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QPR under pressure for immediate promotion
QPR manager Harry Redknapp admits the pressure for promotion from the Championship is more intense than ever as the Football League's 125th season kicks off this weekend.
Redknapp is one of 24 second tier managers heading into the new campaign with the aim of clinching a golden ticket to lucrative Premier League.
But unlike many of his peers in the Championship, Redknapp is well aware he has no margin for error as his troubled west London club try to make amends for a dismal season that ended in relegation from the top-flight just three months ago.
The Hoops, who kick-off their promotion challenge at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, have been installed as pre-season promotion favourites by bookmakers impressed by the qualities of the likes of Loic Remy, Julio Cesar and Junior Hoilett.
Yet that verdict fails to take into account the behind-the-scenes chaos at Loftus Road.
QPR lost £23 million last year after Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes sanctioned a massive spending spree by both Redknapp and his predecessor Mark Hughes that backfired when many of the big-name arrivals failed to live up to their lofty reputations.
Even taking into account the parachute payments due to clubs relegated from the Premier League, QPR can ill-afford to spend long outside the top-flight.
It would help Redknapp's cause if he could off-load disaffected flops like Joey Barton, Adel Taarabt, Luke Young and Samba Diakite, as well as wantaway duo Remy and Cesar.
"We need to make changes and shift some players," said Redknapp, who bolstered his squad by signing prolific striker Charlie Austin from Burnley in midweek.
"We need to change the whole attitude, really, at the club, and the only way we can do that is to bring in some new players, the right type of lads who will appreciate being at QPR.
"There are a few here who have got the wrong attitude and that's the problem. If they want to move I'm happy to move any of them."
Nostalgia is to the fore in the opening round of fixtures in the Championship and League One and Two as the Football League celebrate 125 years.
Burnley's lunchtime kick-off against Bolton on Saturday is one of six fixtures given 'anniversary status' as they are both founder members of the Football League from way back in 1888.
The anniversary celebrations start on Friday when Sheffield United, whose Bramall Lane stadium is the league's oldest ground, host Notts County, England's oldest professional club, in League One.
Back in the Championship, Wigan are under new management as they look to beat QPR in the race for an immediate return to the Premier League.
Wigan finished last term in bittersweet fashion, winning the FA Cup with a shock 1-0 win over Manchester City and then slumping to relegation just days later after a defeat at Arsenal.
However, Owen Coyle, appointed as manager after Roberto Martinez departed for Everton at the end of the season, led Burnley to promotion from the Championship in 2009 and he expects a concerted challenge with the Latics.
"It was a blow to lose their Premier League status last year but we've got to do is take them back as quickly as possible," said Coyle ahead of Saturday's opener at Barnsley.
Reading, the third of the relegated teams, host Ipswich, while Watford, beaten in the play-off final by Crystal Palace, start at Birmingham as they aim to avoid a Wembley hangover.
Only 10 years after entering the Football League, tiny Yeovil will play their first ever second tier fixture when they travel to Millwall following last season's League One promotion via the play-offs.
"We're going to the poor relations," boss Gary Johnson said. "But managers will be under pressure when they play us. They won't want to lose to Yeovil."
Fixtures (1400GMT unless stated)
Barnsley v Wigan, Birmingham v Watford, Bournemouth v Charlton, Burnley v Bolton (1215GMT), Doncaster v Blackpool, Leeds v Brighton, Middlesbrough v Leicester, Millwall v Yeovil, Nottingham Forest v Huddersfield, QPR v Sheffield Wednesday, Reading v Ipswich
Derby v Blackburn (1500GMT)
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