The 2017-18 Championship season begins in just under a week. Over the past couple of seasons, competition for promotion to the Premier League has been rife, with Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion and odds-defying Huddersfield making the jump to the promised land last season. With a mixture of young coaches in Gary Monk and Gary Rowett and veterans such as Neil Warnock and Harry Redknapp, this campaign is set to be the most competitive yet, with at least half of the league more than capable in winning promotion this season.
Championship Season Preview 2017/2018
After just one season in the top flight, Middlesbrough have a more than capable team to bounce straight back up at the first time of asking led by new manager Garry Monk. Bringing in goalkeeper Darren Randolph and forward Britt Assombalonga will strengthen the team and with the talented Gaston Ramirez still at the club, it is hard to look past Middlesbrough for the title this season. Furthermore, the club still possess the same backline which won them promotion in 2016, putting them as the favourites amongst the 24 teams this season.
Having finished in a lowly position of 13th last season, Steve Bruce will be hoping the experience of new signings John Terry and Mile Jedinak will propel Aston Villa up the league this year. Jedinak has vital experience of winning promotion with Crystal Palace and if Jonathan Kodjia can add to his 19 goals last season, promotion to the Premier League could be inevitable.
Fulham’s excellent form at the end of last season proved that they should be promotion contenders again this season, and bringing in Ibrahima Cissé and Tomás Kalas will certainly help. In contrast to the West London side’s youthful squad, Sheffield Wednesday are a much more experienced outfit and should challenge for the top six, too. The additions of Jordan Rhodes and George Boyd will greatly strengthen the side, and Boyd will be vital in improving build-up play for the Owls, whose forwards often found themselves isolated up front last season.
A fantastic summer transfer window has seen Wolves emerge as promotion candidates for this season. Having already spent an incredible £28 million on Helder Costa and Ruben Neves, the club have also completed the signing of experienced goalkeeper John Ruddy, who is more than capable of playing in the Premier League, and defensive duo Roderick Miranda and Willy Boly laying the foundations for a very good season.
Leeds will be looking to put right the disappointment of last season by making the play-offs. They lacked a plan B last season, which Thomas Christiansen must address. Another foreign manager, Daniel Farke, will hope to follow in the footsteps of fellow German David Wagner by achieving promotion in his first season in England. Norwich have one of the most talented squads in the league, and if Steven Naismith and Cameron Jerome can hit form, promotion to the Premier League will be very likely.
Reading may struggle to recreate the form of last season, having lost the experienced Ali Al-Habsi to Al-Hilal Riyadh and Danny Williams to Huddersfield. Jaap Stam is a fantastic manager, however, who has faith in his young stars and if veteran Yann Kermorgant can continue where he left off last season, the club may be able to break into the top six again.
Following three seasons in a row of finishing in the top ten of the Championship, Dean Smith’s Brentford look more than capable of continuing that tradition. The Bees often look to play on the attack, making them an exciting team to watch and with the signing of striker Ollie Watkins from Luton, who scored 18 goals last season, this young, enthusiastic side look set to continue near the top end of the table.
Their opening day opponents, Sheffield United, are back in the Championship after six years in League One. Billy Sharp scored a staggering 30 goals in the league last season, and should he continue this form the Blades will have little trouble avoiding relegation, despite the squad’s relative lack of experience in the division.
Bouncing straight back up to the Premier League is never an easy task and Hull City may find that out this season. The Championship is a gruelling division and they lack the squad depth needed to be successful. The Tigers have seen the majority of their first team stars leave, with Andrew Robertson departing to Liverpool and Harry Maguire moving to Leicester. Derby have also sold key players in Tom Ince and Will Hughes, and it will be very difficult for them to reach the play-offs.
At the age of 70, Harry Redknapp is the oldest manager in the Football League and he will be hoping that his experience can ensure that Birmingham City are looking up rather than down this season. The signing of David Stockdale in goal and Craig Gardner from West Brom are good additions to the side and the experienced squad should steer well clear of the drop zone. It is easy to forget that the Blues were in the play-off places at Christmas last year, so they have the ability to have a good season under the right leadership.
With the superb Jordan Pickford replaced by Jason Steele andJermain Defoe replaced by James Vaughan, Sunderland may struggle in the Championship with a rather tactically weak manager in Simon Grayson. Another managerial stalwart, Mick McCarthy, begins his fifth season with Ipswich Town, which will likely be spent around mid-table. Joe Garner is a good signing from Rangers, adding competition to David McGoldrick up top, but the squad is nowhere near strong enough nor has it got enough depth to compete higher up the league.
For Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City, Bristol City and Preston North End, nothing but mid-table obscurity. Forest have sold their main talisman up top to Middlesbrough and failed to bring in a proper replacement; Cardiff lack any sort of magic in their side and have failed to strengthen their ranks; Bristol City relied on the goals of loanee Tammy Abraham last season to keep them in the division, and have taken a huge risk by spending £5 million on Famara Diedhou: a player with no experience in England. As for Preston, with manager Simon Grayson making the move to Sunderland and a loss in stability at the back, Alex Neil faces a difficult task in keeping the club up.
Ian Holloway will be hopeful that his experience in this division will keep Queens Park Rangers in the Championship this season, but the lack of activity in the transfer market means that they should be near the bottom of the table again. The quality of Matt Smith, however, should give the Hoops some reason for optimism.
With a paper-thin squad as it is, Burton Albion are facing a difficult task in staying in the division. New signing Liam Boyce scored 23 goals last season, but is set to miss the whole of the season through injury. Bolton Wanderers are back in the Championship having been promoted last season, but currently lack the quality to compete in the division. Fellow promotion winners Millwall are set for a long hard season back in the Championship, as they lack the necessary technical quality. Barnsley, on the other hand, are lacking a leader to keep them clear of the drop.