Right, it’s time to kick off the Premiership preview, with a look, from the bottom up, at the Premiership for the coming season. The ins and outs are according to the BBC and not including loans, so they may be a) slightly inaccurate (don’t blame me!) or out of date (if you read this tomorrow).
So, without further ado, let’s get on with it. As ever, feel free to add your opinions/criticisms/thoughts.
20. Derby (Last season – Championship, playoffs)
In: Earnshaw, Mears, Davis, Todd, Hinchcliffe, Griffin, Price
Out: Johnson, Bisgaard, Grant, Smith, Peschisolido, Boertien, Camp, Cann
Does anyone give Derby a chance? Very few teams that come up through the play-offs are ever predicted to achieve more than a swift return to the Championship, and while some prove the pundits wrong, I can’t see Derby joining that group.
None of their signings inspire any confidence, being either Premiership rejects or players past their best. That they spent nearly 8m on them suggests that there was money there, but it may not have been spent wisely. Perhaps none better wanted to join.
They won’t be as bad as Sunderland have sometimes been, but I expect their relegation to be confirmed before the end of April.
19. Wigan (Last season – 17th)
In: Sibierski, Bramble, Melchiot, Granqvist, Nash, Koumas, Brown
Out: Baines, McCulloch, Jackson, De Zeeuw, Unsworth, Johansson
Wigan defied the odds last season with a remarkable last day survival push, condemning Sheff Utd to the Championship, but this, their third season in the Premiership, and first under new manager Chris Hutchings, could be the one that sees them fall through the trapdoor.
A club well known to not have the biggest transfer budget around surely could’ve found a better player for 5.3m that Jason Koumas, while Sibierski hasn’t impressed for a couple of years, Brown will miss plenty of games through suspension, and Melchiot’s best days are also behind him.
But while some predict survival, for me one signing above all has guaranteed their fate. They have in the past gained points through outstanding defending, but with the acquisition of Titus Bramble, they are all but doomed.
18. Bolton (Last season – 7th)
In: McCann, Samuel, Harsanyi, Dzemaili, Cid, Guthrie, Helguson, Alonso, Wilhelmsson
Out: Ben Haim, Tal, Howarth, Pederson, Fortune, Thompson, Martin
Every season there is a team who, from nowhere, find themselves in a relegation battle. And it often happens when a team, previously punching above their weight, lose their manager. It was the reason I predicted Charlton would go down last season, and it is the reason why I believe Bolton may be in serious trouble.
Sammy Lee may win the club more friends than Sam Allardyce, but that’s a bit like saying Halle Berry looks a bit good next to a baboon’s backside. He inherits much of the squad that he predecessor made successful, but he will probably try to make them play football, which will confuse about half of them.
If they begin to struggle, expect Anelka to sulk, his goals to dry up, and a poor run of form see them fall into danger, even after a good start. Is that wishful thinking?
17. Birmingham (Last season – Championship, 2nd)
In: Kapo, O’Conner, Muamba, Parnaby, de Ridder, Kingston, Schmitz, Queudrue
Out: N’Gotty, Gray, Clemence, Campbell
Birmingham achieved promotion based at least in part on the success of loan players, which is in itself a dangerous game. It is difficult enough to strengthen for the Premiership without also having to replace those that aren’t actually yours.
That said, their signings seem decent – there’s Premiership and European top league experience in there, and they’ve gone for reliable and sturdy rather than purchase a couple of stars. It worked for Reading, and while I don’t think they’ll be anything like as successful, I think with Steve Bruce’s top flight experience, they’ll have just about enough to stay in the top flight for another season.
16. Fulham (Last season – 16th)
In: Kamara, Hughes, Davis, Baird, Healy, Konchesky, Cook
Out: Jensen, Pembridge, Radzinski, Crossley, Brown, Queudrue
Ah, Northern Ireland play in the Premiership these days, do they? One thing you can say for Lawrie Sanchez’s signings – he knows them and they know each other.
One question that is always asked of teams around the bottom of the league is where the goals come from. But with Fulham, I imagine Kamara and Healy, while not likely to threaten top defences, will score enough to keep them up.
Fulham have spent heavily for a lower tier Premiership side, with their signings costing a total of nearly 15m, and I think this extra outlay, and the organisation that Sanchez brings, will be enough. They may become the dullest side in the Premiership, and new exponents of the long ball game, but it may be effective. If you like anti-football, take a trip to Craven Cottage this season.
Positions 15-11 to come tomorrow.