Ahead of the Sky Bet Championship fixtures for the 2019/20 season being revealed on Thursday morning, we’ve taken a look at the newcomers to English football’s second tier ahead of the new campaign.
Heading down from the Premier League are Huddersfield Town, Fulham and Cardiff City whilst stepping up from League 1 are Luton Town, Barnsley and Charlton Athletic.
Huddersfield Town’s two-season stay in the Premier League came to an end last term as they finished bottom of the table with three wins to their name from 38 matches. As many clubs have found in recent years, the second season in the top-flight can be more challenging than the first and the Terriers were unable to navigate themselves around the challenges that came their way. David Wagner, the man who had masterminded Huddersfield’s promotion via the play-offs in 2016/17 and the subsequent retention of their Premier League status, left by mutual consent midway through last season and was replaced by another German in Jan Siewert. The former Borussia Dortmund II boss will be hoping that a full pre-season to work with his squad, as well as re-shaping his squad to suit his preferred 4-3-3 system, will give Town the opportunity to hit the ground running in 2019/20. Despite a disappointing campaign last time out, the Terriers have good reason to be upbeat for the new season. They will be looking to the likes of 21-year-old striker Karlan Grant to fire home the goals to mount a promotion charge - while players such as Jonathan Hogg, Tommy Smith, Aaron Mooy, Christopher Schindler and Philip Billing remain from their promotion-winning side just over two years ago to instil a winning mentality into the dressing room.
Fulham are back in the Championship after 12 months in the Premier League and it’s fair to say there’s been plenty of change in a short period of time at Craven Cottage. The 2017/18 Play-Off Final winners made a total of 15 signings last summer as they sought to avoid being embroiled in a relegation battle, along with a further three in January. A slow start eventually saw Slaviša Jokanović lose his job by November and his replacement, Claudio Ranieri, was unable to revive their fortunes and moved on by the end of February. Former Cottagers midfielder Scott Parker stepped up from his first-team coaching role to take charge of the side for the remaining months of the season and while he was unable to steer them away from relegation, he made enough of an impact to be handed the manager’s role on a permanent basis at the end of the campaign. Fulham do, despite a squad overhaul in the last year, have the quality of the likes of Aleksandar Mitrović, Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon to call upon alongside several established Championship players as they look to mount another promotion challenge.
Cardiff City, like Fulham, will be fired up to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking in 2019/20 and in Neil Warnock they have a serial promotion-winner as their manager. The 70-year-old has masterminded an impressive eight promotions in the professional leagues and still has the drive to add more to his CV. Cardiff, despite being written off by many and suffering a number of injuries to key players such as Callum Paterson and Sol Bamba, so nearly defied the odds to remain in the top flight and finished last season just two points adrift of safety. The Bluebirds’ squad is still largely made up of the players that guided them to the top-flight, via the automatic promotion route, back in 2017/18 and they will be hoping that continuity will serve them well as they look to be in the race for promotion this term. In Bobby Reid, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Kenneth Zohore, Junior Hoilett and Danny Ward they have significant firepower at Championship level to fire home the goals to put them in the promotion hunt.
Luton Town are back in the second tier of English football for the first time since the 2006/07 season and have had overcome some difficult times in the 12 seasons since then. Financial problems saw them relegated through the leagues and by the 2009/10 season they were playing their football in the National League. Play-Off heartbreak followed on several occasions before they gained promotion as Champions under John Still in 2013/14 and the following three seasons saw the Hatters establish themselves back in the EFL. Under the stewardship of Nathan Jones, they finished as runners-up in League 2 in 2017/18 and, despite the departure of Jones to Stoke City at the midway point of the season, they ended the 2018/19 campaign as League 1 champions. Former Derby striker Mick Harford took on the role of Interim Manager for the remainder of the season, but he has now reverted back to his role as the club’s Chief Recruitment Officer following the appointment of former Swansea City, Wigan Athletic, Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Belgium coach Graeme Jones in early May. Jones, in his first managerial role, will be looking to build on the feel-good factor at Kenilworth Road off the back of back-to-back promotions and planning permission for a new stadium, following years of hard work behind the scenes, being granted.
Barnsley, unlike Sunderland and Burton Albion, were able to shake off the disappointment of relegation to League 1 during the 2017/18 season to make an immediate return to the Championship last term. The Tykes suffered final day heartbreak in May 2018 at Pride Park Stadium as the Rams inflicted a 4-1 defeat on the Reds to condemn them to relegation. However, the appointment of German Daniel Stendel proved to be inspirational for the Tykes as he quickly assembled a younger and fresher looking side to finish second in League 1 last term behind Champions Luton Town and pipping Sunderland, Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth to the second automatic promotion spot. The goals of Kieffer Moore (23) and Cauley Woodrow (19) were instrumental in their promotion, as well as the performances of goalkeeper Adam Davies between the posts and Alex Mowatt in midfield, and both players will be desperate to keep firing home the goals at the next level. Now, though, the challenge for Stendel, the former Head Coach Hannover 96, is to maintain the momentum that saw Barnsley achieve promotion and they will certainly fancy their chances against anyone at Oakwell after going through the 2018/19 season unbeaten at home, picking up 15 wins from 23 matches.
Few clubs will have secured promotion in recent years in such dramatic circumstances as Charlton Athletic did last month. The Addicks defeated Sunderland 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in the League 1 Play-Off Final, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story. Naby Sarr's powerful back pass was completely missed by goalkeeper Dillon Phillips for an own goal as Charlton fell behind at Wembley early on. Ben Purrington equalised before half-time, however, and Charlton went on to score the winner with virtually the last kick of the game through Patrick Bauer to spark wild celebrations to round off a memorable first full season as manager for Lee Bowyer. The 42-year-old managed to unite the Addicks’ squad, despite off-the-fields issues surrounding the club, to end their three-season stay in the third tier. Bowyer also managed to recover from the blow of losing striker Karlan Grant to Huddersfield Town in January to guide the club to promotion, via a third-placed finish after losing only two times in 2019, with Lyle Taylor stepping up to the plate and carrying the goalscoring burden with an impressive 21-goal haul. After a turbulent few years, the Addicks will be hoping for some stability upon their return to the Championship.
The 2019/20 Sky Bet Championship season will commence on the
weekend of 3rd/4th August 2019, with the fixtures for the new campaign released
at 9am on Thursday 20th June.