Reading MAD Preview Division One - Part Two

Team Seven – Derby County

Last Season – Eighteenth

The Rams claimed to be the ‘Champions Elect’ as the Royals received a 3-0 humbling at Pride Park on the opening day of last season. But how wrong they were. John Gregory’s team began a rapid slide down the division which culminated in a relegation battle.

With former Ipswich boss George Burley in control of the reigns at Pride Park, fans can rightly expect a better year, but with limited finances at their disposal the Rams face another difficult campaign. In ex-Villa man Ian Taylor, Burley has got himself a top notch player, however there isn’t enough top notch stuff in the Derby squad for a promotion challenge to materialize.

Reading MAD Predict: Bottom Half.

Team Eight – Gillingham

Last Season – Eleventh

Andy Hessenthaler will hope his Gillingham side can mount a serious Play-Off challenge this year after only managing a mid-table finish last season.

When the Gills visited the Madejski Stadium last season they proved themselves to be a very adept passing side and for long periods outplayed the Royals, who went onto finish fourth.

The Priestfield Stadium side have Marlon King, one of the Division’s best young attackers, under their wing. Supporters will hope the youngster can put on a show to visiting fans, who this season will be seated in the Town Road end of the ground.

Reading MAD Predict: Mid-table again.

Team Nine – Ipswich Town

Last Season – Seventh

The Tractor Boys cast George Burley aside as early as October having already all but blown their chances of promotion back to the Premiership. Joe Royle was hastily brought in to see if he could turn things around and succeeded to some extent, dragging Town up to seventh place, just short of a Play-Off spot.

Things got worse this summer, as the financially troubled side have let Matt Holland and Thomas Gaardsoe leave for mere peanuts. A squad which a year ago should have bounced straight back into the Premiership is now a patch up job. Despite this, Royle has done a sterling job in East Anglia. If they start the season well there is no reason why the Tractor Boys can’t be playing Premiership Football again next year.

Reading MAD Predict: Despite the financial worries, Play-Offs.

Team Ten – Millwall

Last Season – Ninth

Last season was an anti-climax for Mark McGhee’s Millwall. After the Play-Off excitement of the previous year many fans were tipping their side to win automatic promotion to the Premiership. (Do you notice a parallel with a certain Berkshire side?) However, the season started atrociously for the Lions who were thrashed 6-0 on the season’s opening day by Rotherham and the 'promotion winning' season never really got going.

Things had picked up for the New Den side come Christmas, but a run of six games without a win during February and March obliterated any remaining hopes of another Play-Off push.

This summer's loss of Steven Reid to Blackburn is a major blow for McGhee, as is the departure of the lovable evergreen attacker Steve Claridge. With the likes of Neil Harris, Richard Sadlier and Dennis Wise on the books the Lions hardly have a shortage of talent.

Reading MAD Predict: Another solid season from the Lions, but no Play-Off place.

Team Eleven – Norwich City

Last Season – Eighth

Norwich City, who proved not good enough to make the Play-Offs last season, shown no signs of improving on last season’s performance.

Although Damien Francis has been snapped up, boss Nigel Worthington has been largely frustrated as he has attempted to make moves in the transfer market. The Canaries will hope to add to their hardly-inspiring squad before the transfer deadline at the end of the month. Rotherham’s Alan Lee and free agent Marc Edworthy are being targeted.

Darren Kenton has departed, as has Chris Llewellyn and Paul Heckingbottom. Despite being much-fancied to push for the Play-Offs again, the Canaries form towards the end of the season did little to lead people to believe that the Norfolk based side will be challengers this year.

Reading MAD Predict: A surprise bottom half finish.

Team Twelve – Nottingham Forest

Last Season – Sixth

Despite just one summer addition to their squad, Nottingham Forest will hope to mount a serious challenge for promotion this season. Unlucky losers to Sheffield United in the Play-Offs, free-scoring Forest, minus Darren Huckerby, should be at it again this year.

Michael Stewart has been the club’s only summer signing thus far, joining the club on a season long loan from Manchester United. The defensive midfielder should support the defence in their able work.

The goal-happy David Johnson and Marlon Harewood may be assisted by Sergei Rebrov. The Spurs outcast has recently been linked with a move to the City Ground. At the back Des Walker and Michael Dawson should again prove a formidable partnership.

Reading MAD Predict: If they go on a good run there is no reason why they cannot challenge for the top two places in the Division.