It’s less than two weeks before the start of the new Npower Championship season, and all 24 clubs have been working hard to finalise their squads in time for the new campaign.
The likes of West Ham, Birmingham, Blackpool, Reading and Cardiff are set to be among the favourites when it all kicks off on August 6th – but who has made the best signing of the summer so far?
Shouts from the Stands looks at the pick of the pre-season deals so far, from the big deals that look set to pay off to the bargain deals that could prove their weight in gold:
Kevin Nolan (West Ham United) – There has been no bigger signing in terms of stature and experience than that of Newcastle United skipper Kevin Nolan. When Sam Allardyce was appointed the new manager at Upton Park following relegation in May, there was one man he wanted to be the lynchpin in the Hammer’s push for promotion back to the Premier League.
When 29 year-old Nolan was not offered the five-year deal that he wanted to see out his career at St. James’ Park, Allardyce seized his opportunity. Not only does the midfielder have an excellent pedigree at this level (he was Championship player of the Year in 2009/10) but he had an excellent season back in the top-flight last year, with 11 goals to his name. His leadership and battling qualities will help make West Ham the favourites going into the opening game.
Matt Mills (Leicester City) – After a strong second half to the season under Sven-Goran Eriksson, there’s no doubt that the Foxes have been the big spenders this summer. The likes of Neil Danns, Sean St. Ledger and David Nugent have joined the Kingfisher’s revolution, but it’s the signing of centre-half Mills that could prove pivotal to their chances this season.
The Reading captain didn’t come cheap, costing Leicester a club record fee reportedly in the region of £5 million. But what they get with the 25 year-old is one of the best defenders in the Championship. His no-nonsense style of defending, along with his very good reading of the game and ever-improving leadership skills, could provide the backbone for a successful promotion push for Sven and the ambitious Midlands club.
Craig Mackail-Smith (Brighton & Hove Albion) – When Peterborough announced following their promotion to the Championship that their prolific striker was to be leaving London Road in May, Craig Mackail-Smith attracted the attentions of some of the top clubs in the division. So when newly-promoted Brighton secured the Scotland international’s services, it was the transfer coup of the summer.
It’s easy to see why the Seagulls worked so hard to beat the likes of West Ham, Leicester and Premier League newboys QPR to his signature. The 27 year-old scored 34 goals for the Posh last campaign, but it’s his staggering work-rate – he doesn’t give the opposition defence a second’s rest – that shows why manager Gus Poyet wants to build a team around him as they prepare for their first season in their new stadium in Falmer.
Chris Iwelumo (Watford) – The summer got off to a nightmare start for Watford: the fans saw two of their best players sold in Danny Graham and Will Buckley, and then witnessed manager Malcky Mackay make the move to Championship rivals Cardiff City. But since Sean Dyche has come in to steady the ship, he may have pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the signing of experienced marksman Iwelumo.
The Scotland international has proven to be one of the best strikers in the Championship in recent seasons, having got goals at Colchester, Wolves and Burnley before making the switch to Vicarage Road. At the age of 32, Iwelumo may not prove to be a long-term answer, but he can be the talisman to push Watford on from a promising campaign last time around.
Michael Chopra (Ipswich) – There has been interest for quite some time from the Tractor Boys in Cardiff striker Chopra, but this summer they’ve finally got their man, and with it a forward with a proven track record at this level approaching the peak of his career.
The 27 year-old has scored 41 goals in the last three seasons with the Bluebirds, and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. With Nathan Ellington also linking up with his former manager Paul Jewell, Ipswich may have potentially stumbled upon one of the best strikeforces in the league as they look to make further strides under the former Wigan boss.
So what do you think? Who has been the best signing of the summer so far in the Championship? Is there another signing that you feel deserves more recognition going into the new campaign? Let us know your thoughts.
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