WITH two of the smallest budgets in the Championship, it is unsurprising the bookmakers have priced Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers as two of the favourites to go down.
In tough financial times, both clubs are trying to live within their means in a division where money talks.
“They are going to have difficult seasons,” admitted former Reds manager Andy Ritchie. “It is a really competitive league and I think the only target for them both is to stay in the league. I think that would be a fantastic achievement.
“With the players and finances they have got, it is all about consolidation. That is all the fans can ask for.
“When times get a bit better, they both might be able to have a little push at the top end then.
“Barnsley and Doncaster are punching above their weights so the supporters should be happy with consolidation. They should not have aspirations of getting into the play-offs yet.”
It was Ritchie who took Barnsley into the Championship five years ago via the play-offs before being harshly dismissed by chairman Gordon Shepherd.
Now, Keith Hill is in charge and he has opted to bring in seven new reinforcements over the summer, including striker Craig Davies from Chesterfield.
“Keith has got a big job on his hands,” said Ritchie. “He worked wonders at Rochdale and he was then given the chance to move up a league and he had to take it.
“He will change the club around and get them playing in his image. Keith will do well in that role.
“He has taken a big risk in signing players who he knows from the lower leagues. Only time will tell as to how well they will do at a higher level. Some of them will step up and some of them will find it very hard.”
Ritchie also believes Barnsley will miss the leadership qualities of Jason Shackell, who moved to Derby County for a six figure fee.
“He was a player that I looked at when I was managing at Oldham,” said Ritchie. “Jason will be a big loss to Barnsley. They will miss his experience and organising.”
By contrast, Rovers resisted the temptation to cash in on star players Billy Sharp and James Coppinger despite big offers from Ipswich Town.
Ritchie, a pundit on BBC Radio Leeds, said: “Billy has scored goals where ever he has been and James also chips in with his fair share. If both of them had left, I think they might have been in trouble.
“But I know the chairman from when I was at Barnsley. He seems to know what he is doing and runs a tight ship.”
However, the Mancunian reckons summer recruits Tommy Spurr and Richard Naylor will help shore up Rovers’ leaky backline.
“They were so unlucky last year. They had a magnificent season and Simon Grayson has done a fantastic job. Leeds have to build on what they achieved last year.
“It is not going to be easy. The expectation levels have risen again.”
“I don’t think you can look beyond West Ham. They will do well and I think Reading, after going so close last year, will be there or thereabouts.
“Nottingham Forest have got a strong squad while Leicester have spent a lot of money in the transfer market so they will have a good chance.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the three newly-promoted teams do well.”
“I was surprised Kevin Nolan dropped down a league. He is going to be a big player at West Ham. He gets on great with Sam Allardyce from their Bolton days so I expect him to do really well.
“Kevin Phillips was still scoring goals for Birmingham in the Premier League last season at the age of 37. He has obviously looked after himself well and has still got the desire to play.
“If he can get back to anything like when he was a youngster, David Nugent could score goals for fun at this level. He has just lost his way a little bit in the last two to three years but he is a quality finisher.”