Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Championship Discussion 5: Reading, Rotherham, Sheff Utd, Sheff Wed

It has been a difficult year for Reading. Following the play-off defeat in 2017, it seems the club carried that disappointment into the majority of last season with the team nowhere near the levels that got them to the play-off final. Jaap Stam’s second season ending with the sack in March and Paul Clement rescued Reading from the drop because that is how bad things are at Reading. However, a new season brings renewed hope for a much better season and there will be some belief Reading could charge for the play-offs but with arguably better and stronger teams, Reading will be hoping they finish in mid table which would represent improvement on last season. Reading has plenty of talent in their side including Sone Aluko, Mo Barrow, Jon Swift and Liam Moore and they will be first to admit they didn’t have the best seasons last time out. Reading were very disappointing, and the fans will demand improved performances and a higher league finish. Paul Clement has a difficult job with many expecting Reading to be doing far better but the reality could be another season languishing in the bottom half and this will infuriate Reading fans further. Reading lack goals in their side and Clement must quickly find a way for Reading to score goals as defensively they are relatively solid, but goals have been hard to come by and if they do not sort this, it could be a long season for the Royals. Any improvement on last season would represent a good season for Reading and I’m sure mid-table is the minimum target for them this season.
I think this could another season of struggle for Reading and more fan frustration. They have quality players, but it seems that Stam and Clement have struggled to find a way of playing that works and if Clement doesn’t sort this and find goals Reading are seriously going to struggle. However, being that there are three worse teams than them, Reading should survive.

My Predicted Finish: 21st

It was a brilliant response to a dreadful relegation for Rotherham. They quietly went about their business last season and ended up instantly returning to the Championship and you must give huge credit to Paul Warne for the job he has done. However, the task now changes, and Rotherham must show signs they have improved from their last campaign in the Championship which its fair to say was horrendous and I’m sure every Rotherham fan will admit that. Rotherham must make a positive start to give the fans that belief their season won’t be as bad as two seasons ago. To the credit of Paul Warne, Rotherham are much more organised from that season and Paul Warne will know a difficult task lies ahead for his players. However, he has plenty of belief in this side and there are players like Richard Wood and Will Vaulks who were in that relegated team and will want to prove they can compete in the Championship. However, a big issue for Rotherham in the relegation season was a regular goal scorer and looking at their current striker force, you find it difficult to see where the goals are coming from and that must be a serious concern for Paul Warne and the fans. A goal scorer is vital for any team to have success and Warne must quickly get a potent striker in to give them any chance of survival. Despite this, Paul Warne will have complete faith in this side and should they survive, that would represent a magnificent season for the club and the whole club will relish the challenge of trying to stay in the Championship to get that 2nd consecutive season. There is a good spirit at Rotherham as nobody expected them to be promoted and if they pull off survival, that team spirit will only become stronger.
I think it will be a very tough season for Rotherham as I struggle to see where the goals are coming from. To have any chance of survival, they must get plenty of points in their home games which was a major problem in the relegation. They struggled in away games too, but they must make the New York Stadium a difficult place to go and get results. I think Rotherham will struggle for large parts of the season and I’m sure they are good enough to survive.

My Predicted Finish: 24th

Sheff Utd:
It has been a wonderful couple of years for Sheffield United under Chris Wilder. Promotion from league 1 followed by a narrow miss on the Championship play-off places. Chris Wilder has done a magnificent job at his boyhood club and he will be dreaming of guiding them into the Premier League. Sheff Utd were a joy to watch at times last season and really surprised plenty of their Championship rivals. The back 3 setup has been key to the success of the club and this allows the team to play exciting, attacking football which has won plenty of admirers from afar. Sheff Utd certainly defined many people’s expectations from last season and now they will hope to build on last season’s success and break into the top 6. Wilder largely kept faith in the players that got them out of League 1 including Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell, Leon Clarke and Billy Sharp. Those 4 players were vital in last seasons’ success and Wilder will want to continue the club’s good form and feel good factor around the whole football club and certainly promotion isn’t an unrealistic possibility for the blades. Wilder has complete confidence in his team and the fans adore him and its not difficult to see why as he lives and breathes Sheff Utd. Chris Wilder’s transfer business in each window has been excellent as well and players like Dean Henderson and Ben Woodburn have joined to play football but also share the same hunger and desire for success that much of this Sheff Utd side has and they will be a forced to be reckoned with this season. The latter stages of the season let down their play-off charge and Wilder will certainly use that as motivation to push Sheff Utd into play-off contention once again. It truly is a brilliant time to be a Sheff Utd fan and they are watching and enjoying their team’s football. They will push hard, and top half finish would be the main objective and then pushing further towards the play-offs.
I think Sheff Utd will fight hard all season to achieve something and in terms of the play-off race, I think they will just come up short once again like many other teams will, but they will be a tough side to beat and certainly don’t rule them out the race for a play-off place.

My Predicted Finish: 13th

Sheff Wed:
In contrast to the red half of Sheffield, the blue half had a much quieter season which saw them finish in mid-table. Unknown to English football fans, Dutch manager Jos Luhukay took over from Carlos Carvalhal and steadied Sheffield Wednesday’s ship. However, Sheff Wed fans will feel a large sense of disappointment as they will feel their side should be competing for a play-off place and the fans will certainly feel Wednesday underachieved and they must improve this time around to have any chance at competing for promotion. Sheff Wed have plenty of talent in their ranks including Fernando Forestieri and his injuries last season certainly affected Wednesday’s season and him coming back fully fit will be crucial for the club this season. Despite him, there is other talent in their side including Atdhe Nuhiu, Kieran Lee, Barry Bannan and Gary Hooper. They are all proven Championship players and they will be fully aware that last season wasn’t good enough for the club. To make things more difficult for the club, they are the only side in the Championship yet to make a signing and time is against them to get new players through the door to give them a chance. There has been speculation the club is under a transfer embargo due to the FFP constraints but that has not been confirmed by the club or the EFL and this will be a serious concern for the fans as they haven’t got any clarity about a serious situation. But they will also be asking if this isn’t true, why haven’t the club been active in the transfer window. This could be a difficult season for Sheff Wed is solutions to their problems are not quickly resolved but a mid table finish would certainly be the bare minimum for the current squad and anything above that would represent a good season for the club despite their issues.
I think Sheff Wed desperately need additions to compete for a play-off place and should this not happen, they will finish comfortably in mid-table which is not what the fans want, and all the reasons combined it could be another season of frustration for the owls.

My Predicted Finish: 15th

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