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View from the opposition: Nottingham Forest (a)

Ahead of Sunday’s trip to Nottingham Forest, we caught up with huge Forest fan Ben Dore to get the lowdown on all the goings on at the City Ground so far this season. Ben, the star of a popular Forest Youtube channel, was kind enough to give up his time to answer a few questions ahead of our game this weekend.

What have you made of Forest’s start to the season?

It was a terrible start with poor tactics and the manager constantly blaming the players for very poor results. The turnaround in the last month has been unbelievable.

Why did it all go wrong for Chris Hughton?

Chris Hughton’s approach was very defensive and his tactics were very dull. This clearly affected the players. Under Hughton, there was toxicity amongst the supporters and most of us felt very disconnected from the club. All of this made things much easier for our opponents – and the result was disastrous.

What has Steve Cooper changed? Things seem to have started very well with him at the helm.

Steve Cooper has come in and removed all that anger almost immediately. Suddenly, there’s a real connection between the fans, the team and him – and a bond between each other again. There’s energy on the pitch and excitement off it. He’s the polar opposite to Hughton.

Where could you realistically finish come the end of the season?

I think if we can carry on the fantastic form under Cooper then the top six wouldn’t be out of reach. That might sound a bit crazy and it is early days under the new manager, but a bit of euphoria is understandable given that we looked like we were going down under Hughton. They say winning is a habit and we’ve certainly rediscovered that at the moment!

Who should we look out for on Sunday as the dangerman?

Since Cooper has taken over, Lewis Grabban has been outstanding and proved me so wrong. He’s been brilliant. Young Brennan Johnson has been great as well but Ryan Yates has been fantastic for Forest after putting up with so much hate at the start of his career here.

Finally, can you give us a score prediction?

I’m going to go for 1-1. Fulham have been fantastic so far this season and will be a really tough test but Forest are on a feel high and we should give you a good game.

Massive thanks to Mr. Dore for his time – and the very best of luck to Forest for the remainder of the season.

View from the opposition: QPR (h)

Massive thanks to QPR fan Matthew Drewett who gives us the Rangers lowdown ahead of tomorrow’s derby at Craven Cottage.

How do you feel Mark Warburton is doing as manager?

I think Warburton is the perfect manager for us in terms of helping our younger players to develop, mixing them in with an experienced group and keeping things competitive. He’s a great man manager.

What do you make of QPR’s start to the season?

It’s been a great start. I’m happy with the points tally so far – our defeats against Bournemouth and West Brom – who will both be up there this season – were respectable. The only disappointment was losing to Bristol City in a game that we should have won comfortably.

What’s a realistic aspiration for Rangers this year?

Getting into the play-off positions is realistic for us. If we can keep our top players fit and maintain our good form through the Christmas period and the second half of the season, I think we can get into the top six. On our day, we can beat anyone in this league.

What did you make of Stefan Johansen being given the captain’s armband after signing permanently this summer?

I think making Stefan Johansen captain was the correct decision. He is one of the squad’s most senior players and is very experienced at getting out of the Championship.

Who are QPR’s key players to watch tomorrow?

Chris Willock and Ilias Chair are the ones to watch. They have a great understanding with one another, finding each other and they can create great opportunities with the ball. They are both very talented footballers.

Finally, can you give us a score prediction for tomorrow?

I’m going for a 1-1 draw. This is going to be a tight game, tense at times and I don’t think there will be too many chances created. I think Mitrovic and Austin will get the goals – both are proven scores at this level.

View from the opposition: Stoke City (h)

Ahead of Fulham’s meeting with Stoke City at Craven Cottage tomorrow, we caught up with Potters’ fan Ben Rowley, the founder of Stoke podcast The YYY-Files, to get the lowdown on our opponents.

What are your expectations of Stoke this season?
They’re threefold. Firstly, a top half finish would be improvement on our last three seasons in the Championship, where we’ve finished 16th, 15th and 14th. Secondly, continuing the development of our talented bunch of young players is paramount as our older heads look to be getting closer to the exit door every season. Thirdly, I want us to have fun. We didn’t have much of it on or off the pitch last year, I think Stoke fans are due a good time now.

What have you made of Stoke’s start to the season
It’s near perfect, isn’t it? Despite only beating teams who have started their league seasons poorly, Stoke have faltered in these sorts of games in recent years. Plus, we’ve been good value for our results. We’ve been strong at the back, imperious in midfield and dangerous up front. Stoke usually don’t start seasons well, so this is a welcome surprise for us all. Long may it continue.

What are your thoughts on Michael O’Neill?
He’s not without his flaws, but he saved us from relegation when he came in almost two years ago and the Club has slowly been improving during that time. Not only is he getting results, he’s developing a squad that is sustainable over the long term and one to be excited about. He’s been assisted by Alex Aldridge in terms of recruitment, but O’Neill has a lot of credit banked at this point in time.

Who is the player to watch for Stoke?
So many players are in good form, but Jacob Brown has personified our improvement. He’s clearly been looking after himself over the Summer and has come back motivated and more technically gifted too. His pressing is relentless and his hold-up play is improving week-on-week. I’d like to see him score a couple more goals himself, but he’s a nuisance and he will allow others in the team to play their best football. One thing’s for sure, you’ll notice him.

What is your opinion on the Fulham side?
You have a remarkable squad and a manager who has seen relative success in this country. Stoke fans know that isn’t necessarily enough to expect promotion, but your start to the season suggests you won’t be making the same errors we did three years ago. Stoke were arrogant and entitled when they tried going up to the Premier League with a squad of unmotivated individuals. For your sake, you’d better hope your superstars can keep their head screwed on and their attention focussed in your pursuit for promotion.

How do you expect the game on Saturday to go?
It’s not going to make or break either of our seasons, but it’ll certainly lay down a marker if either wins. I can see both sides showing respect to each other here but I expect there to be plenty of quality on show across the pitch. I can see defensive displays outweighing the respective attacks, resulting in a relatively low-scoring game. But there’s two teams here in great form and both would love a win, it’s an exciting concept for sure.

Can you give us a score prediction?

’m gonna back Stoke here (to some degree) and say we’ll come out with a 1-1 draw. I can see Stoke grabbing a goal from a Mario Vrancic set piece and Harry Souttar is perhaps the most likely to head home. Stoke have only really conceded from lapses in concentration so far, and we haven’t gone behind once this season in League or Cup. Either way, enjoy the game and best of luck for the rest of your season (until we meet again).

Massive thanks to Ben for giving up his time to talk Stoke ahead of the game and we wish Michael O’Neill’s men the very best for the remainder of the season.

The Middlesbrough view with Boropolis

Ahead of the eagerly anticipated Championship opener at Craven Cottage on Sunday, we caught up with Nathan Rayner, host of the brilliant new Middlesbrough podcast Boropolis, to get the view from Teesside. We discussed Boro’s pre-season, Neil Warnock, the hopes for the new campaign and who Fulham should be worried about …

How excited are Middlesbrough fans for the new season?

I’m sure that every club’s fans up and down the country cannot wait to be able to attend football games in the flesh once again this season, and for Middlesbrough fans it is no different!

We all cannot wait to be back inside of the Riverside after what feels like a whole lifetime since we were all last in attendance.

When it comes to the football, the Championship provides so much excitement, with plenty of highs and lows, and I am so excited to watch all the action unfold!

What are the expectations for this campaign with Neil Warnock at the helm?

I think that the expectations for the campaign ahead are a pretty mixed bag from Middlesbrough fans.

Last season, Boro started reasonably well and were vying for the final playoff places in the first half of the season but despite reinforcements being brought in during the January transfer window (Fulham’s Neeskens Kebano being one!), the team fell away and finished in a comfortable 10th place – progress on the previous season under ex-manager Jonathan Woodgate.

I think some fans are looking at the coming campaign with a little bit of pessimism and predicting a similar season to last; however, many are looking forward to seeing what other reinforcements the club can bring in and hoping that the club can push on into the playoff places… after all, doubt Neil Warnock at your peril!

How has the summer recruitment and pre-season gone?

In terms of summer recruitment, the club have managed to bring in a few players that look to be much more suited to the way that Warnock would like to play.

Uche Ikpeazu and Matt Crooks have been brought in as forward options from recently relegated Wycombe Wanderers and Rotherham United respectively, whilst, the club have been linked with a few different players from abroad – something which has got plenty of fans excited.

One name previously mentioned in the Boro rumour mill was Flamengo forward Rodrigo Muniz, who now looks set to sign for Fulham!

Pre-season has been okay for Boro, with a week in Cornwall; a trip to York, and a visit to Rotherham all offering up Warnock some food for thought after a few wins and one loss.

What sort of side do you expect to field on the opening weekend?

Pre-season has seen Warnock switch between a back three and a back four, though I would expect us to set up in a 3-5-2 system come Sunday afternoon.

Who should Fulham be worried about facing in the Middlesbrough side?

If I had to give one player to look out for, it would be Duncan Watmore – brought in on a free transfer last season and ended the season as the club’s top goal scorer. Though, I would say that the team doesn’t necessarily have many standouts. They work as a unit and are very much a “Neil Warnock team”, with regimented defending and 100% effort in every position.

Is everyone looking forward to coming to Craven Cottage?

Boro’s initial allocation of 1,000 tickets sold out within four minutes last week. I think the club may receive more hopefully but I’m within no doubt that the away end at Craven Cottage will be a sell-out!

Can you give us a prediction for Sunday?

I would be over the moon with a 1-1 draw this Sunday and that is what the optimist in me is thinking. However, as a realist, I think Fulham will run out 2-1 winners on the opening weekend!

We’d like say a massive thank you to Nathan for his time. Do check out Boropolis (on Youtube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts), who also run a terrific Twitter feed, and best of luck to Middlesbrough for the forthcoming campaign.

How will Fulham fare and other Championship questions

The new Championship season is almost upon us and, despite the pain of relegation only a few weeks ago, there is an optimism amongst the Fulham fanbase. We gathered our contributors, including HammyEnd’s most recent recruits, and asked them to predict how the next nine months might pan out.

Where do you expect Fulham to finish in May?

Can the Whites avoid the play-off lottery this time?

Billy Wright: It’s a year of change for sure, but given the abundance of talent we have in the squad, I would fully expect us to make automatics. The players suit the play style which the manager wants so let’s hope for a successful year.

Kieran Stutley: I feel can Fulham certainly can win the league and should be targeting the top two. We have a strong squad and have upgraded in terms of management with Marco Silva, who is clearly desperate to prove a point at the highest level. The Championship will be brutally tough, as ever, but I have full faith in Fulham to raise to the challenge.

Alan Drewett: I am excited for a start of the season for the first time since Slav took us up and I feel this could be our time to get promoted via the automatics. The vibes coming out of the club have been positive ever since the appointment of Marco Silva and the transfers made so far have been impressive. I do think we have enough to finish top 2 and with the addition of one or two, we could finish top.

Dan Crawford: I’m cautiously tipping Fulham to finish second. A combination of a squad full of players with the memory of how to get out of the Championship – twice in some cases – and the recruitment of Marco Silva makes me feel like the Whites should be strong enough to avoid the play-off torment this term. This league is full of surprises, though.

Tom: I expect Fulham to go up automatically. The Whites have retained enough quality in the squad to be confident of putting up a good showing in the Championship and adding Silva as well as bringing in Paulo Gazzaniga and Harry Wilson were big statements of intent over the summer.

Buster Waddell: The Whites have a strong squad, plenty of whom have experience of earning promotion from the Championship, and a manager hungry to make his point in England. I genuinely think we’ll win the Championship.

Olly Johnson: After reaching the play offs in our last 3 Championship seasons, I’m predicting this time we will gain automatic promotion and finish top of the pile. We have incredible strength in depth and shouldn’t be looking at anything less than top 2 – over to you Marco.

Seb Mayer: I’m quietly optimistic about our chances this term. We should finish in the top two – presuming there are no late surprise departures – given the quality at our disposal. We all know the Championship is a very competitive league and never straightforward, but Silva should have us right up there.

Louis Wishlade: I expect Fulham to finish in the automatic promotion places given the quality of our squad and Silva’s stylistic suitability. However, Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth will be no pushover. Hopefully, we won’t have to endure a fourth set of play-offs in six seasons …

Chris Simpson: Given the appointment of Marco Silva, the expectation and the need to bounce straight back for financial reasons we should expect nothing less than a top 2 finish. Anything but an immediate return will signal a huge rebuilding process and likely yet another change in management that will result in a good few more seasons in the 2nd tier before we are ready to challenge again.

Spike Waddell: Promoted as champions. I don’t see why not, the squad is looking very strong as it is and I think it could even be stronger by the end of the transfer window.

Player to watch for the season?

Talented playmaker Fabio Carvalho could be set for a big season

Billy Wright: Mitro. Granted he wasn’t great last year but under a manager who wants him to play, he will get back to his best and be the difference between going out automatically and the play-offs for me.

Kieran Stutley: Silva will have plenty of attacking weapons at his disposal, with the likes of Cairney and Mitrovic proven performers at Championship level, but I’m going to go for Kenny Tete. Silva will used advanced full backs and give them licence to bomb on. Tete has terrific crossing abilities that we didn’t see enough of last season and he can make a real difference to the side offensively. I’m hoping for more assists from him and some dynamic displays.

Alan Drewett: My player to watch for the season will be Kenny Tete. With the formation and the attacking football Silva likes to play, our wing backs are going to be vital and the quality of Tete, will make him a potential player of the season if we do achieve our goal of promotion.

Buster Waddell: After his outstanding display against Charlton at the weekend, I’m hoping Tyrese Francois will have plenty of opportunities to impress in the first team but I am quite excited to see how Alfie Mawson can strengthen our defence – should he stay fit.

Chris Simpson: While there is excitement among the fans for the new faces like Wilson and potentially others I think any success this season for Fulham will naturally be tied to Mitrovic being back to his scoring best. If Fulham are to succeed then a big part of that will be a reliance on a spine of Mitrovic, Reed and Tosin. The very fact all three are still with us is testament to the project Silva is building but just seeing these them line up week, in week out will inspire confidence that we can beat anyone.

Olly Johnson: I always like to pick a youngster and prior to the Charlton friendly it was an easy choice – Fabio Carvalho. He has cemented himself as my choice now but having watched Francois, I did think twice about it. Hopefully, both of them can take big strides forward this season.

Spike Waddell: We’re actually spoilt for choice looking at the attacking options in this squad – with Mitrovic, Wilson and Carvalho all primed to attack the Championship. The one who may surprise people is Tyrese Francois. He took his opportunity well against Charlton and this could be a real breakthrough season for the young Australian midfielder.

Seb Meyer: In my opinion I think Fulham’s player to watch this season is Fabio Carvalho, having seen what he can do after getting some runouts at the end of our premier league campaign, I’m very excited to see what he can do at this level, he’s got the pace to beat a man and at such a young age already has the talent to be a top class winger and his goal this weekend just cemented that.

Dan Crawford: It has to be Carvalho, who should get a serious opportunity to strut his stuff as a number ten with Tom Cairney yet to prove his fitness. He’s got the quality to make a real impact as we’ve already seen and Silva has shown a willingness to blood the youngsters, having rewarded Tyrese Francois’ fine pre-season with game time as well.

Tom: Fab broke through last season and didn’t look out of place in the Premier League. He’s played very well for Fulham in pre-season and took the winner against Charlton really well. Silva already speaks very highly of him – and I expect he’ll get plenty of game time this season and flourish as a result.

Louis Wishlade: Fulham’s players to watch have to be one of the youngsters. We saw Carvalho light up our last few Premier League games and we have also seen his link up with fellow academy graduate Francois. During his time at Everton and Watford, the wingers and the number 10 were some of the most important roles in Silva’s system and with Cairney’s unfortunate susceptibility to injury, we could see a lot more of Francois this season.

Who’s going up automatically?

Fulham fans won’t need reminding of how good a manager Slavisa Jokanovic is

Billy Wright: West Brom are my tip to top the table, with Fulham in second.

Kieran Stutley: Fulham and Sheffield United. I absolutely have to back Slavisa Jokanovic on his return to English football. The Blades have one of the strongest squads in the division and I’m not overly concerned that they’ve yet to make significant additions. Jokanovic concurs – saying that it compares favourably to the ones he inherited here and at Watford – and, while it may take a while to fully implement his methods, he’ll definitely get the best of the players.

Alan Drewett: This is a very open division – with seven or eight sides shooting for the promotion positions. I fancy Sheffield United to finish second behind the Whites. Their squad has remained pretty much intact despite coming down from the top flight and Slavisa Jokanovic’s arrival could prove the difference between automatic promotion and the play-offs, where the Blades have a history of heartache.

Buster Waddell: Slavisa Jokanovic will definitely get Sheffield United firing and I’m backing the Blades to grab the other automatic promotion spot.

Olly Johnson: Fulham first, West Brom second. You can argue this isn’t the most entertaining prediction but last season we saw Norwich and Watford bounce straight back up and given the ongoing pandemic it seems the teams who were relegated are once again in the strongest financial positions. This is often the case but has been extenuated for the past two seasons.

Seb Mayer: I struggle to see past Sheffield United. The Blades were bitterly disappointing last year but the return of Slavisa Jokanovic has already given the red half of the steel city a serious lift. He’s a proven manager at this level and knows how to get sides to deliver when it matters.

Spike Waddell: West Brom will follow the mighty Fulham up to the Premier League automatically.

Dan Crawford: I’ve picked West Brom. They’ve got a squad of players who can perform at this level and in Valerien Ishmael they moved quickly for the Championship’s sharpest coach. The Baggies should be right up there come the business end of the season.

Louis Wishlade: I think it will be West Brom and ourselves but there are a number of sides who can challenge including Bournemouth and Sheffield United. We can’t afford a slow start – our previous seasons have shown how difficult playing catch up can be in the Championship.

Chris Simpson: Jokanovic has a track record for success in this league so coupled with what is still a strong squad I would expect Sheffield United to join us in the automatic positions. West Brom are another potential especially if we fail to start quickly.

Tom: I think it will be West Brom alongside the Whites. The bookies have made us favourites – and with the possible additions of Grimes and Muniz in the pipeline that would plug the only real gaps that are left in the squad. West Brom probably have very similar expectations of bouncing back straight away. They did well to lure Valerien Ismael from Barnsley and have made good signings so far.

Who’ll be in the play-off picture?

Billy Wright: I think the playoffs will be a battle between Bournemouth, Sheff Utd, Middlesbrough and Millwall. I can see Sheff Utd winning the playoffs, simply due to the fact that their manager is a genius.

Spike Waddell: I’ve got Bournemouth, Sheffield United, QPR and Birmingham to finish in the top six.

Kieran Stutley: This was a really tough choice. I’ve plumped with West Brom, Bournemouth, QPR and Luton. That’s harsh on Cardiff City and Swansea City as I think both Welsh sides will be there or thereabouts.

Alan Drewett: I’ve got West Brom, Bournemouth, Millwall and QPR in the play-off berth. The Baggies have enough quality in their squad to contest an automatic spot, but something tells me they will fall just short. Bournemouth lost out in the play-off semi finals last season and should be in the mix again. I think the other two places are wide open, but Mark Warburton had QPR firing at the end of last term and his summer acquisitions look strong, so Rangers should go well. Millwall have made some smart signings and have not been far away from the top six in the past – the return of supporters to the New Den might spur them on to the top six.

Seb Meyer: Bournemouth have a great chance of repeating their play-off finish from last year and West Brom should also be there or thereabouts come May. I wouldn’t discount Barnsley or Swansea from reaching the top six for a second season in succession and Reading are my dark horse for the top six.

Louis Wishlade: I think Sheffield United will win the play-offs. Jokanovic has got too much know-how in this league to not be seriously contending for promotion with that squad. The Blades will be joined by Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth and QPR.

Chris Simpson: There are a number of teams who could well have strong seasons but I would expect Swansea, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough to be there or there about. As much as it pains me to say it I think QPR have made some excellent additions this summer and along with Blackburn could well push for top 6 given a number of talented players in their squads.

Dan Crawford: Sheffield United, Barnsley, QPR, Bournemouth. The Blades will be boosted by the recruitment of Jokanovic, who knows his way out of this division, and our former favourite has a squad capable of pushing for an immediate return. Barnsley might have lost Ismael but they have kept a significant portion of the squad that performed so well last term and have made some smart signings in the last couple of weeks. QPR were excellent in the second half of last season under Mark Warburton and their shrewd summer additions bode well. Bournemouth should be there or thereabouts and they have a manager who … well, there’s no need to go into all of that again.

Olly Johnson: Bournemouth should benefit both from their remaining parachute payments and Parker’s previous experience of taking Fulham up via the play-offs – I’m backing them to win promotion via this route. The other teams in the play-offs will be Cardiff, Swansea and Reading.

Tom: I’ve picked QPR, Bournemouth, Stoke and Sheffield United. QPR finished last season with momentum, which is key in this division, and they’ve moved shrewdly in the market to strengthen. Sheffield United will need to transition from Wilder’s style to the way Jokanovic wants to be play, but they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Stoke have made some astute signings and this could be a strong season, whilst Bournemouth are probably in the last chance saloon before they have to sell their prized assets.

Buster Waddell: West Brom, Bristol City, Swansea City, QPR.

And who’s going down?

Wayne Rooney’s Derby looked doomed before a ball has even been kicked

Billy Wright: Huddersfield seem to quality and struggled towards the back end of last season. I hope Peterborough beat the drop because I’m a big fan of chairman Darren MacAnthony but, as of the time of writing, they’ve not made any big signings and I can’t see them having enough to survive. Derby seem destined for disaster with the club’s dire financial position, a lack of senior professionals and Wayne Rooney’s antics all adding up to a pre-season that has been far from ideal.

Kieran Stutley: Derby, Hull City and Huddersfield.

Buster Waddell: Blackpool, Nottingham Forest, Peterborough United.

Alan Drewett: I think Derby look in turmoil at present and I can’t see them staying up and expect them to finish bottom. It seems like Blackburn are struggling with finances and they haven’t had the best of pre seasons either. My last team for the drop will be Blackpool who got promoted via the play offs last season but I do feel they are the weakest of the three that came up and I can’t see them surviving.

Olly Johnson: Derby are an obvious choice given we’re one week from the start of the season and they’re currently unable to field 11 senior players. Alongside the Rams, I am going to pick Blackpool, who came up via the League One play offs, and Huddersfield, who have struggled since relegation from the Premier League in 2019.

Chris Simpson: I think both Peterborough and Blackpool will struggle this season alongside Luton perhaps finding it tougher than they did last year. Huddersfield are a club in a bit of a mess right now as well so could all feature towards the bottom.

Seb Mayer: Your eyes are immediately drawn to the three newly-promoted sides in Hull, Peterborough and Blackpool but Derby are in a massive downward spiral and seem doomed. Coventry and Luton look like they’ll also have their hands full avoiding the drop.

Spike Waddell: I have picked Blackpool, Huddersfield and Derby to go down.

Dan Crawford: Derby are in a dreadful position. Financially hamstrung, with a novice manager still to prove himself and a conspicuous lack of senior players, it looks like being a long season at Pride Park. I don’t think Luton will be able to repeat the feats of previous seasons and Blackpool don’t look strong enough to survive.

Louis Wishslade: Peterborough United, Blackpool and Derby County.

Tom: Derby are a team in turmoil and can hardly get a side together, which spells trouble. I don’t think Blackpool or Hull have added enough and they will both struggle.