Hello and welcome to the third annual Severn Sport Big Football Season Preview for the upcoming 2016/17 football season. Once again Kelsey De Maria, Matt Yates and I, Ryan Butler, have put our heads together and assessed the forthcoming season. Who will aim to achieve success of Leicester levels and etch their names in history? This season has 20 categories for us to cast our predictions on so let’s start with the Premier League.
M: Manchester United – With Jose at the helm and the kind of signings we are used to seeing from Manchester United, I think its the return of good times at Old Trafford.
K: Chelsea – I feel as if everyone is too focused on the two Manchester teams to pay attention to Chelsea; who have signed well in the transfer window with Kante and Batshuayi as well as bringing in one of the best managers in the league, in my opinion in Antonio Conte.
R: Manchester City – It hurts me to even say this but I think City are rightful favourites for the title. In Sergio Aguero they have the best striker in the league, potentially Europe. The Pep effect is already being felt.
M: Hull City – With all the turmoil at the club its going to be a long old season for Tigers fans. With hardly any signings and there one glimmer of hope in Steve Bruce out the door, their Premier League return won’t last long.
K: Swansea – Avoiding the obvious three choices my outside tip for relegation is Swansea. I don’t believe they have improved their squad at all from last year where they were fortunate that there were several teams worse than them. I don’t think they’ll be as lucky this time round.
R: West Brom – As I mentioned in my first edition of my Premier League preview I do not see how West Brom will improve at all, especially if Saido Berahino finally departs the Hawthorns.
Team to Watch
M: West Ham – Probably not picked by many pundits but I think West Ham could challenge the top 6 this season. Some good dealings in the transfer window and a move to the Olympic Park could be the start of a good season for the Hammers.
K: Sunderland – Everyone knows how much I like Sunderland and now is a big time for them with David Moyes as manager. I don’t expect them to set the world alight but Moyes has experience with, on paper, weak squads so how his side will fair will be interesting to watch.
R: Stoke City – Stoke are one of the sides who are basking in the TV money are able to compete for some of the better players. Bojan has started well in pre-season and should he stay fit could be the key to their success.
Player to watch
M: Viktor Fischer (Middlesbrough) – Boro have made some decent signings this season and no more so than this guy from Ajax. The attacking midfielder scored 24 goals in 79 games for Ajax and 2 in 9 caps for Denmark.
K: Andy Carroll (West Ham) – I know that it might sound sound silly, but keep your eyes on Andy Carroll this year. West Ham’s target man has a lot to prove this year if he wants to force his way back into the England set up with Big Sam as manager.
R: Nathan Redmond (Southampton) – Finally, my wish for Nathan Redmond to join a fairly big and decent club has seen him snapped up by the Saints; a side notorious for developing talent. I am anticipating big things.
One of the biggest things to come into effect this season is re-branding. Both the Premier League and Football League have gone under a makeover for branding so now lets dive into the newly named, EFL (English Football League) starting with the Championship
M: Newcastle – Rafa. Decent players. Premier League money. Good signings. Enough said.
K: Newcastle – Arguably one of the toughest leagues in the world just got tougher with Rafa Benitez and Newcastle United joining the party. The Toon have kept most of last seasons squad and should have too much for the rest of the league.
R: Newcastle – Look at the league, competitive yes but Newcastle have the best squad, best facilities and best manager in the division. And I am talking about facts.
M: Aston Villa – Same as above they’ve got the Premier League money and have been bought out by Chinese Billionaire Dr Xia, they’ll be competing.
K: Wolves – A pick that will please Matt Yates as I go for Wolves to get promoted. Backed by the millions of a Chinese takeover, Wolves have got money to burn and should make a challenge for promotion provided they actually use it and sign well.
R: Aston Villa – I expect good things from Villa this year, with Roberto Di Matteo at the helm they have invested quite decently so far and if they play to Rudy Gestede’s strengths will power up the league.
Team to watch
M: Wolves – My team and they’re the ones to watch for me. Not expected to do a lot but with last weeks take over by Chinese Billionaire group FOSUN and with reported signings from Madrid and Benfica they could be in the mix.
K: Derby – The nearly men of the last two seasons, how much more can Derby fans take of coming so close to promotion? Will it finally be their year? Time will tell.
R: Wolves – Money talks, money talks. Dirty cash I want you, dirty cash I need you more.
League One – Champions
M: Millwall – They’re the Yo-Yo team at this level, they’ve had a season at League one, its time to come back. Ferguson from Newcastle is a good buy.
K: Charlton – Once again Sheffield United are the bookies favourites but I like Charlton Athletic’s chances of winning it all. Having come down from the Championship the appetite and desire will be there in the players to go straight back up and I think they’ve got the squad to do it.
R: Walsall – Having come close last year to promotion before ultimately crumbling in the play offs, bouncebackability will be the key this term.
M: Bolton – You can’t look past these bouncing back, a massive club with big following they’ll be the ones everyone wants to beat.
K: Millwall – What can you say about Milwall that hasn’t been said already? Unlucky to miss out last season and having retained a lot of their players, they should get it done this time round.
R: Millwall – They were one of my picks last year and similarly to Walsall they failed in the play offs. Pretty much same squad so always a chance to go one better.
Team to watch
M: Bristol Rovers – They say momentum is key, well Rovers have that alright. If they can keep it up after back to back promotions then we could have Bristol derby next season, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see them top half.
K: Bristol Rovers – So much uncertainty surrounded Bristol Rovers in the post-season but with that behind them and ‘next Jamie Vardy’ Matty Taylor signed on again for this season, I think the Gas can surprise a few. Or it could all go pear shaped and they’re relegated by Christmas, who knows?
R: Port Vale – Whilst I imagine Kelsey has rubbed up to his Bristol connections for this one and I have no idea who Matt will go for I am going for one of the 40/1 outsiders to win League One in Port Vale. They have had an influx of foreign interest and just appointed Jose Mourinho’s friend Bruno Riberio as boss. I expect we could see a couple of the United youngsters wearing the Vale kit as the year goes on so I will be looking out for them.
League Two- Champions
M: Portsmouth – Surely this is their year! They’ve been slowly building up to it and i thinks this has got to be their year.
K: Doncaster – Everyone expects Portsmouth to do the business but for me it’s Doncaster Rovers’ time to shine. With one of the biggest budgets in the league and a host of experienced players in the squad, Donny should mount a serious challenge.
R: Portsmouth – They improve as the years go by and after missing out in the play offs last season I can see them being up there again. I am now going for two in a row after successfully picking Northampton to win this division last year.
M: Doncaster – Disappointing times for Donny fans recently but I’m tipping them for an immediate return especially with the amount of auto promotion spots in League 2.
K: Portsmouth – It’s finally Portsmouth’s time to start climbing the league’s once again. Eight years on from their FA Cup glory days Pompey have assembled a great team at Fratton Park and with financial worries behind them, it’s time for them to push on.
R: Plymouth – Same as Pompey. Always improving and after play off heartache last term will be up there.
Team to watch
M: Cheltenham Town – They’ve made some good summer signings and Gary Johnson is a very good manager, could they do a Bristol Rovers? They’ve done it before
K: Cheltenham Town – For me, Cheltenham Town are the team to watch. With Gary Johnson at the helm they’ve got one of the best managers in the league and if Dan Holman and Danny Wright are firing on all cylinders, the sky’s the limit.
R: Cheltenham Town – It has to be Cheltenham here. After romping to the National League title they will be looking to emulate Bristol Rovers’ achievement of back to back promotions. May have to settle to do it via the play offs.
Local Team to Watch
M: Forest Green Rovers – They have to go up this season surely. On paper the strongest team, plus the addition of Matt Tubbs and with a new manager at the helm this year more than ever before if they don’t go up they never will!
K: Cinderford Town – I would’ve gone for Cheltenham again but what’d be the point in that. Cinderford Town have a tough task ahead of them this season having lost nearly all of their Southern League Division 1 SW squad and so how they’ll rise to the challenge of the Southern Premier will be interesting to see.
R: Gloucester City – We have talked at length about how well City have recruited this year. Tim Harris has signed players and not just loaned them, something I openly criticised last year. Consistency will help City to fend off relegation.
Local Player to watch
M: Matt Tubbs (FGR) – Scores goals and a lot at that where ever he goes. A very experienced player who could give FGR the edge this season and most definitely replaces outgoing Parkin.
K: Ethan Moore (Gloucester City) – Making the step up two tiers to join Gloucester City, Ethan Moore was Cinderford Towns star man last season, netting 28 league goals. Now wanting to get back into the Football League to revive his dream of being a pro footballer and under the tutelage of Tim Harris, I expect Ethan is in for a big year with the Tigers.
R: Matty Taylor (Bristol Rovers) – After an amazing couple of seasons with Rovers he will be the kingpin and the main man once again.
And that is the domestic league previews taken care of. In addition we also added the domestic and European cup competitions into the predictions. From the revamped EFL Trophy all the way to our first cup competition, the Champions League. So here are our predictions on who will lift each of the knockout tournaments.
M: Manchester City – Think Pep and owners want this and they’ll give it there all. Class players and experienced manager, could go all the way.
K: Juventus – I can’t believe that people aren’t taking Juventus as a credible threat to the big three Champions League powerhouses. The depth they have at every position is scary and is up there with the best in the world in my opinion, even if they do lose Paul Pogba to Man United I don’t see their midfield suffering too much and the signing of Gonzalo Higuain should propel them to glory.
R: Barcelona – I can see yet another year of Spanish dominance in the Champions League again and considering no one has successfully defending the Champions League I can’t back Real Madrid, so Barcelona for me.
M: Manchester United – Manchester Europe double. Jose knows how to win this and with the players they have its surely theirs for the taking.
K: Manchester United – Depending on if they take it seriously or not, Man United should have the Europa League sewn up with ease. Obviously it’s difficult to predict as we don’t know which Champions League teams will fall to the EL, but right now with the teams set the way they are, United win it all day.
R: Manchester United – The only trophy Sir Alex Ferguson failed to win at Old Trafford so if Jose really wants it he can win it. He has a habit of getting what he wants.
M: Chelsea Academy – Just to show what a farce this is, a Reading Academy v Wolves Academy final is what we all want at Wembley…
K: Bolton – To be quite honest, I don’t really care for this trophy. I lost all interest when the FA announced their ridiculous plans to include U21 teams and for that reason it’s a completely random guess. Bolton will win it, probably. Who cares
R: Reading Academy – For years I have been watching Reading’s academy. Even when I was back in Reading I went to more U21 and U18 matches than first team matches and after the sad passing of Academy manager Eamonn Dolan it would be the most fitting tribute to the man for his fledglings to do him proud on the Wembley stage. 33/1 is a snip for a club who have had a habit of producing cup runs as of late.
M: West Ham– Hard to pick but West Ham are my team to watch.
K: Manchester United – More silverware on the cards for Jose Mourinho as Man United retain the FA Cup. Again, like the Europa League it depends how seriously Mourinho takes it but United have the squad and they have the depth to progress through the early rounds with rotation options and then unleash the powerhouses in the later rounds.
R: Chelsea – Chelsea will win something. Their new managers tend to win a trophy in their first season or flop horribly (i.e. Big Phil Scolari) so I am picking them to lift the FA Cup.
M: Everton – Been signing well in the transfer window and have the potential to progress far in this or the FA cup.
K: Liverpool – “It’s our year” come the cries from Merseyside. Not for the Premier League, but the League Cup is heading to Anfield and Jurgen Klopp will be hailed as the second coming of Jesus by Scousers once again.
R: Tottenham – Pochettino has to bring silverware to White Hart Lane to truly rubberstamp his hard work with Spurs. The League Cup would be a good start. Especially if Arsenal have another trophy-less season.
And that wraps it up for another year. If you have a prediction of your own for the season let us know via the Severn Sport Facebook page or on Twitter @SevernSport and don’t forget to check out the weekly Severn Sport Saturday Live show and podcast on Severn FM 12-2 and the Severn Sport website a little later on. Check the website for further updates regarding live commentaries in what will be one of the biggest years for football in the west, we will be there every step of the way.