Sheffield United Fulham and West Brom have all appointed new managers in their bid to bounce straight back to the Premier League following relegation.
Serbian Slavisa Jokanovic the Blades’ first overseas manager, is seeking his third promotion to the top flight having navigated his way out of the Sky Bet Championship at former clubs Watford and Fulham.
The Cottagers’ new boss, Portuguese Marco Silva, will attempt to plot his route out of the English second tier for the first time and West Brom have turned to Valerien Ismael, who worked wonders at Barnsley last season.
All three clubs have wiped the slate clean and while Fulham have been installed as the bookmakers’ favourites to win the Championship title, United and West Brom are close behind.
Fulham’s £12.6million outlay for Liverpool’s attacking midfielder Harry Wilson aside, none of the leading promotion candidates have so far invested in the transfer market.
That could change with the summer window open until Tuesday, August 31, but it remains to be seen what effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on clubs’ plans for team strengthening.
Bournemouth, who fell short in the play-offs last season in their bid for an instant Premier League return, will go again with a new manager of their own after Scott Parker swapped Fulham for a fresh challenge.
Of next season’s hopefuls, Middlesbrough have bucked the trend with five new signings already completed and boss Neil Warnock is harbouring genuine hopes of a record-extending ninth promotion.
Cardiff also flirted with the play-offs last season after Mick McCarthy’s arrival in January and the addition of Republic of Ireland striker James Collins should boost their challenge.
Welsh rivals Swansea appointed Russell Martin as Steve Cooper’s replacement on Sunday, leaving the former MK Dons boss less than a week to prepare his new club for their opening match.
Martin has little time to galvanise a squad still reeling from a second successive play-off defeat to Brentford, while a renewed play-off push for Reading could hinge on finding replacements for Michael Olise and Omar Richards.
Michael O’Neill’s Stoke are looking up. Ben Wilmot and Mario Vrancic are welcome summer recruits and with long-term absentees Tyrese Campbell and Alfie Doughty closing in on their returns from injury, Potters fans can finally look forward to a new season with optimism.
That cannot be said for Derby. Uncertainty over their ownership and a transfer embargo have left Wayne Rooney struggling to assemble a squad and the scars from their final-day relegation scare in May have not healed.
Huddersfield have been tipped to struggle again, but could defy the odds. Head coach Carlos Corberan has made some key signings and is quietly aiming for a top-half finish.
That is a minimum target for Nottingham Forest, Blackburn and Millwall, while Coventry and Luton will both be aiming to maintain their recent year-on-year improvement.
Preston will be hoping to build on the momentum gained under Frankie McAvoy last season and Bristol City boss Nigel Pearson will start his first full campaign at Ashton Gate, but the Robins are a club in transition.
Barnsley may also struggle after securing an unlikely play-off place last season under Ismael, who could not resist West Brom’s call and took assistant Adam Murray and captain Alex Mowatt with him.
Lee Bowyer must attempt to steer Birmingham clear of another relegation battle on a lower budget than predecessor Aitor Karanka, but the bookies have newly-promoted pair Peterborough and Blackpool as favourites for relegation.
Hull bounced straight back to the second tier as League One champions, but Grant McCann’s bid to consolidate has been hit by a transfer embargo.
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