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TT's season preview: Championship

The new Championship season kicks off on Friday night - here's TEAMtalk's club-by-club guide to the forthcoming campaign.

Last Updated: 16/08/12 at 16:01 Post Comment

Championship: New season kicking off

Championship: New season kicking off

The 2012/13 Championship campaign gets underway with Cardiff versus Huddersfield on Friday night and if it's anywhere near as good as last season, then we are in for a treat.

The magnificent spectacle that was the London 2012 Olympics has meant a change in structure for the new season, with both the Football League and Premier League kicking off on the same weekend.

This year's Championship promises to be a close-run thing, with a host of promotion contenders vying for a shot at the big time.

Wolves, Blackburn and Bolton all dropped down to the second tier last term and they will be looking to bounce back at the first time of asking. Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield have joined the ranks hoping to first stay up, then push towards the top-half of the table.

Bolton are the early favourites to clinch the Championship title, with boss Owen Coyle assembling a young squad, mixed with some experienced heads, as he tries to bring success to the Reebok Stadium. Matt Mills is a quality player at this level and the addition of Keith Andrews will bring energy to the midfield.

Like Bolton, Blackburn will be targeting promotion and Rovers are heavily fancied thanks to their summer recruitment drive. Steve Kean will be hoping veteran frontman Nuno Gomes can still get goals at this level, while Danny Murphy arrives with bags of ability and experience.

Birmingham could have an outside chance of breaking into the top two after making some shrewd signings. Peter Lovenkrands, Hayden Mullins and Darren Ambrose have all made the move to St Andrew's.

While the battle at the top of the table looks set to be as competitive as ever, so does the scrap to avoid the drop. Barnsley only just stayed up last season, finishing 21st, and Keith Hill has a lack of options up top after losing new signing Mido for three months due to injury.

Bristol City, Peterborough and Crystal Palace are other possible relegation candidates. Palace have a thin squad and have lost key players in Ambrose, Nathaniel Clyne and Sean Scannell. Posh boss Darren Ferguson did well last year on a tight budget, but they will do well to replicate those efforts this season. Bristol City boss Derek McInnes managed to keep the Robins up last term but, with limited additions made this summer, they could have another battle on their hands.

BARNSLEY

Manager: Keith Hill

Position last season: 21st

Nickname: The Tykes

Ground: Oakwell

Capacity: 23,009

Players in: Lee Collins (Port Vale, undisclosed), Kelvin Etuhu (Portsmouth, free), Jacob Mellis (Chelsea, free), Mido (Zamalek, free), Ben Alnwick (Tottenham, free), Toni Silva (Liverpool, free), Tomasz Cywka (Reading, free), Marlon Harewood (free)

Players out: David Cotterill (Doncaster, free), Jay McEveley (Swindon, free), Jacob Butterfield (Norwich, undisclosed), Nathan Doyle (Bradford, free), Alistair Taylor, David Preece and Andy Gray (all released)

Key man: Luke Steele

Chances: More wheeling and dealing in the transfer market for manager Keith Hill, but the Tykes are set for another tough season.

Sky Bet odds: 200/1

BIRMINGHAM

Manager: Lee Clark

Position last season: 4th

Nickname: Blues

Ground: St Andrew's

Capacity: 30,009

Players in: Peter Lovenkrands (Newcastle, free), David Lucas (Rochdale, free), Hayden Mullins (Portsmouth, undisclosed), Darren Ambrose (Crystal Palace, undisclosed), Ravel Morrison (West Ham, season-long loan), Ben Gordon (Chelsea, loan)

Players out: Jordon Mutch (Cardiff, undisclosed), Ben Foster (West Brom, undisclosed), Luke Hubbins (AFC Telford, free), Caleb Folan, Enric Valles, Cian Hughton and Ashley Sammons (released)

Key man: Curtis Davies

Chances: Birmingham will be hoping they can improve on last season's play-off semi-final defeat with new manager Clark at the helm. Clark has added Lovenkrands, Ambrose and Morrison to his already talented squad to aid the promotion push.

Sky Bet odds: 16/1

BLACKBURN

Manager: Steve Kean

Position last season: 19th in Premier League

Nickname: Rovers

Ground: Ewood Park

Capacity: 31,154

Players in: Danny Murphy (Fulham, free), Leon Best (Newcastle, £3million), Nuno Gomes (Braga, free), Fabio Nunes (Portimonense, undisclosed), Paulo Jorge (FC Porto B, undisclosed), Edinho (Olhanense, £500,000), Dickson Etuhu (Fulham, £1million), Colin Kazim-Richards (Galatasaray, loan)

Players out: Ayegbeni Yakubu (Guangzhou R&F, undisclosed), Ryan Edwards (Rochdale, six-month youth loan), Junior Hoilett (QPR, free), Matthew Pearson (Rochdale, free), Jackson Ramm (Colchester, free), Michel Salgado, Vince Grella, Zac Aley, Jamie Maclaren and Herold Goulon (all released), Myles Anderson (Aldershot, loan), Nick Blackman (Sheffield United, undisclosed), Jordan Slew (Oldham, loan)

Key man: Danny Murphy

Chances: Following turmoil on and off the pitch as Rovers were relegated from the Premier League last season, Kean has enjoyed the backing of owners Venky's in the transfer market. Promotion is the expectation but a serious pre-season injury to Best could be a significant blow.

Sky Bet odds: 10/1

BLACKPOOL

Manager: Ian Holloway

Position last season: 5th

Nickname: The Seasiders, the Tangerines

Ground: Bloomfield Road

Capacity: 16,220 (under development)

Players in: Jake Caprice (Crystal Palace, free), Isaiah Osbourne (Hibernian, undisclosed), Scott Robertson (Dundee United, free), Tiago Gomes (free), Adda Djeziri (free), Alberto Noguera (free), James Caton (free)

Players out: Lomana LuaLua (Karabukspor, free), Brett Ormerod (Wrexham, free), Daniel Bogdanovic and Stephen Husband (released), Matt Hill (Sheffield United, free)

Key man: Tom Ince

Chances: Ian Holloway's side are expected to be in contention once again following play-off heartache against West Ham, having kept hold of livewire wingers Ince and Matt Phillips.

Sky Bet odds: 18/1

BOLTON

Manager: Owen Coyle

Position last season: 18th in Premier League

Nickname: The Trotters

Ground: Reebok Stadium

Capacity: 28,723

Players in: Keith Andrews (West Brom, free), Matt Mills (Leicester, undisclosed), Joe McKee (free) Andy Lonergan (Leeds, undisclosed), Benik Afobe (Arsenal, season-long loan)

Players out: Jussi Jaaskelainen (West Ham, free), Robbie Blake (Doncaster, free), Rhys Bennett (Rochdale, free), Tope Obadeyi (Rio Ave, free), Mark Connolly (Crawley, free), Ivan Klasnic, Gretar Steinsson, Paul Robinson, Sean Davis, Ricardo Gardner and Dino Fazlic (released), Tom Eckersley (Accrington, free), Fabrice Muamba (retired)

Key man: Martin Petrov

Chances: Many people's favourites for promotion having retained most of a youthful Premier League squad from last term, while Mills and Andrews are shrewd additions at Championship level.

Sky Bet odds: 13/2

BRIGHTON

Manager: Gus Poyet

Position last season: 10th

Nickname: The Seagulls

Ground: American Express Community Stadium

Capacity: 22,374

Players in: Tomasz Kuszczak (Manchester United, free), Bruno Saltor (Valencia, free), Wayne Bridge (Manchester City, loan), Andrew Crofts (Norwich, undisclosed)

Players out: Alan Navarro (Swindon, free), Michael Poke (Torquay, free), David Gonzalez and Leon Redwood (both released)

Key man: Vicente

Chances: Having sorted his goalkeeping problems by bringing in Kuszczak and keeping hold of talented Spanish playmaker Vicente, Poyet has a side capable of reaching the play-offs at least.

Sky Bet odds: 16/1

BRISTOL CITY

Manager: Derek McInnes

Position last season: 20th

Nickname: The Robins

Ground: Ashton Gate

Capacity: 21,497

Players in: Jody Morris (St Johnstone, free), Paul Anderson (Nottingham Forest, free), Tom Heaton (Cardiff, free),

Players out: Jamal Campbell-Ryce (Notts County, free), Jamie McAllister (Yeovil, free), David James, David Clarkson, Christian Ribeiro, Marlon Jackson, Danny Ball and Henry Muggeridge (all released)

Key man: Albert Adomah

Chances: McInnes is regarded as one of the most highly-rated managers in Britain and enjoyed instant success at Ashton Gate as he steered the Robins clear of relegation last season. He will be hoping for a higher finish in his first full campaign in charge.

Sky Bet odds: 66/1

BURNLEY

Manager: Eddie Howe

Position last season: 13th

Nickname: The Clarets

Ground: Turf Moor

Capacity: 22,546

Players in: Luke O'Neill (Mansfield, undisclosed), George Porter (Leyton Orient, free), Jason Shackell (Derby, undisclosed), Joseph Mills (Reading, season-long loan), Sam Vokes (Wolves, undisclosed), Brian Stock (Doncaster, undisclosed)

Players out: Jay Rodriguez (Southampton, undisclosed), Andre Amougou, Clarke Carlisle, Brian

Easton, Alex-Ray Harvey, Joe McKee, Dominic Knowles, Neil Yadolahi, David Lynch and Ross Wilson (all released), Joe Jackson and Tom Anderson (both AFC Barrow, loan).

Key man: Charlie Austin

Chances: Howe's youthful squad will strive for greater consistency and are outsiders for a play-off push, although the pressure will be on Austin to fill the void in attack left by Rodriguez's move to Southampton.

Sky Bet odds: 33/1

CARDIFF

Manager: Malky Mackay

Position last season: 6th

Nickname: The Bluebirds

Ground: Cardiff City Stadium

Capacity: 26,828

Players in: Joe Lewis (Peterborough, free), Jordon Mutch (Birmingham, undisclosed), Kim Bokyung (Cerezo Osaka, undisclosed), Heidar Helguson (QPR, undisclosed), Craig Bellamy (Liverpool, free)

Players out: Aaron Wildig (Shrewsbury, free), Tom Heaton, Lee Naylor, Paul Quinn, Jon Meades, Alex Evans and Jordan Santiago (all released), Anthony Gerrard (Huddersfield, £350,000)

Key man: Peter Whittingham

Chances: After missing out on promotion to the Premier League yet again, manager Mackay will be hoping to finally be the man to lead the club into the top flight. The Bluebirds have ditched their famous blue kit in favour of red - could that be their lucky charm?

Sky Bet odds: 11/1

CHARLTON

Manager: Chris Powell

Position last season: 1st in League One

Nickname: The Addicks

Ground: The Valley

Capacity: 27,111

Players in: Lawrie Wilson (Stevenage, undisclosed), Jordan Cook (Sunderland, free), Slaim Kerkar (Rangers, free)

Players out: Gary Doherty (Wycombe, free), Freddie Warren (Barnet, free), Jason Euell, Mikel Alonso and Tosan Popo (all released)

Key man: Johnnie Jackson

Chances: A quiet summer down at The Valley following last year's overhaul, but boss Powell believes his League One champions can make the step up, and he should be proved right.

Sky Bet odds: 25/1

CRYSTAL PALACE

Manager: Dougie Freedman

Position last season: 17th

Nickname: The Eagles

Ground: Selhurst Park

Capacity: 26,309

Players in: Joel Ward (Portsmouth, £400,000), Aaron Martin (Southampton, season-long loan), Aaron Wilbraham (Norwich, free), Peter Ramage (free)

Players out: Anthony Gardner (Sheffield Wednesday, free), Sean Scannell (Huddersfield, undisclosed), Darren Ambrose (Birmingham, undisclosed), Lee Hills (Stevenage, free), Calvin Andrew, Nathaniel Pinney, Jake Caprice and Charlie Holness (all released), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton, undisclosed)

Key man: Wilfried Zaha

Chances: Losing Ambrose and Clyne would be a blow to any club in the Championship but Palace's squad looks worryingly thin, although there are plenty of youngsters hoping to follow in Zaha's footsteps.

Sky Bet odds: 80/1

DERBY

Manager: Nigel Clough

Position last season: 12th

Nickname: The Rams

Ground: Pride Park

Capacity: 33,597

Players in: Michael Jacobs (Northampton, undisclosed compensation), Paul Coutts (Preston, undisclosed), Richard Keogh (Coventry, undisclosed), James O'Connor (Doncaster, undisclosed), Michael Hoganson (Newcastle, released)

Players out: Paul Green (Leeds, free), James Severn (Scunthorpe, free), Chris Maguire (Sheffield Wednesday, free), Lee Croft (Oldham, season-long loan), Miles Addison (Bournemouth, undisclosed), Jason Shackell (Burnley, undisclosed), Callum Ball (Coventry, season-long loan)

Key man: Jamie Ward

Chances: Progression under Nigel Clough continued last season and after strengthening his defensive options this summer, the Rams boss will be looking for his side to break into the top 10.

Sky Bet odds :40/1

HUDDERSFIELD

Manager: Simon Grayson

Position last season: 4th

Nickname: The Terriers

Ground: Galpharm Stadium

Capacity: 24,500

Players in: Sean Scannell (Crystal Palace, undisclosed), Paul Dixon (free, Dundee United), Oliver Norwood (Manchester United, free), Adam Clayton (Leeds, undisclosed), Joel Lynch (Nottingham Forest, free), Anthony Gerrard (Cardiff, £350,000)

Players out: Danny Cadamarteri (Carlisle, free), Tommy Miller (Swindon, free), Gary Roberts (Swindon, free), Nathan Clarke (Leyton Orient, free), Aidan Chippendale (Accrington, free), Gary Naysmith, Greg Pearson and Simon Thomas (all released), Anthony Kay (MK Dons, free)

Key man: Jordan Rhodes

Chances: Back in the second tier for first time since 2001 and strengthened enough to stay out of trouble.

Sky Bet odds: 33/1

HULL CITY

Manager: Steve Bruce

Position last season: 8th

Nickname: The Tigers

Ground: KC Stadium

Capacity: 25,586

Players in: Eldin Jakupovic (Aris, released), Ben Amos (Manchester United, season-long loan), Nick Proschwitz (SC Paderborn, £2.5million), Abdoulaye Faye (West Ham, free), Sone Aluko (Rangers, free), Alex Bruce (Leeds, free)

Players out: Will Atkinson (Bradford, free), Kevin Kilbane (Coventry, free), Mark Cullen (Bury, loan)

Key man: Robert Koren

Chances: The Allam family who own the club have backed new boss Bruce and expect a play-off finish at least.

Sky Bet odds: 25/1

IPSWICH

Manager: Paul Jewell

Position last season: 15th

Nickname: The Tractor Boys

Ground: Portman Road

Capacity: 30,311

Players in: Elliott Hewitt (Macclesfield, undisclosed), Luke Chambers (Nottingham Forest, free), Scott

Loach (Watford, undisclosed)

Players out: Grant Leadbitter (Middlesbrough, free), Richard Wright (Preston, free), Lee Bowyer, Ibrahima Sonko and Cody Cropper (all released), Mark Kennedy (retired)

Key man: Tommy Smith

Chances: Jewell will be looking for his Ipswich squad to improve on the two mid-table finishes he has overseen so far. Having only brought three new players to Portman Road, he will need a good start to target a top-half place.

Sky Bet odds: 33/1

LEEDS

Manager: Neil Warnock

Position last season: 14th

Nickname: The Whites

Ground: Elland Road

Capacity: 37,697

Players in: Jason Pearce (Portsmouth, £500,000), Adam Drury (Norwich, free), Paul Green (Derby, free), Paddy Kenny (QPR, £500,000), Andy Gray (Barnsley, free), Jamie Ashdown (Portsmouth, free), Luke Varney (Portsmouth, free), David Norris (Portsmouth, free), Lee Peltier (Leicester, undisclosed), Rodolph Austin (SK Brann, free), El Hadji Diouf (free)

Players out: Maik Taylor (Millwall, free), Lloyd Sam, Mikael Forssell and Danny Webber (all released), Adam Clayton (Huddersfield, undisclosed), Andy Lonergan (Bolton, undisclosed), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich, £3million), Alex Bruce (Hull, free), Billy Paynter (Doncaster, undisclosed)

Key man: Ross McCormack

Chances: Despite the loss of captain Snodgrass to Norwich, manager Warnock has made a number of shrewd signings as he aims to get Leeds back into the top flight. They will be among the promotion contenders.

Sky Bet odds: 11/1

LEICESTER

Manager: Nigel Pearson

Position last season: 9th

Nickname: The Foxes

Ground: King Power Stadium

Capacity: 32,262

Players in: Ritchie de Laet and Matty James (Manchester United, undisclosed), Jamie Vardy (Fleetwood, £1million), Marko Futacs (Portsmouth, undisclosed compensation), Zak Whitbread (Norwich, free), Anthony Knockaert (Guingamp, undisclosed)

Players out: Sol Bamba (Trabzonspor, undisclosed), Oliver Norburn (Bristol Rovers, free), John Pantsil, Steve Howard, Elliott Chamberlain, Matt Oakley, Aleksandar Tunchev, Darius Vassell and Franck Moussa (all released), Matt Mills (Bolton, undisclosed), Chris Weale (Shrewsbury, free), Lee Peltier (Leeds, undisclosed)

Key man: Neil Danns

Chances: Narrowly missed out on the play-offs last season. Will finish in the top six at least this time around and should challenge for an automatic promotion place.

Sky Bet odds: 15/2

MIDDLESBROUGH

Manager: Tony Mowbray

Position last season: 7th

Nickname: Boro

Ground: Riverside Stadium

Capacity: 34,988

Players in: Grant Leadbitter (Ipswich, free), Stuart Parnaby (unattached), Emanuel Ledesma (Walsall, free), George Friend (Doncaster, undisclosed), Christian Burgess (Arsenal, free), Jonathan Woodgate (Stoke, free), Mustapha Carayol (Bristol Rovers, undisclosed), Jayson Leutwiler (free)

Players out: Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps, free), Jonathan Franks (Hartlepool, free), Jonathan Grounds (Oldham, free), Tony McMahon (Sheffield United, free)

Key man: Marvin Emnes

Chances: Middlesbrough missed out on a place in last season's play-offs by five points having long been contenders. Mowbray's side will be hoping for better fortunes at home having won just eight of their 23 games at the Riverside Stadium last term. Another promotion-chasing season beckons, though.

Sky Bet odds: 20/1

MILLWALL

Manager: Kenny Jackett

Position last season: 16th

Nickname: The Lions

Ground: The Den

Capacity: 20,146

Players in: Maik Taylor (Leeds, free), Scott Malone (Bournemouth, player exchange), Chris Taylor (Oldham, free), Karleigh Osborne (Brentford, free), Danny Shittu (free)

Players out: Chris Hackett (Northampton, free), Tony Craig (Brentford, undisclosed), Ryan Allsop (Leyton Orient, free), Josh McQuoid (Bournemouth, player exchange) Hamer Bouazza, Jordan Stewart, Jake Gallagher and Conor McLaren (all released)

Key man: Andy Keogh

Chances: Millwall struggled with their home form last season and manager Jackett will be hoping for better down at The Den. Too good to go down but the play-offs remain well out of reach.

Sky Bet odds: 66/1

NOTTINGHAM FOREST

Manager: Sean O'Driscoll

Position last season: 19th

Nickname: The Reds

Ground: City Ground

Capacity: 30,603

Players in: Adlene Guedioura (Wolves, undisclosed), Danny Collins (Stoke, free), Greg Halford (Portsmouth, free), Dan Harding (Southampton, free), Simon Gillett (free agent), Daniel Ayala (Norwich, season-long loan), Simon Cox (West Brom, undisclosed

Players out: Garath McCleary (Reading, undisclosed), Luke Chambers (Ipswich, free), Joel Lynch (Huddersfield, free), Chris Gunter (Reading, undisclosed)

Key man: Lewis McGugan

Chances: The 2011/12 season was a tough one both on and off the pitch. The Al Hasawi takeover looks to have stabilised the club and, although several key players have left the City Ground this summer, the replacements new manager O'Driscoll has brought in could see Forest return to mount a challenge for the play-offs.

Sky Bet odds: 12/1

PETERBOROUGH

Manager: Darren Ferguson

Position last season: 18th

Nickname: The Posh

Ground: London Road

Capacity: 15,315

Players in: Tyrone Barnett (Crawley, £1.2million), Shaun Brisley (Macclesfield, undisclosed), Nathanial Knight-Percival (Wrexham, free), Danny Swanson (Dundee United, free), Robert Olejnik (Torquay, undisclosed), Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (Wolves, undisclosed), Michael Bostwick (Stevenage, undisclosed), Jonson Clarke-Harris (Coventry, free)

Players out: Joe Lewis (Cardiff, free), Paul Jones (Crawley, free), Nathan Ralph (Yeovil, free), David Ball (Fleetwood, undisclosed)

Key man: Lee Tomlin

Chances: Just held their own last season on their return to the second tier. Posh will be aiming for a mid-table finish but it could be another nervy conclusion to the campaign.

Sky Bet odds: 100/1

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

Manager: Dave Jones

Position last season: 2nd in League One

Nickname: The Owls

Ground: Hillsborough

Capacity: 39,812

Players in: Chris Kirkland (Wigan, free), Kieran Lee (Oldham, free), Joe Mattock (West Brom, free), Anthony Gardner (Crystal Palace, free), Chris Maguire (Derby, undisclosed), Diogo Amado (Uniao Leiria, free), Nejc Pecnik (CD Nacional, free), Rhys McCabe (Rangers, free), Michael Antonio (Reading, undisclosed)

Players out: Richard O'Donnell (Chesterfield, free), Clinton Morrison (Colchester, free), Chris Sedgwick, Jon Otsemobor, Sean Cuff and Vadaine Oliver (all released), Liam Palmer (Tranmere, loan), Ryan Lowe (MK Dons, undisclosed)

Key man: Jose Semedo

Chances: Owls boss Dave Jones will expect his side to make an instant impression as he aims for a top-half finish.

Sky Bet odds :25/1

WATFORD

Manager: Gianfranco Zola

Position last season: 11th

Nickname: The Hornets

Ground: Vicarage Road

Capacity: 17,477

Players in: Manuel Almunia (Arsenal, free), Fitz Hall (QPR, free), Almen Abdi, Matej Vydra, Steve Leo Beleck (all Udinese, free), Daniel Pudil, Ikechi Anya (both Granada, season-long loans), Alex Geijo (Udinese, loan)

Players out: Adrian Mariappa (Reading, undisclosed), Rene Gilmartin (Plymouth, free), Josh Walker (Scunthorpe, free), Scott Loach (Ipswich, undisclosed), Tom James, Chez Isaac and Michael Bryan (all released)

Key man: Matej Vydra

Chances: Winds of change have blown through Vicarage Road this summer as the Italy-based Pozzo family took control of Watford. The new owners replaced manager Sean Dyche with Zola as they eye up a promotion push in their first year.

Sky Bet odds: 28/1

WOLVES

Manager: Stale Solbakken

Position last season: 20th in Premier League

Nickname: Wolves

Ground: Molineux

Capacity: 27,828 (under development)

Players in: Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson (Lillestrom, undisclosed), Frank Nouble (West Ham, free), Jamie Tank (Walsall, undisclosed), Tongo Doumbia (Rennes, season-long loan), Slawo Peszko (Cologne, loan)

Players out: Louis Harris (AFC Wimbledon, free), Ashley Hemmings (Walsall, free), Jody Craddock, James Spray (released), Sam Vokes (Burnley, undisclosed), Jake Cassidy (Tranmere, six-month loan)

Key man: Matt Jarvis

Chances: Wolves are among the favourites for an immediate return to the Premier League following last season's disappointing campaign. Norwegian Solbakken manages the side, hoping they will be able to keep hold of striker Steven Fletcher to lead the promotion charge.

Sky Bet odds: 8/1

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