With the new English football season all set to kick-off on 5th August, we at the TheHardTackle, wanted to give you a preview of the Npower Championship; a league which is as exciting as any in the world, but doesn’t receive the same coverage as its more famous, wealthier counterparts.

We could have compiled a statistical analysis of each team, or written a preview from our humble opinion. Instead, we decided to opt for the best possible way to preview each of the 24 Championship teams; we asked the people with first-hand knowledge – the fans!

Moving forward from the first part – where we had previewed six clubs – here our the next set of clubs and next set of outspoken fans.

———————–

CARDIFF CITY F.C.

About the fan:

Paul Gronow has supported the Bluebirds all his life. He has witnessed good times including promotions at Ninian Park and the Millennium Stadium. His greatest memory is of Michael Chopra scoring a late, late winner against arch-rivals Swansea on Paul’s birthday. His worst moment is the Wembley Play-off final defeat to Blackpool in 2010.

Follow Paul on Twitter @bluebirdblogger

How was the Summer Transfer market for your club?

Very busy. We lost 12 players through end of contracts or loan signings returning to their parent clubs. New manager Malky Mackay has been very proactive and brought in 9 signings, who are a nice mixture of youth and experience.  There’s still plenty of time left yet for more, with the likelihood that we will try and get Craig Bellamy back.

What are your hopes for the upcoming season?

For the new players and our supporters, who are frustratingly cynical, to get behind the new management team and give 100% every single game this season.  I would be delighted with a play-off place this year as we are one of the bigger clubs in the division, but with all the changes, this may well be a season of consolidation.

Who are your key players?

Kevin McNaughton is a fans’ favourite who is widely regarded as one of the best full-backs in the division year in, year out.  Peter Whittingham in centre/left midfield is massively influential as he can win a game with a free-kick or well placed pass.  It’s essential he stays fit this year as he scores quite a few goals too. Lastly, Robert ‘Earnie’ Earnshaw has returned to his roots. Hopefully he will score as much as his first time at the club.

Can 'Earnie' fire the Bluebirds?

Which team MUST you finish above?

Well this is a difficult one as Swansea have now been promoted to the Premier League so we don’t have any major rivals. Bristol City are nearest so I’ll go with them, anyone else is a bonus really.

Opposition players you love to hate?

Robbie Savage has retired so he’s one off the list and Alan Tate of Swansea is not in this division anymore, so really it’d be any ex-Swans who come and visit us. Also, players who seem to relish playing against City like Shane Long of Reading, who scored against us in the play-off’s.

Opposition players you secretly admire?

Shane Long probably comes into this group to be honest as well! Richie Wellens of Leicester, Ward of Coventry, Eagles of Burnley (if he stays) and Leroy Lita for Middlesbrough.

Predict a finish for your team.

As much as it annoys me to say this I’d say 10th would be about right for our team this season.

Who, acording to you, will get promoted?

I’d say West Ham, Leicester City and Burnley.

Who, according to you, will get relegated?

I think Doncaster Rovers, Brighton and Coventry.

———————–

COVENTRY CITY F.C.

About the fan:

Aged just 2, Martin Warren’s parents got him caught up in the 1987 FA Cup Final Frenzy when Coventry beat Tottenham Hotspur. He went on to fulfil a dream by Ballboying at Highfield Road for 6 seasons during the Ron Atkinson and Gordon Strachan eras. He is in no doubt that the greatest moment he has witnessed is the 3-2 win against Manchester United in 1997. His worst memory was when the Sky Blues lost on penalties to Sheffield United ion the 1998 FA Cup Quarter Final. Martin genuinely believes had they won, Coventry would have gone on to reach Wembley again.

Follow Martin on Twitter @ccfcfan and @ccfctweetleague

How was the Summer Transfer market for your club?

For the first time it has been very low key. Only 2 players have come in as of date Joe Murphy and Chris Dunn who have filled the void since Kieran Westwood Joined Sunderland

What are your hopes for the upcoming season?

I have 2 main hopes. Firstly Andy Thorn carries on his exciting brand of football which at times was a joy to behold. Secondly, and more importantly, the financial situation at the club gets sorted one way or another. Gary Hoffman has tabled bids to buy the club (reported for a £1), however over recent weeks there has been discussions in the press which I find very uncomfortable. Of Course SISU are entitled to hold out and keep the club but for the sake of common sense and for the supporters of the club I just wish a deal can be struck between all parties.

Who are your key players?

Ben Turner, Sammy Clingan, Martin Cranie and Lukas Jutewkicz. 3 out of the 4 have been linked with moves but I feel it’s vital that they stay. I also have praise for some of the Academy Players who are ready to step up this season Connor Thomas Shaun Jeffers and Gael Bigrimama.

Which team MUST you finish above?

Leicester (for bragging rights and the fact they’ve spent £££ this summer)

Opposition players you love to hate?

Rob Hulse, because he scores against us all the time!

Opposition players you secretly admire?

Lee Camp from Nottingham Forest, purely because for this division he’s an outstanding keeper and performed well last season

Predict a finish for your team.

16th but goals will be an issue because we have lost our top-scorer Marlon King.

Who, according to you, will get promoted?

 Ipswich West Ham and Nottingham Forest.

Who, according to you, will get relegated?

Peterborough, Barnsley and Southampton.

———————–

CRYSTAL PALACE F.C.

About the fan:

Roland Ellison’s first Palace game was against Charlton in the Milk Cup (September 1985). Attending with his local Cub group and it ended up being an entertainging 5-4 scoreline. His best moment watching Palace was probably beating Liverpool at home in the 1990-91 wonder season, where the Eagles ended up finishing 3rd in the top tier. The worst moment was being relegated from the Premier League in the last 7 minutes at the Valley against Charlton in 2005.

Follow Roland on Twitter @rolyhamroll

 How was the Summer Transfer market for your club?

It’s been quite a busy summer with some interesting signings coming in, including striker Glenn Murray on a free from rivals Brighton. He looks like a decent player. We’ve also signed defenders Mile Jedinak and Jonathan Parr, and have some internationals on trial, so we’ll see what happens. Despite losing Neil Danns to Leicester, I think we have a much stronger squad since the beginning of last season. Lennie Lawrence and Dougie Freedman have done some shrewd business.

What are your hopes for the upcoming season?

I’d quite like a late run at the play off places, we’ve improved a great deal since Dougie took over at the beginning of the year. Defensively we’ve looked stronger, we just need some more goals from up front. Hopefully with the help of Murray, Easter, Iverson and some of the youth team we have coming through, that will come.
Who are your key players?
Keeper Julian Speroni has been a rock for us at the back, and I hope he stays at the club for the rest of his career. It would also be great if we could hang on to Nathaniel Clyne, who is one of the best young full backs in the country. Other than that, the youngsters coming through like Zaha and Scannell need to have more of an impact. It would also be good to see young players like Nathaniel Pinney and Jon Williams get some first team opportunities.

Which team MUST you finish above?

Brighton, obviously. They think they’re going to come up and walk the Championship, I pretty sure they’re in for a rude awakening. We need to do better against Millwall too this season, the two games against them last season were embarrassing.

Opposition players you love to hate?

I think most Palace fans would have to say Jon Bostock, due to the circumstances in which he left the club.

Opposition players you secretly admire?
Having seen Julio Arca play a couple of times, I think he’d be great to watch each week. Great technique and control – a class above at this level.
Predict a finish for your team.I reckon we might sneak into the play offs with a late run – but I say that every season…

Who, according to you, will get promoted?

Probably Forest or big-spending Leicester, part of me would love to see Sven fail though.

Who, according to you, will get relegated? Don’t want to tempt fate, but think Peterborough and Doncaster will struggle. Would also love to see Brighton struggling too.

———————–

DERBY COUNTY F.C.

About the fan:

The first game Joel Clyne can remember going to was against Crystal Palace in the 1995/96 season where Derby County won promotion to the Premier League. Although his dad says they had been to earlier games, that’s the first which Joel can remember, so was the match where he caught “the bug”. The greatest moment for him would have to be winning at Wembley against West Brom to gain promotion to the Premier League. As he says, there is no better way to go up and certainly no better place to do it at than the home of English football. His worst moment is what happened the following season, as Derby only gained a laughable 11 Premier League points.

Follow Joel articles at http://theseventytwo.com/football-league/author/joel-clyne and on Twitter @fakejoelclyne

How was the Summer Transfer market for your club?

Good so far. Last season, after star Kris Commons decided to leave the club, out form in the second half of the season was terrible and the squad was in need of a massive make over. Up to now, we’ve signed seven players and spent close to £3million – the most active we’ve been for a number of years.

What are your hopes for the upcoming season?

After several miserable seasons I’d be happy with a top half finish this year. Hopefully we can push for the Play-Offs but as the squad is at the moment, we’re still a midfielder (or two) and a striker short of being there.

Who are your key players?

Shaun Barker has been a rock for the past two seasons, although he’ll miss the opening month due to injury. Jason Shackell, signed from Barnsley for close to £1million, should be another key player and will hopefully take the burden off of Barker. Frank Fielding, the England u-21 goalkeeper should also be key after arriving from Blackburn.

Which team MUST you finish above?

I suppose Nottingham Forest but it’ll be a tough task. They’ve spent well over the past two seasons and have just appointed the former England manager, so it’ll be a big ask. Anything 12th and above would be good for me though.

Opposition players you love to hate?

Nottingham Forest’s Chris Gunter.

Opposition players you secretly admire?

Andy King – What a player. Goals from midfield and he can time a run to perfection. Every side would love him in their team, No question. Also, Shane Long. He is destined to play in the Premier League. He has fantastic movement and can finish exceptionally well.

Predict a finish for your team?

With the squad at present – mid-table. With a midfielder and a striker – top ten.

Who, according to you, will get promoted?

 West Ham, Leicester and possibly Burnley.

Who, according to you, will get relegated?

Peterborough, Watford and Barnsley

———————–

DONCASTER ROVERS F.C.

About the fan:

Lewis Ward has suported Doncaster since he was around 6/7 years old (1997/98). Things couldn’t have started any worse as the club were in danger of being evicted from the Football League under the eye of then chairman Ken Richardson. Thankfully, things improved, with Lewis’ best moments all coming within the last 10 years. Highlights include promotion from the Conference through the divisions to the Championship, along with a magnificent Carling Cup run and success winning a major trophy.

Follow Lewis on his blog http://vikingsbloggen.wordpress.com and on Twitter @wardiddly/@vikingsbloggen

How was the Summer Transfer market for your club?

Surprisingly active. We’ve only sold one player in Waide Fairhurst and encouragingly brought in five. Managing to keep hold of players such as Billy Sharp and James Coppinger against fierce competition has shown that we are determined to build the squad around players such as these and achieve much better next season.

What are your hopes for the upcoming season?

All we can hope for is a better season than the last, with more luck regarding injuries and better refereeing decisions. I know that’s every fan’s excuse for a defeat or poor patch but we genuinely had poor decisions against us! At times last year we had fourteen first team players on the sideline making it extremely hard to compete and, although we got through it, we cannot afford a similar season next time.

Who are your key players?

There’s the obvious in Billy Sharp and James Coppinger, who all Rovers fans would definitely miss if they ever left. To me, George Friend and Simon Gillett are also key to the side as when they were injured last season, although it did not seem it at the time, they were missed.

Billy Sharp - Doncaster's main goalscoring threat

Which team MUST you finish above?

All fans would love to finish above their rivals but I’m going to go with newly promoted Peterborough, Derby and Crystal Palace. Over the past few seasons all of these have been in the mix fighting against relegation and should be better than finishing below them again.

Opposition players you love to hate?

Now the obvious in Robbie Savage has retired, this is a tough question! I honestly can’t think of one!

Opposition players you secretly admire?

A lot of Rovers fans would love to see Jason Shackell back in the hoops. Having been on loan in the 2009/10 campaign, he rejected a move to Doncaster instead to join local rivals Barnsley. He’s a fantastic defender who can command his back four and is great in the air.

Predict a finish for your team.

I think mid table with a position of around 14th but with the best luck we could finish higher.

Who, according to you, will get promoted?

 West Ham, Reading, Leicester City

Who, according to you, will get relegated?

Peterborough, Crystal Palace and Barnsley

———————–

HULL CITY F.C.

About the fan:

Craig Perkins has supported Hull City for over 30 years, seeing them play in every division. His greatest moment was seeing the Tigers win at Wembley to gain promotion to the Premier League. His lowpoint came when Hull were put into administration and locked out of their Boothferry Park home.

Follow Paul on Twitter @hull_cityfc

How was the Summer Transfer market for your club?

Very Good. We have brought in a few good young lads from Manchester United and also a bit of experience in striker Dele Adebola

What are your hopes for the upcoming season?

Basically to challenge for promotion.

Who are your key players?

Matty Fryatt and Cameron Stewart

Which team MUST you finish above?

Leeds United

Opposition players you love to hate?

Marlon King – Doesn’t everyone!

Opposition players you secretly admire?

Neil Danns always impresses me.

Predict a finish for your team.

In the Top 5, I hope!

Who, according to you, will get promoted?

Birmingham City, Blackpool and Hull City

Who, according to you, will get relegated?

Leeds United, Barnsley and Brighton

———————–

TheHardTackle would like to thank the fans for their time and contribution!