2019/20 The Championship Preview – Part One
After three dark seasons in League One we are back in The Championship, and although I don’t think any of us are under any illusions how hard it’s going to be, it feels good doesn’t it? We’ve spent the majority of our history in the 2nd tier, this will be our 46th season and we hope and support Lee Bowyer to continue us on this journey.
The Championship is stuffed full of clubs who ‘used to be’ with large parachute payments, and those that ‘want to be,’ clubs with lofty ambitions and budgets. Then there are also many ‘that can be.’ Sheffield United the last to prove that with a good manager, stability, a team ethos, great supporters and importantly a plan then the Premier League is not just a dream.
Over a few posts I’m going to attempt to look at our opponents in this season’s EFL Championship, and will do so in alphabetical order.
Barnsley like us have lost a fair amount of their promotion squad. Adam Davies plus centre-backs Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock were all sold, and all three were key figures behind the whopping 21 clean sheets last season. They’ve sign Aapo Halme (Leeds) and Bambo Diaby (Lokeren).
Two players who were at Coventry last season, winger Luke Thomas and forward Conor Chaplin have signed, but their most exciting incoming is Mallik Wilks from Leeds, who was excellent whilst on loan at Doncaster last season.
Importantly strikers Cauley Woodrow and Keiffer Moore, scorer of 33 goals last season between them, remain. Alex Mowart should also be at ease at the higher level. Question will be are the Tykes under Daniel Stendel better prepared to life in The Championship than they were last time.
Odds: Promotion 66/1; Relegation 7/2
Player to watch: Keiffer Moore
CA hunch: This league looks even harder than it was the last time Barnsley were in it, let alone us. Think like the Addicks it will be a battle.
On the face of it Birmingham City look as if they are in for a tough season. Towards the end of last season they were stiffed with a 9-point deduction and a transfer ban after failing to comply with FFP. After the season manager Garry Monk walked out, the pillar of stability Michael Morrison left followed by two of their best players being sold – Che Adams to Southampton and Jota to Aston Villa. Yet then the other day they spent a reported £5m on Croatian international defensive midfielder Ivan Šunjić. Hhmm.
Respected coach Pep Clotet is in charge now, but he was pretty useless last time he was the main man, at Oxford. He has put his faith in youth with the signing of ex-Arsenal academy player Daniel Crowley and Jake Clarke-Salter on loan from Chelsea.
Central midfielder Gary Gardner will be key. Signed from neighbours Villa, the 27-year old’s loan career reads like the yellow pages, but he was at St Andrews on loan last season.
Odds: Promotion 33/1; Relegation 9/2
Player to watch: Gary Gardner
Charlton connections: Victor Adeboyejo (academy)
CA hunch: Think it could be a season of struggle for the Blues unless Clotet can galvanize some spirt.
Saturday’s opponents Blackburn Rovers had all the signs when they got relegated to League One in 2017 that they were on a downward spiral, but Tony Mowbray steadied the ship, got them back from what could have been the abyss, and last season they comfortably stayed up.
Mowbray has pinned his hopes on striker Sam Gallagher, who cost £5m from Southampton. He scored six on loan at Birmingham last season in 33 games, but did well when on loan at Rovers in L1 the season previously. Other players signed include Bradley Johnson from Derby and the experienced Stewart Downing who Mowbray will know well.
First team keeper David Rays was sold to Brentford, with Christian Walton signed on loan from Brighton. Ben Bergeron will partner Gallagher up front and with Bradley Dack a presence in midfield, Mowbray will hope that his pressing game makes them more able to dominate more games. Lewis Travis and Man City loanee Tosin Adarabioyo will also add midfield talent.
Odds: Promotion 12/1; Relegation 13/2
Player to watch: Bradley Dack
Charlton connections: Bradley Dack (academy)
CA hunch: Mowbray is a safe pair of hands. The Venky’s remain unpopular, but they have left well alone in the last two season. Comfortable mid table finish.
Brentford have been one of the biggest spenders in the summer, but they did receive £12m for Ezri Konsa. A nice little profit for the Bees there after just one season. Thanks Roly! The Bees also sold attacking midfielder Romaine Sawyers to West Brom.
Dean Smith can be credited for picking and nurturing a good group of players that play to an exact system, but Thomas Frank has successfully carried that on. The Bees shouldn’t miss Konsa as Pontus Jansson (signed from Leeds) will probably partner Ethan Pinnock (Barnsley) at the back with David Raya (Blackburn) in goal.
Kamohelo Mokotjo keeps the midfield ticking over and up top Neal Maupay has scored 41 goals in two seasons, and incredibly remains. Likewise Saïd Benrahma. It’s a real multi-national line up and there’s been a fair amount of changes, but Frank’s side look very exciting.
Odds: Promotion 5/1; Relegation 20/1
Player to watch: Neal Maupay
Charlton connections: Luke Daniels (loan)
CA hunch: One of those very much in the category of ‘that can be.’ I can see the Bees in the play-off mix.
It’s been a progressive build for Bristol City since their promotion from L1 in 2016. In the summer the Robins made permanent the loans of Chelsea’s Tomáš Kalas and Jay Dasilva. They also added attacking midfielder Sammie Szmodics from Colchester and Doncaster’s wing back Tommy Rowe.
Rowe will replace Lloyd Kelly who was sold for big money to Bournemouth. Manager Lee Johnson also raised money from the sale of Mohammed Eisa to Peterborough.
There’s a good spine to the side. Andreas Weimann is very influential in midfield, Adam Webster is an excellent centre-half and Famara Diédhiou is as tough as boots up front.
Odds: Promotion 13/2; Relegation 14/1
Player to watch: Adam Webster
Charlton connections: Jay Dasilva (loan)
CA hunch: I like Johnson, City have good stability and are capable of putting good runs together. I think they will also hover around the top 6.
After one season Cardiff City are back in The Championship. Neil Warnock’s side had their opportunities for latter crucial points to reach Premier League safety but unfortunately commitment and team effort wasn’t quite enough.
One would assume that spirit will stay, and many talented Championship players remain meaning that Warnock doesn’t need a huge rebuild job on his squad.
However at centre-half Aden Flint and Will Faulks were both signed. Flint came from Middlesbrough for £4m, and fellow defender Will Vaulks, who was very good at Rotherham last season, and gets goals, was brought in for £2.1m. Josh Murphy and Joe Ralls are a fine midfielder at this level, but they look a little light upfront after Kenneth Zohore was sold to West Brom.
Odds: Promotion 13/2; Relegation 14/1
Player to watch: Josh Murphy
Charlton connections: Neil Etheridge,
CA hunch: I expect them to be tough to beat, especially at home. Warnock’s promotion record is of course exemplary, but I feel they won’t return to the EPL just yet. Top half.
Part Two to follow.