Ledley's Talking Points: Football League Preview
7 Talking Points
Aston Villa had a disappointing season in the Championship last term, but this year a refreshed side will be looking to clinch automatic promotion. John Terry is the Championship’s signing of the summer, and Christopher Samba, Glenn Whelan and Ahmed Elmohamady will also bring a wealth of experience to the midlands. Under the guidance of Steve Bruce it would be hard to rule them out as title contenders, but they face a tough opening challenge as newly relegated Hull visit on Saturday.
Hull are another side that will be aiming to be in the promotion mixer this season. Leonid Slutsky is the new man at the helm, a good friend of Roman Abramovich and the first Russian manager to come to England. The former Russia manager said: “There are 150 million people in Russia and I think 50 per cent will be supporting Hull City." He won the Russian League with CSKA three times in four years, and that winning mentality could pay dividends for the Tigers.
Wolves have been splashing the cash this summer, smashing their transfer record to sign Ruben Neves from Porto. There’s now reports that they’re willing to fork out £20m for Burnley’s Andre Gray. Perhaps it’s a sign of today’s crazy transfer market, but it’s also a sign of the clubs ambition to reach the Premier League. Their campaign kicks off by playing host to Boro, who also broke their transfer record this summer with the signing of Britt Assombalonga from Forest.
Sunderland are a club in disarray. After clinging onto the Premier League by the skin of their teeth for countless seasons, they were eventually relegated after a dismal campaign last season. Now they find themselves in heaps of debt with an owner that wants to sell, captain Darren Gibson has been caught saying “we’re f******* s***” to fans, and since their defeat to Celtic at the weekend, almost a quarter of all bets on Championship relegation have backed the Black Cats. They face Derby on Friday night in their campaign opener.
Blackburn were Premier League champions in 1995. Now they find themselves in League One. Crowds have dropped by 70% with fans protesting the owners and calling for them to sell up. Even with six new signings this summer many fans will feel let down by the Venky’s for underinvestment over the last few years and they won't believe the nightmare is over until they have new owners. Rovers travel to Southend on Saturday to get their season underway.
Crawley Town narrowly avoided dropping out of the football league last season, finishing just one point above the relegation zone. Harry Kewell was appointed as the new manager back in May and the former Leeds and Liverpool winger will make his senior coaching debut with a big reputation from his playing days. The Australian was sacked as manager of Watford's under-23 team after winning only six of their 24 Professional Development League games last season, so the former socceroo has something to prove. It could be another tough year ahead for Crawley though, and their first test is a visit from relegated Port Vale.
Lincoln City became the first non-league side to reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup for more than a century last season. Every neutral was cheering for them but their amazing run was ultimately ended by Arsenal. Their season didn’t end at the hands of Wenger though, as the Imps secured the National League title and returned to the Football League after a 6-year wait. They travel to Wycombe on Saturday.
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