Date: 5th August 2009 at 11:56pm
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With the new season set to start this weekend, Vital Hartlepool takes a look at what teams you should watch out for and who’s set to struggle this season.

Today we look at Coca-Cola Championship in our series of in-depth previews. This edition takes a look at the teams from Barnsley to Middlesbrough.

Barnsley

In: Onome Sodje (York City) Free, David Preece (OB) Free

Out: Dennis Souza (Al-Sailya Sports Club) Free, Marciano Van Homoet (Released), Kyle Letheren (Released), Heinz Muller (FSV Mainz 05) £600,000, Diego Leon (Las Palmas) Free

Championship strugglers Barnsley have caused controversy over the summer by snapping up Onome Sodje from York City for free amidst red tape concerning the Nigerian’s work permit. Record signing Iain Hume should be due back into the side after having his skull fractured by Chris Morgan last term; the Canadian international should be a positive influence for the entire side and should bag some vital goals in the process.

Barnsley struggled scoring away from home last season managing only 17. The fans have been calling for Simon Davey’s head for some time now and a poor start to the season may not help his cause. Jamal Campbell-Ryce is one to watch in the Tykes team, he frightens defenders with his pace and trickery.

Manager: Simon Davey
Key Man: Jamal Campbell-Ryce
Prediction: 20th
Odds: 100-1

Blackpool

In: Billy Clarke (Ipswich Town) Free, Jason Euell (Southampton) Free

Out: Marlon Broomes (Released), Stuart Green (Wycombe) Free, Shaun Barker (Derby County) £1 Million, David Fox (Colchester) Free, Ashton Bayliss (Released), Francesco Carratta (Released), Claus Jorgensen (Released), Matt Kay (Released), Jermaine Wright (Released)

Blackpool will be looking to improve on last seasons poor home form which saw them win only 5 games at Bloomfield Road. Their away form incidentally saved them, only losing 6 games on their travels.

Finally Blackpool will have four stands some time in the next season as their south stand that was once a desolate car park will be built. Survival in the Championship will be the objective again this year although the third year may prove to be too much for the Tangerines.

Ben Burgess is a imposing figure up front for Blackpool and causes the opposition many a problem with his strength and size in the box. Relegation is on the cards for Ian Holloway especially if he cannot strengthen his squad any further.

Manager: Ian Holloway
Key Man: Ben Burgess
Prediction: 22nd
Odds: 100-1

Bristol City

In: Lewin Nyatanga (Derby County) £500,000, Danny Haynes (Ipswich Town) £400,000, Paul Hartley (Celtic) Free, Dean Gerken (Colchester United) U, David Clarkson (Motherwell) £800,000, Andre Blackman (Portsmouth) Free

Out: Chris Weale (Leicester City) Free, Jennison Myrie-Williams (Dundee United) Free, Scott Murray (Yeovil Town) Free, Peter Styvar (FC Xanthi) Loan, Dele Adebola (Nottingham Forest) Free, David Noble (Released), Izzy Iriekpen (Hamilton Academical) Free

Having reached the play-offs the season before a 10th place finish may have been a disappointment to some Bristol fans although the position was more than respectable for a team that are firmly becoming a top half Championship team.

The signings made by Gary Johnson are a mix of experience and highly rated young players at this level and may push Bristol into those play-off positions again this term. New boy David Clarkson is a sharp striker who has scored many goals north of the border; he will be looking to reproduce that form at Bristol.

Manager: Gary Johnson
Key Man: David Clarkson
Prediction: 6th
Odds: 28-1

Cardiff City

In: Paul Quinn (Motherwell) £300,000, Anthony Gerrard (Walsall) U, Mark Hudson (Charlton Athletic) £1 Million, David Marshall (Norwich City) U, Michael Chopra (Sunderland) £4 Million

Out: Darren Purse (Sheff Wednesday) Free, Roger Johnson (Birmingham City) £5 Million, Paul Parry (Preston North End) U

A total collapse at the end of last season cost Cardiff not only a play off place but an automatic promotion spot. 12 away draws last term shows that the Bluebirds need to find a killer touch to finally get them into the Premiership.

That killer touch may come in a strike partnership of Michael Chopra signed back from Sunderland and Scottish starlet Ross McCormack which is as good as any partnership outside the top flight.

Dave Jones’ other signings and his existing squad are capable of a promotion challenge it will all depend if he utilises them to there strengths, a point which is causing great debate between manager and the fans at this time. Cardiff has moved from Ninian Park in pre-season, their home since 1910, into the Leckwith Stadium.

Manager: Dave Jones
Key Man: Michael Chopra
Prediction: 3rd
Odds: 18-1

Coventry City

In: Sammy Clingan (Norwich City) U

Out: Scott Dann (Birmingham City) £3.5 Million, Sean Fraser (Falkirk) Free, Robbie Simpson (Huddersfield Town) £500,000, Donovan Simmonds (Released), Kevin Thornton (Released), Daniel Fox (Celtic) £1.5 Million, Andy Marshall (Released)

Expectations have got the better of Coventry for the past few seasons with survival in the Championship their only reality. The Sky Blues seem to have a talented squad capable of a high mid table finish if Chris Coleman manages to motivate his strikers to score more than 47 goals next term.

A lack of new arrivals and the departure of key figures such as Scott Dann and Daniel Fox this season may hamper their chances of improving on last seasons finish.

Manager: Chris Coleman
Key Man: Clinton Morrison
Prediction: 18th
Odds: 50-1

Crystal Palace

In: Darren Ambrose (Charlton Athletic) Free, Freddie Sears (West Ham United) Loan, Stern John (Southampton) Free

Out: Carl Fletcher (Plymouth Argyle) Free, Scott Flinders (Hartlepool United) Free, Ryan Carolan (Released), James Drayton (Released), Paul Ifil (Wellington Pheonix) Free, John Oster (Released), James Scrowcroft (Leyton Orient) Free, Jamie Smith (Released), David Wilkinson (Released), Rhoys Wiggins (Norwich City) Free, Gavin Heeroo (Ebbsfleet United) Free

Thirteen away defeats consigned Neil Warnock’s team to a 15th placed finish last term. Bleeding in talented youngsters such as Victor Moses, Nathaniel Clyne and Sean Scannell may stand them in good stead for the future as long as they manage to keep hold of them.

Mr Warnock’s style of management obviously has caused some friction between him and some of the squad who are seemingly on their way out of the club. Once Warnock assembles the players he wants Palace may be challenging for play-off contention once more, but for this season mid-table seems a fair enough placing for the Eagles.

Manager: Neil Warnock
Key Man: Julian Speroni
Prediction: 15th
Odds: 25-1

Derby County

In: Lee Croft (Norwich City) Free, Dean Moxey (Exeter City) £350,000, Jake Buxton (Burton Albion) U, Shaun Barker (Blackpool) £1 Million, Ben Pringle (Ilkeston Town) Free, Saul Deeney (Burton Albion) Free

Out: Liam Dickinson (Brighton) £100,000, Lewin Nyatanga (Bristol City) £500,000, Emanuel Villa (Cruz Azul) U, Tyrone Mears (Burnley) U, Lewis Price (Brentford) Loan, Andy Todd (Perth Glory) Free, Mile Sterjovski (Perth Glory) Free

The new season gives Nigel Clough a chance to prove that he is one of the best up and coming managers in the country, taking over a team with low morale in January he has had time to add his influence to the dressing room as well as add some of his own players to the club.

Derby conceded 41 goals away from home last season and will need to plug their leaky defence in order to achieve a higher league finish. Predictions of a play off place may be a step too far yet and have only been made with nostalgia in mind but Derby is a club heading in the right direction as opposed to the free fall of the last two seasons.

Manager: Nigel Clough
Key Man: Kris Commons
Prediction: 13th
Odds: 20-1

Doncaster Rovers

In:

Out: Jason Price (Millwall) Free, Richie Wellens (Leicester City) £1.2 Million, Gordon Greer (Swindon Town) Free, Gareth Taylor (Wrexham) Free, Tomi Ameobi (Released), Darren Byfield (Released)

Sean O’Driscoll performed a miracle last season keeping Doncaster in the Championship. At first it seemed as though it was a step too far for the Yorkshire side although after taking half a season to settle Doncaster more than proved that they belong in the Championship and earned every one of their 58 points.

Superb showings at the Keepmoat Stadium saw Doncaster concede only 18 goals but score only 16 themselves. The loss of Richie Wellens to Leicester should not be underestimated as this is a big blow for the side and more reliance will be placed on the ever efficient Brian Stock in the centre of the park.

The resolution of their back 5 is a must if they are to consolidate as Rovers lack any major fire power in the division as proven last term with 42 goals overall.

Manager: Sean O’Driscoll
Key Man: Matthew Mills
Prediction: 21st
Odds: 50-1

Ipswich Town

In: Lee Martin (Manchester United) £2 Million, Damien Delaney (QPR) £700,000, Colin Healey (Cork City) U, Shane O’Connor (Liverpool) Free

Out: Danny Haynes (Bristol City) £400,000, Tommy Miller (Sheffield Wednesday) Free, Matt Richards (Released), Chris Casement (Dundee) Free, Ivan Campo (Released), Kurt Robinson (Rushden and Diamonds) Free, Dean Bowditch (Yeovil Town) Free, Billy Clarke (Blackpool) Free, Jai Reason (Cambridge United) Free, Dan Harding (Southampton) Free, Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield Town) U, Kevin Lisbie (Colchester United) Loan

Roy Keane’s appointment at Ipswich at the end of last season is similar in comparison to when he joined Sunderland in 2006. An ambitious board were looking for a big name to take their football club to the Premiership and wanted to make an impact.

What money is to be made available for Keane is still yet to be seen with this appointment maybe being more difficult than the North East post he held. Odds of 9-1 make them fourth favourites to win the league, this may be a far fetched prediction given the strength of the Championship.

The Tractor Boys must rediscover their unbeatable home form of previous years if they are to make the play offs again, last term they only had 8 home wins.

Manager: Roy Keane
Key Man: Jon Stead
Prediction: 9th
Odds: 9-1

Leicester City

In: Richie Wellens (Doncaster Rovers) £1.2 Million, Chris Weale (Leicester City) Free, Danny N’Guessan (Lincoln City) U, Wayne Brown (Hull City) Free, Robbie Nielson (Hearts) Free, Jack Hobbs (Liverpool) £400,000, Astrit Adjarevic (Liverpool) Free, Aman Verma (Free)

Out: Barry Hayles (Cheltenham Town) Free, Joe Cobb (Wycombe) Free, Billy Kee (Accrington Stanley) Loan, Lee Cox (Released), Billy McKay (Northampton Town) Free, Patrick Kinisorbo (Leeds United) Free

After a dominating season in League One last term the Foxes are expected to push on and mount at least a mid table push in the Championship. This seems rather likely as the squad that Nigel Pearson has created is pretty strong with a mix of youth and experience.

Although the question is will Matty Fryatt be able to produce his goal scoring exploits from last season at a higher level. The new personnel brought in including the influential midfielder Richie Wellens and right back Robbie Nielson should ensure a safe mid table position.

Manager: Nigel Pearson
Key Man: Matty Fryatt
Prediction: 11th
Odds: 25-1

Middlesbrough

In: Danny Coyne (Grimsby Town) Free, Mark Yeates (Colchester United) £500,000, Leroy Lita (Reading) Free

Out: Ross Turnbull (Chelsea) Free, Graeme Owens (Kilmarnock) Free, Stuart Downing (Aston Villa) £12 Million, Mido (Zamalek) Loan, David Knight (Darlington) Free

For years Boro’s only goal was to seemingly remain a Premiership club, this lack of ambition has finally caught up with them. Last seasons stats do not read well the worst being 15 away defeats and only 28 goals on their tally.

Boro must ensure that they remove all of the dead wood from their squad which consists mainly of high ego players and keep their main base of talented youth players to stand a chance of promotion. Bringing players in that are proven at this level and can get the job done may secure their return to the Premier League.

Manager: Gareth Southgate
Key Man: Emanuel Pogetetz
Prediction: 1st
Odds: 6-1

Click here to read the second part of the Championship season preview.

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