Championship 2013-14 season: Club-by-club guide

 

Yeovil Town will be hoping to follow up their promotion to the second tier for the first time by securing survival in the Championship in their 11th season as a Football League club.

Wigan, Reading and QPR will all be looking for an instant return to the top flight, a feat which the previous year's relegated Premier League trio all failed to achieve.

Play-off finalists Watford will hope their influx of signings from sister clubs Granada and Udinese will give them a chance of competing for promotion with fellow bookies' contenders Bolton, Nottingham Forest and Leicester.

Before the action kicks off this weekend, BBC Sport's experts assess each side's preparations with a club-by-club guide to the new season.

You can also check out our guides to League One and League Two.

Barnsley

Manager: David Flitcroft

Last season: 21st

Best summer signing: Chris O'Grady

One to watch: Jacob Mellis

Barnsley

BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton: "David Flitcroft pulled off a miracle keeping Barnsley in the Championship last season. His energy and enthusiasm is infectious and the players and fans have really bought into his style of management.

"There aren't many household names in the squad, but that's kind of why it works. Nobody will work harder than Chris O'Grady and Chris Dagnall up front, while the midfield has enough of a creative edge to provide plenty of service.

"The only question mark is at the back, but Barnsley have enough about them to avoid the need for any last-day drama this year."

Birmingham City

Manager: Lee Clark

Last season: 12th

Best summer signing: Neal Eardley

One to watch: Scott Allan (on loan from West Brom)

Birmingham City

BBC Radio WM's John Platt: "Birmingham City's third consecutive season in the second tier of English football is going to be an interesting one on so many levels. The much-publicised financial problems show no sign of easing for a good while as finding a buyer is proving worryingly troublesome.

"Manager Lee Clark has spent the summer picking up players who were either out of contract or allowed to leave on free transfers.

"Clark has certainly got his work cut out to keep the side out of relegation trouble. In my view, anything approaching the top half of the table will be a bonus."

Blackburn Rovers

Manager: Gary Bowyer

Last season: 17th

Best summer signing: DJ Campbell

One to watch: Todd Kane

Blackburn Rovers

BBC Radio Lancashire's Andy Bayes: "Blackburn have had three turbulent seasons in a row. They have been relegated once and mathematically avoided the drop on the final day in the other two.

"The club has to have stability in order to challenge for a return to the Premier League at the second time of asking. New manager Gary Bowyer must be given time to get things right instead of the 'hiring and firing' that dominated last season.

"Rovers have four strikers who should be the envy of the league with Jordan Rhodes, Leon Best, DJ Campbell and Ruben Rochina all vying for places. Expect a much better showing this time around in terms of a league finish."

Blackpool

Manager: Paul Ince

Last season: 15th

Best summer signing: Steven Davies

One to watch: Matt Phillips

Blackpool

BBC Radio Lancashire's Ian Chisnall: "It will be a make-or-break season for manager Paul Ince with a completely revamped squad.

"A flurry of late signings have been added to the remaining skeleton of senior players, as Ince looks to put some goals into the team rather than the sole reliance in that department being on son Thomas.

"His decision to stay is a real boost, but it is only a matter of time before he moves on to the Premier League.

"Expect the loan market to be used to the optimum and such additions may hold the key to the club's fortunes this season."

Bolton Wanderers

Manager: Dougie Freedman

Last season: 7th

Best summer signing: Jermaine Beckford

One to watch: Medo Kamara

Bolton Wanderers

BBC Radio Manchester's Jack Dearden: "It is a big season for Bolton, and for manager Dougie Freedman, because this time around it is much more like 'his team'.

"The former Palace manager has already made several astute moves in the transfer market - the additions of Alex Baptiste and Marc Tierney suggest he has identified players who know how to get out of the Championship.

"The key, though, may well prove to be the capture of striker Jermaine Beckford from Leicester. Wanderers were lacking goals in sufficient numbers last season, but Beckford's track record suggests that if he plays a decent number of games, he could be the main man to lead a promotion charge."

Bournemouth

Manager: Eddie Howe

Last season: 2nd (League One)

Best summer signing: Mohamed Coulibaly

One to watch: Sam Matthews

AFC Bournemouth

BBC Radio Solent's Kris Temple: "A shiny new stand, Real Madrid visiting for an exhibition match and no shortage of firepower in the transfer market shows us that Bournemouth are a club with lofty ambitions.

"How pleased Eddie Howe will have been to read his chairman Eddie Mitchell targeting the Premier League recently, I'm not sure. Howe of course is no stranger to the Championship, having managed Burnley, but now he gets a crack with his local club.

"There's no doubt his preferred brand of football wins admirers. The test for the Cherries now is to hatch suitable alternatives to 'Plan A', to cope at this level.

"Fans would be happy with 21st place, but somewhere around 14th is probably a realistic proposition."

Brighton & Hove Albion

Manager: Oscar Garcia

Last season: 4th

Best summer signing: Matthew Upson

One to watch: Jake Forster-Caskey

Brighton & Hove Albion

BBC Sussex's Jonny Cantor: "It has been a turbulent summer for Albion with Oscar Garcia taking over from Gus Poyet, who was suspended and then sacked in such dramatic fashion. Garcia is aiming to continue the success of the Uruguayan and deliver promotion to the Premier League.

"Much of the squad remains intact. Experienced defender Matthew Upson returns on a one-year deal after a loan spell from Stoke City but fellow former England international Wayne Bridge has joined Reading after his loan from Manchester City.

"Craig Mackail-Smith missed the end of last season through injury but goals from him and Leonardo Ulloa are essential for Albion to mount another push for the top-flight."

Burnley

Manager: Sean Dyche

Last season: 11th

Best summer signing: Tom Heaton

One to watch: Danny Ings

Burnley

BBC Radio Lancashire's Scott Read: "Burnley will do well to better last season's finish. Working with a small squad and a tight budget, manager Sean Dyche will have to work wonders if they are going to challenge for promotion.

"Taking over midway through last season was tough for him, and Burnley finished higher than the previous term which was a real credit given they flirted with relegation at one stage.

"The addition of goalkeeper Tom Heaton is a welcome one, but at present they look thin in midfield and much will depend whoever replaces last season's top scorer Charlie Austin."

Charlton Athletic

Manager: Chris Powell

Last season: 9th

Best summer signing: Mark Gower

One to watch: Callum Harriott

Charlton Athletic

BBC London 94.9's Jamie Reid: "After winning League One at a canter, all eyes last season were on how well Charlton would do back in the Championship - and few fans would have been disappointed.

"On a limited budget, manager Chris Powell used his tactical nous and knowledge of the loan market to get the best out of his group of players.

"The squad looks thin and it means that some academy players should get an opportunity at first-team level.

"With the Championship promising to be as keenly contested as ever, you feel that Powell will need some fresh blood to emulate the successes of last season."

Derby County

Manager: Nigel Clough

Last season: 10th

Best summer signing: Lee Grant

One to watch: Johnny Russell

Derby County

BBC Radio Derby's Owen Bradley: "Last season was a curious one for the Rams, as they achieved their highest Championship finish under Nigel Clough but earned fewer points than in the previous campaign.

"After steadying the ship, you sense that this is the season that Derby must kick on. Clough has kept together the core of his squad, while upgrading in goal with the signing of experienced stopper Lee Grant, and adding flair up front in Johnny Russell, who scored 20 goals in the SPL last season and is already exciting fans with his form in pre-season.

"For the first time under Clough, Derby really look to have options up front and in midfield. The Rams will be aiming for the top six."

Doncaster Rovers

Manager: Paul Dickov

Last season: 1st (League One)

Best summer signing: Mark Duffy

One to watch: Harry Forrester

Doncaster Rovers

BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton: "People might underestimate Doncaster, but it's worth noting that aside from one tough season a couple of years ago they've been a Championship mainstay for some time now.

"Winning the title last season after relegation to League One shows this is a club that deserves a lot of credit, particularly chairman John Ryan.

"Manager Paul Dickov has made a handful of astute signings and is hoping to make even more moves before the season begins with plenty of talk of potential investment in the pipeline. They could surprise a few people."

Huddersfield Town

Manager: Mark Robins

Last season: 19th

Best summer signing: Jon Stead

One to watch: James Vaughan

Huddersfield Town

BBC Radio Leeds' Gareth Jones: "After avoiding relegation on the final day of last season in a dramatic Yorkshire derby with Barnsley, Huddersfield will want to remain firmly away from the Championship trapdoor this time around.

"Chairman Dean Hoyle has not set new manager Mark Robins concrete targets but will demand a higher placed finish than 19th. In a tight league Hoyle has even hinted Town could have an outside chance of making the play-offs, if their squad clicks, stays injury free and they get some luck.

"The important factor for Huddersfield is to just remain in the Championship as they continue to build a bright, secure, sustainable future."

Ipswich Town

Manager: Mick McCarthy

Last season: 14th

Best summer signing: David McGoldrick

One to watch: Paul Anderson

Ipswich Town

BBC Radio Suffolk's Brenner Woolley: "Mick McCarthy's been one of the busiest managers in the division this summer, bringing in eight new faces to date.

"Former loan players Jay Tabb, David McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy have signed longer-term deals while Paul Anderson, Cole Skuse and Christophe Berra bring competition for places and heaps of Championship experience.

"McCarthy did a fantastic job in making Town hard to beat as they avoided relegation last season and he'll now be hoping to get a bit more from his team in the opposition's half if they are to challenge at the other end of the table."

Leeds United

Manager: Brian McDermott

Last season: 13th

Best summer signing: Luke Murphy

One to watch: Dominic Poleon

Leeds United

BBC Radio Leeds's Adam Pope: "The week following the signing of Luke Murphy, the first time Leeds had spent more than £1 million in eight years, was the most optimistic I have known at the club for many years. It came at a time when the owners GFH Capital made several on and off-field moves to push the club forward and depart with former chairman Ken Bates's regime.

"Manager Brian McDermott has the full backing of the supporters and has shown a real commitment to the club. He needs a few more players in but it's expected others will have to leave to allow this.

"After the short-termism of Neil Warnock's recruitment policy, fans will be hoping the well-paid journeymen can be shipped out rather than highly-rated youngster Sam Byram."

Leicester City

Manager: Nigel Pearson

Last season: 6th

Best summer signing: Zoumane Bakayogo

One to watch: Wes Morgan

Leicester City

BBC Radio Leicester's Ian Stringer: "Financial Fair Play is hitting the club where it hurts, in their loaded pockets. The Thai billionaire owner isn't able to invest in his squad as he has in previous summers so he will be relying on the core of last season's squad.

"Despite the lack of summer signings, the squad has plenty of talent and may well benefit from some rare stability.

"If they come together and play as they did for the first half of last season - when they looked well set for a top-two finish - they should finish in the automatic promotion places."

Middlesbrough

Manager: Tony Mowbray

Last season: 16th

Best summer signing: Dean Whitehead

One to watch: Ben Gibson

Middlesbrough

BBC Tees' Mark Drury: "After two seasons which have started brightly and then fallen away just as spectacularly, this is a vitally important campaign for Tony Mowbray's Boro.

"Money is scarce and signings are desperately needed but Boro fans remain to be convinced that promotion is a realistic prospect, but such is the paucity of quality in the Championship that a sustained run of good form can lift any team into the top six. What keeps you there is a strong squad and, right now, Boro's doesn't look strong enough.

"Having said that, a repeat of the last two strong starts and Mowbray could make it third time lucky in the chase from promotion. The fans won't be satisfied with anything less than the play-offs."

Millwall

Manager: Steve Lomas

Last season: 20th

Best summer signing: Steve Morison

One to watch: Richard Chaplow

Millwall

BBC London 94.9's Deano Standing: "It's been all change at The Den since the end of the 2012-13 campaign with Steve Lomas being installed as Kenny Jackett's replacement, naming Mick Harford as his number two and bringing club legend Neil Harris onto the coaching staff.

"Lomas has wasted no time revamping his squad with new faces who have a proven track-record at Championship level and above, including Steve Morison, Nicky Bailey, Scott McDonald, Stephen Bywater, Jermaine Easter, Lee Martin and Richard Chaplow.

"The bookies' quickly listed The Lions amongst the favourites for relegation from the Championship after their narrow escape in May. That prediction may prove to be well wide of the mark if the new signings live up to their billing and bring the best out of those who have kept Millwall in the division for three consecutive years and enjoyed a good FA Cup run last time out."

Nottingham Forest

Manager: Billy Davies

Last season: 8th

Best summer signing: Jack Hobbs

One to watch: Henri Lansbury

Nottingham Forest

BBC Radio Nottingham's Colin Fray: "After challenging so strongly last season following a year of turmoil, many will expect Forest to be among the genuine contenders for promotion this time around.

"They haven't been making big money signings under the ownership of the Kuwaiti Al-Hasawi family, but manager Billy Davies knows the Championship inside out, and looks to have made some shrewd additions.

"Forest missed the play-offs by just one point last season, and this year they can improve on that."

Queens Park Rangers

Manager: Harry Redknapp

Last season: 20th (Premier League)

Best summer signing: Charlie Austin

One to watch: Yun Suk-Young

Queens Park Rangers

BBC London 94.9's Phil Parry: "This summer has not been as busy as some may have expected for QPR boss Harry Redknapp.

"After missing out on the signing of Gary Hooper, the R's have secured a proven goalscorer in Charlie Austin. Both Richard Dunne and Karl Henry have plenty of experience while Danny Simpson is a player with hunger to be back in the top flight, but I am sure that the business has not been finished just yet.

"There is certainly enough on paper to challenge this season, but the Championship is a tough place to be and everyone will have to follow the examples of Shaun Derry and Clint Hill and roll up their sleeves."

Reading

Manager: Nigel Adkins

Last season: 19th (Premier League)

Best summer signing: Wayne Bridge

One to watch: Alex McCarthy

Reading

BBC Radio Berksire's Tim Dellor: "After Reading's meek effort to retain Premier League status last season, they should find this campaign in the Championship rather easier. With a man proven at this level in Nigel Adkins, combined with a few eye-catching signings, they should be top-six finishers.

"Charismatic Royston Drenthe adds attacking flair, ex-England international Wayne Bridge will be reliable at left-back and central midfield has been bolstered with the arrival of USA international Danny Williams.

"Fans want a new striker to help out Adam Le Fondre, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Nick Blackman and the still-injured Jason Roberts. A top-six finish is essential if the season is to be considered a success."

Sheffield Wednesday

Manager: Dave Jones

Last season: 18th

Best summer signing: Jeremy Helan

One to watch: Michail Antonio

Sheffield Wednesday

BBC Radio Sheffield's Rob Staton: "Last year was all about consolidation for Sheffield Wednesday and despite unrealistic expectations in some quarters, staying up should be seen as an achievement.

"Dave Jones often talks about building and he's trying to lay the foundations for sustained success at Hillsborough - something that's been absent for far too long.

"The quartet of Michail Antonio, Jeremy Helan, Jacques Maghoma and Jermaine Johnson look dangerous and the Owls should be able to build on survival last term."

Watford

Manager: Gianfranco Zola

Last season: 3rd

Best summer signing: Gabriele Angella

One to watch: Javier Acuna

Watford

BBC Three Counties Radio's Jon Marks: "Despite some high-profile criticism for their use of loan players last season, Watford undoubtedly played some of the best football that has been seen at Vicarage Road for a long time.

"They ended as the top scorers in the division and, with permanent deals now secured for a number of key players from last season, they look likely to challenge at the top of the table once again.

"Head coach Gianfranco Zola developed an exciting brand of attacking football and, with the backing of the Pozzo family, is building a squad that looks strong in all departments. The players that so nearly got promotion last season now have the experience of the Championship and I would expect them to learn from that this time around.

"If the Hornets can overcome the weight of expectation and can cope with being one of the favourites for promotion, then they could go one better than last year."

Wigan

Manager: Owen Coyle

Last season: 18th (Premier League)

Best summer signing: Grant Holt

One to watch: Callum McManaman

Wigan Athletic

BBC Radio Manchester's Paul Rowley:

"It's going to be a tough challenge to bounce straight back to the Premier League after eight years in the top flight but new manager Owen Coyle has experience of promotion with Burnley, and has brought in players with plenty of Championship experience.

"Another task will be to hang on to Wigan's 'crown jewels' - James McCarthy, Shaun Maloney, James McArthur and Callum McManaman - having already seen Antolin Alcaraz, Arouna Kone and Joel Robles join his predecessor Roberto Martinez at Everton.

"It's going to be a bit of a culture shock in the opening weeks. After opening the season at Barnsley, it's off to Wembley for the third time in four months for the Community Shield against Manchester United, while the autumn will be a mix of the Europa League on Thursdays with half a dozen league games put back to Sundays.

"A good start will be vital, with the club facing a minimum of 55 games in the coming season."

Yeovil

Manager: Gary Johnson

Last season: 4th (League One play-off winners)

Best summer signing: Danny Seaborne

One to watch: Marek Stech

Yeovil Town

BBC Somerset's Richard Hoskin: "The majority of people outside of Yeovil will be tipping the club to struggle in their first ever season as a Championship club, and there's no denying it will be a quite an achievement to stay clear of the relegation zone.

"However, with Gary Johnson in charge anything is possible and he has a solid core of first-choice players at his disposal. Goalkeeper Marek Stech has the potential to play at the highest level, defender Alan Tate is an important loan signing, and if Paddy Madden can continue his outstanding form from last season Yeovil could have one of the hottest properties outside the Premier League.

"Some of Yeovil's summer signings are untried at this level, but with the smallest budget in the division Johnson has little choice but to take risks in the transfer market.

"However, teams won't find it easy playing at Huish Park this season, and given that some pundits tipped them for relegation from League One last season, who knows what else is in store for Yeovil in their incredible journey as a Football League club."