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Posted by on Jul 31, 2016 in Articles |

Championship Fan Previews Pt 1: Aston Villa. Barnsley. Birmingham. Blackburn. Brentford. Brighton

Championship Fan Previews Pt 1: Aston Villa. Barnsley. Birmingham. Blackburn. Brentford. Brighton

 

As the new season approaches, the excitement levels are upped. Expectation rises as teams sign new players, bring in new managers and smash every team off the park in pre-season. 

As folk start logging onto the National Rail site to book their train tickets to destinations near and far – from Huddersfield .. to Newcastle .. to  Bristol – we asked bloggers and fans from Aston Villa, Barnsley (@WestSideBogs), Birmingham (@OftenPartisan), Blackburn (@MikeyDelap), Brentford (@Beesotted100) and Brighton (@RalphWJBrown) for their views on how their teams will perform in The Championship this season.

You can read season previews from bloggers for Bristol City to Huddersfield (Pt 2), Ipswich to Preston(Pt 3) and QPR to Wolves (Pt 4)  and Brentford Podcast guests’ previews on the Beesotted Website this week.

Aston Villa
Colin Abbott – The Big Aston Villa Book Of The Seventies

How would you describe last season for your club?
It couldn’t be described with any positivity whatsoever. It was abysmal, tedious and totally embarrassing and I for one couldn’t wait for it to end to put us out of our misery.

What are your hopes for 2016-17 season?
In previous years I would have said a quick return to the top-flight but I detest everything about the Premier League. It’s all about the money to the point us supporters are referred to as customers.

What could hold your team back this season?
We haven’t shifted on the dead wood that got us relegated in the first place, but why would they want to walk away from obscene wages to go to a smaller club on lesser money?

How did you get on in the transfer market? Excited?
Excited, not in the slightest! Through an ex-Villa player (and a very well respected scout) I was given the name of a prolific, young, highly talented goalscorer and asked to pass on his name to someone high up at the Villa. This I did to be told that Villa were only interested in bringing in young home grown players. We have signed three players so far, one an Italian keeper (who many claim on social media sites makes too many mistakes), so much for young and British!, the Bournemouth captain who is allegedly injury prone, and lastly a guy from Reading whose name I can’t even recall.

Did you go anywhere nice for pre-season? Play anyone decent? Any shockers?
The Villa went to a training camp in Austria where they beat minnows Gak 8-0. The one stand out feature, the return against all odds of former skipper Stiliyan Petrov who fought a long battle with leukaemia. Other matches yet to be played include aways at Bristol Rovers, Cambridge United, FC Nantes and a totally uninspiring match at home to Middlesbrough.

Who was your biggest hero last season?
If we had a hero last season he slipped under the radar. Had Jordan Amavi not been injured on international duty and missing from early November then I’m sure he would have been the one standout player. He looked sharp in pre-season and the early league games, he can go forward {much like John Gidman in the 1970s}, tracks back and reads tackles and interceptions well.

Who was your biggest disappointment?
Wow, how many pages can I have.  Guzan and Lescott for fooling around at Wycombe in an FA Cup tie, they thought spitting gum to the touchline was more entertaining. It probably was but these clowns are paid vast amounts, the least they can do is feign interest. This doesn’t come close to our (can’t really call him a centre-forward as he can’t score goals) player Gabby Agbonlahor. Grossly overweight, he was dropped by the Villa during the season and put on a training programme. Wouldn’t you think dignity or pride in what he does would be enough to keep him in shape? Not to mention a wage that makes a mockery of all the past players who gave blood for the claret and blue cause. Bacuna has to get a mention. he doesn’t even look like a footballer.

Which of your players should we be looking out for?
To be honest none of them seem to be genuinely interested in performing, had they done so we wouldn’t be where we are now in the second-tier. Three wins in an entire league campaign, only two home wins from 19 at Villa Park – disgraceful! They get their wages if the play, perform, sit on the bench or are dropped and sunning themselves in Dubai!

Other that your team (of course) what team would you put £100 on for promotion?
I think Derby County will be there or there abouts due to the recruitment of manager Nigel Pearson!

What team has would you lump £100 on for relegation?
The Villa are going to be involved in a cup final every week. Can you imagine Burton Albion playing at Villa Park, it may as well be Wembley for them. All these little sides are going to raise their game and want a slice of the Villa so they could go, they did it once before so never say never!

What team is going to be the surprise packet this season?
No idea. I just hope it’s not Birmingham City!

Which match is your must-go-to match of the season and why?
From a personal point of view there are a few new grounds to visit and to chalk off, PNE, Hudersfield. Rotherham and Brentford.

What fans impressed you most last season?
Sunderland fans always bring loads and back their team to the hilt and yet you mention the north east and everyone bangs on about the Newcastle supporters. The Magpies once came to Villa Park for a League match in April 1978 and brought a total of 28 fans! This is backed up by the Northern Echo newspaper!

Describe a funny moment last season on or off the pitch.
Jolean Lescott claims to be a Villa fan and yet his displays have been woeful. Some supporters got onto his case via social media and Lescott responded by saying he was going back to his mansion in his high powered supercar to count his money. A car pic then appeared on his site but he claimed the photo was sent in error as he drove with his phone in his pocket. A few games later the Villa fans were singing, “Joleon Lescott, he tweets with his arse! Class!

What one thing that reeeeeeeeeeally p!ssed you off?
The overweight Gabby and the totally embarrassing performances by Lescott and Richards, both ex-internationals and both League title winners. I expected far more from them.

If you could be granted one thing this season, what would it be?
I would like the bottom to fall out of football and for it to return to what it was before Sky got involved. When the Premiership evolved the price of tickets went up threefold and have continually risen to the point of ridiculous. We are told it’s because we sit in all seater stadia but everywhere you go the visiting fans stand up and nothing gets done about it.  You have little choice but to stand like the rest, or those who can’t stand have to sit and stare at a row of arses in front. That can be taken one of two ways!

Where will you finish this season?
24th

Barnsley
West Stand Bogs (@weststandbogs)– West Stand Bogs

How would you describe last season for your club?
Full of cliches about ‘rollercoaster rides’ and ‘endevour’…but really it was simply amazing. We all knew that we had a good squad and that all would come good with patience, but two Wembley wins, a cup and a promotion was beyond everyone’s wildest dreams.

What are your hopes for 2016-17 season?
The ultimate goal for any promoted side is simply to establish themselves. We haven’t got the finance to compete at the top but we do have some great building blocks to play a good level of football in a decent division.

What could hold your team back this season? 

Other than raw hard cash, Inexperience. Our players are very young. They’re very good, but I hope that they don’t leave it too late before they start to click as team again. We achieved it last year but we have lost some key players.

How did you get on in the transfer market? Excited?
Really well. We’ve managed to capture some of the best players from League One such as Tom Bradshaw and George Moncur as well as resigning Adam Hammill. Payne was banging them in for fun last year in the conference, admittedly the level was lower but once you have the pedigree then potential can be turned into the final product by great backroom coaches, which we have.

Who was your biggest hero last season?
The signing of Adam Hammill was key. His experience brought us on and his skill ripped the league apart.

Who was your biggest disappointment?
Connor Wilkinson. Came on loan from Bolton as a starlet… performed like a starburst.

Which of your players should we be looking out for?
Sam Winnall scored 24 last year, Adam Hammill had a fantastic season and attracted many bigger clubs.

Other that your team (of course) what team would you put £100 on for promotion?
How can you look past Newcastle? Rafa wouldn’t be staying if there wasn’t a huge plan for investment and ambition.

What team has would you lump £100 on for relegation?
Rotherham United probably. We don’t have a fierce rivalry and actually I like the derbies, but I simply don’t see them competing. They have struggled big time to attract any decent players this summer.

What team is going to be the surprise packet this season?
I honestly believe that could be us. Nobody will give us a second glance and if we gel right we will do well. I’d say that 90% of our players could play for top Championship sides individually.

Which match is your must-go-to match of the season and why?
Sheffield Wednesday…it’s our strongest local rival. You’ve got to love derby day.

What fans impressed you most last season?
Our own…stood through thick and thin. We took 4000 fans away to Wigan last year.

What one thing that reeeeeeeeeeally pissed you off?
I get annoyed at the players that don’t give a toss. We’ve just watched the Euros where players that earn more in a week than I do in twenty years looking like they just can’t be arsed. To them it’s a job, but if my job held the hopes and dreams of an entire country then I think I’d show it more respect.

If you could be granted one thing this season, what would it be?
More money invested and filtered down from the top flight into grass roots football. This year Barnsley have granted two local non league sides a pre season friendly and the gates they got and beer they sold has covered their entire budget for the whole season. That was a class thing to do.

Birmingham City
Daniel Ivery – Often Partisan Blog (@OftenPartisan)

How would you describe last season for your club?
A bit of a curate’s egg. Started off really well, looked decent, got to January, ran out of puff, slid back down into mid table mediocrity. Some will tell you that’s about as good as we are, some will rue the lack of ambition to try and push for top six.

What are your hopes for 2016-17 season?
Right now, I’d be happy if we signed a couple of players. With the money that has washed around the championship you need to spend money to stay still and we’ve barely done that – so yeah, a few players and maybe a 10th placed finish again?

What could hold your team back this season?
Lack of transfers, our never-ending takeover saga continuing forever more, manager deciding to move on… There’s a fair bit.

How did you get on in the transfer market? Excited?
We’ve barely been in it. Hopefully our business is yet to come. Hopefully.

Did you go anywhere nice for pre-season? Play anyone decent? Any shockers?
Pre-season tour to Marbella, no games, no fans. Never a good thing IMO. We did play away at Hibs – a lovely weekend in Edinburgh spoiled by 90 minutes of turgid football.

Who was your biggest hero last season?
Probably Jon Toral (remember him?). Looked the business, scored goals, showed excellent creativity.

Who was your biggest disappointment?
Nicolai Brock-Madsen. Striker signed for a fee, looked massively out of depth, probably won’t play again for a while, four year contract. Boo.

Which of your players should we be looking out for?
Diego Fabbrini? Toral’s replacement – and this time we actually own him. Plus we might sign someone nice, you never know.

Other that your team (of course) what team would you put £100 on for promotion?
If I put £100 on Blues to be promoted, I’d lose £100. I’d stick it on Newcastle, should walk it.

What team has would you lump £100 on for relegation?
The other team in Birmingham, for a laugh. I actually did back them for relegation to League One this season at 100-1, at Christmas time last year. You never know 😉

What team is going to be the surprise packet this season?
No idea – it’s way too early to call.

Which match is your must-go-to match of the season and why?
 The mob from across the expressway (Aston Villa), because if you don’t like a derby game what’s the point?

What fans impressed you most last season?
Honestly cannot remember anyone impressing me that much. Tend to concentrate on the pitch rather than the away end in truth.

Describe a funny moment last season on or off the pitch.
Brentford’s famous three wall free kick at our place, Jan 2. What were you thinking?

What one thing that reeeeeeeeeeally pissed you off?
Takeover being sooooooooo long

If you could be granted one thing this season, what would it be?
What, I can’t have Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Dormer covered in whipped cream? It has to be football? Okay, the takeover at BCFC to be completed. Finally.

Where will you finish this season?
15th

Blackburn Rovers
Mickey Delap – Rovers Blogger (@MikeyDelap)

How would you describe last season for your club?
Pretty mundane all in all. Plenty of huffing and puffing from management about how we were going to push towards the top half of the league, but no real evidence in front of us in terms of the actual football to suggest that would come to fruition. Cuts in budget were always going to hamstring us, very little in the way of any excitement. Bar a Shane Duffy crowd dive…

What are your hopes for 2016-17 season?
For the pain and mundane to go away. Also avoiding relegation would be a nice bonus as well as that looks increasingly in the direction we’re heading. That and to wear my shorts to as many games as possible. I aim high over here.

What could hold your team back this season?
How long have you got? A long time? No? Oh ok. Ownership, lack of quality on the playing staff, general sense of direction, a complete lack of sanity. Other than that; not a lot…

How did you get on in the transfer market? Excited?
Generally we’ve actually signed fairly well I’d say. Minimal complaints with the likes of Danny Graham (welcome back), Stokes and Jack Byrne arriving. All look to be at the scant worst about as good as what we’ve had before. But we’re still fairly short of cover if the first team decide to pull up with the usual raft of injuries. Left back, centre back and up front all still look short of any real substance. Grant Hanley leaving is a blow too, even if it was inevitable the minute the Geordies piped up.

Did you go anywhere nice for pre-season?
The lads trained in Austria which made for some nice photography.

Play anyone decent? Not really. Any shockers?
Not really. It’s all shaping up rather blandly so far sadly. Sorry I’m not normally this much of a moan. I will cheer up at some point.

Who was your biggest hero last season?
Grant Hanley was our best player but I actually really enjoyed the contribution of Danny Graham. He led the line excellently at times and he is the owner of a much, much better touch than anybody else in our side. See I told you I’d cheer up.

Who was your biggest disappointment?
Paul Lambert. Arrived to much fanfare, had a fairly reasonable if uninspired stint in the dugout, reminded us of his Aston Villa stint a fair bit, then gesticulated for a decent summer budget, was denied it. Then left.

Which of your players should we be looking out for?
If you’re intimating about the youngsters then I’d keep an eye out for Connor Mahoney. Young tall lad who started to creep through at the back end of last season. From the current first team squad I’d suggest keeping you eye on Ben Marshall whose always a decent watch. Assuming he’s still with us in August…

Other that your team (of course) what team would you put £100 on for promotion?
Are you giving me £100 to put down on Rovers for promotion?! I’m not betting my own money. Let’s face it, it’s Newcastle. They’re more than likely going straight back up bar a ridiculous cock up.

What team has would you lump £100 on for relegation?
Barnsley.

What team is going to be the surprise packet this season?
Probably Burton Albion, on the grounds that everyone seems to expect them to head right back down… Failing that, probably Fulham, who seem to be shaping up nicely.

Which match is your must-go-to match of the season and why?
Sheffield Wednesday. Mainly as I’m a Blackburn fan who currently lives in Sheffield.

What fans impressed you most last season?
Uh. Sheffield Wednesday. They’re a big bunch and they don’t half make a racket.

Describe a funny moment last season on or off the pitch.
Leon Best directing a header inexplicably wide from 2 yards out for Rotherham against Rovers. He’s an absolute tool you see. And him failing is funny. You had to be there…

What one thing that reeeeeeeeeeally pissed you off?
I’m a tough one to immeasurably annoy but even I had my patience tested with our ridiculous weakened line up against West Ham in the FA Cup. We lost the game badly, and quite rightly so.

If you could be granted one thing this season, what would it be?
To log on to Twitter and not find a raft of Rovers fans spending valuable time apportioning blame for every single goal we concede. You’d have thought there was no such thing as a good goal anymore…

Where will you finish this season?
15th

Brentford
Dave Lane (@beesotted100Beesotted Fanzine

How would you describe last season for your club?
A veritable rollercoaster ride… It was like three seasons mixed into one. The final league table shows we finished ninth, which was remarkable given how desperate the low points felt and how we appeared to be flirting with relegation before Easter, yet in the end, we could have made the playoffs again had the season been a few weeks longer.

What are your hopes for 2016-17 season?
My personal hopes are for another exciting, attack-minded season where we continue to shock teams who underestimate us as a club, as a team, and as fans. Brentford are still off the radar, but despite having to constantly sell our best players (a mixture of basic business reality and player/agent ambition) we have a squad that could compete for a playoff place if we can add a couple of jigsaw pieces. We really have come a long way in the past few years.

What could hold your team back this season?
Strength in depth possibly, although last season’s injury nightmare will hopefully not be repeated. It’s a tough division and, on paper, it’s arguably the strongest championship ever, with many clubs with bigger squads, deeper pockets and parachute payments to help them. Some of our fans continue to ignore that and demand anything less than promotion as an unacceptable failure. Yeah, seriously!

How did you get on in the transfer market? Excited?
We have lost two popular players in Jake Bidwell and David Button, both sold to local rivals unfortunately, but both have been replaced (with left back Callum Elder from Leicester and goalie David Bentley from Southend) but we are yet to discover how effectively. John Egan’s arrival from Gillingham is also hoped to add strength to the defence too. There are several key players rerunning from long term injury including club record signing Danish international Andreas Bjelland  and ex Rangers starlet Louis McLeod, with some youth players being given a chance to shine too.

Did you go anywhere nice for pre-season? Play anyone decent? Any shockers?
A real mixed bag: one non league game against Boreham Wood, one home and one away game against German opposition (VFL Bochum and FC Kaiserslautern) and two lower league matches versus Peterborough United and Millwall. It seemed more focused without the usually predictive local fixtures… The German training camp especially. We lost to Boreham Wood and Peterborough which were giant killing acts!!

Who was your biggest hero last season
Alan Judge was a real hero and shone like no other for most of the campaign until a devastating leg break against Ipswich cost him a Euro 2016 call up with Ireland and possibly a Premier League transfer. Scott Hogan finished the season with an explosive goal scoring bang too… With several other continental players emerging as having genuine quality despite being written off by a section of the support.

Who was your biggest disappointment?
Jota’s extended loan back to Eibar in Spain was a huge disappointment…. Sergi Canos’ arrival from Liverpool masked the damage somewhat, but we lost an amazing talent for no financial return. Jota was superb and could have been one of the players to help The Bees get to the Premier League soon rather than later.

Which of your players should we be looking out for?
Hogan has been described as the next Jamie Vardy by many observers… He’s a predatory striker with no little skill. We are all very excited about seeing him playing up top again this season and hope he stays injury free.

Other that your team (of course) what team would you put £100 on for promotion?
Like most, I can’t see past Newcastle… But of the chasing pack, maybe Brighton will learn the lessons of last year’s adventure, Norwich will be contenders, while there’s all of a sudden something about Leeds that makes you look at them and not just want to laugh out loud.

What team has would you lump £100 on for relegation?
Burton and Rotherham are both going down – not trying to pick on the so-called smaller teams – but I can’t see either surviving this time round, which would be a shame for Burton as their story is a remarkable one. Fulham could do us all a favour and finish themselves off this season too!

What team is going to be the surprise packet this season?
As I eluded to, I reckon Leeds will show a marked improvement, although they are also able to implode again at any given moment.

Which match is your must-go-to match of the season and why?
Newcastle, Villa, QPR and Fulham – two essential away trips for 2016/17 and our two intense local derbies.

What fans impressed you most last season?
Sheffield Wednesday endeared themselves to me: not least because of the atmosphere they generate at Hillsborough in the playoff match against Brighton which sounded amazing on the telly.   Preston North End fans are pretty special too and they looked after us brilliantly on our knees up at Deepdale last year… Class.

Describe a funny moment last season on or off the pitch
There’s a couple that jump out: the first was chatting to a Fulham fan (on video) before the home game and him giving it the royal bigg’un that they would beat us 3-0 and ‘when was the last time you played in Europe!?’… Brentford were 3-0 up at half time and the away was almost empty for much of the second half. The winner is the bitter Bristol City yokel after the win at Ashton Gate though, proper comedy video gold as I’m sure you’ll agree!

What one thing that reeeeeeeeeeally pissed you off?
The ‘we’re a big club’ mentality of certain clubs’ fans… and their sense of personal grandeur…. its laughable.

If you could be granted one thing this season, what would it be.
Four points for a win, two for a score draw, one to a nil-nil, none for a defeat.

Where will you finish this season?
10th

Brighton
Ralph Brown (@RalphWJBrown) – Actor & Musician

How would you describe last season for your club?
Magnificent. The best football team we’ve seen in Brighton in my lifetime – a record-breaking unbeaten run – a huge points tally, and pipped at the post by two goals.

3rd on goal difference.

Worst four words in the Championship.

What are your hopes for 2016-17 season?
Automatic promotion. We don’t really do the play-offs do we? Three out of the last four, and we’re not getting better at them but worse. No straight up – and we know what it takes.

What could hold your team back this season?
Stupid refereeing decisions, Dunk going awol and getting sent off too often.

How did you get on in the transfer market? Excited?
Still going I think – but Glen Murray’s second spell as an Albion player is very exciting. Quality footballer to replace Bobby Zamora, and he’ll see more action than Bobby did.

Did you go anywhere nice for pre-season? Any shockers?
Nowhere exotic I’m afraid. We beat Creepy Crawley 4-0 where Ben Hall and Glenn Murray made their ‘debuts’ – Murray scoring his first of many hopefully this season. We lost 3-0 to Fulham, 2-1 to Luton and 1-0 to Stevenage before whipping Oxford 4-0. Lazio are next up at The Withdean.

Who was your biggest hero last season?
Bobby Zamora. I came back from the States in October and got to see him in the Stripes two last times, away at Wolves and away at Bolton. LEDGE.

Who was your biggest villain?
Lewis Dunk. A class centre half with a red mist issue, cost us a few points and possibly promotion.

Which of your players should we be looking out for?
Gaetan Bong at left back was exemplary until his injury half-way through the season.

Kayal and Stephens in midfield. Stockdale in goal. Knockaeert. Hemed. Murphy. Goldson. LuaLua. Ince. Sidwell. March.

Other that your team (of course) what team would you put £100 on for promotion?
Newcastle Utd

What team has would you lump £100 on for relegation?
Bristol City

What team is going to be the surprise packet this season do you think?
Burton Albion

Which match is the must-go-to match of the season and why?
all of them

What fans impressed you most last season?
Leeds Utd are always the most impressive and vocal away support

Describe a funny moment last season on or off the pitch
😉 Living in New York at the moment, I only went to two games.

Was there one thing that reeeeeeeeeeally pissed you off?
Not going up

If you could ask for one thing this season, what would it be?
Video assist for referees. The end of play-acting. Red card for bad acting (I’m in pain ow ow ow)

Where will you finish this season?
1st

You can read season previews from bloggers for Bristol City to Huddersfield (Pt 2), Ipswich to Preston(Pt 3) and QPR to Wolves (Pt 4)  and Brentford Podcast guests’ previews on the Beesotted Website this week.

Written and compiled by Billy Grant (@BillyTheBee99), Dave Lane (@Beesotted100) and Carl Massey (@TheBFCBeesBlog)
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