By Tony Alvarez
In preparation for the big kick-off Shouts from the Stands is doing a club-by-club preview of all 20 teams.
However, instead of the usual alphabetical order of Arsenal to Wolves, we’re doing things the other way around to give fans of clubs that usually have to wait until the end of a season preview the chance to focus on their teams first. Then on Saturday, the SFTS lads will be revealing their predictions for how the table will look come the end of May.
Yesterday we begun with: New Welsh boys Swansea, Top-four chasing Spurs, the ever-improving West Brom, and Wigan and Wolves sides that look to kick on after their successful relegation battle last time around.
Today is the turn of Sunderland, Stoke, QPR,NorwichandNewcastle.
Last Season: 10th
Summer so far:Sunderlandhave easily been the most active Premier League club in the transfer market which could see them naming almost a completely different side to the one that finished last season. Although the signings do look to of massively improved the squad many predict that it will take the squad time to gel together which could see them performing under expectations for the first couple of months of the season.
Transfers In: Ahmed Elmohamady, David Vaughan (Blackpool) Wes Brown (ManchesterUnited) Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham) Keiren Westwood (Coventry) Craig Gardener (Birmingham) Connor Wickham (Ipswich) Dong-Won Ji (Chunnam Dragons) John O’Shea (Manchester United)
Manager: Steve Bruce – The 50 year-old has had a mixed spell in charge atSunderland, at times the squad have been flying and Bruce has received major praise, on other occasions the club have been in a huge slump and his sacking has been called for.
He has always been generously backed by his board in terms of the transfer funds given to him in each transfer window.
Bruce has had a odd career as a manager in his early days he could never seem to settle at a club and was changing jobs all too often, this seemed to continue until he found himself at BirminghamCitywhere he gained promotion to the Premier League then guided the club to a 13th placed finish in the League. He kept them in the league for a further 2 seasons before suffering relegation in 2006.
Bruce andBirminghambounced straight back but Bruce left his position in the November to take over the hot seat atWigan.
He guided Wigan to safety and then mid table the following year before departing to becomeSunderlandmanager.
Key Man: Assamoah Gyan – The club have signed many re-enforcements at the back with not only title medals but Champions League winners medals. No matter how well the club keep other sides out they will always need to score goals and looking at the strikers in the squad this responsibility will fall largely on Gyans shoulders.
With an unproven Connor Wickham, Frazier Campbell and new boy Dong-Won Ji the other options upfront Gyan is the only one with a goal scoring record.
There is talk ofSunderlandlosing Gyan, if that’s the case and he is not replaced it could be a long season for the Black Cats.
Last Season: 13th
The club have successfully negotiated the first round of Europa League qualifiers and look set for a extended season.
Pulis has not added to his squad as much as he would of liked and it is believed Stoke are close to a few more signings with Tottenhams Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacious believed to be in the clubs sights.
Transfers In: Jonathon Woodgate (Tottenham) Matthew Upson (West Ham)
Transfers Out: Eidur Gudjohnson (released) Ibrahima Sonko (released) Abdoulaye Faye (West Ham)
Manager: Tony Pulis– Pulis had been some what of a journeyman manager before landing the Stoke job for the second time in June 2006.
In 2007-2008 Pulis guided Stoke to promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the clubs history, Stokes direct style of play ruffled a few feathers and got the club a few surprise victories.
He guided Stoke to a 12th placed finish and improved on that the following season by finishing 11th.
The next season was Stokes most successful despite finishing 13th (the clubs lowest ever Premier League finish) they reached the FA Cup final as earlier mentioned, a defeat did not dampen the spirits of Chairman Tony Coates who labeled Pulis Stokes greatest ever manager.
Key Man: Matthew Etherington – The former Tottenham and West Ham winger is one of the most underrated players amongst fans in the Premier League.
He consistently provides dangerous crosses and finds himself with a healthy sum of goals and assists next to his name.
Stoke are traditionally a big side who are very strong aerially his delivery allows the players with the aerial prowess to get their name on the score sheet.
His pace and direct running is also a constant thorn in the side of opposition defences.
Queens Park Rangers
Last Season: N/A
Summer so far: Considering who owns QPR the club have had a quiet and udnerstated summer so far with the main worry having been whether or not they could hold onto mercurial talent Adel Taarabt a battle they look to of won.
Neil Warnock is readying his men for a tough Premier League season in which many fans and book makers believe that QPR will be returning straight back to the Championship.
Transfers In: DJ Campbell (Blackpool) Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff) Danny Gabbidon (West Ham) Kieron Dyer (West Ham)
Transfers Out: Peter Ramage (Crystal Palace-loan) Mikele Leigertwood (Reading) Pascal Chimbonda (Released) Gavin Mahon (Released)
Manager: Neil Warnock – the outspoken Neil Warnock is another Premier League manager who was at many clubs prior to his appointment atLoftus Road in March 2010.
In his first two months in charge he safely avoided relegation for theWest Londonclub.
In the 2010-2011 season Warnock changed the clubs formation which focused the team mainly arouynd playmaker Adel Taarabt, the system worked and the club topped the table for much of the season and eventually won the Championship title.
Warnock has previously had 1 year in charge of a Premier League club, after he guided to Sheffield United to promotion in 2005-06 the club had a huge battle to try and stay in the Premier League, this battle was lost on the last day of the season, however the club fared better than many had expected.
Key Man: Paddy Kenny-
Many would expect me to name Adel Taarabt as the key man but no team ever comes up and scores there way to safety, it has to be a blend of attack and defence as Blackpool found out last season.
Paddy Kenny is the clubs last line of defence and a good one at that, you have to assume that in many games QPR will be pended in their own half and face more shots against than they will have shots for meaning Kenny could gain more points for QPR than Taarabt will.
Kenny’s value is also recognised by the club as I believe I am right in saying he won the clubs player of the year award last term.
Last Season: N/A
Summer so far: After another successful campaign which saw the club gain the second of their back to back promotions thanks to a second placed finish in the Championship,Norwichare readying themselves for a crack at the Premier League.
The club have looked to keep hold of the squad that gained promotion as well as adding some quality to the side.
Manager Lambert has used his knowledge of the Football Leagues to add to his squad, Whether the Football Leagues best and brightest talents and young Premiership loanee’s can do enough to keep Norwich up remains to be seen.
Transfers In: James Vaughan (Everton) Kyle Naughton (Tottenham-loan) Bradley Johnson (Leeds) Anthony Pilkington (Huddersfield Town) Steve Morison (Millwall) Elliott Bennett (Brighton)
Transfers Out: None so far.
Manager: Paul Lambert –
Lambert started his managerial career in his nativeScotlandwithLivingstonbefore moving south of the border to take charge of Wycombe Wanderers.
He guided Wycombe Wanderers to the League Cup semi final it was the first time in over 30 years a club from the 4th tier of English Football had reached this stage of the competition.
After Wycombe Lambert took charge of League One Colchester United, despite flirting with promotion the club finished just outside the play off spots.
Colchester started the following season in empathic fashion destroyingNorwich7-1 atCarrow Road, just days later Lambert Left Colchester to take over atNorwichwho put the 7-1 defeat behind them to gain promotion to the Championship.
Despite it being the clubs first year back in the Championship Lambert again guided his side to promotion.
Key Man: Grant Holt-
Many would struggle to argue that Holt’s goals are the main reason Norwich have gained promotion from both League One and the Championship.
Many doubted Holt could keep up his goal scoring record once the club were promoted to the Championship but he did, the doubters will be out again and to be honest I am one of them.
There is no way Holt will get 20 odd goals in the Premier League however if he can carry on his level of performance and grab 10-13 goals for himself then it could go a long way to securing a Premier League future for Norwich
Last Season: 12th
Summer so far:NewcastleUnited have had a mixed summer with many names coming in rumours of players going out and off the field problems with a certain Mr Barton.
Although manager Pardew hasn’t done particularly badly in the transfer market unfortunately all the press focus is on the off the field situation with Joey Barton and the likely departure of star left back Jose Enrique.
I personally think the club are set well for the coming season although they are still a striker short and have never really replaced Andy Carroll after his January departure toLiverpool.
Transfers In: Gabriel Obertan (ManchesterUnited) Demba Ba (West Ham) Sylvain Marveaux (Rennes) Yohan Cabaye (Lille) Mehdi Abeid (Lens)
Transfers Out: Kevin Nolan (West Ham) Ben Tozer (NorthamptonTown) Daniel Leadbitter (Torquay) Patrick Mclaughlin (YorkCity)
Manager: Alan Pardew –
Pardew has been a manager since 1999 and Newcastle United are his fifth club, the crowning moment of his managerial career to date is a run to the FA final with West Ham United which his side cruelly lost on penalties toLiverpool.
Pardew took over inNewcastlein 2010 to the dismay of theNewcastlefaithful and much to the surprise of the press.
Former manager Chris Houghton was sacked for what appeared to be no apparent reason and Pardew appointed despite the fans belief that chairman Mike Ashley was trying to improve the club and bring in a big name.
Pardew’s side didn’t perform too badly for the rest of the season and has made some good signings so far this summer, the amount of French speaking players Pardew signed led to him being labeled Alan Pardeaux.
Key Man: Cheick Tiote –
With so many of the Newcastle midfield an unknown quantity in English football it will be down to Cheick Tiote to lead by example and keep up the form he displayed last season which led to him being linked with moves to Champions League clubs such as Chelsea.
Cheick Tiote was arguably the Premier League signing of last season, he and all of the Toon army will be hoping that he isn’t hit by second season syndrome, as midfield generals go he is one of the leading performers in the Premier League and he will be looking to maintain that status this year.
So what do you think? How will your team fare this season? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts