Normally by this stage of an A-League season, with just a handful of matches remaining before the semi-finals, form lines have been well and truly set.
It’s that time of the year where the EFL returns that little bit earlier than the Premier League, and so we kick off our Football League coverage for the new season with our 2019-20 EFL Championship season preview.
The Championship is often called the toughest or most competitive league in Europe, and it is hard to argue given the three teams that went up last season were far from the most fancied.
Normally most people don’t have the time for the second tier or 2019-20 Championship season until around May when three more lucky clubs are heading for the Premier League riches, but it’s their loss missing out on the previous eight months.
We’ll try and convince those who aren’t that interested yet with our Who Cares 2019-20 EFL Championship Season Preview, like everything here at The Gurgler, giving just enough information to be dangerous.
Here’s a few of the more interesting things for those who don’t have the time to properly care about the upcoming 2019-20 EFL Championship season just yet.
The current favourites to win the division are always big news, and they would probably be a welcome edition to the Premier League. If they ever get there.
Most interesting is their manager Marcelo Bielsa, known as El Loco. He had a quality first season with Leeds United, which sadly ended in the playoff semi-finals, but included the spying scandal (and his quality hour-long reply) and allowing the opposition to walk in a goal when an automatic promotion place was within grasp…
But he’s back for more this season, so expect to see the tracksuited manager on his upturned bucket on the sideline.
One of their better players is Jack Clarke, who is good enough to be signed by Spurs, yet they get him back on loan this season in the best possible deal for everyone.
They are arguably the biggest club in this division, but probably have been among the biggest for a while, and that pressure hasn’t helped them to the Premier League yet.
Frank Lampard’s Derby Country become just Derby County
For an entire season most coverage of the Rams was accompanied by the unofficial team name of Frank Lampard’s Derby County.
Certainly interesting at first, but less so on a rapidly deteriorating scale as the season wore on. It ramped up again as Derby made the playoff final and ultimately lost to Aston Villa.
It was yet another season of promise that didn’t quite make it.
Lampard’s season though was good enough for Chelsea to take a risk on him/had no one better who wanted to be in charge of a team with no transfers. So Derby have to start again, this time with Dutch international Phillip Cocu who played for PSV and Barcelona and managed the former.
They still have quality players, like ones to watch Jack Marriott and Tom Lawrence, but they probably won’t have the benefit of Chelsea loanees this season who did so well for them last year.
How will the relegated Premier League teams go?
The question on how the relegated teams go from the Premier League from the previous season is almost impossible to guess. But that won’t stop us from having a go.
From the previous season that only West Bromwich Albion made the playoffs and they remain in the second tier. Swansea did well under pressure to finish 10th, and 16th placed Stoke much less so after a busy transfer period at the start of the season that amounted to mid table mediocrity.
Huddersfield Town looked doomed well before they were mathematically relegated, so were probably prepared for the Championship for quite a while. They have kept most of their squad together for the Championship season ahead. Importantly for the moment that includes Aaron Mooy, who stormed this division two seasons ago.
Fulham’s season was memorable for at least the term “doing a Fulham”, which will probably be forever linked to any promoted club appearing to overspend.
It’s hard to tell how the Cottagers will do in the Championship this season, some of the core of players that got them promoted remain, but are there scars from the way they were brushed aside for the bigger names in the EPL last season.
It won’t help that their best player from their promotion season – Ryan Sessegnon – may go to Spurs. They have kept Aleksandr Mitrovic, who scored 12 goals in 17 games for Fulham last time they were in this division.
Cardiff were the last team to be relegated from the Premier League last season, and that is probably a credit to them and manager Neil Warnock.
They looked the least equipped Championship side for some time to go up, but at least will be prepared for this season’s second tier tilt. Warnock is the promotion king, so there is hope as long as he is in charge. The squad is largely unchanged, although the addition of Aden Flint is a good one.
You could make an argument that all three could be in the top six mix come May, but is a very unlikely event. And only three times since 2005 have two of the three relegated Premier League side been promoted on the first bounce.
What about the promoted teams?
Remember the story about Bournemouth surviving a 17-point deduction in the fourth division back in the day to make it into the Premier League? Well that same season Luton Town were deducted 30 points and didn’t survive.
That began a five season stint in Non League which ended in 2014. Since then it has it has been three promotions to their current status in the second tier. One more and they arrive in the Premier League for the first time since 1992.
They were the winners of League One last season with 94 points, but have lost a few of their better players to Premier League clubs. That is the worry is how much of that team will be around at the start of the season.
Barnsley were the second side automatically promoted last season, as they continue to yo-yo between the two divisions. Last season was their sixth promotion to/relegation from the Championship since 2001.
You’d think bottom half of Championship would be their likely landing spot, but the form from last season should see them survive.
Playoff Final winners Charlton Athletic have succeeded in spite of owners who appear to hate the club they run. Fan protests, some of which have been quite amusing. haven’t been successful in removing them.
A consortium including Australians have been linked at buying the club. This is their first back in the second tier since 2016. And they do have former EPL firebrand Lee Bowyer as manager.
And the teams in between?
Given you would have got a very handsome price for getting all three promoted teams correct last season, one shouldn’t discount the teams in the middle either. Aside from the years Newcastle are relegated, it is a genuine lottery most seasons for success.
A few teams to watch are brought to you by the letter B. Bristol City and Brentford are two of the lesser known teams, but have been competitive in recent seasons without taking the next step. In the case of Brentford it is usually because their best players are poached.
Brentford are also planning on moving into a new stadium next season, after 115 years at Griffin Park (which has a pub on every corner in one of the great gamedays in London) they are moving to a new Community stadium, so a good excuse to christen the new home ground with Premier League.
We like West Bromwich Albion for the sole reason that Slaven Bilic is now in charge, and Middlesbrough might be worth more of a shout this season without Tony Pulis’ style of football boring their own fans.
But it is the Championship, and a league where it is almost pointless doing pre season predictions, we’re sure to look like idiots if they are reviewed in May.
The Championship can be a brutal league for those in charge of the team sheet, and indeed there are ten clubs who are stating the new season without the manager that they ended the season with.
Three clubs didn’t renew the caretaker’s position, three clubs have had their manager poached by another team, two clubs did not renew their permanent manager, and two more were just sacked.
Frank Lampard’s departure from Frank Lampard’s Derby has already been discussed, but the other two poaches have left the Championship clubs in a bit of trouble to start the season.
Steve Bruce’s decision to leave Sheffield Wednesday for Newcastle may be a great homecoming for himself, but it leaves the Owls without a manager. And Bruce did a very good job with them at the end of last season, saving a club hurtling towards the exit to safety.
Swansea City too will look to the new season with a great deal of negativity as they have now lost their manager to Brighton – Graham Potter – who did an incredible job to guide the Swans to tenth, but also some of their better players including James to Man Utd.
Watching the Championship from Australia
There is usually the Friday night kick off which is a convenient kick off to your Saturday sports slothing at 5am/6am depending on Daylight Savings.
Every week there is one of the myriad of 3pm Saturday kick offs, and a game following that in the way-too-small hours of Sunday morning in Australia.
There are a handful of Aussies competing in the Championship this season, so if you don’t have a side, you may well jump on board one of these player/teams.
MF – Kenny Dougall – Barnsley
DF – Bailey Wright – Bristol City
MD – Aaron Mooy – Huddersfield
MF – Jackson Irvine – Hull City
DF – James Meredith – Millwall
MD – Massimo Luongo – QPR
GK – Adam Federici – Stoke
Who will win?
Who am I to offer up a season preview without the chance to put the reputation on the line and get hammered for it when the selections end up complete duds.
Here are the selections for the season ahead with little confidence. It is the Championship after all.
Winners: Leeds United
Promoted: Fulham, Bristol City
Relegated: Swansea, Wigan Athletic, Reading.