After missing avoiding relegation in the 2007 season, Birmingham City has bounced back up to the Premier League at the first time of asking, finishing second behind Wolves in the Coca-Cola Championship. Manager Alex McLeish is entering his second full season with the club after a successful run back to the Premiership and I think with the few additions he has made in this offseason, City might just have it in them to stick to the top league this season. Birmingham is one of the few clubs not in debt at the moment and I look for them to maybe add one or two more players before the start of the season if they can find the pieces they need or to look to add some talent in January to bolster their side for the push to the close of the season.
Key Additions: Barry Ferguson (Rangers), Lee Bowyer (Unattached), Christian Benitez (Santos), Joe Hart (loan from Manchester City), Roger Johnson (Cardiff City), Giovanny Espinoza (Barcelona – Ecuador), Scott Dann (Coventry City)
Loss: Stephen Kelly (Fulham)
Coming back into the Premier League is going to be difficult for City, but the manager has bolstered his side with a mix of veteran leaders and young talent going into the new term. Espinoza, Bowyer, and Ferguson add age to the side but will bring a wealth of knowledge and leadership experience as well. Dann and Johnson bring some youth to the defense, though I am not sure how much time they will see in their first season. Keeper, Joe Hart has joined on loan from Manchester City for this season but not promised a spot in the starting XI, should not take him much time to find his spot though and learn from Taylor while he is with the side. Christian could be the top pickup of the offseason though, young at 23 and with loads of pace, the Ecuadorian forward has joined from Mexican side Santos where he netted 31 times in 58 appearances, gaining the most valuable player award in the Mexican Primera in 2008. The Ecuadorian International could make the difference this season, but it looks as though McLeish has strengthened his side in the right places going into the new season and I think they will find a way to keep themselves up this time by finishing a few places down from midtable.
This side managed to pull out a gritty finish in the 2008-2009 season by finding themselves in the 13th spot at the end of the season. I do not see this season going much different, with Bolton finishing in the same area of the table this term. They have managed to make a few additions this offseason, but none are changes I could see propelling them up the table any. Manager Gary Megson has made this side work, and teams usually do not enjoy the physical match that Bolton give them, but they managed to get enough results to stay in the Premier League and do not usually have to worry too much about relegation. Most changes this offseason have seen defensive holes being filled, while the attacking options stay pretty much the same for the side.
Key Additions: Samuel Ricketts (Hull), Zat Knight (Aston Villa), Paul Robinson (West Bromwich Albion), Sean Davis (Portsmouth)
Loss: Blerim Dzemaili (Torino)
Knight should help to strengthen the back line with his size and be a formidable opponent on set pieces as are most Bolton defenders. Robinson will be hoping to have a better season this time around in the Premiership than last season, when his West Brom side was used as cannon fodder for most of the league, finding them relegated before the season had even ended. Ricketts, looking for a change should add depth to the defense going into the new term while Davis, if he can stay healthy should add another option for Bolton in the midfield. This side does not have the names of most others in the league, but with physical play and determination they seem to make it work when needed. I like to watch this side play and will be looking forward to more of their matches as the season gets underway. They should finish around 13th or 14th this season with no real worries about dropping into the relegation zone.