Championship club-by-club 2011-12 season preview

BBC Sport's club-by-club guide to the 2011-12 Championship season:

BARNSLEY

Barnsley

Manager: Keith Hill.

Last Season: 17th in Championship.

Strengths: Under new management team Keith Hill and David Flitcroft, who previously worked wonders with Rochdale, Barnsley have made seven new signings in a bid to turn the Reds from relegation candidates to promotion hopefuls, and a good pre-season suggests they might just pass their way to success this season.

Weaknesses: After conceding 66 goals last season, Hill will need to shore up his defence - which may be difficult considering they have sold Jason Shackell to Championship rivals Derby County.

Key man: If Barnsley manage to complete the signing of trialist Ricardo Vaz Te he could prove influential, but at the moment the man to watch has to be Danny Haynes. The striker bagged six goals for the Tykes following his January transfer from Bristol City and his partnership with new boy Craig Davies could be a fruitful one.

David Kuzio

BIRMINGHAM CITY

Birmingham City

Manager: Chris Hughton.

Last season: 18th in Premier League, relegated.

Strengths: They know how to bounce back from the disappointment of relegation - on the last two occasions they dropped out of the Premier League (in 2006/07 and 2008/09) they won promotion at the first attempt.

Weaknesses: Little money to spend on new players and the prospect of more joining the likes of Roger Johnson, Craig Gardner and Barry Ferguson in leaving the club.

Key Man: In turbulent times at St Andrew's, Blues need a calm, experienced head - skipper Stephen Carr is the man to provide it.

Phil Cartwright, BBC Stoke

BLACKPOOL

Blackpool

Manager: Ian Holloway.

Last Season: 19th in Premier League, relegated.

Strengths: Holloway has done incredibly well to retain the nucleus of the team who did so well in the top flight against the odds. Team spirit has done much to take the club through the divisions and much will now depend on new arrival Barry Ferguson in midfield.

Weaknesses: Crown jewels Charlie Adam, David Vaughan and DJ Campbell will be sorely missed and many of the new recruits remain largely unproven. May need a physical presence up front.

Key Man: Barry Ferguson... no Charlie replacement but still oozes quality and leadership.

Ian Chisnall, BBC Radio Lancashire

BRIGHTON

Brighton & Hove Albion

Manager: Gus Poyet.

Last season: Promoted as Champions of League One. Championship 2011-12 season preview

Strengths: Albion have lots of attacking threats with new signings Craig Mackail-Smith, Will Buckley and Will Hoskins as well as Kazenga Lua Lua and Craig Noone.

Weaknesses: Central defenders Tommy Elphick and Adam El Abd look set to miss start of the season and cover may be required.

Key Man: Kazenga LuaLua, who returned to parent club Newcastle after breaking his leg while on loan at Albion last season, has finally returned on a six-month loan deal - but can he replicate the form he showed in League One?

Johnny Cantor, BBC Sussex

BRISTOL CITY

Bristol City

Championship 2011-12 season preview

Manager: Keith Millen.

Last season: 15th in the Championship.

Strengths: It's Keith Millen's first full season in charge. City have decent options up front, exciting winger Albert Adomah will look to impress for club and country, while Neil Kilkenny is a good signing from Leeds.

Weaknesses: Millen has had little joy in the transfer market this summer, and lacks numbers defensively. To his frustration, Nicky Maynard is yet to commit his long-term future to the club.

Key Man: Nicky Maynard, on and off the pitch. If he scores goals and signs a new contract, Ashton Gate will be buzzing.

Richard Hoskin, BBC Radio Bristol

BURNLEY

Burnley

Manager: Eddie Howe.

Last season: 8th in the Championship.

Strengths: They still have players in the squad with experience of the promotion season a couple of years ago. Martin Paterson scored 19 times that season, he's fit again and along with Jay Rodriquez they're going to have goals in the side.

Weaknesses: Could be the pressure from the stands, the Clarets never really looked like making a quick return to the Premier League and expectations, rightly or not, have changed since the club went up. It's also Eddie Howe's first full season in charge and only his fourth season as a manager it's going to be a big test for him.

Key Man: Chris McCann missed pretty much all of the last two seasons through injury but is now full fit and has signed a new contract. Top player who could boss central midfield next season.

Scott Read, BBC Radio Lancashire

CARDIFF CITY

Cardiff City

Manager: Malky Mackay.

Last season: Fourth in Championship, lost to Reading in play-off semi-final.

Strengths: Defender Anthony Gerrard's revelation that Cardiff's dressing room is free from "cliques and egos" suggests that life under new boss Malky Mackay is far happier and united than it was during the final days of the Dave Jones era. Despite the departures of Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd, Chris Burke and Michael Chopra, international strikers Kenny Miller and the returning Robert Earnshaw are among the new recruits, while the retention of Peter Whittingham is also good news.

Weaknesses: Left-back proved to be a problem position last season and Mackay has so far failed to address the issue. And how will the Scotsman cope with the scrutiny of Cardiff's passionate and expectant supporters, who can only cast envious glances at Swansea's achievements?

Key Man: Robert Earnshaw. A popular figure among supporters who will be hoping to witness his trademark goal celebrations this season.

Aled Williams, BBC Wales

COVENTRY CITY

Coventry City

Manager: Andy Thorn.

Last Season: 18th in the Championship.

Strengths: Goalkeeper Joe Murphy should be a more than capable replacement for Keiren Westwood, and skipper Sammy Clingan's experience and passing ability should hold things together in midfield

Weaknesses: The loss of Westwood, Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson and major goal threat Marlon King. All departed after their contracts expired this summer. Apart from Murphy and a back-up keeper, there have been no new signings at the Ricoh Arena, forcing Thorn to make do with minimal resources.

Key man: Lukas Jutkiewicz. With King's departure, the pressure will be on the 22-year-old former Everton striker to lead the line. He showed real signs of promise towards the end of last season. Given a bit more luck - he seemed to have a love affair with the woodwork last term - he could prove to be a real fans' favourite.

Ian Shoesmith, BBC Sport

CRYSTAL PALACE

Crystal Palace

Manager: Dougie Freedman.

Last season: 20th in the Championship.

Strengths: Freedman galvanised the team after the departure of George Burley and the performances and results improved. The Scot plays in a positive manner and hope also lies in youngsters such as Wilfred Zaha from the academy, which is famous for producing quality talent.

Weaknesses: A small budget means it's difficult for the club to make eye-catching signings, and help Freedman, in his first full season, to buy players who will ensure the club do not flirt with danger again. Need to keep hold of Darren Ambrose, Julian Speroni and Zaha as clubs will be preying on the prized assets.

Key man: The form of Julian Speroni, one of the top keepers in the division, will be vital and he may have a busy season in front of him.

Ankur Desai, BBC London

DERBY

Derby County

Manager: Nigel Clough.

Last season: 19th in the Championship.

Strengths: England Under-21 goalkeeper Frank Fielding has signed and with former Barnsley skipper Jason Shackell brought in to partner Shaun Barker, the Rams should be strong at the heart of their defence.

Weaknesses: Derby lack cover in the full-back positions, and despite being linked with Watford's John Eustace, they're still searching for a holding midfielder to replace the retired Robbie Savage and a proven Championship goalscorer following the departure of Kris Commons.

Key man: Nathan Tyson. The striker was played out wide at Forest and struggled for goals. But Clough says he'll be played in a central role at Pride Park and he'll be hoping to win over the fans quickly following his move from the Rams' fierce rivals.

Colin Bloomfield, BBC Radio Derby

DONCASTER ROVERS

Doncaster Rovers

Manager: Sean O'Driscoll

Last Season: 21st in Championship.

Strengths: Rovers managed to keep hold of leading striker Billy Sharp who scored 15 goals despite missing the final two months of the season with a hernia operation.

Weaknesses: Small squad which nearly cost them relegation last season when they lost several players with long-term injuries.

Key Man: Record signing Billy Sharp has recovered from his hernia operation and is looking to beat his previous goals tally of 15 this season.

Jamie Campbell, Radio Sheffield Sport

HULL CITY

Hull City

Manager: Nigel Pearson.

Last Season: 11th in the Championship.

Strengths: The manager is a big plus, doing a good job, has an eye for a young player and has organised a hard-to-beat competitive side. Matty Fryatt has a chance of being the division's top scorer and Robbie Brady and James Chester will be among the division's top performers.

Weaknesses: Maybe not enough goals beyond Fryatt. Don't have a creative central midfielder capable of running a game.

Key man: Tempted to say Jimmy Bullard, if they can get him on his way and off the wage bill it would enable them to get promotion with the other players they could bring in. On the field, Matty Fryatt is your man.

David Burns, BBC Radio Humberside

IPSWICH

Ipswich Town

Manager: Paul Jewell.

Last season: 13th in the Championship.

Strengths: New signings Michael Chopra and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas should provide the goal threat Ipswich have lacked in recent seasons.

Weaknesses: With so many new faces there's a fear the team could take time to gel.

Key Man: Michael Chopra - hopefully Town's long wait for a 20-goal a season striker is over, someone who'll put away half-chances and make the difference in tight games.

Brenner Woolley, BBC Radio Suffolk

LEEDS

Leeds United

Manager: Simon Grayson.

Last season: 7th in the Championship.

Strengths: On last season's performance, goalscoring. However Davide Somma is sidelined for at least seven months and Luciano Becchio is recovering from a hamstring operation. So Billy Paynter and Ross McCormack will need to step up if Leeds are to find the net as regularly this campaign.

Weaknesses: Defence was Leeds' Achilles heel last term, conceding 70 league goals. A thinner squad will also test United to the limit during a long Championship season.

Key Man: Men in this case: Robert Snodgrass and Max Gradel. If these wingers fire then no club in the Championship can stop them from either scoring or creating. If Snodgrass and Gradel perform, so do Leeds United.

Gareth Jones, BBC Radio Leeds

LEICESTER CITY

Leicester City

Manager: Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Last season: 10th in the Championship.

Strengths: Strength in depth is Sven's biggest asset this term. The new faces are already in double figures with more to come. Leicester have amassed some individual stars who should shine on the pitch.

Weaknesses: Keeping everyone happy is going to be a task. The Foxes have two players for every position but not all will be happy to warm the bench. Also, the back five need to plug the hole left from last season. Remember Leicester conceded 71 goals last season, only eight fewer than Preston who were relegated.

Key Man: Matt Mills. Solid centre half and a Leicester-born defender who turned down Premier League Wolves to join Sven's revolution.

Ian Stringer, BBC Radio Leicester

MIDDLESBROUGH

Middlesbrough

Manager: Tony Mowbray.

Last season: 12th in the Championship.

Strengths: Club legend Tony Mowbray goes into his first full season in charge now totally in control of team affairs. Boro have had difficult times in the recent past and Mowbray's presence at the club is hugely important.

Weaknesses: Boro have lost a huge number of players during the summer and financial constraints mean there's only been one new face so far. Lack of strength in depth could prove a factor.

Key Man: Utility man Rhys Williams is a player with a big future. He's been courted by several Premier League clubs but it's crucial for Boro that he stays on Teesside.

Paul Addison, BBC Tees

MILLWALL

Milwall

Manager: Kenny Jackett.

Last season: 9th in the Championship.

Strengths: A great fanbase means visiting teams don't get an easy ride at the Den and with Kenny Jackett at the helm, the Lions are in good hands, just missing out on the play-offs last season.

Weaknesses: They will be missing Steve Morison's goals after his transfer to Norwich.

Key man: Paul Robinson. Leaders will be needed to consolidate their promising first season back in the Championship, the defender's fitness and form will be crucial.

Ankur Desai, BBC London

NOTTINGHAM FOREST

Nottingham Forest

Manager: Steve McClaren.

Last season: 6th in the Championship, lost in play-off semi-final.

Strengths: A young side with energy, which has seen experience added this summer with Andy Reid and Jonathan Greening signing.

Weaknesses: How will McClaren adapt to life in the Championship?

Key Man: Lewis McGugan. Goals kept Forest in the play-off hunt last season, can he reproduce?

Robin Chipperfield, BBC Radio Nottingham

PETERBOROUGH

Peterborough

Manager: Darren Ferguson.

Last season: 4th in League One, promoted via the play-offs.

Strengths: Lessons should have been learned following relegation in 09-10 and Ferguson will be determined to prove himself at Championship level following his difficult spell at Preston.

Weaknesses: Finances dictate that few of the club's players have much experience of Championship football. Craig Mackail-Smith scored 35 times last season, but has moved on to Brighton.

Key Men: Mackail-Smith's goals need to be replaced, so Lee Tomlin and David Ball will hope to find their shooting boots sooner rather than later. Gabby Zakuani will be the rock in defence, with Grant McCann pulling the strings in midfield.

Peter Swan, Radio Cambridgshire

PORTSMOUTH

Portsmouth

Manager: Steve Cotterill.

Last season: 16th in the Championship.

Strengths: Pompey will prove difficult to beat and resilient again under Steve Cotterill - and the return of Greg Halford full-time and the re-signing of Herman Hreidarrson adds to that.

Weaknesses: Pompey have lost David Nugent, so will need Dave Kitson to be consistent all season, and Luke Varney to settle in quickly.

Key Man: David Norris is a midfield player that Steve Cotterill has courted for months, and having finally got his man this summer, no doubt sees him as the player to make Pompey tick when they're going forward, easing the burden on captain Liam Lawrence.

Adam Blackmore, BBC Radio Solent

READING

Reading

Manager: Brian McDermott.

Last season: 5th in the Championship, lost in the play-off final to Swansea.

Weaknesses: Every season they rely on unearthing a low cost gem. Can they keep doing that? Matt Mills has already been sold. Other star players, most notably last season's top scorer Shane Long are likely to follow Mills out before the end of August.

Key Man: Shane Long, until he is sold. Then Noel Hunt will lead the line for the rest of the season. The Irishman has been injury prone throughout his time at Reading, but this could be a big season for him if he can stay fit.

Tim Dellor, BBC Radio Berkshire

SOUTHAMPTON

Southampton

Manager: Nigel Adkins.

Last season: 2nd in League One, promoted.

Strengths: Saints have a strong backbone in the side with Championship experience, players like Kelvin Davis, Jose Fonte, Dean Hammond, and Jack Cork - which should mean they're not looking over their shoulders at the bottom three come next May.

Weaknesses: Their strikeforce is unproven at this level, apart from David Connolly, but his fitness problems may restrict his appearances.

Key Man: Adam Lallana signed a new long-term deal at St Mary's back in January. If his silky skills are as effective in the Championship as they were in League One, Saints will trouble most sides in the division.

Adam Blackmore, BBC Radio Solent

WATFORD

Watford

Manager: Sean Dyche.

Last season: 14th in the Championship

Strengths: An expectation from outside that they will struggle, often means Watford emerge as a surprise package. They have a good record of producing quality young players from their academy.

Weaknesses: How can they replace Danny Graham's 27 goals from last season? The departure of manager Malky Mackay along with players and staff in the summer created uncertainty, and Sean Dyche has a big job on his hands.

Key Man: Chris Iwelumo has arrived to replace Graham up front. It's unfair to expect him to match Graham's 27 goals of last season, but he will need to get at least halfway there.

Simon Oxley, BBC Three Counties Radio

WEST HAM

West Ham

Manager: Sam Allardyce.

Last season: 20th in the Premier League, relegated.

Strengths: New boss Sam Allardyce has the experience to get the Hammers back into the top flight and has had enough time to settle in with the squad.

Weaknesses: Last season there was too much going on off the pitch and despite regularly finding the back of the net, the Hammers leaked too many goals.

Key man: England international Scott Parker could be key to the Hammers bouncing back at the first time of asking, IF he stays.

Ankur Desai, BBC London

Compiled by BBC Sport's Sam Lyon.