Posted on | August 3, 2013 | No Comments
It would be fair to say that Brighton have been one of the most talked about clubs of the summer, with the Seagulls capturing unwanted attention following the drawn out process of Gus Poyet’s departure. With Poyet masterminding so much success during his three year tenure it is certainly going to be interesting to see how the East Sussex outfit respond now he is not at the helm. However, supporters are optimistic that there is life after Poyet and with former Barcelona midfielder Oscar Garcia taking the reins, it looks as though they are attempting to mimic the fluent football that the Uruguayan instilled during his time in charge.
There’s no doubt that last season was a huge success for the club and while they had narrowly missed out on a top six finish in the previous campaign, they made no mistake a second time around when they proceeded to finish 4th in the division. Admittedly, this finish did come at a cost and if you look at the club’s transfer activity, they did shell out millions of pounds in fees to get there. Nevertheless, this should not be detracted from the job that Gus Poyet performed and he received plaudits from many quarters for the work that he did at the Falmer Stadium. Unfortunately for Brighton, it all ended in tears and not long after crashing out of the playoffs to fierce rivals Crystal Palace, it was revealed that Poyet had been suspended pending an internal enquiry. This saga went on for weeks and weeks and when the former Chelsea midfielder was seemingly sacked live on air whilst working for the BBC, it certainly did not look very good on the club from a publicity perspective. Unfortunately, few details have arisen on the reasons why Poyet’s relationship with Brighton turned so sour, although most have speculated that it was related for his desire to leave the club before the season had even concluded.
With Poyet out of the picture, there was a huge hole to fill in East Sussex and Brighton seemingly cast their net far and wide to lure Oscar Garcia to the role as head coach. Suffice to say, few people in English football were aware of Garcia’s credentials, although Brighton supporters seem to be quietly optimistic with the 40-year-old carving out a fantastic reputation in his managerial roles at the Barcelona youth team and Maccabi Tel Aviv. So far, he appears to have been quite reserved in the transfer market and has only managed to bring in a handful of players. One could argue that defender Matthew Upson is the pick of the bunch after joining on a free transfer following a successful loan spell. Adam Chicksen appears to be another shrewd buy after joining the club from MK Dons, although the jury is still out on whether he’ll be able to manage the step up. The most recent acquisition is that of Kemy Agustien from Swansea and considering the fact that the midfielder has played the last two years in the Premiership, there’s no doubt that this is a highly impressive buy for Garcia.
In terms of outgoings, it really seems to have been a case of ‘clearing out the dead wood’. No major first team players have left, with the likes of Vicente and Marcos Painter arguably being the biggest names that were handed free transfers during the summer. Stephen Dobbie was sold to Crystal Palace yet considering the options Brighton have in their forwards line, his loss is unlikely to be significant.
After finishing 4th last year, one could argue that little tinkering was required with the Brighton squad anyway. The likes of Craig Mackail-Smith and Leonardo Ulloa provide more than enough firepower, while the club were also strong at the back and the re-signing of Upson has been a very good move. The big question lies with the manager himself and while Oscar Garcia has carved a decent, albeit short, career abroad – the switch to England could prove to be very different. Therefore, we’re expecting the club to hover around the playoffs – with an outside chance of netting one of the final top six spots towards the end of the season.
Posted on | August 2, 2013 | No Comments
Plenty of attention has been focussed on Bournemouth this summer, with the Cherries capturing the country after managing to lure Real Madrid to the Goldsands Stadium for a pre-season friendly. That in itself shows just how far the club have come over the years and even though they were playing League One football last term, most bookies don’t think they’ll have a problem surviving at this level. In fact, with some offering odds as low as 6/1 for promotion, many are under the belief that Eddie Howe’s side will be challenging at the right end of the table.
Of course, less than twelve months ago it all looked so much bleaker for the Dorset outfit. Under Paul Groves, the Cherries were struggling in the depths of League One and their wealthy backers decided that enough was enough when they pulled the plug on his tenure as they lingered in 21st position. Many thought they were mad to even approach Championship outfit Burnley for permission to talk to Eddie Howe, yet Howe’s personal situation meant that a return to the club he carved his reputation at was a sensible move and he certainly hasn’t looked back. After taking over last October, he led Bournemouth on some incredible runs and as they slowly started to climb the league, supporters began to think that the unthinkable could actually happen. Coincidently, the final day of the season was one of disappointment, with the Cherries losing the top spot that they had held for so many months and finishing in 2nd place. Nevertheless, it meant a long-awaited return to second tier football for the Cherries – and it marked an incredible success story for 35-year-old Howe.
One of the main reasons why so many people are confident about Bournemouth’s chances this term is because of their backers. Russian billionaire Maxim Demin is one of the men who have bankrolled their story so far although on current viewing, Howe has been quite stringent in relation to transfers. He is yet to spend a transfer fee, although many people have already been impressed with the capture of Elliott Ward and Ian Harte – two defenders who will add some vital experience to the club’s defence. While little is known about the club’s other free transfer purchase Mohamed Coulibaly, over the last few days Howe has completed another shrewd signing by bringing in Andrew Surman from Norwich. Considering the fact that Surman was one of the best performers at this level a couple of years ago, this could prove to be a masterstroke as long as the midfielder can prove his fitness.
Similarly, there has been little activity when it has come to players leaving Bournemouth. With that being said, there were plenty of raised eyebrows when Matt Tubbs left to join Rotherham on loan last week – especially after Bounemouth had shelled out a club-record £800k for his services in 2012. Still, it was made clear from last season that he was not a key player in Eddie Howe’s plans, and he has therefore joined the likes of Frank Demouge, Charlie Sherringham and Jonathan Meades who have all departed the Goldsands Stadium in recent weeks.
It’s clear to see from the bulk of this preview that Bournemouth have been exceptionally careful in the transfer market and that has caused some fans to question just why the bookies aren’t even considering them for the drop. You would have to think if they play the entire season with the current squad at their disposal, relegation could be a sincere possibility. However, the location of the club means that they regularly receive loan players from the top Premiership outfits and this is what many are expecting after the top flight teams confirm their 25-man squads. Of course, this won’t be the only reason why Bournemouth experience a safe campaign and if you look at the credentials of Howe, it’s clear he knows exactly what he is doing with his hometown club. Therefore, while we think some of the bookies might be a little optimistic with their short promotion odds, we don’t think the Cherries will be looking over their shoulder and our tip will be a bottom half finish for the club.
Posted on | August 2, 2013 | No Comments
After suffering relegation from the Premiership a couple of years ago, many people tipped Bolton to be one of the key contenders for promotion last term. As it turns out, things really didn’t work out as planned and while they did make a late push for the top six places, they had to be satisfied with a top half finish. However, with manager Dougie Freedman making several shrewd changes during the summer, many are hopeful that it could be a case of second time lucky for the Reebok Stadium outfit.
After spending such a long period of time in the top tier of English football, it was something of a culture shock to see Bolton returning to the Championship last season. Fans demanded nothing but success from the outset and this proved too much for Owen Coyle, who was shown his marching orders just several months into the season with the club lingering in 18th position. His successor was eventually named as Crystal Palace boss Dougie Freedman and while this may not have been the high-profile appointment that some fans were hoping for, there’s no doubt that Freedman transformed the club’s fortunes. It took time, and there were doubts during the early days of his tenure, but by the end of the season Wanderers were one of the in-form clubs and only missed out on the last play-off place due to goal difference.
Taking the previous paragraph into account, it’s really no surprise to see so many sources expecting great things from Freedman and Wanderers this term. It was clear to see that little was wrong towards the end of last season and they only needed to instigate a handful of changes. This is the exact approach that Freedman has taken and he appears to have opted for players that have that crucial Championship experience – rather than those with the big names that may have been the case at Bolton last term. The pick of the incoming players is unquestionably Jermaine Beckford and while some will argue that £1m is a lot to pay for a player that simply never got going at Leicester, many often forget that he still managed nine goals in fifteen starts whilst on loan at Huddersfield in the latter months of last season. Therefore, with goals being an obvious problem for the Trotters last term, we see this move as nothing but a positive one by the club. Elsewhere, Freedman brought in another experienced head in the form of Alex Baptiste on a free transfer from Blackpool and after losing the highly-rated Craig Dawson when his loan deal expired last term, this could be another very shrewd move. Marc Tierney and Andre Moritz are other established heads at this level, while Conor Wilkinson, Robert Hall and Gary Fraser were some of the younger players that Freedman brought in.
Unsurprisingly, Freedman also wielded the axe. Arguably the biggest departure was veteran Kevin Davies, who left the club after ten fantastic years. However, with Davies playing very little football in his final season, one would assume that Wanderers will not miss Davies’ presence on the field. Other notable departures included Sam Ricketts and Marcos Alonso – with the latter arguably being the biggest loss for the club after he turned down the chance to extend his stay by instead joining Italian outfit Fiorentina.
If we analyse the above, it’s clear to see to see that Freedman has been one of the less active managers in the division and has kept his business down to a minimum. Considering the way in which Bolton concluded last season, this appears to be a good thing and already their squad looks much stronger. The loss of Marcos Alonso will have disappointed supporters, but Freedman has been very successful with the players coming into the Reebok Stadium and they should more than make up for that one departure. The club look to have solved the obvious goalscoring issue from last term with the signing of Jermaine Beckford and taking all of this into account, we think Bolton could be one of the strongest sides in the division. Most bookies have them as second favourites for promotion and we happen to agree with these prices, with our tip being automatic promotion for Freedman’s men.
Posted on | August 2, 2013 | No Comments
Considering the fact that Blackpool were plying their trade in the Premiership just a couple of years ago, it’s quite incredible to see how the club have fallen so quickly. While they are certainly not the only relegated team that have struggled, it looks like their disappointment is going to be prolonged with most bookies ranking them as fourth favourites for the drop at 7/2.
Of course, if we look back to just twelve months ago, the Seasiders were one of the favourites to regain promotion to the top flight. Under Ian Holloway, they seemed to be making really good progress but all of their good work was to abruptly ended after Ollie’ departed for Crystal Palace – the side that he coincidently took to the Premiership. Michael Appleton came and went and it was eventually left to Paul Ince to try and stop the sinking ship and prevent Blackpool dropping into League One. Fortunately for them, this was something that he managed to achieve, although many supporters were still unhappy that their club could only finish in 15th spot after being tipped for such great honours at the start of the campaign.
In terms of the summer activity, up until recently it was looking exceptionally bleak for the club. Manager Ince had seemingly failed on every transfer target he had picked out, with the club suffering numerous rejections that even led some sources to suggest that Ince had walked out. However, over the last few weeks things have improved and they have strengthened substantially, particularly in regards to attacking players. Bobby Grant was one of the first to arrive and while he has scored most of his goals at the base of the football pyramid, his transfer fee is not thought to have been significant and this could prove to be a good risk to take by Ince. However, two players who have proved themselves at this level in the past are Michael Chopra and Steve Davies. Even though Chopra has experienced some well-documented problems over the last few years, there was once a time when he was an established top flight striker and his accumulated transfer fees total millions of pounds. As for Davies, he proved last term that he certainly knows where the net is, with his 13 goals for relegated Bristol City probably prompting his £500k move to Bloomfield Road. Another impressive addition could be the loan signing of Jack Robinson from Liverpool, while Gary MacKenzie proved last term during a loan spell at the club that he comfortably has what it takes to succeed at Championship level.
However, while the above might make for positive reading, it remains to be seen whether or not it will make up for all the players that have departed Blackpool. Admittedly, supporters will be delighted that Tom Ince turned down his proposed £8m move to Cardiff, but there is every chance that another deal could materialise in the near future with the playmaker so high in demand. Nevertheless, even though Ince didn’t go, numerous players did with Ian Evatt, Kevin Phillips, Alex Baptiste, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Neal Eardley and Stephen Crainey all departing on free transfers after not agreeing new deals – with most of these men joining other clubs in the Championship. Bearing this in mind, it is clear to see that Blackpool have changed immensely from the team that finished last season – and it remains to be seen whether or not this will prove to be a good or a bad thing for the Lancashire outfit.
As mentioned at the start of this preview, most bookmakers have listed Paul Ince’s men as one of the favourites for the drop. There’s no doubt that the club are much weaker than last term, with the loss of the above players sure to be a huge hindrance to Ince. However, he has brought in two proven strikers in Davies and Chopra and when they are set to link up with the likes of Tom Ince and Matt Phillips, you could say that they have some of the best attacking players in the division on their books. Therefore, while we don’t think that they will be anywhere near the top half, we think their goal scoring threat will be enough to stave off the threat of the drop. This means that our season prediction for Blackpool is going to be a bottom half finish.