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- Team of the Week - 12 November 2012
Barnsley-Doncaster | Portsmouth-Watford
The final standings? 1. Nottingham Forest 2. Middlesbrough 3. Bristol City 4. QPR 5. Burnley 6. Reading 7. Leicester City 8. Cardiff City 9. Norwich City 10. Hull City 11. Sheffield United 12. Derby County 13. Ipswich Town 14. Leeds United 15. Coventry City 16. Swansea City 17. Barnsley 18. Doncaster Rovers 19. Portsmouth 20. Millwall 21. Preston North End 22. Crystal Palace 23. Watford 24. Scunthorpe United
Manager: Nigel Pearson Position last season:: 19th in the Premier League
Players in: Nolberto Solano (Leicester, free), James Harper (Sheffield United, free)
Players out: Bernard Mendy, Yann Ekra, Nathan Hanley, Ryan Kendall, John Leonard, Darragh Satelle (released), Dean Marney (Burnley, undisclosed), Steven Mouyokolo (Wolves, undisclosed), Stephen Hunt (Wolves, undisclosed), Boaz Myhill (West Brom, �1.5 million), George Boateng (released), Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (released), Kamel Ghilas (Arles, loan)
Nigel Pearson's decision to leave Leicester for Hull was, on the face of it, both a surprise and a notable feat of persuasion from Adam Pearson. In this particular tale of two Cities, the uncertainty about Hull's finances means Leicester could have appeared the better equipped to mount a promotion push.
Boaz Myhill and Stephen Hunt are significant sales and are unlikely to be the last, while Hull probably need to dispose of Jimmy Bullard, Kamel Ghilas and several others to reduce a wage bill that was inflated by some ludicrously generous deals.
Pearson's task is to mould the remaining players into an effective unit. Finding a consistent goalscorer is a particular challenge - there are few obvious candidates - but restoring a sense of normality should be possible for such a common-sense character. However, as has been the case with Hull's recent past, anything could happen.
Key man: James Harper - Potentially an outstanding signing by Pearson, bringing drive and determination to the centre of the midfield once he recovers from the metatarsal injury suffered in a pre-season game at North Ferriby.
One to Watch: Mark Cullen - Home-grown players such as Liam Cooper, Tom Cairney and Will Atkinson have a large part to play. Cullen, the teenage forward who scored on his full Premier League debut, could be the most important, given the lack of strikers.
Manager: Roy Keane
Position last season:: 15th
Players in: Conor Hourihane (Sunderland, free), Mark Kennedy (Cardiff, free)
Players out: Richard Wright, Pim Balkestein (released), David Wright (Crystal Palace, free), Liam Trotter (Millwall, free), Ed Upson (Yeovil, free), Kevin Lisbie (Millwall, loan), Alex Bruce (Leeds, undisclosed)
With relegation a distinct possibility for much of the campaign, it is an understatement to say that Roy Keane's first full season at Portman Road did not go according to plan. Had his draw specialists been that bit more clinical, however, a play-off place could have been the end product.
Unpredictability may be a constant with Keane, but few anticipated such a quiet summer in the transfer market. Much depends, then, on the business the Irishman does in the next month.
Consistency of selection - only two players started more than 36 league games last season - is an issue Keane must address to progress, along with discovering a prolific finisher. Jon Walters top-scored last year with just eight, though the precocious Connor Wickham should top that this time out.
Key man: Grant Leadbitter - The midfielder, who followed Keane south from Sunderland, is the manager's biggest buy to date. After a reasonable first year, it is time to repay that �2.6 million fee.
One to Watch: Connor Wickham - The tall teenage striker's future could extend beyond Ipswich to a place in the England side. Now, however, his promise has to be confirmed in first-team football.
Manager: Simon Grayson Position last season:: 2nd in League One
Players in: Kasper Schmeichel (Notts County, free), Billy Paynter (Swindon, free), Paul Connolly (Derby, free), Fede Bessone (Swansea, free), Neill Collins (Preston, undisclosed), Lloyd Sam (Charlton, free), Alex Bruce (Ipswich, undisclosed)
Players out: Casper Ankergren, Rui Marques, Andrew Milne (all released), Jermaine Beckford (Everton, free), Tom Elliott (Rotherham, loan)
Their unfortunate exile in the lower leagues is over after a year of two halves, starting spectacularly and ending with a stumble over the finishing line. The question is which provides a more accurate guide to their fortunes in this campaign.
The loss of Jermaine Beckford creates a huge void in the attack which Billy Paynter, despite an outstanding season at Swindon, may struggle to fill. The striker is one of a group of solid but largely unspectacular additions.
The allure of Leeds meant they could entice Championship-level performers like Robert Snodgrass and Patrick Kisnorbo to a League One club in previous years. Yet without more ambitious signings, the division's biggest club look a mid-table team.
Key man: Kasper Schmeichel - Had a brilliant year at Notts County. Can the goalkeeper prove a match-winner again in a higher league? Whether or not, it will seem strange to see the names of Schmeichel and Bruce in a Leeds defence.
One to Watch: Aidan White - A left-back who is a skilful dribbler on his forays forward, White debuted for Leeds at 16 and, now 18, may be ready to become a regular.
Andrew Surman: New boy at Norwich,
Manager: Paulo Sousa
Position last season:: 5th
Players in: Tom Kennedy (Rochdale, free)
Players out: Astrit Ajdarevic, Robbie Burns, Carl Pentney, Levi Porter (all released), Stephen Clemence (retired), Billy Kee (Torquay, free), Alex Cisak (Accrington, free), James Wesolowski (Peterborough, undisclosed), Wayne Brown (Preston, free), Nolberto Solano (Hull, free), Harry Worley (Oxford, free), Yann Kermorgant (Arles, loan)
Nigel Pearson's move to Hull created a vacancy and Paulo Sousa, at his third Championship club in as many seasons, has filled it. By replacing one manager who overachieved last season with another, Leicester appear to have responded well.
Sousa's brand of passing football is admirable, but his Swansea side struggled to score last year. Matty Fryatt assumes an importance in attack, therefore, after managing 38 league goals in two years.
But Sousa's greatest asset may be a defence that, on average, conceded just under a goal a game last season. If Jack Hobbs and co are similarly resilient, another appearance in the play-offs could be on the agenda.
Key man: Jack Hobbs - The tall central defender had a fine first season in the Championship, but the sale of his usual partner Wayne Brown - whose support for the BNP rightly aggrieved team-mates - means he has to establish a new understanding with someone else.
One to Watch: Miguel Vitor - Sousa ought to have good contacts in his native Portugal and he has returned to his homeland to borrow defender Vitor from Benfica for the season.
Manager: Gordon Strachan Position last season:: 11th
Players in: Andy Halliday (Livingston, undisclosed), Kris Boyd (Rangers, free), Nicky Bailey (Charlton, �1.4m), Stephen McManus (Celtic, undisclosed), Kevin Thomson (Rangers, �2m), Tarmo Kink (Gyori ETO, undisclosed)
Players out: Emanuel Pogatetz (Hannover, free), John Johnson (Northampton, free)
The confused could be forgiven for thinking that Middlesbrough has become part of Glasgow. After Gordon Strachan's recruitment drive of Old Firm old boys, it might be more convenient to put the Riverside next to the Clyde, not the Tees.
Whether the glut of familiar faces can cure Boro's inconsistency since Strachan replaced Gareth Southgate remains to be seen. They underachieved after his appointment in October, hence the radical overhaul.
On paper, however, it looks an excellent squad. Stephen McManus should be among the division's best defenders, Kevin Thomson is likely to add steel to the midfield and Kris Boyd was a guarantee of goals in the SPL. If all excel, promotion may be probable. If they don't, there may be a wholesale exodus across the Scottish border.
Key man: Kris Boyd - The record scorer in the history of the SPL should bolster a goal-shy forward line.
One to Watch: Nicky Bailey - A rare signing from south of the border, Bailey has proved a dangerous goalscoring midfielder in League One with Charlton.
Manager: Kenny Jackett
Position last season:: 3rd in League One (promoted via the play-offs)
Players in: Shaun Batt (Peterborough, undisclosed), Liam Trotter (Ipswich, free), Tamika Mkandawire (Leyton Orient, free), Steve Mildenhall (Southend, free), James Henry (Reading, undisclosed), Kevin Lisbie (Ipswich, loan)
Players out: Ali Fuseini, Jason Price (released), David Martin (Derby, free), Adam Bolder (Burton, free), John Sullivan (Yeovil, loan)
It was second time lucky in the League One play-off final for Millwall, a deserved reward for an outstanding second half of the season and Kenny Jackett's astute, low-profile style of management.
After introducing Steve Morison from non-league and seeing the striker contribute 23 goals, it is unsurprising that Jackett has concentrated on lower levels for his summer signings.
It may be an indication of a comparatively small budget, too, but Millwall's strength lay in their teamwork. Together with their intimidating home crowd, it is a reason to believe they can stay up.
Key man: Steve Morison - After his meteoric rise from the semi-professional game to the Championship, can the striker keep on scoring? As his fellow forward Neil Harris is now 33, it will be important he does.
One to Watch: Liam Trotter - Still only 21, but the former Ipswich player is much travelled. A permanent contract was the reward for helping to earn promotion during his second loan spell at the New Den.
Paulo Sousa: Leading a new side this year.
Manager: Paul Lambert
Position last season:: 1st in League One
Players in: Andrew Crofts (Brighton, undisclosed), Elliott Ward (Coventry, free), Steven Smith (Rangers, free), David Fox (Colchester, undisclosed), Andrew Surman (Wolves, undisclosed), John Ruddy (Everton, undisclosed), Simeon Jackson (Gillingham, undisclosed)
Players out: Gary Doherty (Charlton, free), Jamie Cureton, Paul McVeigh, Darel Russell (released), Danny Kelly (Barnet, free), Michael Spillane (Brentford, undisclosed), David Stephens (Hibernian, undisclosed), Tom Adeyemi (Bradford, loan), Cody McDonald (Gillingham, loan), Damon Lathrope (Torquay, free), Rhoys Wiggins (Bournemouth, undisclosed)
A season that began with a record humiliation, the 7-1 home defeat to Colchester, ended rather more happily, the 64 goals of Grant Holt, Chris Martin and Wes Hoolahan propelling Norwich to an emphatic promotion.
For Paul Lambert, who ruled himself out of the reckoning for the Celtic job, it represented a remarkable turnaround. Such dramatic progress will be harder to sustain in a superior division, but if Norwich can maintain their momentum, they could challenge for a top-six spot.
Midfielder Andrew Surman and striker Simeon Jackson are two signings who suggest the goals could continue to flow, but unless the excellent keeper Fraser Forster, borrowed from Newcastle, is not missed, they could come at both ends.
Key man: John Ruddy - Bought from Everton to replace Forster, Ruddy had the small matter of nine loan spells while at Goodison Park. He needs regular first-team football, and Norwich have taken a punt on the ability that first impressed David Moyes.
One to Watch: Simeon Jackson - A frequent scorer in Leagues One and Two for Gillingham, he has now taken the step up to a bigger club in a higher league.
Manager: Billy Davies Position last season:: 3rd
Players in: Radoslaw Majewski (Polonia Warsaw, �1m)
Players out: James Perch (Newcastle, undisclosed), Joe Garner (Huddersfield, loan), Mark Byrne (Barnet, loan)
Combustible as he is and high as the likelihood of conflict inside any club he manages remains, Billy Davies' shrewd stewardship is mightily effective. Nineteenth the previous year, Forest advanced 16 places last season. Now the challenge is to finish one higher.
It is distinctly possible. Although James Perch has gone, the rest of the squad has been retained, with the on-loan schemer Radoslaw Majewski now a long-term employee. As recent bids for Darren Pratley, Nicky Shorey and Jermaine Johnson show, Davies has money to spend and, in the Championship, he generally uses it wisely.
Dexter Blackstock and Rob Earnshaw offer the promise of goals but, with such a tactically flexible side, the real match-winner is the manager himself. If rows don't destabilise Forest, they will come very close.
Key man: Kelvin Wilson - Part of a defence that was hard to breach, especially at the City Ground, the impressive Wilson remains vital. Davies chops and changes in midfield and attack, but rarely at the back.
One to Watch: Lewis McGugan - Suffered from the signings of Majewski and Paul McKenna last season and tended to be used as a replacement, but has the ability to force his way back into the team.
Barnsley-Doncaster | Portsmouth-Watford
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