Friday, August 10, 2007
With 17 Americans spread across 14 teams in the top three flights, YA has attempted to get a glimpse into what's in store for our England-based Yanks.

The season begins Saturday, 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.

Aston Villa
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=144Eric Lichaj[endlink]

Last season: 11th place, Premiership

In: Nigel Reo-Coker (West Ham United), Marlon Harewood (West Ham United), Harry Forrester (Watford), Eric Lichaj (University of North Carolina)

Out: Aaron Hughes (Fulham), Jlloyd Samuel (Bolton Wanderers), Steven Davis (Fulham), Gavin McCann (Bolton Wanderers), Stephen Henderson (Bristol City), Lee Hendrie (Sheffield United), Robert Olejnik (Falkirk), Chris Sutton (released)

2007/08 Outlook:
Martin O'Neill's signings have gone relatively unnoticed, but the additions of Reo-Coker and Harewood should boost an attack which will most likely be spearheaded by a rejuvenated John Carew.

Any first team minutes Eric Lichaj gets this season will be a bonus, but it seems that American owner Randy Lerner's first signing from back home is expected to be a work in progress.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Villa will again finish in the middle of the pack, but with a few breaks and being led by one of the best head coaches in the game, a battle for a European place would not be out of the question.

Blackburn Rovers
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=16Brad Friedel[endlink]

Last season: 10th place, Premiership

In: Gunnar Nielsen (BK Frem Copenhagen), Maceo Rigters (NAC Breda), Roque Santa Cruz (Bayern Munich)

Out: Andy Todd (Derby County), Michael Gray (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

2007/08 Outlook:
Blackburn are more or less the same team that Mark Hughes fielded last year, and with Ryan Nelsen now fully healthy and the addition of Roque Santa Cruz, Rovers will cause trouble for any team in the league.

Brad Friedel, will have no looks over his shoulder as he begins his eighth full season between the posts at Ewood Park.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
After surprisingly keeping Chelsea target Benni McCarthy at Ewood park to pair with Santa Cruz, Blackburn should make a push for a top six finish this season if the defense does not start out slowly as they did last season.

They will push hard for a Champion's League spot, but will need to settle for a UEFA Cup spot. We'll go out on a limb and give Rovers a fifth place finish ahead of a rejuvenated Newcastle United.

Bolton Wanderers
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=114Johann Smith[endlink]

Last season: 7th place, Premiership

In: Gavin McCann (Aston Villa), Jlloyd Samuel (Aston Villa), Zoltan Harsanyi (FC Senec), Blerim Dzemaili (Zurich), Gerald Cid (Bordeaux), Danny Guthrie (Liverpool), Heidar Helguson (Fulham), Mikel Alonso (Real Sociedad), Christian Wilhelmsson (Nantes)

Out: Tal Ben Haim (Chelsea), Idan Tal (Betar Jerusalem), Chris Howarth (Carlisle United), Henrik Pedersen (released), Quinton Fortune (released), David Thompson (released), Cesar Martin (released)

2007/08 Outlook:
Bolton fans will be sweating until the end of the transfer period with the hope that management does not sell Nicolas Anelka, who has played well in his return to England.

Veteran Gary Speed will also be a driving force in this season's success or failure, as the all-time Premiership appearances leader has been given more responsibility with his new player-coach role.

American Johann Smith finds himself on the fringes of the first team again this year, but a relatively successful loan spell at Carlisle United last year can only help. However, an ankle inury ruined his summer, and it could be some weeks yet before he is ready to challenge for a spot on the bench.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Bolton will, as always, be a pest, but with Big Sam now at Newcastle, a lower position in the standings looks more reasonable than challenging for Champions League play as the Trotters have done the past three seasons.

Derby County
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=78Benny Feilhaber[endlink]

Last season: 3rd place, Championship

In: Benny Feilhaber (Hamburg SV), Robert Earnshaw (Norwich City), Tyrone Mears (West Ham United), Claude Davis (Sheffield United), Andy Todd (Blackburn Rovers), Ben Hinchcliffe (Preston North End), Andy Griffin (Portsmouth), Lewis Price (Ipswich Town)

Out: Seth Johnson (released), Morten Bisgaard (released), Lee Grant (all released), Ryan Smith (Millwall), Paul Peschisolido (Luton Town), Paul Boertien (Walsall , Lee Camp (Queens Park Rangers), Steve Cann (released), Richard Jackson (Luton Town)

2007/08 Outlook:
Billy Davies had a tough time bringing improvements to Pride Park, among the failures was a bid for Kansas City Wizards forward Eddie Johnson.

Earnshaw, Todd and Davis are serviceable additions, but will be only marginally effective against top-flight opposition. New catch Benny Feilhaber may well be the best signing of the offseason, but questions remain about his size and durability.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Though hopes are high, Davies' only goal should be to finish 17th, but with a Championship-quality roster from top to bottom, Feilhaber and the Rams will be this season's Watford and finish dead last in the standings.

http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=11Tim Howard[endlink]

Last season: 6th place, Premiership

In: Leighton Baines (Wigan Athletic), Lukas Jutkiewicz (Swindon Town), Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United), Steven Pienaar (Borussia Dortmund)

Out: Richard Wright (West Ham United), Alessandro Pistone (released), Gary Naysmith (Sheffield United), James Beattie (Sheffield United), Scott Phelan (Bradford City)

2007/08 Outlook:
David Moyes finds himself in the same position he was in two seasons ago, as the Toffees and their relatively small squad will add European play to their schedule.

The sale of James Beattie is not a large loss, provided Andy Johnson can stay healthy and Phil Jagielka fits in quickly. Mikel Arteta will be the engine of this team, and as the Spaniard goes, so will Everton.

Tim Howard will back the Premierships' fifth best defense from a season ago, but still needs to work on getting beat by bizarre or long-distance shots as he did on several occasions in 2006/07.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Over the past six seasons, Everton finished 6th, 11th, 4th, 17th, 7th, and 15th. Look for the trend to continue and for the Toffees to slip down the standings after an early UEFA Cup elimination.

http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=2Carlos Bocanegra[endlink], http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=57Clint Dempsey[endlink],http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=1Brian McBride[endlink]

Last season: 16th place, Premiership

In: Diomansy Kamara (West Bromwich Albion), Aaron Hughes (Aston Villa), Steven Davis (Aston Villa), Chris Baird (Southampton), David Healy (Leeds United), Paul Konchesky (West Ham United), Lee Cook (Queens Park Rangers) Hameur Bouazza (Watford)

Out: Claus Jensen (released), Mark Pembridge (released), Tomasz Radzinski (released), Mark Crossley (released), Michael Brown (Wigan Athletic), Franck Queudrue (Birmingham City)

2007/08 Outlook:
Coming off of a near-relegation season, Lawrie Sanchez' policy of bringing in experienced players has seen the likes of Healy, Kamara and Konchesky, among others making the move to West London.

Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra seem safe bets to be in the plans of the Northern Ireland man, but there are two questions that need to be answered.

First, will Fulham find another striker to help out McBride after the Cottagers' non-American strikers tallied only nine goals last year? Second, what role will Clint Dempsey play?

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Fulham was one of the busiest teams in the offseason, but aside from Healy, the moves seem to be more quantity than quality and the deficiencies from last year have not really been addressed. Fulham will be in another relegation fight, and if the season begins slowly, it will end in the Championship.

http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=33Bobby Convey[endlink], http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=9Marcus Hahnemann[endlink]

Last season: 8th place, Premiership

In: Khalifa Cisse (Boavista), Emerse Fae (Nantes)

Out: Steve Sidwell (Chelsea), Greg Halford (Sunderland), Curtis Ujah (Yeovil Town), Jonathan Hayes (MK Dons)

2007/08 Outlook:
Despite an inspiring season last year, Reading now has to face the dreaded Second Season Syndrome, and will be among the favorites for relegation. The Royals have not just been quiet in the offseason, they have been nearly mute.

The incoming duo of Cisse and Fae will not make much of an impact on matters and the loss of Steve Sidwell will be greatly felt. However, the return to health of Bobby Convey should boost Steve Coppell's midfield.

The recent freak injury that striker Leroy Lita suffered in bed will rule him out of several tough games - including Reading's opening two matches again Manchester United and Chelsea - so goalscoring will come at a premium in the early going.

Convey says...
[Sidwell's departure] will be a loss because our midfield has pretty much played together for two or more years and it is always difficult when you have to rebuild. Saying that, we have some very good players coming in to fill that role and that seems to be a good characteristic of our team that when someone is injured or not playing, someone else steps in [to do the job.]

We haven't really changed too many things, and everyone is just working hard as a team and wanting to get off to a good start like we did last season.

I don't feel any added pressure [to earn back my starting role,] because all I can think about is what I am in control of: my fitness and how prepare myself for the game. Injuries are part of the game and unfortunately for me it happened at the worst time my first year in the Premiership.

Hahnemann says...
Everyone's really excited. We have another chance to play the best teams in the world, and we're opening up against Manchester United and Chelsea, what more could you ask for?

Top 10, that's our goal. We've talked about it, and for a team our size, a top-10 finish would be remarkable, even after finishing eighth last year. You don't realize how difficult it is and how switched on you have to be all the time in this league.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Many are predicting that Reading are facing a relegation fight this season, and indeed, with the departure of Steve Sidwell, it could be an uphill battle for them.

Expect Reading to remain in the Premiership, but repeating lats year's eight place finish, is not going to happen.

West Ham United
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=12Jonathan Spector[endlink]

Last season: 15th place, Premiership

In: Craig Bellamy (Liverpool), Julien Faubert (Bordeaux), Scott Parker (Newcastle United), Freddie Ljundberg (Arsenal), Richard Wright (Everton)

Out: Paul Konchesky (Fulham), Marlon Harewood (Aston Villa), Yossi Benayoun (Liverpool), Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa), Roy Carroll (Rangers), Teddy Sheringham (Colchester United), Tyrone Mears (Derby County), Shaun Newton (Leicester City)

2007/08 Outlook:
With the eventual departure of Carlos Tevez, West Ham will need the incoming Craig Bellamy and the recovered Dean Ashton to pick up where the Argentine left off last season. If Scott Parker can regain the type of play he showed in his last London stint, he could be amongst the steals of the summer window.

Despite being with Alan Curbishley at both Charlton and West Ham, Jonathan Spector has not been able to call a spot in the back his own, and although he is just 21, most thought that the American would be farther along in his development.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Having narrowly escaped the drop in May, the Hammers should improve on their dreadful start last season and set the tone for around a 10th place finish, with an Intertoto Cup spot reachable.

Charlton Athletic
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=52Cory Gibbs[endlink]

Last season: 19th place, Premiership

In: Martin Christensen (Herfolge), Chris Iwelumo (Colchester United), Paddy McCarthy (Leicester City), Yassin Moutaoukil (Chateauroux), Chris Powell (Watford), Jose Semedo (Sporting Lisbon), Dean Sinclair (Barnet), Svetoslav Todorov (Portsmouth), Luke Varney (Crewe Alexandra), Nicky Weaver (Manchester City)

Out: Nathan Ashton (Millwall), Grant Basey (Brentford), Darren Bent (Tottenham Hotspur), Talal El-Karkouri (Qatar SC), Rurik Gislason (Viborg), Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink (released), Hermann Hreidarsson (Portsmouth), Bryan Hughes (Hull City), Alistair John (released), Radostin Kishishev (Leicester City),
Jonathan Kurrant (Aberdeen), Kevin Lisbie (Colchester United), Thomas Myhre (Viking), Dennis Rommedahl (Ajax), Donovan Simmonds (Coventry City), Simon Walton (Queens Park Rangers), Myles Weston (released), Kelly Youga (Scunthorpe), Luke Young (Middlesbrough)

2007/08 Outlook:
Charlton has seen an exodus following their relegation to the Championship, including key loss Darren Bent. Charlton's other Bent, Marcus, and Luke Varney from Crewe will be counted on to make up for the loss of Darren Bent, but with the lower level of competition, it may not be as big a loss as assumed.

On the defensive side, American Cory Gibbs looks to finally make his English debut, but is still not ready for first team action as he looks to regain match fitness. Gibbs could be in line for a starring role, but will need to impress the notoriously fickle Alan Pardew who is now the third coach at The Valley since the American arrived in 2006.

Gibbs says...
We have a realistic chance [to be promoted], they favor us to go back up. Watford have strengthened their squad as well...really, everybody else is in contention. A lot of teams have spent money, so it's going to depend on how well the teams play together. Our goal right now is to get promoted back up to the Premiership.

The first month of the season I'm going to have to use the reserve games to get me back into match fitness and up to a first-team level because I've been out for so long.

I'm going to take the same approach as I did when I was at Feyenoord - have the first three games of the reserves to build me back up. I'm really looking at the first month of the season to work myself up to the first team.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
In the crapshoot that is the Championship, Charlton could go either way, but if Pardew keeps morale high and integrates his tactics like he has done in the English second flight at both Reading and West Ham, the Addicks could make a realistic push for immediate promotion.

Sheffield Wednesday
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=18Frank Simek[endlink]

Last season: 9th place, Championship

In: Robert Burch (Tottenham Hotspur), Lee Grant (Derby County), Richard Hinds (Scunthorpe United), Francis Jeffers (Blackburn Rovers), Steve Watson (West Bromwich Albion)

Out: Steve Adams (released), Chris Adamson (Stockport County), Barry Corr (Swindon Town), Graham Coughlan (Rotherham United), John Hills (Blackpool), David Graham (Gillingham), Steven MacLean (Cardiff City)

2007/08 Outlook:
Wednesday is among the favorites to reach the playoffs after last year's unexpected improvement upon a near-relegation season in 2005/06.

The core of last season's team remained at Hillsborough, and with Watson joining on a permanent basis following his successful loan spell and Jeffers coming over from Blackburn, the veterans could take a needed leadership role that may push the Owls into the playoffs.

Frank Simek, who was recently a target for Everton, will remain entrenched at right back and give support to the offense with his raiding style of play. However, should the Yank continue his rise, a transfer by August 31st or in the January window could materialize as the American will be out of contract at the end of the season.

Simek says...
This year is going to be another long hard year, and if we can get off to a good start then hopefully we can push on. We've made a few good signings so far this summer; the two keepers have looked good, Hinds is a real good player, and of course Steve Watson who's a great player.

Ideally, I would love to play with Wednesday in the Premiership. Everyone wants to play there, and I'm no different. Hopefully the club can continue to push forward and I'm here to give it my all and help with the cause. It's a huge club with unbelievable support, so it's a pleasure to play for them.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Wednesday will give their crosstown rivals United a run for both the unofficial city title and a spot in the Premiership. While an automatic promotion spot might be a stretch, Wednesday does have the quality for a solid campaign and should finish in the top six.

http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=31Jay DeMerit [endlink]

Last season: 20th place, Premiership

In: Matt Jackson (Wigan Athletic), Mart Poom (Arsenal), Jobi McAnuff (Crystal Palace)

Out: Dominic Blizzard (MK Dons), Hameur Bouazza (Fulham), James Chambers (Leicester City), Harry Forrester (Aston Villa), Ben Gill (Cheltenham), Albert Jarrett (released), Sheku Kamara (released) Chris Powell (Charlton Athletic), Stephane Seanla (Barnet), Joel Grant (released), Alec Chamberlain (retired), .

2007/08 Outlook:
While clubs like Birmingham and Sunderland were able to bounce back up on the first try, Watford will have a more of a difficult time as the division is amongst the strongest in recent memory.

Marlon King is back from injury, and after selling Ashley Young in January and the recent larceny of Fulham by selling Hameur Bouazza, the Hornets have money to spend by the end of the transfer period and in the winter window.

The Watford rearguard is more or less intact, and after being roughed up in the Premiership last season, Jay DeMerit and Co. have a chance to redeem themselves.

DeMerit says...
Promotion is the only goal for Watford this season, anything less would not be good enough. We haven't lost too many key players, we have a better squad than the first time we got promoted, so hopefully that is a good sign!

I think we should be back on target. Obviously losing Marlon King last year killed our scoring punch, but he is back and healthy and again. The rest of us need to take what happened last year and make sure that it doesn't happen again. We need to always get goals because that will be the key to promotion.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Watford will make a strong push for a playoff spot, but they will not be returning to the Premiership on the first try.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=28Jemal Johnson[endlink]

Last season: 5th place, Championship

In: Freddy Eastwood (Southend United), Stephen Elliott (Sunderland), Michael Gray (Blackburn), Matt Jarvis (Gillingham), Darren Ward (Crystal Palace),

Out: Carl Cort (Leicester City), Daniel Jones (Northampton Town), Michael McIndoe (Bristol City), Michael Oakes (Cardiff City), Rohan Ricketts (Barnsley)

2007/08 Outlook:
Wolves came close last season, and with the addition of Freddy Eastwood, should be back amongst the leaders in the race for promotion.

After a great start for Wolverhampton, American Jemal Johnson fell off the face of the planet before winding up with doomed Leeds for the duration of the year. Johnson could return to the squad should he patch up relations with head coach Mick McCarthy, but don't count on the former Blackburn player to see much time.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Wolves will contend as they usually do, and should be considered among the favorites for an automatic move to the Premiership.

Leeds United
http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=15Eddie Lewis[endlink]

Last season: 24th place, Championship

In: Casper Ankergren (Brondby), Leon Constantine (Port Vale), Curtis Weston (Swindon Town), Alan Thompson (free agent), Andy Hughes (Norwich City)

Out: Sam Hird (Doncaster Rovers), Neil Sullivan (Doncaster Rovers), Ian Moore (Hartlepool United), Hayden Foxe (Perth Glory), Robbie Elliott (Hartlepool United), Stephen Crainey (Blackpool), Armando Sa (Foolad FC), Kevin Nicholls (Preston North End), Robbie Blake (Burnley), David Healy (Fulham), Richard Cresswell (Stoke City)

2007/08 Outlook:

Once proud club starts the season with a barren roster, no money, not to mention a 15-point hole in the standings before the first ball is kicked.

Dennis Wise looked clueless last season, and though he has worked a little magic in his short coaching career, nothing exists to suggest that Leeds are going anywhere positive.

Eddie Lewis is rumored to be joining a host of Championship clubs as he enters the final year of his Leeds deal, and with the Whites turmoil, the American could leave the club as early as this weekend.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Impossible to predict.

http://www.yanks-abroad.com/content.php?mode=players&id=15Zak Whitbread[endlink]

Last season: 10th place, League One

In: Andy Frampton (Brentford), Ryan Smith (Derby County), Scott Barron (Ipswich Town), Danny Spiller (Gillingham), Gary Alexander (Leyton Orient)

Out: Tony Craig (Crystal Palace), Jack Obersteller (Wycombe), Adam Cottrell (Welling), David Amoo (Liverpool), Marvin Williams (Yeovil Town), Filipe Morais (Hibernian), Marvin Elliot (Bristol City), Chris Zebroski (Torquay United)

2007/08 Outlook:
The Lions come in to the year with heightened expectations after having finished with a strong second half of the season last year behind Neil Harris and his chase of Teddy Sheringham's club goalscoring record.

Unfortunately for Zak Whitbread, the Millwall resurgence came only after the American went on the shelf with a stress fracture. New signings Barron and Frampton will make Whitbread's task even tougher, as head coach Willie Donachie looks to improve the defense.

Yanks Abroad's Prediction
Millwall have gone on record stating that only a top six finish will be acceptable, and with the offseason improvements, the Lions will make the playoffs.