Reading in the Championship

Reading have returned to the Championship after just one season in the Premier League and they will be hoping to return under Nigel Adkins.
Reading
Adkins is a good Championship manager and I expect him to put together a side that will challenge for promotion and I personally feel that Reading could be the most likely of all the relegated teams to get back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. The former Southampton manager does obviously have a promotion under his belt and this will stand him and the players in good stead as they already know what the Championship is about. It may have been an unsuccessful season in the Premier League but I do not think the club are in a bad position and relegation is not a disaster, but the most worrying thing for the fans is the fact that they did not invest very much in the playing squad and that ultimately cost them. They have recently released five players and I was a little confused by some of the decisions because they would have been good players in the Championship. Noel Hunt and Simon Church can score goals in the second tier so I expected at least one of them to stay.

Looking at the players that can get them promoted they certainly do have some quality especially for the Championship. Alex McCarthy was called up to the England squad for the game against Brazil and this just goes to show that he has a lot of quality and they do need to keep hold of him because he impressed me and will be vital. New signing Wayne Bridge is also a good addition because he proved at Brighton last season that he can be one of the best left backs in the division and his experience will be crucial.
Wayne Bridge
Reading’s midfield is interesting because a lot of them fall into the category of too good for the Championship but not good enough for the Premier League. This includes Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe, their pace and directness is effective in the Championship but for some reason they just could not replicate it last season. I do really like Danny Guthrie and think he should still be a Premier League player and he proved at Newcastle that he can be a good player and is usually consistent but it has not quite worked out for him at Reading and I think he owes the fans a good season next year.
Reading v Crystal Palace
Adam Le Fondre needs to be used more next season because in my opinion and especially under Adkins he was not played anywhere near enough. He is a goal scorer, yes he might not add much in terms of build up but he certainly knows where the goal is. Reading are lacking in the forward positions but Nick Blackman could be a good signing in the long run, he only played 11 times and eight of these were from the bench so he also did not get much of a chance.
Reading v Everton

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Who will be relegated from the Premier League?

Relegation from the Premier League can be tough on any team and it is the magic 40 point mark that a lot of teams aim for first even when they are not expected to get relegated. Even mid table teams don’t want to get dragged into a battle so they aim to get their as fast as possible and then build on that.

Inevitably the promoted teams are always the favourites to go straight back down and there is no change this year, with Reading being one of the teams that need a good start to the season or it could be a very long year for their fans. They have however some good signings in the summer which will surely give them a better chance in the always reliable Danny Guthrie and striker Pavel Pogrebnyak who had a very good goal scoring record at Fulham last year. They do lack a little experience in the Premier League throughout their squad so Jason Roberts and Ian Harte will both be essential to their side.

Norwich City have a new manager this season in Chris Hughton and he has the difficult task of following in the footsteps of Paul Lambert. But, he has inherited a good team that was comfortable in the Premier League last year and there will be a lot of talk of second season syndrome but Hughton has performed minor miracles before at both Newcastle United and Birmingham City so I am sure he will be a success here too.

Nigel Adkins hasn’t changed much at Southampton in the close season so he obviously believes that this team are good enough to stay up but I think they need a little more especially considering the start to the season they have. In the opening five games they have to play both the Manchester clubs and Arsenal so like Bolton last season they may be demoralised before the season has even really begun. The signings of Jay Rodriguez and Nathaniel Clyne would have been very impressive in the Championship and even though I rate both of them highly they just might not be able to cut it in the Premier League.

Wigan Athletic will always be considered as one of the favourites for relegation no matter how they finish the previous season. At the end of last season they were one of the most in form teams in the whole league but that have lost Hugo Rodallega and Mohamed Diame who have both been influential in the past for them. The signing of Arouna Kone may show their intent of finishing a lot higher up than they have in previous seasons but they will always be considered as the underdog in the Premier League but maybe they like it that way.

Swansea City are one of many teams with a new manager this year and a lot of people are already writing off Michael Laudrup before he has even took charge of them for the first time in a competitive game. They won’t have to change their style much under the new manager but maybe this is the problem because a lot of teams will have now worked out ways to stop them and they still don’t really have an option B so it will be a tough task for them to stay up.

For me it will be Swansea City, Southampton and Reading that go down.

Who will Youssouf Mulumbu sign for?

Youssouf Mulumbu has been linked with many clubs this summer and it seems as though his time at West Brom is coming to an end.

Mulumbu has played over 100 games for West Brom

The midfielder has been impressive since joining the Baggies and has helped them cement their place in the Premier League over the last couple of seasons with his battling displays. He is a very combative midfielder that likes to put in a tackle, but he can also play a bit as well, Mulumbu chips in with the odd goal and can make good late runs into the box to support the strikers. The 25 year old has been at West Brom since 2009 and was very influential in getting them promoted back to the Premier League when they finished runners up to Newcastle United. If he does leave this summer he will no doubt be fondly remembered by the fans mostly because of his 100% commitment to the club while on the pitch but also because he scored the winner in a game against Aston Villa, which was their first victory over them since 1985.

Mulumbu has claimed he has spoken to a number of clubs already but who will want him and is he good enough to make it into the starting 11 of one of the top teams? In my opinion, he may be able to do it as he has shown enough progress already in the Premier League and the fact he is only 25, he will get better. The first team I believe he could be good for is Arsenal as they always seem to be missing a strong central midfielder and have never been able to replace Patrick Vieira. They do currently have Alex Song but he is not a proper holding midfielder and likes to get forward a lot, he has been described before as the most attacking holding midfielder in the world. If they can bring in Mulumbu it would allow Song to get forward more and he showed time and time again this season that he can provide killer passes and set up a lot of goals.

London rivals Tottenham Hotspur have also been linked with him but I do not see this as likely as Arsenal because they already have Scott Parker and Luka Modric to play in the centre of their midfield so he would find it tough to become a first team regular. However, Modric is linked with a move away and if he goes they will need to replace him and both Modric and Mulumbu only get about the same number of goals a season so they would not lose anything in that respect.

Finally, Newcastle United could be interested in him as they have already lost one central midfielder this summer in Danny Guthrie and will need a new one. He may not get a first team slot straight away but he will still rack up the appearances as the season goes on. Another reason why I think he could fit in at Newcastle is that he is what they are now looking for in the transfer market. Someone that is quite cheap and if they do well, their price tag will rise and with Mulumbu only being 25 he could be at the club for a few years and then leave for a lot more than they signed him for. There are already a lot of reports saying he is in talks with Newcastle so this one seems the most likely at the minute.

Who will Nigel Reo-Coker sign for?

Nigel Reo-Coker is looking for a new club this summer after Bolton Wanderers were relegated from the Premier League.

Reo-Coker was captain at both Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United

Bolton were unable to stay up on the last day and now they must worry that a lot of their star players including Reo-Coker will leave the club either on a free or for a small fee. Midfielder Reo-Coker had a good season in my opinion and was one of their better, more consistent players throughout the season and he will be difficult to replace. He scored three times in the league for the club from his 37 games. It was not his goal scoring that was impressive though, it was the way he got about the pitch and made a lot of challenges and caused the opposition to give the ball away, the former Aston Villa man is also a player that keeps it very simple which is vital in any team and also this allowed his midfield partner Mark Davies to get forward more.

It was also not surprising to see him captain the side on a few occasions while Kevin Davies was injured or on the bench as had previously captained West Ham at a very young age and is a good leader and whenever he gets on the pitch you can see how committed he is and how much he wants to succeed.

So who could he sign for and make an impact for them? In my opinion he is too good for the Championship and possibly even a team that is going to battle against relegation. However, I do not think he is quite good enough for one of the very top teams so he will have to go to a club that is in mid table or challenging for the European places. The first team I think should be interested in him is Newcastle United as they are in need of squad depth this year, with them competing in Europe already and the confirmation of Danny Guthrie leaving means they will need a new central midfielder. We all know that Mike Ashley tries to find the cheapest option as possible but I wouldn’t just see this signing as that. As long as Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye don’t leave then I think Reo-Coker would be a very good signing and when the games start to catch up on these two, I’m sure he would not let anyone down and the fans would take to him, as he always puts in 100% effort.

However, I do think rivals Sunderland will be after his signing as at times they have looked a little inconsistent in the middle of the park with Craig Gardner only showing his talent every now and again and Jack Colback only being a young player, he will not be able to perform for a full season. Obviously, Lee Cattermole is first choice but he struggled at times with his discipline and will pick up bookings so in my opinion they do need a few more options in that area.

Finally, West Brom should take a look at him as it looks more and more likely that they are going to lose Youssuf Mulumbu this summer so will need someone in their midfield that is strong in the tackle and can also grab the odd goal. They are quite similar players so I don’t think they would be losing anything in their team if they signed Reo-Coker as a replacement.

The ex England under 21 player is a free transfer so I expect a lot of interest in him so clubs should try and snap him up as quickly as possible. He has been linked with moves abroad but I think he would prefer to stay in England as his style of football fits the Premier League the best. He could be one of the best signings this summer if he performs to the best of his abilities at his new club.

Newcastle United sign Romain Amalfitano

Newcastle United have signed French midfielder Romain Amalfitano as they look to add depth to their squad for next season.

Amalfitano scored six goals for Reims in the league

The club are obviously wanting to get their squad together for next year as they will be competing in Europe and will be hoping to progress quite far in the Europa League while still being competitive in the Premier League. The signing of a midfielder suggests that some players are going to be leaving later in the summer. Danny Guthrie’s contract is up and although I think he should get a new contract, the player himself probably wants to leave to get more first team chances as he is behind Cheick Tiote and Yohan Cabaye in the pecking order. With this news, he will most certainly be going and I’m sure he would have been a very good squad player which another team can take advantage of and he is currently being linked with Sunderland. The signing also adds to the speculation that Dan Gosling could be leaving as he has been continually frustrated that he hasn’t played that often and been restricted to substitute appearances. Since signing in 2010 he has only played 13 league games due to the fact he has had a lot of injuries and has been overlooked by Pardew many times when he has decided to play James Perch in the middle of midfield.

So onto Amalfitano himself, he is yet another player that has signed for the club that nobody knows and will be hoping to emulate the performances of players like Cabaye and Tiote. He is regarded as player with a lot of potential and now that he is 22 he also has enough experience to be able to cope with the move to England. The attacking midfielder will join the club on the 1st July after his contract expires at Reims. He has previously played for Evian and looked as though he was going to make an impact in the French leagues with some impressive early performances. He managed to score three goals 22 appearances.

Looking at his abilities and he is definitely a confident player that can change a game as he has a very good first touch and can see a pass. He also has a good strike on him and likes to try long ranged efforts. But his best attribute is his ability to break into the box at the right time and finish off chances, he is a similar player to Frank Lampard and if he can adapt to the Premier League quickly he could become a vital part of the team and could be crucial in coming off the bench and grabbing an equaliser or a winner.

This season he helped Reims get promoted back to the top French division and he will obviously join Newcastle with a lot of confidence and will be helped by Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba who will all help him settle in. Hopefully this will be a signing to add to squad depth rather than replace one of their starters because their current first 11 have been linked away from the club.

 

Who will Paul Scharner play for next season?

Paul Scharner could be leaving West Brom this summer and would like to play in the Premier League next season.

Paul Scharner has also played for Wigan Athletic

It is not 100% confirmed that he will leave the club at present and if he does stay the new manager may want him to be a key member of the squad which would obviously convince him to sign a new contract. He can be valuable to the squad as he is a versatile player and has got quite a lot of experience in the Premier League now which is very vital especially for teams in the bottom half of the table so they don’t get sucked into a relegation battle. Scharner has played 61 league games for the Baggies and scored seven goals but unfortunately could not trigger a clause in his contract that would give him an automatic new 12 month contract because he did not play enough games in the season just gone.

But looking to the future, he may leave the club because he may want a longer contract and may feel that it is time to move on as he hasn’t been used as much as he would have liked this year. He is coming towards the end of his career and will want to finish it by playing a lot of games and contributing regularly. So who would need him and who would want him? Personally, I think he could do a good job at any of the newly promoted clubs. Reading have quite a young team and his experience in the middle of the park or even in the centre of defence could make the difference between them staying up and going down. With Jem Karacan also being injured, they may need another midfielder in there just to boost their options. Southampton are in a similar position and he would pass on useful tips to their younger players like Adam Lallana and Jack Cork who will certainly benefit from his experience. West Ham have the experience but maybe not a player as much quality, in my opinion he is a lot better centre back than Winston Reid and Abdoulaye Faye and would slot in alongside James Tomkins. He would be a good talker and would even improve Tomkins as a player, Tomkins has a lot of potential and has played alongside some good centre backs, and another one in Scharner would only help him develop further.

A rumour I heard was that Newcastle United were interested in him. This would be a strange one although it could possibly true as they will be playing a lot of games next season with them qualifying for the Europa League so will need more options. Added to the fact that Danny Guthrie has yet to sign a new contract with the club, he may be a good choice especially as he would be a free transfer and could easily slot into the team. The fact he can also play centre back also adds to appeal. However, I can’t see this happening as he doesn’t fit into Newcastle United’s policy of buying young and developing them, plus they may be looking for a slightly better standard.

So would your team be interested in signing him? Or is he going to drop into the Championship or go abroad?

Newcastle’s surprise player of the season

Danny Guthrie is the most underrated player in the Premier League as he keeps completely controlling games with his great range of passing. He likes to play the game simply most of the time, just playing the way he is facing, so if he is facing towards his own goal he will just drop it off to the centre back and make another move to pick up the ball. On the other hand though, he sometimes delivers perfect 50 to 60 yard cross field passes which if they were done by Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard would be praised no end by commentators and pundits alike.

He just gets about his job effectively and another thing I like about him is that he is clearly a very quiet man which is very rare especially for a football player. He just lets his football do the talking and yet again against Aston Villa he played fantastically and was a candidate for man of the match. Every time he put the ball in the box it caused confusion in the Villa defence and led to many chances, the best of them falling to Papiss Demba Cisse who should have scored with a header on his debut. In fairness to the striker, he did score a wonder goal which won the game so he shouldn’t be criticised too much.

The former Liverpool youngster has been very impressive this season even though he can’t have expected much playing time with Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote in such great form at the start of the season. But everyone knows it is a long season and the whole squad is needed so when he came in to cover for injuries, the Toon fans must not have been expecting too much. He proved them wrong and possibly even Alan Pardew, as he had not been offered a contract extension even though his was up at the end of the season. He proved in the games especially against Stoke, Everton and Qpr that he is more than just an average squad player.

Yes at times he does seem to lack fitness and he does make rash challenges but when he has the ball his pass completion must be up there with some of the best in the country, yet he will never be mentioned as a possible England player. Although this could be because Fabio Capello does not come to watch any Newcastle games and therefore he will never get looked at.

To fully appreciate the way Guthrie plays football, you have to watch a full 90 minutes because he will not exactly stand out in the highlights because he won’t get many goals and he does a lot of the boring stuff leaving the more adventurous and skilful side of the game to other players. But he is vital at the minute to Newcastle and on current form I cannot see both Cabaye and Tiote starting ahead of him but yet again those two have been linked to moves away to Chelsea and Manchester United.

Well done to the player himself because he has never really complained about being on the bench and is now repaying the manager and the fans with his performances. He is most certainly having a better season than a certain Joey Barton.