With just four days until Bolton Wanderers get their season underway, and three until the first game of the 2018-19 Championship, it’s probably time to start running the rule over all 24 clubs ahead of the season. This page looks at 12 of them, we’ll do the rest tomorrow.
Aston Villa – Manager: Steve Bruce
Last season: A fourth-placed finish in the Championship, followed by a playoff final defeat to Fulham. We only lost 1-0 at Villa Park to a Jonathan Kodjia penalty in September, before Adam Le Fondre scored the only goal of the game in the snow at the Macron in March.
Their summer: Dire, with the financial woes of Dr Tony Xia hanging over them. A takeover has since gone through though, and with the exception of John Terry and departures of their loanees, they have so far kept their prize assets such as James Chester and Jack Grealish.
Ex-Wanderers: Alan Hutton, who spent time on loan with us in 2013, is still at Villa, having been there since 2011.
Prediction: Villa still have the majority of the players that took them close. If they do survive the window and even manage to add one or two, why couldn’t they go up? 2nd.
Birmingham City – Manager: Garry Monk
Last season: A relegation battle for the most part under Harry Redknapp and Steve Cotterill, but things improved sufficiently under Garry Monk that they finished 19th, with a final day win over eventual playoff winners Fulham. We drew 0-0 in August at St Andrew’s, before Monk’s side beat us 1-0 at our place just after Easter.
Their summer: A struggle, with Kristian Pedersen the only signing Blues could make before being put under a transfer embargo.
Ex-Wanderers: Lukas Jutkiewicz scored five goals last season, while Viv-Solomon Otabor, who had an uneventful loan spell with us in League One in 2017, is still there too.
Prediction: Monk won 5 of his 11 games in charge, so it was a strong finish to the season for Birmingham. Despite the lack of transfer activity, there’s a decent squad there. They won’t get promoted but could finish in the top half. 9th.
Blackburn Rovers – Manager: Tony Mowbray
Last season: They pushed Wigan all the way but had to settle for second in League One. Still, it’s automatic promotion at the first time of asking, and may help stop the Venky’s-induced rot Rovers have suffered over the course of this decade.
Their summer: Blackburn have brought a few players in, although not as many as they may have liked, loaning Kasey Palmer from Chelsea and signing Jacob Davenport from Man City
Ex-Wanderers: They have none. Players to watch though include Bradley Dack and Richie Smallwood in midfield, while veteran Charlie Mulgrew is club captain.
Prediction: In the last five years, at least one newly-promoted club has finished in mid-table. Rovers look like the strongest of the three teams coming up, so… 14th.
Bolton Wanderers (that’s us!) – Manager: Phil Parkinson
Last season: Awful start, looked okay in the middle, nearly blew it, then Aaron Wilbraham saved us.
Our summer: Player strikes, a midfield cull, still not quite enough signings, but a transfer fee finally spent.
Prediction: We could stay up, it’s a tight division. But I still feel we need another midfielder or defender, and a step up in quality of that player, if we are to do so. 23rd.
Brentford – Manager: Dean Smith
Last season: A respectable ninth-placed finish for one of the smartest-operating clubs in the Championship. They beat us comfortably home and away, 3-0 in September at ours, then 2-0 at Griffin Park in January.
Their summer: A few ins and outs. Key departures have included John Egan and Florian Jozefzoon leaving for Sheffield United and Derby respectively. They have replaced at the back though, with Ezri Konsa joining from Charlton and Julien Jeanvier from Reims, as well as forward Said Benrahma.
Ex-Wanderers: None. Players to watch include Ollie Watkins and ginger midfielder Ryan Woods.
Prediction: It’s difficult for Brentford to finish as high as they’ve finished every year, so I can see a tougher season for them. Overall though, they’ll be fine. 15th.
Bristol City – Manager: Lee Johnson
Last season: A very strong first half of the season, including a host of Premier League scalps en route to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup. They did wobble after that though, eventually finishing 11th. We lost at their place before a 1-0 win in February at the Macron.
Their summer: Aden Flint and Bobby Reid have both left, but they’ve made six signings, Mo Eisa, Hakeeb Adelakun, Andy Weimann, Adam Webster, Marley Watkins and Jack Hunt.
Players to watch: If Joe Bryan stays, they have arguably the best left-back in the Championship. Famara Diedhiou will be expected to match his 13-goal haul from last season.
Prediction: Should have another decent season. 8th.