ENGLAND SEASON PREVIEW
With 16 Americans spread across 13 teams in the top three flights, YA has attempted to get a glimpse into what's in store for our England-based Yanks.
The Championship season is already underway, and the Premiership side will kick off this weekend.
We had our say too, though, and as we've done with our 23 Tickets and other features, we've made a prediction on each team as we see it happening over the next nine months...
Brad Friedel[endlink] and http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=0028
: 6th place, Premiership
: Francis Jeffers (Charlton), Benni McCarthy (Porto), Jason Roberts (Wigan)
: Craig Bellamy (Liverpool), Paul Dickov (Manchester City), Gary Harkins (Grimsby)
Benni McCarthy is a great addition for the Rovers' attacking line, especially since they lost Craig Bellamy to Liverpool after only a year with Rovers. Unfortunately, the revamp of Blackburn's front line will mean that Jemal Johnson will likely continue to see most of this season's action from the bench.
Brad Friedel, meanwhile, will continue to get the call in net, as he has for the past six seasons.
Blackburn will be looking to prove that last year was no fluke, and without many changes to an already solid midfield and defense, there is no reason that Rovers should not be challenging.
Blackburn will be in the hunt for a Europe again, but with the pressure of the UEFA Cup this season and not too much depth for the rigors of European soccer, Rovers will likely miss the cut.
: 8th place, Premiership
: Quinton Fortune (Manchester United)
: Khalilou Fadiga (unattached), Radhi Jaidi (Birmingham), Matt Jansen (unattached), Bruno N'Gotty (Birmingham), Jay-Jay Okocha (Sport Club Qatar), Oscar Perez (Cruz Azul)
Bolton narrowly missed out on Europe last season, pipped to the Intertoto Cup place by a resurgent Newcastle, and this represents a slight stutter in their progress. Sam Allardyce has established his side in the Premiership over six seasons of continual improvement, culminating with last year's inaugural UEFA Cup campaign.
Johann Smith finds himself on the fringes of the first team squad this year, having impressed at the academy level, and will be hoping that his breakthrough will justify Allardyce's decision to focus more on youth in the coming seasons.
Bolton still look an odd collection of individuals on paper and lack firepower up front, but with the proven player-management and motivational skills of Big Sam Allardyce to blend them together, they should still be good enough for a UEFA Cup finish.
: 13th place, Premiership
: Amdy Faye (Newcastle), Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Middlesbrough), Djimi Traore (Liverpool), Simon Walton (Leeds)
: Jay Bothroyd (Wolves), Francis Jeffers (Blackburn), Chris Perry (West Brom)
After a meteoric start to last season, the Addicks came apart at the seams and failed to put themselves back together. New manager Iain Dowie will hope that he can gain the trust of the Charlton faithful the way his predecessor Alan Curbishley did by pushing the Addicks beyond expectations.
While Hasselbaink will be a help to Darren Bent on the front line, the Dutchman is not the player he once was. Once Cory Gibbs is healthy again, he should help Charlton in the defense.
A similar low mid-table finish for the boys from the Valley is most likely.
: 11th place, Premiership
: Tim Howard (Manchester Utd - season loan), Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace), Joleon Lescott (Wolves)
: Duncan Ferguson (retired), Matteo Ferrari (AS Roma), Nigel Martyn (retired), Li Tie (Sheffield United)
There is almost no point in attempting to predict Everton's Premiership form. David Moyes' men have yo-yo'd erratically in the league for years now, their form seemingly irrelevant to the quality at their disposal.
The early signs are encouraging, with Andy Johnson set to provide increased firepower up front. If Tim Howard and Joleon Lescott can settle in, there's every reason for the Toffees faithful - step forward YA's own Sara DeWitt and Chad Winger - to look forward to the season ahead.
"This year is as important as any other," Howard told YA. "It's a new year, a clean slate for me."
"It would be easy to collect a paycheck and sit around on the bench if that's what you want. But I have more ambition than that."
"I am looking to play all the time, push the envelope, train well and compete - make the decision difficult on the manager. That's all I have ever really tried to do."
Everton is now a byword for inconsistency, but with a little fortune, the new signings should mean an improvement on last season and a place in Europe at the end of it.
Carlos Bocanegra[endlink] and http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=0001
: 12th place, Premiership
: Jimmy Bullard (Wigan), Franck Queudrue (Middlesbrough), Bjorn Runstrom (Hammarby), Gabriel Zakuani (Leyton Orient)
: Adam Green (Grays), Zesh Rehman (QPR)
Fulham were black and white last season – almost unbeatable at home, but winless away until the final stages of the campaign. Central defense was their weakest link last season, and despite the arrival of Franck Queudrue and Gabriel Zakuani, this area is still crying out for an Oguchi Onyewu-type figure.
With pocket dynamo Steed Malbranque set to move on, newly recruited creative midfield terrier Jimmy Bullard is key. But with no other big arrivals, the West Londoners' limitations are again exposed.
Brian McBride should still play a major role and Carlos Bocanegra might at last get a chance to cement a center back spot.
"I'm very optimistic (about the new season). We’ve got some good young players."
"Finishing in the top half (is our goal). At the end of the season, that's where we'd like to be."
Coach Chris Coleman has said his side are aiming for the top 10 in the Premiership and a cup final, but with their resources still limited, the Cottagers will do well to match their 12th place finish of last season.
: 15th place, Premiership
: Bernardo Corradi (Valencia), Ousmane Dabo (Lazio), Paul Dickov (Blackburn), Dietmar Hamann (Liverpool), Joe Hart (Shrewsbury)
: Mikkel Bischoff (Coventry City), Lee Croft (Norwich), Geert de Vlieger (unattached), Kiki Musampa (Atlético Madrid), Albert Riera (Espanyol), David Sommeil (Sheffield United), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Southampton)
Stuart Pearce's impact at City has undoubtedly been positive, instilling in the side a steely determination and will to win frequently absent under predecessor Kevin Keegan. The 05/06 campaign, however, was beset by inconsistency as they failed to impose themselves sufficiently on games.
The protracted absence of Claudio Reyna undoubtedly contributed to this slight lack of bite, so Pearce has introduced more competition into the center of midfield in the form of Dietmar Hamann. With Joey Barton having rather impressively staked his claim to a place last term, the recently retired US skipper will have to be on his toes to stay in the side.
Despite a storming start, Man City are still a work in progress under Stuart Pearce and the end of season collapse in 2005/06 bodes ill for a successful campaign this time around. Another mid-table finish is the most probable outcome.
Bobby Convey[endlink] and http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=0009
: Champions, Coca-Cola Championship
: Sam Sodje (Brentford), Seol Ki-Hyeon (Wolves)
: John Mullins (Mansfield), Jamie Young (Wycombe)
Their offensive machine will likely be less effective against Premiership defenses and their sometimes suspect defense has not been updated, which will make Hahnemann's job that much tougher.
The biggest worry will be key central midfielder Steve Sidwell, who with a year left on his contract is holding out on signing an extension, and may force the Reading board to deal him for some return on their investment at mid-season.
"I think the new transfers that we have brought in are two very good players and have helped out some needs that we had in the team and I look forward to a few more players coming in to just expand the team for the Premiership."
"Talking to the gaffer, he is happy with the players we have, but also knows that this year will be a very hard year and everyone can't play every game, especially in the Christmas period."
"I think it is always difficult to say before the season how you are going to do because we haven't even played one game yet, so we don't really know how we compare to any teams."
"I think the first four or five games are going to crucial for us and we had to do well there and get our feet wet and get confidence and there is no doubt we can stay up this year."
"Of course, I look forward to playing Tottenham, as I was supposed to go there and they are a team I have watched since I was really young in the US. Chelsea, Arsenal and Man U are going to be good games to play in, too."
"I want to get back to winning ways with Reading and am looking to enjoy my first season in the Premiership after my first World Cup experience."
Don't expect Reading to pull a Sunderland and drop like a stone after dominating the Championship, but finishing in the top half and replicating West Ham's triumphs of last year will be no piece of cake. Mid-table would be good for Reading's first foray into the Premiership.
: 3rd place, Coca-Cola Championship/Won promotion playoff final
: Damien Francis (Wigan), Sheku Kamara (Charlton), Scott Loach (Lincoln), Chris Powell (Charlton), Tamas Priskin (Gyori ETO), Danny Shittu (QPR), Claude Seanla (Tottenham)
: Chris Eagles (Manchester United)
The Hornets were tipped for relegation to League One this time last year, but ended up in the Premiership thanks to a single minded young boss in his first season as manager and a simple, yet effective playing system.
The similarities are striking between Adrian Boothroyd's under-resourced, yet determined team and that of Watford under Graham Taylor in the 1980's, when they finished second and reached the FA Cup final - but whether Watford can survive in today's Premiership has to be doubted.
Nevertheless, Boothroyd has told his players to aim for Europe this season, although most commentators are tipping them for the drop.
Jay DeMerit has earned his place in starting 11 after an excellent second half of the 2005/06 season and should be a solid performer.
"We just tied the Italian champions (Inter Milan). If we can turn them and get in behind them and play off of set pieces and do what we did all of last season, there is no reason we can't do that to Premiership teams."
"Europe is possible. A lot of us believe now that anything is possible because last year everyone thought that it was impossible at the beginning of the season and look what happened."
"I think the attitude we have adopted now at the club is don't make predictions. Just do what you do every day, work hard, work together and things come together in a very good way. This year will be no different."
Watford were tipped for relegation last year and got promoted. Once again they are predicted to fall and it is hard to see them out of the bottom third of the table, but with the dogged Adrian Boothroyd in charge and an indomitable team spirit, don't be surprised if they prove everyone wrong again.
WEST HAM UNITED
: 9th place, Premiership/FA Cup runners up
: Lee Bowyer (Newcastle United), Carlton Cole (Chelsea), George McCartney (Sunderland), Tyrone Mears (Preston North End), John Paintsil (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Jonathan Spector (Manchester United)
: Clive Clarke (Sunderland), Chris Cohen (Yeovil Town), Carl Fletcher (Crystal Palace), Shaka Hislop (FC Dallas), Yaniv Katan (Maccabi Haifa – season loan), Elliott Ward (Coventry City)
The Hammers have done some major reinforcement over the summer, with four new defenders. Jonathan Spector will have the chance to prove he deserves a starting spot, though it will not be easy as he will miss the opening few games of the season through injury.
Up front, West Ham still look lethal with Dean Ashton and Marlon Harewood - one of the Premiership's top strike partnerships - backed by Carlton Cole and Bobby Zamora.
Alan Pardew is growing in stature as a manager and after an FA Cup final and a place in Europe last season, 2006/07 should see his team progress and his stock rise further.
West Ham look very strong this season, and with an excellent coach and one of the best forward lines in the Premiership, they should improve on last season and could even challenge for the fourth Champions League spot.
: 17th place, Coca-Cola Championship
: Stephen Foster (Crewe), Andy Gray (Sunderland), Steve Jones (Crewe), Alan Mahon (Wigan)
The Clarets have begun with a pair of wins, but the good times may not last very long. The club made small personnel improvements this summer, when a major rehab might have been necessary.
Danny Karbassiyoon has been on the transfer list at Turf Moor since May and recently had an unsuccessful trial with AZ Alkmaar. The former Arsenal protégé had a miserable 2005/06 when a nagging groin injury limited him to six substitute appearances. He has been allocated a squad number for 2006/07 and has a year left on his contract.
The recruitment of Wigan midfielder Alan Mahon should add some know-how and Andy Gray some goals, but the squad still lacks depth and it is hard to see the Clarets finishing in the top half of the table.
: 5th place, Coca-Cola Championship/Lost promotion playoff final
: Sebastien Carole (Brighton), David Livermore (Millwall), Kevin Nicholls (Luton)
: Rob Hulse (Sheffield Utd), David Livermore (Hull), Ben Parker (Bradford), Danny Pugh (Preston), Michael Ricketts (Southend), Simon Walton (Charlton), Jermaine Wright (Southampton)
Leeds were unlucky to miss out on promotion last season, succumbing to Jay DeMerit's mighty Watford in the playoff final. With the club's renaissance under Kevin Blackwell continuing, anything less than automatic promotion this time around will be considered something of a letdown.
Eddie Lewis will keep his place on the left, where he had a great campaign last year, while the midfield engine room will be imbued with the steel and grit of Kevin Nicholls, a bargain acquisition from Luton who, together with Sean Derry, will make Leeds a very difficult side to break down, or to outfight.
Leeds will be stronger from last season's playoff heartache and should be challenging for automatic promotion all season. It is hard to see Eddie Lewis' side outside the playoff zone given their squad, although last season's lack of goals is a worry.
: 19th place, Coca-Cola Championship
: Madjid Bougherra (Guegnon), Yoann Folly (Southampton), Kenny Lunt (Crewe), Wade Small (MK Dons)
: Patrick Collins (Darlington), Drissa Diallo (MK Dons), David Lucas (Bradford), David Graham (Bradford), Jon-Paul McGovern (MK Dons), Ritchie Partridge (Rotherham), Craig Rocastle (Oldham)
Having stayed up at the death last season despite woeful luck with injuries, the Owls will be looking to consolidate their position and establish themselves in the Championship.
With the return of silky forward Steve MacLean, absent throughout last year with a broken leg, Paul Sturrock's side have a little more firepower this time around, while massive Madjid Bougherra will add physical presence to the back line.
Frank Simek, a fixture at right back, was quite possibly Wednesday's player of the season last time around and will be hoping to continue to build a reputation as one of US soccer's glowing prospects.
"I think the new signings have looked really good so far. They're all settling in well and getting to know everyone. The three new players, not counting Folly, bring different things to the team."
"Madjid's looked right at home in the first two games. He's a quality defender, and good on the ball as well. It hasn't taken long to get used to playing with him. Kenny's a really good footballer. He can pick a pass out, and has the ability to score some goals too. Wade's got pure speed. I wouldn't say we're a really fast team all over the pitch, so that helps in that regard. Hopefully, the more they play the better and more comfortable they become."
"The manager hasn't really come out and said 'we want to do be in this position when the season ends'. I think we all know we need to improve on last season. With the new signings and with people coming back fit, I'm sure that's something we can do."
"Personally, I'm looking to play as many games as I can this year, and play well. I played a lot last season, but this season I want to push on and improve as a player. I've been working more on the weaker parts of my game and hopefully that will show as the season goes on."
"I want to be more involved in going forward, and getting a few assists wouldn't hurt. I think the going forward part of my game is where I'm looking to improve the most."
"I watched all of the US games over the summer. We didn't do as well as the last World Cup, but we did have a really tough group. I'm also hoping to get called in for a camp or get involved with the National Team as soon as possible. It's always been a goal to play for the US, and hopefully, I get the chance to do that."
"As far as the systems of the 4-4-2 or 3-5-2, we've done quite a bit of work with both, more so the 442 though. I think that's the system that we'll play the majority of the season. If we do switch systems for a game, we'll most likely do an 11 v 11 game, full pitch, just to make sure everyone's in tune to how we want to shape up."
"I've played the middle man of the three quite a bit. It's a heck of a lot less running than a fullback has to do. You're main job in the 3 is to defend, most of the running is done by the wingbacks."
With their new recruits, the Owls are surely better than their relegation near miss last season suggests, and will do better than 19th this time - although a finish in the top half of the table looks unlikely.
: 23rd place, Coca-Cola Championship
: Neal Ardley (Cardiff), Zoumana Bakayoko (Paris St. Germain), Darren Byfield (Gillingham), Chris Day (Oldham), Chris Hackett (Hearts), Samy-Oyame Mawene (Caen), Derek McInnes (Dundee United), Lenny Pidgeley (Watford)
: Sammy Igoe (Bristol Rovers), Barry Hayles (Plymouth), Matt Lawrence (Crystal Palace), David Livermore (Leeds), Andy Marshall (Coventry)
The losses of Hayles, Lawrence and Livermore were serious blows to the team. Without too many quality additions, especially in the striker department, it is questionable whether the Lions will be able to get back to the Championship in one go.
"I wouldn't have come down here if I didn't think we had a good chance [of promotion]. The board has changed, and that seems positive."
"It's a shame that Barry [Hayles] and Livers [David Livermore] had to go. We can replace them, which will be hard, but we'll bring some other players in."
"I don't see why we can't be at the top challenging. Its hard to go down and go straight back up, but there is no reason why we can't do it."
Millwall have a youthful side and the resources that make them seem like Manchester United in League One. Anything but finishing in the mix for the promotion playoffs would be a disappointment.
[note]YA's Michael Adubato, Rich Fidler, Michael Gatenby, Aaron Gidding and Sean O'Conor compiled this feature[/note]