Top contenders for promotion from the Championship
The new Championship season starts next weekend with Huddersfield Town hoping to get over their play-off heartbreak in the opener, with Vincent Kompany’s Burnley making the short trip.
Football fans around the country will have their fingers crossed their side gets off to a flying start, with a whopping seven games to be played before the summer transfer window shuts.
But Nottingham Forest proved last term it is possible to recover from a poor first few weeks, indicating that there will be no need to panic for those that find themselves near the bottom.
Here, we take a look at some of the top contenders for promotion from the Championship.
The relegated trio
With the gap between the Premier League and the Championship appearing to have widened over recent years, relegated trio Burnley, Watford and Norwich City will fancy their chances of bouncing straight back. All three teams did so the last time they were in the second tier.
It is a new era at Burnley, with Manchester City icon Kompany given the task of replacing Sean Dyche in the Clarets dugout. Dyche is not the only man Burnley have to get used to life without, though, as defensive stalwarts James Tarkowski both left at the end of their contracts and the England goalkeeper Nick Pope was sold to Newcastle United. Those three players have been the bedrock of Burnley’s team for years and Kompany is also without the impressive Ireland defender Nathan Collins, who joined Wolves, though he has already signed seven new players.
Scott Twine is perhaps the pick, having stood out in League One at MK Dons last term, but a massive squad overhaul and a fresh faith in youth at Turf Moor could be a risky approach.
Watford are also under new management, with Rob Edwards coming in after a hugely impressive spell at Forest Green Rovers, who he led to promotion to League One. As always, there has been significant churn within the squad at Vicarage Road too, with Moussa Sissoko and Cucho Hernandez among the significant departures so far. Watford could be able to boast one of the most frightening attacks in Championship history, with Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis not yet having moved on. The duo are likely to leave, though, with much depending on how new arrivals Vakoun Bayo and Rey Manaj bed into Edwards’ team.
At Norwich, there is hope Dean Smith’s knowledge of the Championship pays off, with the ex-Aston Villa boss having been unable to inspire a miraculous recovery from relegation last season. Favourites for the title in the eyes of the bookmakers, there is excitement after the signing of Gabriel Sara from Sao Paulo, who is the first Brazilian to join Norwich. The combination of Smith’s expertise and the Championship experience within a solid squad at Carrow Road indicates Norwich ought to be one of the teams to beat in the 2022-23 season.
Better luck this time?
Huddersfield’s hopes of going one step better this year have been dashed by the departure of their influential head coach Carlos Corberan and a regression to the mean is expected for Town. Similarly, Luton Town were a surprise package in the play-offs last term and it will be tough for Nathan Jones to repeat the trick. The Hatters punched massively above their weight last year.
Tommy Doyle and Ciaran Clark look like smart loan signings for Sheffield United, who should again be in the mix after finishing fifth, while ex-Blades boss Chris Wilder is one to watch having masterminded Middlesbrough’s rise up the table in 2021-22. Wilder knows what it takes to get out of the Championship but much depends on whether the funds from Djed Spence’s sale to Tottenham will be made available. West Brom are another of the league’s larger clubs with a highly experienced manager: Steve Bruce will be expected to take the Baggies to the top six with John Swift and Jed Wallace adding a lot of quality on free transfers at The Hawthorns.
Jon Dahl Tomasson is the new Blackburn Rovers boss after Tony Mowbray was let go and the Lancashire side have a chance while they can retain hotshot striker Ben Brereton Diaz. Millwall have lost experienced winger Wallace but Benik Afobe and George Honeyman look like good signings for the Lions, while significant cash was spent on Dutch attacker Zian Flemming.
There is finally clarity over the ownership structure at Sunderland and, having escaped from League One, the positive at the Stadium of Light could lead to another successful season. Alex Neil has a lot of Championship experience and winger Jack Clarke is an eye-catching arrival.
Stoke City finished 14th last term but had the best goal difference outside the top 10. Michael O’Neill is one of the league’s best managers and the capture of Cardiff City centre-back Aden Flint, a menace from set pieces, adds another dimension of attacking threat for the Potters.
Joe Allen’s return to Swansea City could be one of the stories of the season, the Wales international helping to address the loss of Flynn Downes to West Ham. MK Dons defender Harry Darling has joined to boost a defence that leaked 68 goals in the 2021-22 campaign.