Radio Derby's Colin Gibson. "Who would have thought Derby would have been promoted two years ago? This season, mid-table, perhaps flirting with the play-offs would be seen as progress. After years of extremes, Rams fans want foundations laid for a sustainable challenge on a return to the top flight."


How did they do last season?

Clubs gear up for football season

After being promoted from League One the previous season, Rovers exceeded all expectations by finishing 14th in the Championship.

Who's the gaffer? Former Bournemouth boss Sean O'Driscoll remains in charge and is considered by many to be one of the best managers outside of the Premier League. Likes to play free-flowing and entertaining football that has become Rovers' trademark.

Brian Stock

Who's the player to watch? Midfielder Brian Stock will continue to attract the headlines and the bids from bigger clubs, but Martin Woods is developing into a quality player and those at the club feel that striker Dean Shiels could be a surprise package this season.

How will they do? "To lose Matt Mills and Richie Wellens this summer has hurt a lot. However the £3m they have received for the pair will help strengthen the squad," says BBC Radio Sheffield's Seth Bennett. "O'Driscoll has the magic touch and will, no doubt, once again unearth more talent from nowhere. My feeling is that Rovers will do very well to equal last season's 14th place, but a season of consistency will help them win more friends and gain enough points to remain clear of the relegation zone. But they need goals and are still searching for a striker to provide them."


How did they do last season? Disappointingly. In what was the first full season that new owner Marcus Evans had control, manager Jim Magilton had money to spend. Ipswich improved their away record considerably but were vulnerable at home after being almost invincible at Portman Road the previous season. They held a position in the lower reaches of the top-half of the table from the beginning of the season, but never threatened to make the play-offs.

Roy Keane

Who's the gaffer? Magilton paid the price for not being able to push the club forward fast enough and departed just before the end of last season, to be quickly replaced by Roy Keane. The former Sunderland boss has quickly adopted a no-nonsense approach with changes being made in all areas. Nine players have been released and so far Lee Martin, Damien Delaney and Troy Brown have been signed with the promise of more to come.

Lee Martin

Who's the key man? Former Manchester United man Lee Martin may well turn out to be the man to watch. He can play wide in midfield or up front, but there is still a need for a consistent goalscorer.

How will they do? "There is an expectation of a better finishing position in the league with the play-offs a realistic minimum target," says BBC Radio Suffolk's Bryan Knights. "Evans says he is willing to be patient and it will be interesting to see if Keane is willing to put his faith in some of the club's promising youngsters, something which Magilton was reluctant to do."


How did they do last season? Leicester needed just one season to be promoted from League One following their relegation from the Championship in 2008. City amassed 96 points on their way to the title, scoring 84 goals in the process. Matty Fryatt top scored with 27 league goals, and 31 in all competitions.

Nigel Pearson

Who's the gaffer? Former Middlesbrough defender Nigel Pearson takes charge for his second season at the Walkers Stadium. His backroom staff include ex-West Brom youth team coach Craig Shakespeare and chief scout Steve Walsh. Milan Mandaric continues to provide the money - the Serbian wrote off £14m worth of debt following relegation.

Richie Wellens

Who's the key man? The Foxes paid Doncaster Rovers £1m for midfielder Richie Wellens, making him the club's biggest signing of the summer. Fryatt's progress in the Championship could also be key to City's chances.

How will they do? "Leicester will finish in the top half of the table," says BBC Radio Leicester's Ian Stringer. "Don't write off a surge for the play-offs, where City are, traditionally, very strong."

You can hear full commentary on every Leicester game on BBC Radio Leicester 104.9FM.


How did they do last season? Last season was a disaster for Boro, who were relegated from the Premier League after 11 years in the top flight. The statistics told a sorry tale - 13 successive away defeats, their lowest points tally in a season since the introduction of three for a win, and only 18 goals scored in 38 league matches.

Gareth Southgate

Who's the gaffer? Former England defender Gareth Southgate is one of the club's iconic figures after lifting the only major silverware in Boro's history with the Carling Cup triumph in 2004. As a manager his appointment straight from the dressing room after the departure of Steve McClaren was a gamble, as he had no experience in the hotseat. Knows that he must get it right, and soon, otherwise his job will be on the line.

Mark Yeates

Who's the player to watch? Winger Mark Yeates looks a great signing from Colchester to go along with the seemingly endless talent that emerges from the Boro academy. England Under-21 winger Adam Johnson, who was impressive during a loan spell at Watford, will now get his chance to impress after the departure of Stewart Downing to Aston Villa.

How will they do? "If they get off to a good start then Boro could banish the memories of a dreadful relegation and make an instant return to the top flight," says BBC Radio Tees' Alastair Bownlee. "Their defence will be a class act, but will they score goals? That remains the problem."

Steve Taylor and Damien Duff
Newcastle were relegated on the final day of last season

How did they do last season? After 16 years in the Premier League the dream finally died for the Toon Army as an overbloated and creaking Magpies ship was cast adrift without the leadership needed to steer it to safety. A credible opening-day draw at Old Trafford looked promising but it all went downhill after that with alarming speed. Kevin Keegan was gone with fans crying "foul" over owner Mike Ashley's perceived preference for football director Dennis Wise to handle transfers, and the appointment of Joe Kinnear as interim boss. Summer signings Fabricio Coloccini,Xisco andJonas Gutierrez struggled to make an impression, while James Milner, Charles N'Zogbia and Shay Given all left and Michael Owen had little impact beyond Christmas. With only eight games in which to save his beloved club, Magpies legend Alan Shearer became the club's fourth manager of the season, but it was a trick even he could not conjure up.

A season to forget, but sadly, one that will live long in the memory.

Who's the gaffer? With Ashley trying to sell the club for a knock-down price, the manager's job will remain vacant until a buyer can be found. First-team coach Chris Hughton is currently taking the training sessions, while Shearer remains favourite to get the post full-time once Ashley's reign ends.

Nile Ranger

Who's the player to watch? With no new signings this summer, and the core of a recently-relegated side still at the club, United need to head into the academy to find players with the potential to excite the fans. Once there, you will find England under-19 international striker Nile Ranger, an exciting prospect guaranteed to get some pitch-time. Attacking midfielder Kazenga LuaLua, 18, could also provide the crucial link-up between midfield and attack that was desperately missing last season.

How will they do? "Rudderless, Newcastle will struggle this season," says BBC Sport's Rahul Shrivastava. "With no manager to get rid of the dead wood or to bring in new players, little will have changed from last season. If Shearer gets the job before the end of August, they should have a fighting chance of promotion, but it remains to be seen whether the current crop of players will share the same fighting spirit as the 'Lion of Gosforth'."


How did they do last season? A rollercoaster campaign eventually resulted in Championship survival. At times, Forest looked certain to be relegated, while at other times they seemed nailed on to stay up. What is certain, is that the the 3-0 win over Manchester City at Eastlands was one of the biggest FA Cup shocks of the season.

Billy Davies

Who's the gaffer? Former Derby boss Billy Davies was not universally welcomed by Forest fans because of his previous association with their rivals down the A52. But he is beginning to win the doubters over and if he can turn relegation strugglers into promotion contenders over the next two seasons, then he will have won the support of the majority.

Chris Cohen

Who's the key man? Last term's player of the season Chris Cohen inspires his team-mates with his all-action style. There have been plenty additions in attack, while midfielder Paul McKenna could prove to be popular amongst fans after his arrival from Preston.

How will they do? "They're certain to do better than last season," says BBC Radio Nottingham's Robin Chipperfield. "In a division which is impossible to pick a winner from, I fancy them to flirt with the play-offs but fall just short."


How did they do last season? A slow start to the season followed their arrival from League Two, but Posh went on to gain their second successive promotion with a 1-0 win at Colchester, which sealed second spot in League One with a game to spare.

Darren Ferguson

Who's the gaffer? Son of Manchester United manager Sir Alex, Darren Ferguson is not a man to be fazed by having a legendary father and is building a reputation as one of the best young managers in the Football League.

George Boyd

Who's the player to watch? Maverick winger George Boyd may have started his career in the non-league, but it surely won't be long until he is plying his trade a highest level. At his best, the 23-year-old former Stevenage man can win a match by himself.

How will they do? "Relegation shouldn't even be a consideration," says BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Peter Swan. "But a relative lack of strength-in-depth will make challenging for the play-offs difficult."


How did they do last season? Last season was an expected struggle, given that the size of the task of staying in the Championship seems to grow each year. Argyle may not have the wealth of other clubs, but at least their future has not been put in jeopardy by going into debt.

Paul Sturrock

Who's the gaffer? Former Southampton boss Paul Sturrock has legendary status at Home Park because of his success in the first spell he enjoyed at the club. However, his job is now a tough one and he has begun to divide the opinion of supporters.

Bradley Wright-Phillips

Who's the player to watch? Striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is an exciting signing, while Sturrock could spring a surprise pick from the club's youngsters. Craig Noone is one who could benefit from a prolonged run in the team.

How will they do? "A spot in mid table would be a blessing after the relegation tussle of last season," says BBC Radio Devon's Gordon Sparks. "I hope that with the change in personnel, a good blend is found. It will be interesting to see what other signings are made, especially with the influence and funds of the new owners."


How did they do last season? Overachieved in the eyes of many by making the play-offs, but then lost in the semi-finals to Sheffield United. Preston won 16 out of 23 matches to have the best home record in the Championship but won just five away from Deepdale, with two of those coming at promoted Wolves and Birmingham.

Alan Irvine

Who's the gaffer? Former Everton assistant manager Alan Irvine masterminded Preston's Championship survival in his first season in charge and then took North End to the play-offs last season. He is rapidly becoming one of the most sought after managers outside the Premier League and was expected to join West Brom in the summer before deciding to stay at Deepdale.

Sean St Ledger

Who's the player to watch? Promising central defender Sean St Ledger is a player many feel could make the step up to the Premier League. Long-term injuries to Neal Trotman and Liam Chilvers meant he started every league game last season. Much will be expected of Richard Chaplow and Ross Wallace in midfield, and if striker Chris Brown is fully fit after a difficult time last season he could make a big difference.

How will they do? "A repeat of last season will probably be expected from the supporters but it will be more difficult following Paul McKenna's departure to Nottingham Forest," says BBC Radio Lancashire's Andy Bayes. "Irvine will want an improvement on last season's sixth-placed finish, but limited resources in the transfer market may make it more difficult this time around."


How did they do last year? Abysmally compared to the hype they generated, but Paulo Sousa, Gareth Ainsworth and particularly Iain Dowie did well to keep them in the top half given the way the club has been mismanaged.

Jim Magilton

Who's the gaffer? Former Northern Ireland midfielder Jim Magilton will be looking to prove Ipswich wrong for sacking him and has a great chemistry with assistant boss John Gorman.

Adel Taarabt

Who's the player to watch? Midfielder Adel Taarabt is on a season-long loan from Tottenham and could be a star player for Rangers - if he gets his own way.

How will they do? "QPR are the hardest side in the division to predict," says BBC Sport's David McIntyre. "Last season I confidently wrote off their chances, but now I'm not so sure. Expectations are lower, there are signs co-owner Flavio Briatore is taking a back seat and Rangers do have some good players. I believe they are the one team in that division who could storm away if they could just build up some momentum. The question is whether they can get off the ground. Magilton's first task is to get enough points to avoid a complete disaster, because such a volatile club really could head out of the Championship in either direction."


How did they do last season?

Reading looking for quick return

Ultimately, disappointingly, as the Royals failed in their quest to make an immediate return to the top flight. Having occupied an automatic promotion spot at Christmas, they faded horribly in 2009. Despite a string of shocking results they would have been promoted with a win at home to Birmingham City on the final day of the season. They lost, and most fans acknowledged ending up in the play-offs was more than they deserved. They were then outplayed by Burnley in the semi-finals and consequently face a second season in the Championship.

Brendan Rodgers

Who's the gaffer? Former Watford manager Brendan Rodgers has the unenviable task of trying to fill the shoes of Steve Coppell. Despite relegation from the Premier League, followed by a disappointing year in the Championship, King Coppell can do no wrong in the eyes of Royals' fans. Rodgers knows Reading, having been in charge of the Academy before a spell at Chelsea. Unproven, but ambitious and saying all the right things.

Jay Tabb

Who's the player to watch? Reading have lost the spine of a good team in the last 12 months. Kevin Doyle, Michael Duberry, Graeme Murty, Marcus Hahnemann, Leroy Lita are all gone, but Jay Tabb was Coppell's last signing. A combative central midfielder, he showed glimmers of potential and bags of heart during the difficult dark days at the end of last season.

How will they do? "Optimistic fans will be targeting the play-offs," says BBC Radio Berkshire's Tim Dellor. "But judging by the offloading of talented players and a lack of replacements coming in, a mid-table finish is more realistic."

Scunthorpe celebrate at Wembley
Scunthorpe were promoted after beating Millwall at Wembley

How did they do last season? Last season was an outstanding one for Scunthorpe, with promotion back to the Championship achieved via a play-off final victory over Millwall.

Who's the gaffer? Former Wigan goalkeeper Nigel Adkins is surely one of the few managers in football to have worked his way up from club physio. His strength is his man-management and his ability to get the most out of his players whilst creating excellent team spirit.

Gary Hooper

Who's the player to watch? Ex-Southend striker Gary Hooper was a revelation in his first season with Scunthorpe, scoring 30 goals. The fact that he remains at Glanford Park this season following speculation about his future gives the Iron an excellent chance of staying up.

How will they do? "I believe United will stay up," says BBC Radio Humberside's Matt Dean. "The last time the Iron played in the Championship they suffered relegation after just a single season. Much depends on steering clear of injuries but providing they do, they have enough quality to survive."


How did they do last season? United had a fairly successful season but fell at the final hurdle, losing to Burnley in the play-off final. The Blades had a great away record but were disappointing at home. Losing twice to Sheffield Wednesday will also have hurt badly.

Kevin Blackwell

Who's the gaffer? Former Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell is learning all the time, but will know that he needs to add more strength in depth.

Ched Evans

Who's the player to watch? As a £3m arrival from Manchester City, striker Ched Evans has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. It will be interesting to see how he copes with that.

How will they do? "A top-six finish and hopefully will not fail in the play-offs," says BBC Radio Sheffield's Keith Edwards. "The Blades may have a chance of the top two depending on how the three teams that have come down from the Premier League manage to adjust to the Championship."


How did they do last season? Did well to finish 12th against a backdrop of boardroom uncertainty. The highlight was undoubtedly a famous double over Steel City rivals Sheffield United.

Brian Laws

Who's the gaffer? Former Scunthorpe manager Brian Laws continues to do an exceptional job in sometimes very difficult circumstances. Life should be made a little easier for him following the arrival of new chairman Lee Strafford. The club now has a better infrastructure and the manager has a better support network around him.

Marcus Tudgay

Who's the player to watch? Striker Marcus Tudgay was terrific last season and has signed a new contract despite interest from Premier League new-boys Burnley. Will continue to get better.

How will they do? "There's no reason why Wednesday can't challenge for a play-off place providing they can steer clear of injuries," says BBC Radio Sheffield's John Pearson. "If we're there at Christmas I think the manager will be given the backing to make a real push."


How did they do last year? Swansea were the surprise package of the Championship last year as they returned to English football's second tier for the first time in 24 years. Finished eighth, six points off the play-offs and won many plaudits for their flowing, passing football.

Paulo Sousa

Who's the gaffer? Former Portugal internationalPaulo Sousa was named as the replacement for Roberto Martinez who left for Wigan in the summer. While the style of football appears to be very similar, it is hard to judge Sousa on his record at Queens Park Rangers and whether he can take the Swans a step further.

Stephen Dobbie

Who's the player to watch? With top scorer Jason Scotland following Martinez to Wigan, it could be left to new signing Stephen Dobbie to fill his boots. The former Queen of the South striker hit 24 goals last season and, while looking lively in pre-season, he could still have a job to follow Scotland's lead - 53 goals in two seasons. Youngster Joe Allen could also play a key role in midfield.

How will they do? "Despite losing their manager and top goal scorer, the bulk of the squad has remained intact," says BBC Wales' David Dulin. "But it will be difficult to repeat last year's success. Top 10 is the target."

You can hear live commentary on every Swansea game on BBC Radio Wales SW FM and AM.


How did they do last season? 2008/09 was a season of change both on and off the pitch, with Aidy Boothroyd replaced by Brendan Rodgers as manager, before Rodgers left for Reading earlier this summer. There were changes in the boardroom as well, with most supporters just happy to stay in the Championship given all the upheavals. Tommy Smith's goals were key, as were those from the often criticised Tamas Priskin.

Malky Mackay

Who's the gaffer? Former player and coach Malky Mackay has taken over from Rodgers. Widely respected by the players and staff, he was the obvious choice, and although quietly-spoken he has a real determination to bring success to the club.

Tamas Priskin

Who's the player to watch? Hungarian international Priskin was something of a laughing stock when he first arrived, but Boothroyd and then Rodgers persevered with him, and he became a regular scorer. If Mackay can bring him on further he could turn his 15 goals last season into 25 this time around.

How will they do? "I think most Watford fans would just be happy to avoid relegation again," says BBC Three Counties' Simon Oxley. "There are still enough issues to sort out financially and with the stadium to ensure that Malky Mackay will have his hands full keeping the squad together. If they can keep Tommy Smith, Tamas Priskin and Jay Demerit beyond the end of August then they can finish mid table."


How did they do last season? Relegated from the Premier League after finishing bottom, despite winning more games in the top flight than they had ever done before. They won plenty of admirers for their brand of open and attractive football, but were found wanting in both penalty areas - leaking too many goals at one end and not scoring enough at the other.

Roberto Di Matteo

Who's the gaffer? There's been a change in the Hawthorns hotseat this summer, with former Chelsea star Roberto Di Matteo coming in as head coach after Tony Mowbray and his backroom team headed north to take over at Celtic. It's a gamble, with Di Matteo arriving after only one year in charge of MK Dons, but the Italian has the pedigree to be a success and is sure to keep Albion playing the way the fans became accustomed to under Mowbray.

Simon Cox

Who's the player to watch? It will be intriguing to see how Simon Cox fits in after his £1.5m arrival from Swindon Town. He netted 32 times last season for a side that spent most of the campaign in the lower reaches of League One, and will not go short of chances in the Championship with Chris Brunt, James Morrison and Robert Koren supplying the ammunition.

How will they do? "It will be a major surprise if the Baggies are not pushing for an instant return to the Premier League," says BBC Sport's Steve Marshall. "They were the outstanding footballing side of the Championship two years ago, scoring more than 100 goals, and they could again have too much firepower for many of the teams they will come up against. They are sure to give their opponents chances and will lose games, but if they can steer clear of injuries a top-six finish is the absolute minimum their fans can and should expect."

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