Birmingham

There will be very little optimism at St Andrews following a catastrophic 2013/14 campaign that saw the Blues minutes away from a relegation to League One. Paul Caddis' late equaliser against Bolton saw Doncaster Rovers take the drop and sparked wild scenes at the Reebok as Lee Clark charged down the touchline to celebrate with the fans.

However, those celebrations will do little to mask a club in disarray both on and off the field. Forgetting the ownership and financial struggles, Birmingham won only two league games at St Andrews last season and should they struggle at home again you'd imagine this campaign will be even longer for them and their supporters.

The financial constraints also mean this side is largely built upon free transfers and loans. It's status quo for 2014/15 and having lost their most influential player in Chris Burke they have made ten signings already with little outlay except wages. David Edgar from Burnley may be the headline signing but a lot depends on how Clark can integrate his new signings.

Key player

Lee Novak - Not just because he used to play for Town. Novak finished second top scorer behind Federico Macheda last term who enjoyed half a season on loan at the Blues. With little quality signed up top by Clark a lot will rely on the Geordie strikers terrific work ethic.

Predicted League Finish

Relegation fodder. Expect to see Birmingham at the wrong end of the table. 19th - 24th


Blackburn

Long gone are the days of funny television adverts of players eating chicken, Steve Kean somehow managing to wrangle the managers job and the Venky's playing managerial roulette. Last season saw some stability brought to the club in manager Gary Bowyer and thanks to an eleven game unbeaten run at the back end of the season, Rovers finished a more than respectable eighth in the league.

However, with no more parachute payments, questions over finances and player recruitment largely being free transfers, you have to question if they can be a promotion chasing side. Signing Jordan Rhodes to a new long term deal may just be their best bit of business this summer though.

Key player

Jordan Rhodes - Another former terrier but it is still astonishing that he has yet to be snapped up by a Premier League club. 25 league goals last season and quite often carried an average Rovers side, his goals will be vital if they want to challenge for the play-offs this time out.

Predicted League Finish

Short of the mark.  With their current squad you can't see Blackburn breaking into the top six. 7th - 12th.


Blackpool

Quite simply this summer has been a farce for Blackpool. They started pre-season with only eight first team players and have had more trialists this summer than Harry Redknapp has had failed bids for players.

Blackpool's plight is extraordinary given the fact they should have reaped the rewards of the Premier League and the subsequent parachute payments but their fans have been left asking where the money has gone. Chairman Karl Oyston has failed to answer those questions, whilst he and Club President Valeri Belokon have been slinging mud at each other through open letters.

The fans are the ones suffering and saw nine trialists involved in the weekends freindly defeat at home to Burnley. Manager Jose Riga must wonder what he's just walked into.

Key player

David Perkins - One of Blackpool's eight who started pre-season, he has often been a thorn in Town's side. Must lead and energise Blackpool's midfield this term.

Predicted League Finish

League One bound? - If Blackpool manage to stay up it will be the greatest of great escapes from where they are currently. 19th - 24th


Bolton

Quite simply 2013/14 was a very poor season for Bolton where they hugely underachieved and finished in the bottom half of the league. A lot rested on an awful start where the Trotters hadn't won a league game in their first ten fixtures and at one point found themselves at the foot of the table.

A bright end to the season somewhat flattered Bolton's final finishing position and Dougie Freedman must realise if this season follows suit he may find himself out of a job.

A lot of Bolton's issues were down to a lack of goals, with Jermaine Beckford finishing as top scorer with 9 goals in all competitions last term. Whilst Bolton have worked the transfer market astutely this summer, they have yet to remedy that goal scoring problem.

Key player

Liam Trotter - The former Millwall man completed his transfer this summer after a loan spell at the end of the season. A useful midfielder, he always seems to pop up with a goal from somewhere.

Predicted League Finish

Mid-table mediocracy. Lack of goals will once again plague Freedman's men. 13th - 18th


Bournemouth

Eddie Howe's side were certainly a surprise package last season as they cemented a top ten place after some terrific form in the second half of the season, including winning eight in ten games through March and April. It was certainly a turnaround after being on the end of hammerings from Watford and Town at the start of the season.

Just like last season Bournemouth have recruited well in the summer in Junior Stanislas, Dan Gosling and Callum Wilson, who cost the Cherries £3million. They certainly have made the most from the windfall from Lewis Grabban's sale to Norwich and the sell-on fee from Adam Lallana's transfer to Liverpool from Southampton.

Key player

Callum Wilson - Can the new signing from Coventry fill the void of goals left by Lewis Grabban's departure, it will be hard to replicate his 22 goal return from last season.

Predicted League Finish

Play-off outsiders?! Perhaps lack of strength in depth will cost the Cherries. 7th - 12th


Brentford

After the disappointment of narrowly missing promotion to the Championship in 2012/13, last season was fantastic for the Bees fans who had been waiting 21 years for a return to the second tier of English football.

Brentford's achievement wasn't tarnished by losing manager Uwe Rosler to Wigan as Mark Warburton took up the reigns and steered the club to second placed finish behind Wolves on 94 points. This included a 19 mathc unbeaten run which briefly saw the club top the League One table.

This season will prove to be a lot more difficult having lost top scorer Clayton Donaldson on a free to Birmingham, whilst Adam Forshaw is a target for numerous clubs including Rosler's Wigan. They have managed to bring in Andre Gray who was last seasons top scorer in the Conference.

Key player

Scott Hogan - 19 goals for Rochdale last season caught the eye of many scouts and he has the chance to show his quality.

Predicted League Finish

New boy's may struggle. A lot depends how the Bees can take last seasons form into this season but have recruited well. 13th - 18th


Brighton

It's all change on the south coast following Oscar Garcia's departure after failing to take Brighton into the Premier League last season. Former Liverpool skipper Sami Hyypia has taken the reigns but has lost top scorer Leonardo Ulloa to Leicester this summer for a tidy £8million.

The Seagulls have made some moves in the transfer market, bringing in Chris O'Grady, Keith Andrews and David Stockdale who have plenty of experience amongst them. However, they will need to find a free scoring striker to repeat last seasons finish and push for the play-offs.

Key player

Will Buckley - The former Rochdale man has plenty of promise and admirers and has to lead his sides charge for the play-offs.

Predicted League Finish

Play-off agony. Expect to see Brighton in the top half but not challenging the top six. 7th - 12th


Cardiff

The Welsh club's Premier League experience didn't last long as the Bluebirds finished bottom of the pile in England's top division. Vincent Tan, who had already alienated many fans after changing the clubs home strip to red, annoyed them further by sacking popular manager Malky MacKay.

Ole Gunnar Solsjkear took over but couldn't maintain their Premier League status making some questionable signings on the way.

What's worse is Cardiff have lost their star performers in Steven Caulker, Gary Medel and Frazier Campbell without replacing them well enough so far. Although the signing of Adam Le Fondre shows the intent to bounce straight back up to the top flight.

Key player

Peter Whittingham - So key in Cardiff's last promotion, you can expect the Bluebirds to shine if he can provide similar performances from two seasons ago.

Predicted League Finish

Title hopes. Automatic promotion may be a step too far but should feature in the play-offs. 1st - 6th


Charlton

It's all change at The Valley as Charlton move onto their third manager in six months with the appointment of Bob Peeters. He's already seen the arrival of several new players so far including Tal Ben Haim, Andre Bikey and Franck Moussa.

Whilst the Addicks have improved their back line, it's up top where they will most likely struggle having seen top league goalscorer Marvin Sordell move to Burnley leaving former Town loanee Simon Church to lead the search for goals.

Its hard to see much optimism for the London club who spent the entirety of last season in the bottom half of the table and lost their one shining light in Diego Poyet.

Key player

Callum Harriot - The youngster stepped up to the plate last time out, now he needs to be the creative force to ensure survival.

Predicted League Finish

Bottom half struggles. A lack of quality and strength in depth may be Charlton's undoing. 19th - 24th


Derby

It was heartbreak for Derby fans at Wembley only a few months ago as ten man QPR scored in the 90th minute to win the Championship play-off final. The worry for most Rams fans is will they suffer a hangover or will that defeat in a game they dominated for so long spur them on to go one better.

With Steve McClaren in charge they have a man with a wealth of experience and one who can certainly lead them on another promotion charge. He has also recruited well in former Town target Cyrus Christie, Leon Best, who has joined on loan from Blackburn, and Will Hughes has also been tied up to a long-term-contract.

Key player

Craig Bryson - With 16 goals from midfield last season he certainly has the quality to help push the Rams to another play-off campaign.

Predicted League Finish

Play-off pick. They may just fall short of automatic promotion, but they will be in the mix. 1st - 6th


Fulham

The Cottagers went though managers last season like Katie Price goes through men as finally Felix Magath saw Fulham relegated. Many of their big names have already headed to Europe's top divisions whilst the futures of the likes of Bryan Ruiz and Martin Stekelenburg remain uncertain.

They have though splashed the cash capturing Leeds skipper Ross McCormack for the astonishing amount of £11million and FC Basel defender Kay Voser for an undisclosed amount. The way Magath also blooded in Fulham's youngsters last year may be beneficial to any promotion hopes.

Key player

Ross McCormack - The fee they paid may be way over the top, but he was the sole reason Leeds weren't dragged into a relegation dogfight, great acquisition.

Predicted League Finish

Top six or bust. You Feel that Fulham need to bounce back to avoid becoming like Blackburn and slipping further down like Wolves, the most likely relegated Premier League side not to achieve the play-offs though. 1st - 6th


Huddersfield

In January you felt the Terriers had an outside shot at the play-offs, especially after the record signing of Bermudan Nahki Wells from Bradford. However, Mark Robins side has a catastrophic run in the second half of the season as inconsistency set in and at one point Town went 10 games without a win.

So far this summers transfer activity has been quiet with only Joe Murphy, Lee Peltier and Radislaw Majewski being brought into the club to improve the squad. A lot also rests on if James Vaughan can stay fit for more than 20 games.

Unless Robins can improve the spine of the side and have good enough cover in the back line and up front it may be a long season ahead.

Key player

Nahki Wells - He may have finished behind Vaughan and Danny Ward in the scoring charts but scored seven crucial goals in half a season.

Predicted League Finish

May struggle. Wholly dependent on future signings, Town could once again be dragged into the relegation mix. 19th - 24th


Ipswich

Mick McCarthy has been a revelation since arriving at Portman Road two seasons ago. Firstly, he saved a side that looked nailed on for relegation and then steered them easily into the top half of the league last season, just narrowly missing out on the play-offs.

Despite the windfall from Aaron Cresswell's move to West Ham, McCarthy has said that the Tractor Boys will be relying on loans and free transfers to strengthen the squad. The signature of Jonathan Parr takes the eye, but have they improved enough to break into the top six?

Key player

David McGoldrick - With 16 goals coming before injury in Febuary, the striker was certainly an excellent buy from Nottingham Forest. If he replicates that form Ipswich may have a repeat of last seasons finish.

Predicted League Finish

Mid-table misery. Despite McCarthy's vast experience, they lack quality in key areas. 13th - 18th


Leeds

If you were to describe the situation at Leeds United you would have to say 'soap opera'. In fact someone should ring ITV and see if they can base a new series of Footballers' Wives upon the club.

Last season you had the has he, hasn't he situation of Brian McDermott being sacked, questions over numerous potential takeovers, Ross McCormack ringing Sky Sports news on January deadline day pleading for a transfer, winding-up orders and it all ended with a mad Italian in charge and GFH Capital's adviser David Haigh banged up abroad.

McCormack has finally got his transfer, academy graduate Tom Lees joined Sheffield Wednesday, the fans aren't too happy with the new boss and they've signed plenty of players who played in Italy. Don't forget Paddy Kenny showing up weighing 17 stone, then being sacked due to his birth date and also the players were told to bring in their own packed lunches. Crazy.

Key player

Luke Murphy - Plenty of potential and will need to stand up to be counted for in the heart of the Leeds side, he also needs to justify his transfer fee.

Predicted League Finish

Who knows?! With a club in this much disarray from the outside you can't see them finishing in the top half. Fireworks guaranteed. 13th - 18th


Middlesbrough

Head Coach Aitor Karanka has certainly made an impression this summer using his knowledge and contacts in Spain to reinforce his squad.

Jose Mourinho's former right hand man's main issue is consistency as Boro went through good and bad spells throughout last season. One player who epitomises that inconsistency is Albert Adomah who on his day was a handful but their top scorer from last term needs to produce more often.

Key player

Rhys Williams - Injuries have hindered his career but the club captain is talented and if Boro do hold onto him, the versatile defender may be the man to spur Karanka's side on.

Predicted League Finish

Top half potential. They may be looking to add more to the squad but lack they quality to push for the play-offs. 7th - 12th


Millwall

Times had to change and the departure of Kenny Jackett was always going to leave a big hole. Steve Lomas failed to stamp his mark on the team and but for an unbeaten run in April and May, Ian Holloway could well be managing in League One right now.

Goals were the issue last season and Holloway has tried to address this by bringing in three strikers. Lee Gregory joins from non-league Halifax alongside Magaye Gueye on his release from Everton and Ricardo Fuller from Blackpool.

Key player

Ricardo Fuller - Bags of experience, knows how to lead the line and despite his age, has the quality to get into double figures for the season..

Predicted League Finish

Another struggle. Like Barnsley last season, you feel the Lions time in the Championship is up. 19th - 24th


Norwich

The Canaries splashed the cash last summer on the likes of Leroy Fer in hope of finally cementing themselves as a solid Premier League side. It failed and Chris Hughton paid the price, strangely at the back end of the season when it was all too late.

Neil Adams was unsuccessful in his quest to save Norwich and is now tasked with trying to set up their return. They have lost Robert Snodgrass but managed to snap up Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty and Lewis Grabban to strengthen their front line.

More importantly, they have kept a nucleus of players with Premier League experience, which may just prove key in their promotion charge.

Key player

Nathan Redmond - There is something about him. He showed it in flashes last season for both Norwich and for the England under 21's. If he produces consistently then he'll be a handful for any side.

Predicted League Finish

Champions elect?! You just can't see how they won't achieve promotion this season bar Adams' inexperience. 1st - 6th


Nottingham Forest

It was looking so good for Forest, as for most of the season they found themselves consistently in the play-off places. Sadly for their fans February was about to change that as they went on a run of two months without a win, a run which eventually saw Billy Davies sacked.

Stuart Pearce now finds himself in charge and things at the City Ground aren't rosy at all. Jamal Lascelles and Karl Darlow have been sold to Newcastle from underneath him by the club and despite signing Chris Burke and Michael Mancienne the squad looks no stronger than last season.

Key player

Andy Reid - At times carried Forest last season, reads the game well and has a wonderful left foot.

Predicted League Finish

Same again?! Another top half finish in store but don't have the quality to push for the play-offs. 7th - 12th


Reading

An indifferent season for Reading last timeout saw the Royals finish one point outside the play-offs after failing to beat Burnley in their final game of the season.

Now the club are in a bit of limbo after Sir John Madejski sold his stake in the club and top scorer Adam Le Fondre moved to pastures new. Despite that they still have a terrific core of players.

Key player

Sean Morrison - Town's former loanee is a key cog in the side and Reading will need to be strong at the back to compete this season.

Predicted League Finish

Play-off outsiders?! Some investment into certain areas could see Reading forge into promotion candidates. 1st - 6th


Rotherham

The League One play-off winners are entering the unknown and nobody is quite sure how they will figure in the Championship.

In the transfer market they have added experience in Frazier Richardson as well as youthful talent in record signing Jordan Bowery. However, you can only see it being a struggle for the Millers this season.

One thing that is for sure is that pantomime villain manager Steve Evans will attract attention from opposition fans this season.

Key player

Matt Derbyshire - A resurgent end to last season with Nottingham Forest. Will he bag the goals to keep Rotherham up.

Predicted League Finish

A long season?! Don't be surprised to see Rotherham back in League One next term. 19th-24th.


Sheffield Wednesday

The Owls finish of 16th last season was quite a good achievement given that they failed to win a single league game until November. Stuart Gray did manage to build a team around a certain style of football but questions remain on if they can improve this time out.

The signings of Tom Lees and Kieren Westwood show some intent to do so, yet you fell that goalscoring may be their issue. Not a bad shout for top Yorkshire club though.

Key player

Kieren Westwood - The former Sunderland stopper needs to be the at his best for the Owls to succeed, an experienced back line definitely will help.

Predicted League Finish

Bottom half again?! Perhaps the lack of goals will cost Wednesday this season, but solid at the back. 13th - 18th.


Watford

The more you think about it the play-off final defeat to Crystal Palace in 2013 may prove to be significant, especially if the Hornets fail to improve on last years mid-table finish.

They certainly have been busy in the transfer market this summer snapping up the likes of Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart, Lloyd Dyer and Matej Vydra and if manager Giuseppe Sannino can get them all ticking you feel this season could be much more prosperous for Watford.

Key player

Matej Vydra - His loan to West Brom last term proved unsuccessful, but his goals could drive Watford to the play-offs once again.

Predicted League Finish

Short of the mark. Despite resigning Vydra you feel that Watford's squad lacks the quality to push the top six. I wouldn't bet against them though. 7th - 12th


Wigan

In the land of pies a German by the name of Uwe Rosler is building a terrific squad to challenge in the Championship this season.

Don Cowie and Andrew Taylor have arrived from relegated Cardiff and the loan signing of Emyr Huws has caught the eye of many as the Latics look to get over last seasons disappointment.

Key player

Callum McManaman - Rarely showed his potential last season. Needs to perform not only for himself to progress but Wigan looked a terrific side when he was on form.

Predicted League Finish

Automatic intentions. Don't be surprised to see Wigan at the Championship summit come May. 1st - 6th


Wolves

Two relegations in two seasons alongside some questionable wages for players made it a rather difficult summer in 2013. However, following a victorious season in League One, Wolves are back.

They still may be paying Jamie O'Hara tens of thousands of pounds for his 'talent' but a core squad that performed last season will be aiming to take the Championship by storm. Tommy Rowe is a good free signing but the main issue is keeping expectations realistic in the West Midlands.

Key player

Bakary Sako - Impressed in a poor side during 2012/13 and can lead Kenny Jackett's side to a safe mid-table finish..

Predicted League Finish

Solid mid-table finish. More than enough quality to not go straight back down into League One but not enough to challenge the top six. 13th - 18th


By Greg Marah


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