The Star’s sport writers have put it all on the line to predict how our six teams will fare across the Championship and League One this season.
And they have also provided their thoughts on who will be promoted and relegated in the two divisions come May.
Let us know your thoughts and predictions by commenting below.
PAUL DAVIS, ROTHERHAM UNITED REPORTER
Sheffield Wednesday: I don’t think they’ll have the problems of last season simply because I don’t see them getting off to such a poor start again. They need a player who guarantees goals and it will be interesting to see whether they land Stevie May. Elsewhere, they look pretty solid. Not quite ready for a play-off push.
Rotherham United: They’ll lack for nothing in fitness, drive and passion, and there are some better players at New York Stadium than a lot of people give them credit for. Other teams won’t like playing against them. There are some big lads in there and they’ll give everything because that’s what Steve Evans’ teams do. If they make a reasonable start and build some momentum, things could be interesting. Survival, yes. Better than that, yes. I think the spirit at the club will keep them on an upward curve. There will be some terrific atmospheres at New York Stadium.
Promoted: Wigan, Derby, Wolves
Relegated: Blackpool, Leeds, Charlton
Sheffield United: They’ve made good pre-season signings, Nigel Clough has them organised and they have the cover to compensate for Harry. Going up. If one of the strikers catches fire, going up as champions.
Barnsley: I feared for them early in pre-season but I think Danny Wilson has recruited well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them around the play-offs.
Doncaster Rovers: They’ll cause teams trouble going forward but desperately need to keep Rob Jones fit at the back. I admire how manager Paul Dickov is holding things together in troubled times. Top half if they have some luck with injuries amd make a decent start.
Chesterfield: Staying up but it’s difficult to see them making the same impact Rotherham United did last season.
Promoted: Bristol City, Sheffield United, Preston
Relegated: Walsall, Scunthorpe, Colchester, Crawley
JAMES SHIELD, SHEFFIELD UNITED REPORTER
Sheffield Wednesday’s prospects would seem to be dependent upon events behind the scenes. Being a football manager is a tough enough job as it is without having to deal with the uncertainty created by a protracted takeover process. Rotherham United will find it a much tougher division than the one they’ve just left and Steve Evans will have to adopt a tactical rather than gung-ho approach against some of its better teams. But, Fulham apart, I don’t think the Championship is actually as strong in terms of stand-out quality as it was last term. Which will give both our local clubs hope. Fulham have got some wonderfully talented young players coming through the ranks and they should be given a chance to show the country what they’re capable of. It would be a huge shame if they weren’t. Leeds will be fascinating to watch. I’ve got a feeling they’ll either take everyone by surprise and challenge or completely implode.
I think this could be the season Sheffield United finally drag themselves out of League One. Nigel Clough has assembled a squad full of good, experienced characters. Those players who have come in all view moving to Bramall Lane as a forward rather than sideways or backwards career step. And that’s not always been the case in the past. Although I’ve also named Bristol City, Preston North End and Leyton Orient as being the other teams most likely to challenge, this division is notoriously difficult to predict. Being in receipt of a Premier League parachute payment meant Wolverhampton Wanderers were always going to have to try hard NOT to win the title last term but who would have tipped Orient to be the runaway leaders for so long? Certainly not me and they’ve also strengthened well this summer. Simon Grayson’s teams are always organised and hard to beat so I expect them to be right up there come the end of the campaign. Likewise United although, with so many new faces to integrate, they could amble rather than burst out of the traps before growing in stature as the competition unfolds. Barnsley, Doncaster Rovers and Chesterfield should all go pretty well and privately will fancy their chances of claiming a play-off berth. But, with the transfer window not scheduled to close until the end of the month, we’ll probably be better placed to guage who the runners and riders are likely to be come September.
Sheffield Wednesday: All the pre-season upheaval will be quickly forgotten if Wednesday get off to a decent start. The club is crying out for a striker and added strength at several positions though.
A lot will depend on why Stuart Gray can bring in on loan from the Premier League. Wednesday should be street-wise enough after two seasons in the Championship to survive but as we enter the campaign it will be a close run thing.
Rotherham United: The Millers will provide a lot of entertainment this season both at New York Stadium and on the road.
I can’t see it being anything other than a tough first year in the second tier for Steve Evans’ team but I think they’ll stay up. A good start is vital so they’re not playing catch up in the second half of the season.
Promoted: Derby, Fulham, Norwich
Relegated: Brentford, Blackpool, Charlton
Sheffield United: This should be United’s year to get out of League One but as ever with this division it will be hard work. The Blades are the class act out of the 24 teams so should finish in the top two. There will be some nervy moments along the way but it will promotion at Bramall Lane in 2015.
Doncaster Rovers: Rovers have had a difficult summer but should still be a strong team in League One. They maybe won’t have enough to challenge for an automatic slot but should have more than enough for the play-offs.
Barnsley: Danny Wilson always builds strong teams at this level so his know-how will be valuable for the Reds. Many will write off Barnsley at their peril. A strong start could see them challenging for promotion.
Chesterfield: It is always difficult making the transition from League Two to League One. The Spireites have a recent bad experience of the jump so they should be better prepared than last time. Survival will be a success and I expect them to do it.
Promoted: Sheffield United, Preston, Peterborough
Relegated: Fleetwood, Rochdale, Crawley, Port Vale
NEIL GOULDING, BARNSLEY REPORTER
Sheffield Wednesday: 17th – struggled last season and the club’s on-going takeover saga has hardly provided stability ahead of the new season. If the proposed deal is successful and Hafiz Mammadov buys the club off current owner Milan Mandaric, then Owls boss Stuart Gray might have a healthy transfer kitty from which to work from. However, I’m sure Gray would have preferred the funds before the season started. However, the Owls have recruited well with Tom Lees and Sam Hutchinson good signings. Staying in the Championship will be there main aim.
Rotherham United: 18th – successive promotions has given the mighty Millers the chance to test themselves in the English second tier. And rightly so. But this will be a big season for Steve Evans’ charges and just staying in the division – regarded as one of the toughest in the world – will be the name of the game. The Millers could surprise but I expect them to consolidate this season and make a march up the table next season. Evans has recruited well will Jordan Bowery having been signed from Aston Villa and the likes of the experienced Matt Derbyshire and Frazer Richardson been signed to strengthen their ranks. They will surprise a few teams this season.
Promoted: Fulham, Wigan Athletic, Derby County
Relegated: Blackpool, Charlton Athletic, Millwall
Sheffield United: 4th - but definitely in the top six, promotion whether it be automatic (quite possibly or via the play-offs (more likely). Blades’ boss Nigel Clough masterminded a remarkable turnaround last season and was unlucky not to get the club promoted at the first attempt. Clough has recruited well this summer and will be interesting to see how much he can achieve with a full season to go at. The signings of proven goalscorer Michael Higdon, Chris Basham, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Ben Davies and Harrison McGahey – to name a few – shows Clough’s intent to achieve something special this season at Bramall Lane.
Doncaster Rovers: 12th – Rovers have been unsettled by the breakdown of the proposed takeover of the club by John Ryan and One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson, both lifelong supporters of the club. But despite this manager Paul Dickov has still managed to recruit well with Reece Wabara having signed from Manchester City, keeper Jed Steer having been recruited on a three-month loan from Aston Villa and Nathan Tyson having joined from Blackpool. Midfielder Paul Keegan has also re-joined, which is a big boost. However, I can’t see them challenging for promotion this season even though some people will expect them too despite Championship relegation last term. Key players including James Husband, Chris Brown and David Cotterill have all left, so the ambitious Dickov has work on his hands to get his side pushing for a top half finish. I think they can achieve it.
Barnsley: 9th – this is going to be a tough season for the Reds despite, like Doncaster, being tipped for an immediate return to the Championship. Manager Danny Wilson has lost a lot of key players after the club’s drop in divisions, but he’s recruited well with nine new signings. It’s going to take time for the new players to find their feet, but Wilson has bought young players – and has the youngest squad in League One. That will definitely count for something, but the Reds need to find their feet quickly. If they do that then I can see the Oakwell outfit finishing in the top half, although I think a promotion push will be too much to ask in Wilson’s first full season in charge. The signings of Reece Brown from Watford and Joe Dudgeon, on loan from Hull City, will solidify the defence, while new strikers Kane Hemmings and Sam Winnall should both score goals in League One.
Chesterfield: 16th – The Spireites toasted sweet success last season when they won League Two in impressive style. Manager Paul Cook and his side lost just eight games in a fine campaign and will go into this season full of confidence. And I expect them to do well, but retaining their League One status will be the main aim. Anything after that is a bonus. The good news is that Cook has managed to retain most of his squad from last season ahead of the new campaign and has strengthened with the signings of Daniel Jones, Charlie Daws and Michael Onovwigun. It’s a big season for Cook and his ambitious charges, but I’m sure they will be more than a match for many teams despite the jump in standard.
Promoted: Leyton Orient, Preston North End, Sheffield United
Relegated: Notts County, Crewe Alexandra, Gillingham, Colchester United
HAYLEY PATERSON, DONCASTER ROVERS REPORTER
Sheffield Wednesday: I think Wednesday will just about survive this season. They’ve suffered a huge loss in the departure of Michail Antonio so it will be interesting to see how they cope without him but that money could prove invaluable from his transfer to Forest. Their pre-season has been similar to Doncaster’s in their takeover issues, however, I do hope they can move on from that and not find themselves flirting with relegation come May-time.
Rotherham United: I’m expecting good things from Rotherham this term. Steve Evans has been given the licence to recruit and he’s not been afraid to dip into the market with a huge amount of signings made. Ex-Doncaster man Paul Green is a steady head and I think Febian Brandy could rejuvenate his career, depending on if he settles in with the Millers and gets a few goals under his belt for a bit of confidence.
Promoted: Cardiff, Reading, Derby
Relegated: Bournemouth, Brighton, Charlton
Sheffield United: It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Blades take this league by the scruff of the neck. They’re going into this term on the back of a fantastic end to last season with Nigel Clough turning the club around in dramatic fashion. Jamal Campbell-Ryce is always a player I like to see when he’s on form and I’d expect him to provide plenty of goals as well as net a few in United’s bid for Championship football.
Doncaster Rovers: At one point, I really did fear for Rovers. With the takeover saga put to bed (for now!), that’s given Paul Dickov the insight into what he can and can’t work with. Nathan Tyson and Cedric Evina are my summer signing picks for Rovers and I think the likely departures of Richie Wellens and Paul Quinn could free up some much-needed cash, particularly in helping to secure Paul Keegan on a long-term deal. I’d expect a place in the top six this season for Doncaster with James Coppinger and Harry Forrester playing pivotal roles.
Barnsley: They severely lacked in confidence last season following their ultimate demise into League One. However, Danny Wilson has made some astute signings in the likes of Ross Turnbull who was superb for Doncaster last season. Sam Winnall was another brilliant signing for me. I couldn’t quite work out why he had switched from Scunthorpe in all honesty, it felt like a bit of a sideways move in my opinion, but he’s someone who knows where the net is and could be challenging for leading goalscoring honours.
Chesterfield: I really enjoyed watching Chesterfield last season, they were brilliant under Paul Cook and he seems to have a team spirit there that can drag a team through that difficult Christmas period and beyond January. It concerns me that they may not have made many signings, however, Cook, I believe, has a nucleus there that can push the Spireites away from the danger-zone. And that pre-season victory over Aston Villa can do a world of confidence come their season opener with a tough outfit in Leyton Orient.
Promoted: Sheffield United, Leyton Orient, Peterborough
Relegated: Gillingham, Rochdale, Fleetwood, Oldham
Sheffield Wednesday: A summer of uncertainly surrounding the proposed takeover has left Stuart Gray somewhat hamstrung, finding it difficult to pin down targets who themselves may be unwilling to commit to a contract, not knowing what the future holds. Having said that, those who have been brought in aren’t too bad - Sam Hutchinson could be a star in the Championship, while Kieren Westwood also has the ability to be one of the best keepers in the division and that’s with, on his day, one of the best number ones in Chris Kirkland, already at Hillsborough. Meanwhile, the loss of Michail Antonio represents a blow, but it’s not critical. As far as predicting the Owls finish, I expect something similar to last year but without a relegation threat...a season of mid-table mediocrity. It’ll probably be a bit boring.
Rotherham: Momentum is a major asset in football and few have more than the Millers, coming off the back of last season’s Wembley heroics. With respect, as unfashionable as they are, Rotherham are going to struggle to bring in ‘marquee’ signings but those who have come in are solid if not spectacular. Their finish to the campaign and the backing of a full New York Stadium for most weeks will drive them to the kind of start that could end up racking up enough points in the first half of the campaign to keep them up. After that a tail off and a look ahead to another season in the Championship.
Promoted: Fulham, Wigan, Derby
Relegated: Charlton, Millwall, Blackpool
Sheffield United: The Blades biggest problem could be that everyone simply expects them to go up after what happened in the second half of last season. Nigel Clough is experienced enough to know that this won’t be a breeze but, that said, they should still be strong enough to make the automatic promotion spots. United could still do with another striker, but even with Harry Maguires headed to East Yorkshire, they won’t concede many. Clough’s summer recruitment drive echoes that which has brought him success in the past - his team will be solid, hard-working and tough to beat. In this hugely competitive league, that will go a long way.
Chesterfield: There’s a lot of quality and experience in Paul Cook’s side but perhaps not enough to hold their own on a higher level than last year. The lack of ‘ins’ at the Proact is the biggest problem and there will be an over-reliance on Gary Roberts to dig them out. To make matters worse, I wouldn’t be surprised if their star winger headed off in January if Spireites are struggling and a move up to a bigger club, again, with respect, he is capable of playing for, comes calling.
Barnsley: Danny Wilson came in just too late to stave of relegation last season and he has made some very good signings in the summer, to the point that they will be challenging for a quick return to the. Championship. However, while they have been replaced, the quality of the new players coming in is not on a level with Jim O’Brien, Chris O’Grady and Luke Steele and that could be the difference. The Reds could be good enough to make the Play Offs though, after that you never know - my feeling is they’ll just miss out on a swift comeback.
Doncaster Rovers: Like Sheffield Wednesday, Rovers thought they were onto a winner this summer, with a new buyer, or buyers in John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson, yep that one, ready to take them into new heights...or one direction if you will. However that fell through and Paul Dickov can have hardly slept in the past month. James Husband, David Cotterill and Chris Brown heading away from the Keepmoat put more pressure on the boss who saw his plans ripped up by the breakdown in the takeover. It won’t be a disastrous season, they’re still better than most teams and a got Harry Forrester will be a bonus. Mid-table or a little above and a rebuild for a challenge next time.
Promoted: Bristol City, Sheffield United, MK Dons
Relegated: Rochdale, Crawley Town, Colchester, Chesterfield