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Championship guide: Middlesbrough - Preston North End

Gordon Strachan, Kenny Jackett, Paul Lambert, Billy Davies, Steve Cotterill, Darren Ferguson

BBC Sport's club-by-club guide to the 2010/11 Championship season, from Middlesbrough to Preston North End.

MIDDLESBROUGH
Middlesbrough

Manager: Gordon Strachan

Last season: 11th

Strengths: Strachan has signed some quality international players during the summer, raiding the best of Scottish talent in the shape of Kris Boyd and Kevin Thomson from SPL champions Rangers.

Weaknesses: Boro will be under pressure to perform after such a huge outlay on new players, while the imports are without experience of English football - regardless of excellent records north of the border.

Key man: As the SPL's all-rime record goalscorer, Boyd outstripped even Celtic legend Henrik Larsson with 164 goals while at Rangers. His knack of finding the net is just what Boro lacked last term.

MILLWALL
Milwall

Manager: Kenny Jackett

Last season: Third in League One, promoted via the play-offs.

Strengths: The Lions are defensively very solid and difficult to break down. Once again they will prove tough to score against.

Weaknesses: Few members of the current Millwall squad have experience of playing in the Championship before.

Key man: Striker Steve Morison made the step up from Stevenage at the start of last term, scoring just twice in his first 18 games, but led the Lions' promotion push in the second half of the season to end with 23 goals.

NORWICH CITY
Norwich City

Manager: Paul Lambert

Last season: First in League One, promoted.

Strengths: Scoring goals. Grant Holt, Chris Martin and Wes Hoolahan shared 52 between them in League One, and the Canaries have a knack of scoring in the dying minutes of a game.

Weaknesses: Very few last season, but lack of pace at the back is more likely to be exposed in the Championship. Also, several signings in key positions will have to settle quickly.

Key man: Goalkeeper John Ruddy, who has joined from Everton after attempts to re-sign Fraser Forster on loan from Newcastle failed. Ruddy will need to prove to be as commanding a presence as the man who kept 18 clean sheets last term.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST
Nottingham Forest

Manager: Billy Davies

Last season: Third, lost in play-off semi-finals

Strengths: Forest are very strong defensively and do not concede many goals with Lee Camp in goal, and Kelvin Wilson and Wes Morgan outstanding at centre-back. In front of that trio, Paul McKenna pulls the strings in midfield.

Weaknesses: Ended last season with a poor record away from home, having gone unbeaten on the road from March 2009 to January 2010. Current lack of new signings also suggests a lack of depth in squad.

Key man: Much of Forest's good attacking play goes through McKenna. He was missed in the final few months of last season and on his return for the play-offs, he was arguably not fully fit.

PORTSMOUTH
Portsmouth

Manager: Steve Cotterill

Last season: 20th in the Premier League, relegated.

Strengths: Pompey will have goals in them - Tommy Smith, Danny Webber and David Nugent could all prosper in the Championship again.

Weaknesses: Midfield looks to be lacking width and pace, especially if Kevin-Prince Boateng and John Utaka are sold.

Key Man: Nugent's return to the club, possibly as captain, adds some aggression and presence up front. His goals will be vital to Pompey's season.

PRESTON NORTH END
Preston North End

Manager: Darren Ferguson

Last season: 17th

Strengths: The free signing of Paul Hayes could give the attack an extra dimension to complement the talents of Jon Parkin and Chris Brown.

Weaknesses: Just nine wins from 46 away games over the past two seasons tells its own story.

Key Man: Former Blackburn winger Keith Treacy becomes even more important following Ross Wallace's departure to Burnley. It is Treacy's first full season with North End and he will aim to provide and score goals from midfield.

Reporting by Matt Newsum, BBC Radio Lancashire's Phil Cunliffe, BBC Radio Norfolk's Richard Hancock, BBC Radio Nottingham's Robin Chipperfield, BBC London's Simon Watts and BBC Radio Solent's Adam Blackmore.



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see also
Football League lowdown
03 Aug 10 |  Football
Championship: Barnsley - Crystal Palace
03 Aug 10 |  Championship
Championship: Derby - Leicester
03 Aug 10 |  Championship
Championship: QPR - Watford
03 Aug 10 |  Championship


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