The final part of the pre-season preview. Sorry for the delay, but it was my wedding anniversary on Friday and so the timing went out of the window.
Manager: Nigel Adkins (since March 2013)
Last Ten Games:4-3-3
Flattered to deceive a bit last season and may be sussed out in 2014/15. Although the Royals were the only side to record ten or more away wins that didn’t reach the playoffs and also had the best goal difference of the clubs that didn’t finish in the top six, they only beat one other side that finished in the top ten at home last season and somehow managed to concede a total of seven goals to Sheffield Wednesday. They haven’t finished outside the top ten at this level since 1998 and although automatic promotion is a possibility, but I’m not sure if this is a title winning team and the playoffs may be the Berkshire side’s best bet to return to the Premier League.
Manager: Steve Evans (since April 2012)
Last Ten Games (in League One, excluding playoffs): 6-2-2
Back at this level for the first time for ten seasons, the Merry Millers haven’t finished in the top half of the second tier for over three decades. Only lost three times at the New York Stadium last season but it’s worth noting that they lost five away games to sides that finished in the top ten in League One in 2013/14 and were outside the top six until the end of November after an inconsistent start. Momentum after consecutive promotions could see them off to a great start, but I’d expect a slump at some point that will probably mean a bottom half finish rather than relegation. On their day they can beat anyone, so don’t be surprised if they do.
Manager: Stuart Gray (since January 2014)
Last Ten Games:2-2-6
Third season. A poor start – they drew eight of their first twelve and were in the bottom three until Christmas – meant the order of the boot for the increasingly unpopular Dave Jones, but although Wednesday improved after his dismissal, they were neither convincing or consistant during the rest of the campaign. Have spent seven of the last nine seasons at this level, but have only finished in the top ten once and casual observers may find it difficult to tell the difference between Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield this season.
Manager: Beppe Sannino (since December 2013)
Last Ten Games: 3-3-4
On 2nd July 2012, Sean Dyche was dismissed as manager at Vicarage Road after the Hornets finished 11th in the Championship. Just over two years later, Dyche won promotion to the Premier League with Burnley whilst Watford had a season long playoff hangover and finished in their lowest position in the competition since before Dyche took over. I didn’t need the benefit of hindsight at the time to see sacking Dyche was a stupid decision, but it’s unclear what the next step in Hertfordshire might be. More of the same looks likely, but in this case ‘the same’ is ‘below average’ and I’ll be surprised if I find myself posting a lot about the Hornets this season.
Manager: Uwe Roesler (since December 2013)
Last Ten Games:3-2-5
Should be in the mix for the playoffs at the very least: reached that stage last season despite a distinctly unimpressive start (in mid December they were fourteenth) but Dave Whelan’s decision to replace Paul Jewell with Uwe Roesler almost paid off spectacularly. There were some weaknesses though – the Latics were occasionally goalshy on the road after Roesler’s appointment, the distraction of the FA Cup clearly affected them over the last six weeks of the season and they were poor against the other sides in the top six. It’s highly unlikely they’ll do as well in the cup again (look out for a weakened side in the third round) and with games against Cardiff and Reading in the first ten days of the season we should be able to make a very quick assessment of their chances.
Manager: Kenny Jackett (since June 2013)
Last Ten Games:8-2-0 (in League One)
Shouldn’t be too worried about being relegated immediately after winning League One in such emphatic style: Doncaster Rovers were the first team to win League One and then get relegated since Scunthorpe in 2008 but the average finishing position for the third tier winners in their first season back in the Championship is thirteenth, which would probably suit Kenny Jackett right now. Could even perform better than that and should definitely finish higher than Birmingham City.