Reading MAD Preview Division One ? Part One

Last updated : 08 August 2003 By Rob Cooper
Team One – Bradford City

Last Season: Nineteenth

The Bantams, managed by Nicky Law, had a poor season last year as off-the-field financial troubles took their toll on the Yorkshire side. The supporters will hope for better this season after seeing a whole host of players arrive at Valley Parade.

The departure of experienced striker Ashley Ward to Sheffield United could prove costly. Dean Windass has made the move in the opposite direction and could prove to be the better of the two players. The former Middlesbrough forward will be vital to the teams attacking play this season, as will Michael Branch, signed from Wolves on a free transfer. Branch, a former Reading loanee, has much to prove after spending years in the wilderness.

Reading MAD Predict: The Bantams will probably struggle to survive this season but should be good enough to maintain their First Division status.

Luke Chadwick
Chadwick was on loan at Reading last season
Team Two – Burnley

Last Season: Sixteenth

Stan Ternent’s side had the worst defensive record in Division One last season, conceding seven when up against Watford and Sheffield Wednesday, six against Grimsby and Rotherham and a further five at Turf Moor against Reading.

Thirty-year-old Gareth Taylor, who won the club’s Player of the Year Award, weighed in with seventeen goals up front, ensuring the Clarets has no trouble maintaining their First Division status. Stan Ternent has former Reading loanees Luke Chadwick and Glen Little on the books. Despite releasing several players during the close season, the Clarets look no weaker than last year.

Reading MAD Predict: Expect them to finish tenth if they have a good year, or relegated if they have a bad one.

Robert Earnshaw
Hot-shot: Robert Earnshaw
Team Three – Cardiff City

Last Season: Sixth in Division Two

Despite only managing an average Second Division finish last season, expectations are high in the Welsh capital with many supporters expecting a double promotion for the side bankrolled by Sam Hamann.

The Bluebirds possess a highly-skilled squad and also have a good deal of experience within their ranks. Welsh internationals Robert Earnshaw and Danny Gabbidon continue to benefit from their national side’s resurgance. Peter Thorne, Graeme Kavanagh, Spencer Prior and Andy Campbell should all also be more than capable of playing Division One football.

Almost ten thousand season ticket sales are also encouraging, indicating that the people of Cardiff are serious about their football club. However, John Robinson and Tony Vidmar have been the only additions to a squad that struggled to cope with Second Division football this season.

Reading MAD Predict: The Bluebirds should comfortably manage a top half finish, but the Play-Offs, and promotion, look well beyond them.

Gary McAllister
Sky Blue's boss Gay McAllister
Team Four – Coventry City

Last Season – Twentieth

Gary McAllister’s side, besotted by financial woes, surprisingly struggled in the First Division last season. Many players, including Lee Hughes, David Thompson and Magnus Hedman had to be sold in order to balance the books.

Despite continual rumblings of trouble upstairs, the Sky Blues seem to have put the worst of the troubles behind them and have signed a whole range of new players. However, the departure of last season’s top scorer Jay Bothroyd could prove to be a hammer blow.

Amongst the new arrivals are Liverpool’s Stephen Warnock, Bradford’s Claus Jensen, Wrexham’s Andy Morrell and Arsenal’s Graham Barrett. This is to be a big year for boss Gary McAllister who ‘successfully’ navigated his way through his first campaign as a club boss.

Reading MAD Predict: Some useful summer signings could lead to a surprise top half finish for the Sky Blues.

Rob Hulse
Hulse has joined West Brom
Team Five – Crewe Alexandra

Last Season – Second in Division Two

Dario Gradi successfully steered his side back into the First Division following their disastrous relegation of 2001-02. Whilst the Railwaymen are relatively well established at Division One level, they will almost certainly lose out in the Survival of the Fittest battle. Three of the clubs top players this summer left Gresty Road. Nigerian World Cup defender Efetobore Sodje joined Huddersfield, Rodney Jack joined Rushden and super striker Rob Hulse has joined rivals West Brom.

Crewe are hoping to reinvest this money in Anthony Tonkin and Luke Rodgers, but are yet to have a bid accepted. If Gradi can bring in some top players on loan then the new season might not be so bleak.

Reading MAD Predict: Sorry Crewe fans, but relegation looks a certainty.

Simon Jordan
Impatient Palace Chairman Simon Jordan
Team Six – Crystal Palace

Last Season – Fourteenth

After a poor year last year, expectations are high at Selhurst Park once more. Chairman Simon Jordan cast Trevor Francis aside long ago in favour of Steve Kember. Jordan has spelt out his expectations in no uncertain terms: promotion or else. Just one player has been added to the Eagles immensely talented squad; Neil Shipperley.

The former Barnsley man netted a phenomenal twenty-four goals for Selhurst Park tenants Wimbledon last season. Injuries proved to be the team’s downfall last year, but with Matt Clarke, Julian Gray, Wayne Routledge, Tommy Black and Andrew Johnson all raring to go once more Palace have a chance to move out of mid-table obscurity.

Reading MAD Predict: Another season of nothingness for frustrated Palace fans.