EFL Championship Season Preview


England’s second tier is back and this season sports it’s strongest line-up in decades. Here’s a very quick guide to the new season.

There are new owners including NFL legend Tom Brady finally brining fresh hope at Birmingham City. Manager John Eustace had a solid first season at St Andrews and there have been some notable additions including Manchester United academy graduate Ethan Laird who will help to shore up the backline. In attack Tyler Roberts could prove a useful signing, if the injury prone forward can stay fit. It’s probably too soon for a promotion bid but Birmingham look to be going in the right direction.

Blackburn Rovers were the Manchester City of the Premier League’s early years powered by the goals of Alan Shearer and millions of Sir Jack Walker. These are more frugal times at Ewood Park but they do have a promising manager in Jon Dahl Tomasson who has brought an attractive brand of football to Lancashire. Tomasson will have to do without top sorer Ben Brereton-Diaz who headed for La Liga, however winger Tyrhys Dolan is an emerging talent who remains with the club and forward Niall Ennis looks a shrewd addition. There have been rumblings of discontent from Tomasson over the club’s lack of ambition and Rovers fans will be nervy as to if he will stay when the inevitable first sackings of the season take place.

For Bristol City a promotion push remains agonisingly out of reach with Ashton Gate last hosting top flight football in 1980. Experienced manager Nigel Pearson previously won this division with Leicester. Veteran strikers Nahki Wells and Andreas Wiemann are handful for most defences and thus far City have held onto prize asset Alex Scott. Jason Knight is a solid addition in midfield, if Scott does stay Bristol should be in the playoff hunt.

Cardiff City were fortunate to stay up last season, with Reading’s points deduction pushing them below the Bluebirds. The club is still under a transfer fee embargo making life even trickier for new boss Erol Bulut who arrives from the Turkish Super Lig. With things looking bleak Cardiff summoned up a saviour when Wales skipper Aaron Ramsey rejoined his first club on a free. Staying away from the relegation zone should be the target for this season and Cardiff look capable of at least managing that.

Coventry City were a penalty kick away from ending their 25 year stay in the EFL as they suffered the pain of losing the playoff final. Mark Robins is still in charge but inevitably star striker Viktor Gyokeres departed after missing out on the Premier League. Coventry pulled off a surprise transfer in replacing Gyokeres when they signed Ellis Simms for £8m after the young forward showed potential at Everton. For now at least star midfielder Gustavo Hamer remains at the club and new wing back Milan Van Ewijk looks an exciting addition. If Hamer stays Coventry will be contenders but that remains a big if.

Huddersfield Town looked doomed to relegation last season, until the arrival of Championship specialist Neil Warnock who organized a great escape. To the delight of Terriers fans Warnock has surprisingly opted to stay for the new season. There hasn’t been much money to spend but Warnock’s surely too smart to see the club struggle again, they’re unlikely to be in the promotion race but Huddersfield should be midtable dwellers this season.

Hull City were solid but unspectacular last season. The attack will be boosted by the arrival on loan of Manchester City graduate Liam Delap, however the club couldn’t hang onto another key loanee in goalkeeper Karl Darlow. Hull aren’t amongst the promotion favourites but they should be in the top half and pushing for the playoffs.

Ipswich Town are back and in high spirits after promotion. They haven’t lost a league game since January and their 101 goal tally in League One should translate well in the Championship. Kieran McKenna is a fine young manager and Ipswich will be fun, but a year of midtable consolidation seems more likely than a promotion push.

Following relegation it’s been a summer of complete overhaul at Leeds United who will begin the campaign with new owners, a new board and new caoching staff. 49ers Enterprises are now signing the cheques, two time Championship winner Daniel Farke is their choice to steer a course back to the Premier League. Leeds churned their squad with Rodrigo, Brendan Aaronson, Max Wober, Robin Koch and Marc Roca leading the departures. Ethan Ampadu looks a quality addition in midfield and Karl Darlow should provide some much needed stability at the back.

Leeds will be hoping their heavy investment in their academy pays off this season with Cody Drameh, Joe Gelhardt and Darko Gyabi amongst the bright young talents expected to play a key role in their promotion challenge. There’s still premium talent around in Luis Sinisterra, Wilfried Gnonto and Jack Harrison. Leeds should be contenders but with so much change it may take a while to hit their stride.

Leicester City’s nine season stay in the Premier League saw them scale almost unimaginable heights, but ended with shock relegation in May. In comes Pep Guardiola’s former assistant manager Enzo Maresca who Leicester will be hoping makes the conversion from coach to manager as seamlessly as Mike Arteta, however Maresca’s previous stint at Parma is a worry.

Inevitably there have been big names departures notably Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Calgary Soyuncu. Leicester have been swift to reinvest with big money new arrivals in ex-England internationals Conor Coady and Harry Winks both looking to bounce back from difficult seasons. Leicester have also moved to solve their biggest problem with the signing of goalkeeper Mads Hermansen from Bronby, who will hope to fill the void left a year ago by fellow Dane Kasper Schmeichel.

One player who has stuck around is club legend Jamie Vardy, with the 36-year-old hoping a drop in division will see him return to form after only bagging three league goals last season. Leicester are the bookies favourites, but with their premium talent leaving and Coady already injured they like Leeds may take a while to adapt.

Middlesbrough found new life under the tutelage of Michael Carrick. The goals of Chuba Akpom proved vital to Middlesbrough with the former Arsenal graduate bagging the division’s golden boot. However the goals dried up in a playoff defeat to Coventry. Akpom is still at the club but Carrick will need to replace key loanees from last season with Ryan Giles and Cameron Archer not returning. They’re not yet the finished article but ‘Boro will be in the hunt for the top two.

Millwall came within a game of making the playoffs but that disappointment was quickly put into perspective by the sudden death of club owner John Berylson. Star playmaker Zian Flemming is still at The Den and Scotland striker Kevin Nisbet looks a smart buy, Millwall will be hoping their best promotion chance didn’t slip away in May.

Norwich City couldn’t make it a hat-trick of immediate bounce backs to the Premier League as they finished a miserable 13th last season. Director of Football Stuart Webber and veteran striker Teemu Pukki both left this summer as David Wagner attempts to find a winning formula. Norwich were quick to add Championship experience with early moves for former Burnley striker Ashley Barnes and experienced centre-back Shane Duffy. With a year under his belt at the club Wagner will be confident of at least a playoff berth this time around.

League One Champions Plymouth Argyle amassed an astonishing 101 points last term. Striker Ryan Hardie remains paramount to Plymouth however fellow striker Niall Ennis has departed the club. The leap up will be a big one for Plymouth but they should have enough to steer clear of the drop zone.

Preston North End are one of the grand old names of English football but haven’t seriously bothered the promotion race since 2018. A lack of goals is Preston’s biggest issue and there is a worrying sense of inertia at Deepdale. Right-back Calvin Ramsay is a smart loan but a good start will be vital if Preston are to stay way from trouble.

Queens Park Rangers have been through the ringer over the last decade. The early signs are this season will be more of the same at Loftus Road, with manager Gareth Ainsworth striking a pessimistic note. Ainsworth’s direct style might not suit star midfielder Ilias Chair who remains for now at least at the club. There have been veteran additions to the squad but QPR start the campaign as many peoples favourites for the drop.

Rotherham United have spent the last decade yoyo-ing between the Championship and League One, last season coming in 19th, their highest finish since 2004. However their hopes of staying up took a body blow with top scorer Chiedozie Ogbene heading to the Premier League. Goalkeeper Viktor Johansson impressed last season and has stayed put, however as ever 21st or better is the aim for Rotherham.

Sheffield Wednesday pulled off the most dramatic comeback in playoff history and then scored a last minute winner at Wembley to secure their return to the Championship. Incredibly owner Dejphon Chansiri rewarded manager Darren Moore with the sack. In comes former Xisco Munoz who took Watford up, but but his unveiling to the press was hijacked by another bizarre Chansiri tirade this time against former Wednesday favourite Carlton Palmer. Wednesday look short and Munoz clearly has his hands full, a year of quiet consolidation might prove a good thing at Hillsborough.

Southampton‘s eleven year stay in the topflight ended with a whimper as the Saints finished rock bottom of the Premier League with a meagre 25 points. Southampton were quick on the draw in their managerial appointment with Russel Martin arriving from Swansea. The hope is Martin who did well with limited resources can excel with the benefit of parachute payments. Key midfield duo Romeo Lavia, James Ward-Prowse remain for now but are both expected to join Mohammed Salisu in the departures column. The Saints pulled off a coupe by signing productive left-back Ryan Manning on a free transfer whilst Nathan Tella excelled on loan with Burnley last season and will be expected to produce similar highs for his parent club this time around. There will likely be more changes at St Marys but Southampton do have firepower with Che Adams and Adam Armstrong proven goalscorers at this level.

Stoke City have become an example of how not to bounce back to the Premier League, five years on from relegation their best finish remains a tepid 14th. Alex Neill is the latest manager trying to push The Potters up the table. Harry Souttar’s departure in Janaury left Stoke with few saleable assets to cash in but the club have retained top scorer Tyrese Campbell meanwhile former Chelsea man Lewis Baker has finally started to make good on the potential he showed at youth level, now 28 Baker looks an accomplished starter in midfield.

Sunderland put years of misery behind them with a fine first season back in the Championship following promotion and unexpectedly made the playoffs. They may have managed back to back promotions had key striker Ross Stewart avoided injury and Stewart’s return to fitness is pivotal to Sunderland’s hopes. Jack Clarke has got his promising career back on track on Wearside and his skill on the wing will be vital if Sunderland are to feed Stewart chances, but loanee Amad Diallo hasn’t returned to the club. Jobe Bellingham’s an exciting addition and a return to the playoffs will be the minimum requirement for veteran boss Tony Mowbray.

Swansea City enjoyed a solid season that hinted at a playoff berth but the summer saw major departures lead by manager Russel Martin. Also heading out was player of the year Ryan Manning but despite links with numerous clubs star striker Joel Piroe is still at the club. Swansea appeared to be preparing for life without Piroe with the signing of striker Jerry Yates. For now Swansea look a playoff contender but with the sharks circling the end of the transfer window can’t come soon enough for Swans fans.

Watford also found the usual bounce hard to find following relegation as they burned through three more managers. For this season the Pozzo family hit the random manager button and came up with Valerin Ismael. A second year in the Championship meant big name departures with Joao Pedro and Ismaila Sarr moving on. There have been additions notably Jake Livermore in midfield and leftback Jamal Lewis but chaos is never far away from Vicarage Road and a winning formula is proving elusive.

West Bromwich Albion are into their last season of parachute payments and are already feeling the financial pinch. They might have made a serious promotion push had Carlos Corberan being installed as manager a little earlier. Corberan has tightened the defence whilst the likes of John Swift, Grady Diangana and Jed Wallace are proven talents at this level. The like of a prolific goal scorer is a problem for West Brom and fans will be praying the club reach the transfer deadline without suffering further losses if they can West Brom should be in the mix.


Predicting this division is always clouded by the transfer turbulence of the extended window. The relegated trio have by far the best squads but who stays is unclear with at least some of James War-Prowse, Tyler Adams, Timothy Castagne, Patson Daka and Wilfried Gnonto likely to move, how these clubs recruit with their parachute payments will be vital. Leeds appear to have made the smartest managerial move with Farke, a fascinating watch in the early months of the season will be how Maresca adapts at Leicester.

Transfer tension isn’t exclusive to the relegated clubs with the likes of Hamer, Clarke, Scott, Piroe and Akpom attracting admirers from the Premier League. Of those looking to go again, Middlesbrough look the best placed but Sunderland and Coventry won’t be far away. Ipswich looked the best placed of the promoted trio but double promotion may be a step too far. Expect Norwich to be much better this time and Stoke should make some positive strides as will Birmingham.

Of the potential strugglers Rotherham and Plymouth are always swimming against they tide at this level. QPR look to be in serious trouble and Ainsworth could be the first managerial casualty of the season. Preston may be another struggler and Sheffield Wednesday appear to have squandered the good vibes of promotion.

Champions: Middlesbrough

Runners Up: Leeds

Playoffs: Leicester, West Brom, Norwich, Southampton,

Relegation: Rotherham, QPR, Sheffield Wednesday

Player of the Season: Nathan Tella (Southampton)

Top Scorer: Joel Piroe (Swansea)

Young Player of the Season: Archie Gray (Leeds)

Jonathan Fearby

Jonathan Fearby is a United Kingdom native. Prior to joining The Athletes Hub as a staff writer, he founded and operated Football England.

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