From Ollie Watkins to Ike Ugbo - Six Championship signings to watch this season
PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 July 2017
The second tier season starts next Friday, however, clubs are working frantically to add to their squads, ahead of a long campaign. Several deals HAVE already been done though and CHRIS BRAMMER picks out six of the best.
There is likely to be plenty of activity in the transfer window when it draws to a close at the end this month.
Several clubs will be waiting on the Premier League giants naming their 25-man squads before doing their last bits of business, every one of them hoping to unearth the next Tammy Abraham or Tom Lawrence.
There are still one or two gems in the lower leagues that will be monitored closely before the end of August, and they will hope to follow in the footsteps of Cameron McGeehan (Luton to Barnsley) and Ollie Watkins (Exeter to Brentford) and seal a dream move.
Don’t forget the free agents either, and while Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be a touch ambitious, the likes of Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace), Marcin Wasilewski (Leicester) and Marvin Emnes (Swansea) are still looking for clubs.
The aforementioned Watkins deal is one of a number of transfers that has caught the eye this summer.
Quick, skilful and with an eye for goal, the 21-year-old forward was Exeter’s stand-out man last season, scoring 15 goals in 45 games, as the Devon side made the League Two play-offs.
Watkins named the division’s Young Player of the Year and was hugely impressive in City’s two victories over Colchester United last season.
Brentford have paid a fair price for him too, reported to be around £1.8m, which is always nice to see in an era where the bigger clubs have a habit of stripping smaller outfits of their best assets, often for a pittance.
Definitely one to watch, Watkins could quickly become a regular and fans’ favourite at Griffin Park.
While Watkins is very much in the infancy of his career, at the other end of the spectrum, wily defender Curtis Davies is approaching the veteran category.
But, despite being 32, that doesn’t stop him being one of the signings of the summer, Derby County snaring the former West Brom and Luton centre-back from relegated Hull for a fee of around £500,000.
Good in the air and comfortable on the ball, Davies is well-versed on the rigours of the Championship and will add further solidity to a Rams’ backline that kept 17 clean sheets last season.
While Hull seem to be losing their best players, fellow relegated side, Middlesbrough, have wasted little time in spending some of the hefty parachute payments they received from their demotion from the Premier League.
The Teesiders have paid Nottingham Forest £15m for frontman Britt Assombalonga who scored 30 goals in 65 appearances for the Reds, after moving to the City Ground from Peterborough in a multi-million pound deal.
The fee is an eye-watering one, especially for a striker that has never played Premier League football, but that is the going rate right now and if his goals can fire ‘Boro back to the big time, then their outlay will have been considered money well spent.
Another striker that is highly-regarded is Chelsea’s Ike Ugbo (18) who has just joined Paul Heckingbottom’s Barnsley on a season-long loan deal.
Ugbo scored 23 goals in 35 matches for Chelsea’s under-23 and under-18 sides last term and also netted in England’s journey to Under-20 World Cup glory earlier in the summer.
Given Barnsley’s ability to unearth stars from Scotland, non-league and the lower divisions (Marley Watkins, Alfie Mawson, Josh Scowen and Andy Yiadom to name just four) don’t be surprised if Ugbo follows in the previously mentioned Abraham’s footsteps this season and emulates the ex-Bristol City loanee’s goalscoring exploits in the second tier.
Another player to come off the Barnsley production line is Marc Roberts, who the Tykes signed from non-league Halifax in 2015.
Two seasons later and he has been signed by Birmingham boss Harry Redknapp, who sees the 6ft 4ins centre-back as being an integral part of his side going forward.
Roberts should shore up a defence that conceded 58 goals last season.
Aiden McGeady was another player to emerge as one of the Championship’s best last season. After seeing his career stall at Everton, he flourished on-loan at Preston.
The twinkle-toed winger did so well at Deepdale under Simon Grayson, that he persuaded the new Sunderland boss to make him his first signing at The Stadium of Light,
On his day, the Republic of Ireland international is unplayable, can score goals from all angles and sets strikers up on a plate.