Whilst all you Premier League fans still have another week to wait, for those EFL supporters, the time has come, ten months of joy, pain, highs and lows begin from this weekend. Tuesday nights in the likes of Accrington, Plymouth, Grimsby or Middlesbrough have never been so eagerly anticipated - until you get to those destinations, on a cold, wet, Tuesday evening (you get where we're going). So, without further ado, let's crack on with our first of three EFL league previews prior to this weekend, looking at those who'll be towards the top, at the bottom and, a dark horse which may well do you proud this term in the Championship!
We all know Steve Bruce is a very good manager, particularly in the Championship. He knows the division, the players and exactly what’s needed to get out of the division following his exploits at Hull City a couple of years ago. Once again he’s come up trumps in the transfer window, managing to persuade John Terry to make the move to Villa Park. With some great striking options in Jonathan Kodjia and Scott Hogan in particular, alongside JT’s leadership skills at the back, it’s easy to see why many are tipping Villa for a return to the Premier League…
We’ve looked at Villa and identified their forward line, but in spending over £30m on strikers this summer, Middlesbrough certainly look like they mean business. Just under half of that was spent on Britt Assombalonga from Nottingham Forest, whilst Martin Braithwaite has also been snapped up by Boro from Toulouse. They have managed to keep hold of Ben Gibson for now and if he does stay then that could be some great business too. Garry Monk went close with Leeds United last term and will hope to do better this time at Boro and oversee an instant Premier League return
For so many years many have tipped Derby for promotion, but it’s been season after season of missing out for the Rams, which has ultimately seen managers come and go. This is Gary Rowett’s first full campaign in charge and it’s been a case of quality over quantity this summer for the ex-Birmingham boss, with Tom Huddlestone and Curtis Davies both coming in from Hull City. The duo have previously gained promotion from the Championship during their time with the Tigers and will hope to add another promotion to the CV. Chris Martin returning from his loan spell at Fulham will also feel like a new signing, too.
The Play-Off Contenders…
As a club, Norwich disappointed last season under Alex Neil and then Alan Irvine, but it’s a new dawn under fresh German boss Daniel Farke, with Sporting Director Stuart Webber going down the route that worked well for him during his time at Huddersfield Town in appointing a David Wagner-type boss. The majority of the signings have been brought in from Germany, but one that’s particularly stood out to us is the free transfer of Marley Watkins, who was one of a number of shining lights at Barnsley last season. The likes of John Ruddy and Ryan Bennett have been let go this summer as the Canaries look for a younger squad and this could well be a big season for the highly rated James Maddison.
There’s a lot of pressure on Wolves, who have spent mountains of cash on players this summer, one of which was Porto captain Ruben Neves. However, for all their captures, only the likes of Ryan Bennett and John Ruddy have Championship experience and it remains to be seen how their influx of Portuguese players get on in the second tier. Diogo Jota signed on loan from Atletico Madrid after playing over 35 times for Porto last term in one of the highest profile captures in the Championship in the last few months. With new boss Nuno Espirito Santos at the helm, it really could go either way at Wolves.
Similarly to Derby, Sheffield Wednesday have been tipped for promotion for the last two or three campaigns, but have missed out both seasons they’ve had Carlos Carvajal, bowing out in the play-off semi-finals both times. So the owners and Carvajal will be hoping to go a couple of steps closer this time around – at worst – otherwise he may be given the chop. Last term saw Wednesday spend big, with the likes of Stephen Fletcher and Jordan Rhodes both signing to boost their attacking threat, which will also be helped by George Boyd, who has gained promotions with both Hull City and Burnley in his career. Third time lucky for Carlos?
The Dark Horse…
Neil Warnock’s a wily old fox and a winner who absolutely loves the Championship. He’s got a couple of promotions from the division during his time with Sheffield United and QPR and another promotion will make it eight in all for the Yorkshireman. He steadied the ship at Cardiff when he came in last season and appears keen to push on this term judging by his signings. Keepers Lee Camp and Neil Etheridge are likely to battle it out for the number one shirt, Callum Paterson’s joined from Hearts, Nathaniel Mendez Laing has signed from Rochdale, whilst Danny Ward has also linked up with Warnock again after they worked together at Rotherham. Another stand out signing is Lee Tomlin, who hopped across the border, signing from Bristol City. The one massive surprise is that Paddy Kenny hasn't been spotted in the Welsh capital doing The Ayatollah. Anyway, good manager, strong squad. They’ll be hoping for a play-off push.
The Relegation Candidates…
Burton produced the impossible last term in staying up in the division and although they haven’t let any key players go, this marquee signing Liam Boyce has been ruled out for much of the season due to a cruciate injury. Nigel Clough has brought in experienced players in the form of Stephen Warnock and Jake Buxton – who returns to the club – whilst Matty Lund looks a shrewd signing after impressing during his time at Rochdale. It’ll be touch and go again for the Brewers and the loss of Boyce will be a huge miss.
Last term was pretty dismal for QPR and we expect this one to be similar. The January captures of Luke Freeman and Matt Smith from Bristol City and Fulham respectively ensured another campaign in the Championship for the west Londoners, but with Ian Holloway in charge – and after his exploits during his Blackpool and Crystal Palace days in getting promoted to the Premier League – you just never know. However, for us there more likely to be down the bottom than fighting further up.
PRESTON NORTH END
This shout may well be a surprising one, but following Simon Grayson’s departure, things could maybe turn sour at PNE this season. North End had been stabilised with Grayson at the helm during his four years and having also ‘lost’ star loanee Aiden McGeady as well, new manager Alex Neil will have to hit the ground running with his new signings. Neil had a turbulent time at Norwich City last term and hasn’t added too much to his squad, with the likes of Josh Harrop, Declan Rudd and Sean Maguire the only three notable names arriving.
There’s been a pretty toxic atmosphere at Ipswich Town for the last couple of years and there always seems to be some pressure on boss Mick McCarthy, although we’re not sure why. Mick’s always ensured survival in the Championship, despite not having the greatest budget to work with and this term we expect Ipswich to be same old, same old. They suffered an embarrassing 6-1 defeat against Charlton Athletic in the final friendly match and will need a good start to stop the slump. Joe Garner has a decent record at this level despite his disappointing time at Rangers last term, whilst Bersant Celina will hope for game time after joining on loan from Manchester City. The permanent signing of Emyr Hughes from Cardiff is also a plus for the Tractor Boys.
So that’s it. Do you agree with our choices? Is there one or two surprises in there or have we missed a certain team out? Let us know in the comments section below, or via our social networks.
*All prices subject to fluctuation. Make sure to check StanJames.com for up to date prices.
Previous FOOTBALL articles
Bored waiting for kick off? Why not give our Football Star slot a go? This exciting 5 Reel, 243 line Slot with Rolling Reels, Stacked Wilds and Free Spins has a RTP 96.42% and is just like playing yourself! He shoots, he scores!
So what are you waiting for? Line-up the shot, take aim and let fly at the most fun-filled slot around!
StanJames - All rights reserved. "STANJAMES" is a registered trademark. Stanjames is not affiliated or connected with sports teams, event organisers or players displayed in its website(s). StanJames does not claim any intellectual property rights relating to any names or images which are used strictly within the meaning of the betting activity.