Our writers predict the new football season

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The new season is upon us and how the next nine months will pan out is largely a mystery.

But our six club writers have chanced their arm and dared to predict how their side will fare during the coming campaign.

And, at the risk of offending a few people, they have also predicted who will be promoted and relegated from their respective divisions.


Sheffield Wednesday - Dom Howson

Making predictions in football is quite often a thankless task.

Given Sheffield Wednesday have brought in 11 new faces over the summer and are under new management, it is nigh on impossible to write with any real confidence or certainty how they will fare this season.

Half of the new additions are foreign and have never played in England before. How will they cope with the rigours of the Championship?

Carlos Carvalhal has achieved one of his main objectives. The affable Portuguese head coach can now field two entirely different starting elevens. Competition for places is fierce at Hillsborough.

However, do Wednesday possess the firepower to take the next step? Only time will tell.

If the new-look squad gells quickly, the Owls will be pushing for a top-10 spot, which should be regarded as progress, but a play-off place may just be beyond them this time around.

My tips to go up are Derby County, Burnley and Middlesbrough. Going down are MK Dons, Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers.

Rotherham United - Paul Davis

*They’ve said it in slightly different ways, but Rotherham United boss Steve Evans and his assistant, Paul Raynor, have the same thought for next season,

“Midtable looking up,” is Evans’ target.

“We want to become a solid, established Championship team,” says Raynor.

The Millers, after last season’s survival and a summer of exciting recruitment, can do it.

The second tier is likely to be even tougher this year, when you take into account the quality of the teams coming down - Burnley, Hull City and QPR - and the fact there is no obvious “whipping boy” like Blackpool last term to take care of one of the relegation places.

Derby County, Burnley and Middlesbrough to go up.

Brighton, MK Dons and Bolton to struggle.

Eleventh place to satisfy Evans, Raynor and every Millers fan.

All very worthy stuff if I hadn’t tipped Wigan for promotion last season.


Sheffield United - James Shield

This, I suspect, is going to be the year Sheffield United finally drag themselves out of League One.

There was not, despite the yawning gap between themselves and the automatic promotion places, a great deal wrong with the squad last term. But the combination of a new manager, some low key but shrewd recruitment, Neill Collins’ return from the cold and the emergence of Che Adams bodes well.

This, if my hunch proves correct, is also going to be a good season for Yorkshire. The odds on Bradford City gaining promotion are way, way to long. Like United, they are entering the new campaign with a relatively settled squad.

Wigan Athletic, by contrast, have experienced a lot of churn since being relegated. But, if they are there or there abouts come Christmas, expect them to spend big during the January transfer window and return to the Championship via the play-offs. Coventry City will also be dangerous if they can increase their attacking options.

Bury look the best equipped of those teams who came up from League Two to prosper at a higher level and could challenge for the top six. Gillingham could well do the same while Doncaster Rovers have also done some good business during the summer months.

Blackpool are a mess and will probably struggle, along with Crewe Alexandra, Oldham Athletic and possibly Colchester.

Doncaster Rovers - Liam Hoden

Paul Dickov got almost everything he wanted this summer - no off-field distractions, business done early and plenty of promotion-chasing experience in through the door.

So this time there are no excuses - not that Dickov has been too keen to dwell on the impact of the failed takeover attempts of two previous summers.

Rovers came close to the top six last season before dropping off quickly over the last six weeks or so. And while mid-table was the target after relegation, there was plenty of disappointment the promotion push was not stronger.

This season, expectations are back on the up. Adding six players of good quality - particularly Andy Williams, who netted 22 goals at the same level last season - has strengthened the squad.

Dickov’s side are certainly capable of a real push for the top six, as they showed in spells last season. And I’m convinced fifth spot beckons in what will be another competitive League One campaign.

If Sheffield United don’t go up this year, surely they may as well pack up and call it a day. The title is theirs and they’ll be joined in the Championship by Wigan and - why not – Rovers.

Exiting League One at the wrong end, I’ll go for Colchester United, Crewe Alexandra, Port Vale and Swindon Town.

Barnsley - Neil Goulding

Barnsley boss Lee Johnson has recruited well during the summer with no fewer than nine new signings at Oakwell.

But Johnson has gone for youth - and only time will tell whether his blueprint for success works.

The exciting signings of Manchester United midfield duo Ben Pearson and Joe Rothwell - both of six-month loan deals - and highly-rated Arsenal youngster Dan Crowley (also a six-month loan), means the Reds are not short of options in midfield.

And with last season’s star performers Conor Hourihane and Sam Winnall fit and ready for the start of the new season, Johnson’s ambitious side look in good shape to kick the season off with a bang.

However, will a lack of experience prove their undoing with only a few old heads in the dressing room. Lewin Nyatanga’s experience could prove vital, with one or two more additions likely to be added along the way.

Promotion: Wigan Athletic, Sheffield United, Swindon Town.

Relegaton: Coventry City, Shrewsbury Town, Scunthorpe United, Blackpool.

Chesterfield - Phil Tooley

Chesterfield have lost 40% of their outfield regulars since the end of the season and that massive gap will take some considerable filling

At this moment the squad is weaker and a top six challenge looks a way off, but a key keeper, solid defence and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake plus inevitable new faces will be enough to guarantee a mid-table slot.

Clearly Wigan, with their £10m parachute payment, will be up there. Major questions will be asked if Blades aren’t with them whilst Peterborough’s close calls of late should earn then the third spot.

Going down? Colchester’s spending power is limited, Walsall have been over performing of late, Port Vale struggled at times last season and Crewe have not got the personnel to stay clear of the drop zone.