With the Football League kick-off just days away, this series of articles takes a closer look at the 24 teams vying for the £100 million Premier League bonanza.
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Despite relegation last season Felix Magath remains in the hot seat at Craven Cottage and will be backing himself to lead the west London club back to the Premier League at the first opportunity.
There has been a huge turnover at the Cottage as Magath has re-shaped his squad for the Championship, as well as cutting the wage bill in the event of tougher times ahead. That’s not to say the purse strings have been tightened, as Magath has splashed out an incredible £11 million to bring Scottish forward Ross McCormack from Leeds.
However the departure of many of last season’s first team regulars should be a cause for concern, especially as the vast amount of departed experience has been replaced with reserve players from the continent.
Scott Parker remains to lead the team, and a lot will be expected of McCormack in terms of providing the inspiration and goals, but unless Magath’s new look side can gel quickly it’s likely to be a season of disappointment for the Cottagers.
Last Season: N/A (relegated from Premier League)
Manager: Felix Magath
Transfers In*: Ross McCormack (Leeds, £11 million), Kay Voser (FC Basel, undisclosed), Thomas Eisfeld (Arsenal, undisclosed), Adil Chihi (FC Koln, free), Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell, free), Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets, undisclosed), Tim Hoogland (Schalke, free), Konstantinos Stafylidis (Bayer Leverkusen, loan), Nikolay Bodurov (Litex Lovech, undisclosed)
Transfers Out*: Pajtim Kasami (Olympiakos, undisclosed), Sascha Riether (Freiburg, undisclosed), Kieran Richardson (Aston Villa, undisclosed), David Stockdale (Brighton, undisclosed), Ashkan Dejagah (Al-Arabi, undisclosed), Steve Sidwell (Stoke, free), Damien Duff (Melbourne City, free), Josh Pritchard (Gillingham, free), Brede Hangeland (Crystal Palace, free), Matthew Briggs (Millwall, free), Giorgos Karagounis, John Arne Riise, Mahamadou Diarra (released)
One To Watch: Ross McCormack (forward)
Fulham have taken a considerable gamble by shelling out £11 million on the ex-Leeds and Cardiff forward - a record transfer fee between Championship clubs. However Fulham will doubtless feel it will be a sound investment if McCormack’s goals can fire Fulham to promotion, and it’s a gamble worth taking based on McCormack’s form last season.
The problem for McCormack is it adds even more pressure to his performances last season. With 28 goals and 9 assists, the former Motherwell trainee was directly involved in more Championship goals than any other player last season, and would ordinarily have been under huge pressure to repeat that almost once in a career season.
Add to that a massive transfer (joint 9th highest fee for a British forward) and there is a lot resting on McCormack’s shoulders.
Something clicked for McCormack at Leeds where he became a more mature and polished player over the past couple of years after a number of lifestyle controversies looked likely to spoil his undoubted potential.
Whether the combination of London distractions, a huge transfer fee and the pressure to repeat an extraordinary season takes its toll on McCormack remains to be seen, but will provide one of the real interest stories of the season.
Selected Odds: Champions 10-1; Promotion 10-3; Relegation 40-1
Opening Fixtures: Ipswich (A), Millwall (H), Wolves (H)
*correct at the time of writing
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