Promotion or relegation? Fans give their verdicts on your club

THERE may still be a day remaining in July, three Ashes Tests still to play and the great summer holiday getaway still to begin.

Bradford City fans at the League 2 play-off final.

But football is back. Or, more specifically, it will be come Friday night when Sheffield United kick-off the new Football League season when they host Notts County at Bramall Lane.

It is the third consecutive year that a Yorkshire side has been involved in the opening game. The Blades, though, will be looking to fare better then Huddersfield Town, beaten 1-0 12 months ago at Cardiff City, and Hull City, who lost by the same scoreline to Blackpool at the KC Stadium on the first Friday of August, 2011.

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The choice of both the Terriers and Tigers to kick-off the campaign may have been arbitrary with there having been equally compelling games on both opening weekends. But with the Blades and Magpies, there is definite logic with the League keen to mark the competition’s 125th anniversary in style.

Six ‘Anniversary Fixtures’ will be played across the opening weekend, most featuring original member clubs with Burnley facing Bolton Wanderers on Saturday lunchtime and Blackburn Rovers travelling to Derby County.

Notts County also fall into this category, while the Blades have been selected on the back of Bramall Lane being the oldest professional football ground still in use.

Whether the game proved to be an accurate guide as to how 2013-14 will pan out for David Weir’s United remains to be seen but there can be little doubt that this time of year – even if this is the earliest start to a League season on record – is one that football fans savour.

This is as true within the Broad Acres as anywhere else as the county’s clubs look to go someway towards repeating last season’s success, when four promotions were clinched and every one of our sides involved in a relegation fight avoiding the drop.

A repeat this time around would be a huge boost for White Rose football and, as this is the time of year when anything seems possible, the Yorkshire Post has canvassed the opinion of the county’s 10 League representatives ahead of the opening weekend.

The Championship, League One and League Two look like being as keenly fought as ever with sides from this region sure to be at the forefront of the drama in this, the Football League’s 125th anniversary.

Here, supporters outline to Richard Sutcliffe and Leon Wobschall their hopes and fears for the coming weeks and months.

BARNSLEY

Verdict: Following an incredible run since David Flitcroft, Micky Mellon and Martin Scott took over the reins at Oakwell that saw us retain our Championship status and more importantly reconnect with the fans, it was important we built on that momentum. The close season has seen us retain all of our out-of- contract players for the first time in a long time and we have done well in the recruitment of Lewin Nyatanga (again), Dale Jennings – from Bayern Munich – Jean-Yves M’voto, John Cofie and, of course, fans’ favourite Chris O’Grady, such a hit on loan last season. This coupled with a change of direction and new positivity from our new chairman and CEO means that Barnsley fans have never been so positive about the start of a season.

Key man: Jacob Mellis – realising his potential at Barnsley under Flitcroft.

Potential boo-boy: Flicker (Flitcroft) has been trying to educate us on the damage that booing our own players has in respect of the confidence of the player and team. Hopefully, the boo-boys will take this on board.

Advice to manager: Keep doing what you have been doing all year!

Changes off the field: We’ve got a new chairman and chief exec who want to take the club in a different direction, which has been encouraging. But improving the match-day experience and family area and working on initiatives to get more ‘bums on seats’ at Oakwell, especially kids, who are the future of the club, would be good.

Team to beat and why: That “massive” club in S6. Beating Leeds would also be sweet!

Promoted: Wigan, Nottingham Forest, QPR.

Relegated: Yeovil, Donny, Bournemouth.

Predicted finish: 10th.

SHEFFIELD UTD

Verdict: David Weir seems to be trying to change the whole ethos around the club, though whether he will be allowed to is another matter. He has signed young, hungry players with a point to prove. The club shouldn’t be in this league but we need to show signs we have a coherent plan to get out of it or the fans will drift away. My gut feeling is that David Weir may just be the man to turn it around but maybe not inside one season.

Key man: Kevin McDonald – can make the team tick.

Potential boo-boy: Michael Doyle, talks a good game.

Advice to manager: Play passing football and show the fans there is a strategy going forward.

Changes off the field: Message to the board...don’t sell our best players in January.

Team to beat and why: Wolves. It will be nice to be the underdogs in this league.

Promoted: Wolves, Bristol City, Preston.

Relegated: Carlisle, Shrewsbury, Colchester.

Predicted finish: 6th.

BRADFORD CITY

Verdict: Our first season in League One for seven years is much awaited after the success of last term. The experience of our 64-game endurance including two cup finals, will stand a largely unaltered squad in good stead and League One should hold no fears for City. Phil Parkinson has added a trio of new signings with maybe a couple more to come and, hopefully, the Bantams can reach the play-offs.

Key man: Andrew Davies and Nahki Wells are both key.

Potential boo-boy: There isn’t one.

Advice to manager: Carry on managing the players in the same manner as last season.

Changes off the field: New investment that enables the club to own Valley Parade once again.

Team to beat and why: Rotherham. We need to avenge last season’s double by them.

Promoted: Sheffield United, Peterborough and us (play offs).

Relegated: Walsall, Colchester, Coventry, Shrewsbury.

Predicted finish: I genuinely feel that City can finish 6th or higher.

DONCASTER

Verdict: After last season’s final minute goal heroics to win League One, it is all change again with ex-Oldham chief Paul Dickov installed as new Rovers manager and caretaker manager Brian Flynn made director of football. Dickov has already made his mark in the transfer market, signing De Val Fernandez from Real Madrid B, Scunthorpe winger Mark Duffy and South African international midfielder Dean Furman. Extra pace in both defence and attack are needed to mix with the power and team spirit of last season’s title winners. There are no illusions as to how difficult life back in the Championship will be. However, past experience may prove crucial in Rovers punching well above their weight successfully again.

Key man: David Cotterill – needs to capture last season’s blistering form in the first half of the campaign to provide the pin-point crosses for the forwards and from set pieces.

Potential boo-boy: Kyle Bennett – needs to bring consistency and greater tenacity and strength into his game, if so, the potential boo-boy could come good.

Advice to manager: Add plenty of pace to the back four and up front as we have height and strength, but need much more than that in the Championship. An experienced but younger keeper is also a must. Someone who can command his area.

Changes off the field: A reserve team and a development squad is needed to improve competition in the squad alongside match sharpness.

Team to beat and why: Barnsley – local rivals and expected to be down there with Rovers, though both continue to defy the odds.

Promoted: Wigan, QPR, Watford.

Relegated: Blackpool, Barnsley, Yeovil.

Predicted finish: 15th.

HUDDERSFIELD

Verdict: The squad is not drastically different from last season, with the majority of changes having come up front. This would suggest that we’re in for a similar struggle. However, if you look at our points tally from last season, it would have usually been enough for a much higher league finish. Our defence has not seen the reinforcement that many feel it needed, and I’d still like to see us bring in one or two players in this area to boost our chances of a respectable league finish.

Key man: Joel Lynch – many people would say ‘James Vaughan’, but I think a strong and consistent season from Lynch, arguably our best defender, will be a real boost to us and keep the ‘goals against’ tally down.

Potential boo-boy: We have a few frustrating players and it will be one of these whom the fans will get on the back off. Possibilities include Danny Ward, Sean Scannell or Adam Hammill. All have excellent ability but are too inconsistent and often fail to deliver.

Advice to manager: Bring in another centre back, quickly. The defence was clearly not strong enough last season and without any additions yet, I fear for more of the same this year.

Changes off the field: The club is making really great strides off the field, and the only thing hanging over us is the stadium shares issue.

Team to beat and why: Leeds United, for obvious reasons. It is also great to beat other local rivals such as Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday.

Promoted: Bolton, QPR, Watford.

Relegated: Blackpool, Birmingham, Yeovil.

Predicted finish: 16th. A lower-mid table finish would suit most Town fans and I think we will pick up a similar points tally to last season.

LEEDS UTD

Verdict: The departure of Ken Bates has definitely lifted the fans and there appears to be a genuine desire within the hierarchy to reconnect with our supporters. However, the parachute payments situation means that substantial investment on the field is required to sustain a serious promotion challenge. We will also miss Luciano Becchio and Brian McDermott will have to perform to the limit of his undoubted talent if another season of mediocrity is to be avoided.

Key man: Luke Murphy – hopefully the creative influence in midfield that we missed so badly last season.

Potential boo-boy: I can see Michael Brown getting some stick.

Advice to manager: Milk the moderate level of positivity surrounding the club at the moment. It rarely lasts long.

Changes off the field: The club appears to be moving in the right direction and the agreement to team up again with BBC Radio Leeds is a big PR coup. Doubts remain, though, about the availability of the financial backing necessary for a serious tilt at the top two.

Team to beat and why: Barnsley at Oakwell. I am completely fed up of getting hammered there in front of 6,000 of our own fans.

Promoted: Reading, Bolton & Forest.

Relegated: Millwall, Yeovil and Doncaster Rovers, though Boro may be in trouble as well.

Predicted finish: 8th.

ROTHERHAM

Verdict: League One looks strong compared to previous years, but there is optimism we might sneak into the play offs. Early-season form, injuries and suspensions will ultimately decide whether we fight relegation, consolidate or sneak into the top six.

Key man: Daniel Nardiello – depends whether he can replicate his goal tally from last season.

Potential boo-boy: Bit of a cop-out here. Nobody springs to mind, but I’m sure some Millers will find a ‘victim’!

Advice to manager: Don’t be frightened to play two up front. Have faith in our attacking options.

Changes off the field: Battleship grey away shirt not gone down too well, although personally I’ve seen worse.

Team to beat and why: Sheffield United. A long time since we faced them; we need to remind them of our presence!

Promoted: Peterborough, Wolves and Preston.

Relegated: Colchester, Carlisle, Port Vale and Shrewsbury.

Predicted finish: 9th.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

Verdict: Transfer activity has been slow, but in Jacques Maghoma and Jeremy Helan, plenty of pace has been added in attack, while ‘rough diamond’ Atdhe Nuhiu and another expected forward addition will add new options in the striking department. The vast majority of last season’s squad remain together and with talk of a takeover, Dave Jones could get more cash to splash as the season progresses. Hopefully, another year of progress, on and off the pitch, and a comfortable mid-table finish.

Key man: Michail Antonio – Pace and power to create chances and chips in with goals. Versatile, too.

Potential boo-boy: If it goes with last season, Martin Taylor. Few indifferent games at the back and being handed the captaincy on his arrival didn’t help, but will probably be further down the pecking order this season.

Advice to manager: Push Paul Corry and Rhys McCabe for more first-team football this season. Both young, but each showed promising signs in bursts last season.

Changes off the field: Choosing the right new owners. It looks like Milan Mandaric is ready to sell up and we’re all hoping he leaves us in good hands.

Team to beat and why: Probably Leeds United, but add Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers in there, too.

Promoted: QPR, Wigan and Bolton.

Relegated: Yeovil, Doncaster and Barnsley.

Predicted finish: 13th.

YORK CITY

Verdict: I hope that this season will see us fully establish ourselves back in the Football League after some scares last season. The pretty passing football of Gary Mills has been replaced by a more direct, physical style, which is probably more suited to League Two. I still think we lack a dominant centre-half and left-back. However, I think we have got a very good manager and I expect him to use the loan market wisely.

Key man: A fit Lewis Montrose.

Potential boo-boy: Jamal Fyfield, although I don’t like to see booing of our own players.

Advice to manager: Carry on where we left off at the end of last season please.

Changes off the field: Can’t think of any, the club appears to be very well run.

Team to beat and why: We seem to have a historic rivalry with Bury.

Promoted: Fleetwood, Burton, Chesterfield and Portsmouth.

Relegated: Accrington and Dagenham.

Predicted finish: Top half with an outside chance of the play offs.