Laura Jones looks at how the newly relegated and promoted teams in the Championship might perform in the new season.
It’s ‘finger in the air’ prediction time again – the part of the year where you can make statements like “Bristol City will be a dark horse”, only for other people to find your article nine months later and laugh. Let’s just look at the promoted and relegated teams’ pre-season progress instead.
Championship – Promoted: Wigan Athletic, Burton Albion, Barnsley. Relegated: Norwich City, Newcastle United, Aston Villa.
The Championship, as ever, is difficult to predict. This season is no exception due to the strength of the teams involved, but the real question we want the answer to is – do all Championship clubs have the correct health and safety equipment to deal with Will Grigg on fire?
Wigan Athletic haven’t won a pre-season friendly game yet and have only scored one goal so far; however, the results are slightly skewed by two of those games being against Manchester United and Liverpool. The Latics’ firepower is going to have to be more potent if they have ambitions of staying up. Signing Nick Powell from Manchester United is a start. Stephen Warnock has also joined the club from Derby County, with Adam Bogdan on loan from Liverpool to bolster the defence.
Barnsley have been resurgent under Paul Heckingbottom and Lee Johnston, and were Wembley winners twice last season in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the League 1 play-off final. Unlike Wigan, Barnsley had won all their friendlies until they lost 0-3 to a full-strength Everton side last Saturday. Wales striker Tom Bradshaw has joined the Tykes from Walsall; with 40 goals in 87 games, it’ll be interesting to see whether he can make a difference to Barnsley’s campaign.
Will Burton Albion suffer from a bit of altitude sickness this season? I think the answer is no-one knows. Burton have added Championship stalwart striker Chris O’Grady to the team sheet, as well as MK Dons’ Kyle McFadzean, but we’re yet to see what they are capable of.
It’s going to be tough for all the promoted teams to establish themselves in the Championship this season.
Norwich City are old hands at reintroducing themselves to the Championship, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why they can’t be challenging for yet another promotion this coming season. The Canaries have been very quiet in the transfer market and during the pre-season fixtures, but you can be confident they know how to play this league. In fact, the relegated clubs that are in for a culture shock are Newcastle United and Aston Villa.
Newcastle’s preparations have been underwhelming, with few challenging pre-season fixtures. The Magpies managed a 2-2 draw after going two goals down to Doncaster Rovers, and it was far from an under-strength team. The Tynesiders have brought in players who understand this league, like Grant Hanley from Blackburn Rovers and Matt Ritchie from Bournemouth, and they should be champions come May if they take the Championship seriously.
Aston Villa’s team, on the other hand, feels like a separated couple who still have to live together in their mortgaged house because it’s in negative equity. Although the club have invested in new players including Aaron Tshibola from Reading and Tommy Elphick from Bournemouth, local newspapers claim that the board want ‘senior players’ to move on. The squad is still full of players earning high wages limping along with minor injuries. With the new owner Tony Xia already clashing with fans, I think we can safely say it’s going to be another season of waning affection for Villa fans.