After over two months without any Championship games the wait for domestic action in England’s second tier will finally come to an end when the 2019-20 season begins on Friday evening.
Luton Town will host Middlesbrough at Kenilworth Road in the opening game of the new Championship season on Friday night.
Here is how supporters from all 24 clubs are feeling about their sides ahead of the new campaign, according to the experts who cover those clubs.
Barnsley – Doug O’Kane (Barnsley Chronicle)
The mood is generally very positive, Barnsley collected their club records points tally last season as they gained promotion while playing some excellent football under Daniel Stendel.
There is a bit of disappointment after some key players in the promotion team have left the club but, overall, everyone is excited to be back in the division where Barnsley have played more games than any other club.
The first remit is always to stay up but the Reds will be hoping to do a bit better than that and finish in mid-table.
Birmingham City – Joseph Chapman (Birmingham Live)
There was initially a serious concern, firstly because of the lack of developments in the window and then, of course, the well documented exit of Garry Monk – a sacking that many a Bluenose could scarcely get their head around.
Until only recently that concern – married with anger regarding the club’s decision to part with Monk – was the primary emotion of the fanbase, ahead of the new season.
They’d sold Che Adams as expected, but the departure of popular captain Michael Morrison was a shock.
With Pep Clotet overseeing things now, and some rather intriguing arrivals beginning to emerge, there is certainly a curiosity and tempered anticipation ahead of the big kick off.
Blackburn Rovers – Alex James (Lancs Live)
Rovers adapted well to life in the second tier last season following promotion from League One and a continuation of that upward curve is what supporters are looking for.
In Tony Mowbray they have a manager who communicates well with fans and the club in general are looking to engage more with the community.
The Ewood faithful would like to see a commanding centre half brought in to play alongside Darragh Lenihan while some remain unconvinced by the value in signing Sam Gallagher for £5m given the options Rovers have in that area of the pitch.
If the club can add a new defender the fans will rightly expect a top half team or better. As it is, most are predicting mid-table.
Brentford – Phil Spencer (Football.London)
It’s Brentford’s last season at Griffin Park, and there’s nothing they’d like more than to mount a serious challenge for promotion.
The Bees have showed steady signs of improvement over recent seasons, and with Thomas Frank’s feet firmly under the table, he’ll be hoping to really make his mark in his first full season in charge.
Brentford have made a number of good signings, but the decision to sell Romaine Sawyers and Ezri Konsa – along with the likely departure of Neal Maupay – means that fans are realistically looking at another top half finish with the potential for a play-off push.
Bristol City – Gregor MacGregor (Bristol Live)
The Bristol City fans are optimistic about the season ahead given a good last campaign and some sound spending in the transfer window. Bringing back Jay Dasilva and Tomas Kalas on permanent deals from Chelsea is solid work and shows the progress of the Robins.
Both players should be foundations for the club to further improve in the seasons ahead, while Dan Bentley from Brentford and Sammie Szmodics – who was wanted be several EFL clubs this summer – look to be sound recruits too.
However, some Robins supporters see little actual advancement of the Robins squad, given that Kalas and Dasilva were both at Ashton Gate last season.
Further, one of City’s main problems was the lack of a 20-goal striker in ’18/’19, and that does not seem to have been addressed so far this transfer window.
Cardiff City – Tom Coleman (WalesOnline)
The mood is pretty good. Cardiff enjoyed a pretty reasonable summer and there’s still a strong sense of togetherness here, despite relegation last season.
The club recently announced that 18,000 season tickets have been sold for the new season, which just goes to show how enthusiastic the fans are about the coming campaign. That said, there is a sense of unease at the failure to land a new striker, particularly in light of the recent departure of Kenneth Zohore.
Getting a new forward option on board will certainly go a long way to easing a few nerves, but the mood is otherwise hugely positive at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Charlton Athletic – Lewis Catt (@LewisCatt9)
Charlton fans will still be on a huge high from that unforgettable last gasp win in the League One Play-Off Final which put an end to our three-year absence from the second tier of English football.
Us as fans now feel the club is back where it belongs in the Championship and we are excited to get started with the new season with what is going to be a real test for Lee Bowyer’s men.
Along with excitement however comes some concern, it is well documented that controversial owner Roland Duchatelet wants out of the club and with that being the case Roland seems reluctant to invest in the club, giving Bowyer a shoestring budget to spend on transfers and let’s not forget that at the start of the summer we almost lost Lee Bowyer after Roland seemed to confirm his failure to agree terms on a new deal on the official club website.
Luckily for us in a bizarre turn of events, Lee Bowyer agreed a new deal less than 24 hours after the initial statement. Fans have plenty of faith in Lee Bowyer and his head of recruitment Steve Gallen and believe that they will bring in players they know will make us better, it’s just a real shame they are given little to no support financially for the Addicks to give this season a real go and compete.
Derby County – Chris Watson (Derbyshire Live)
I think there was disappointment at losing manager Frank Lampard to Chelsea over the summer, following on from the play-off final defeat to Aston Villa at Wembley.
There is a certain amount of intrigue about Lampard’s replacement, former PSV Eindhoven boss Phillip Cocu, who has become the club’s first overseas manager.
The fans will be hoping Cocu can get the best out of the squad – and bring through more young talent from the Academy, though I think most recognise it may be tough to replicate last season’s top-six finish.
Pre-season preparations have not been ideal, largely due to the change of manager, and the general consensus among supporters is that more new signings are required before the transfer window closes.
Fulham – Phil Spencer (Football.London)
Last season was nothing short of a disaster for Fulham.
After securing promotion, the wheels came off in dramatic style as the club were relegated from the Premier League without a whimper. With that, it means that expectations are pretty high this time around.
The Cottagers have a lot of making up to do with their supporters, and as far as they’re concerned, anything less than promotion will be deemed a huge failure.
Hopes will be high as Fulham return to the league where they performed consistently well two seasons ago, but supporters will turn quickly if they don’t get off to a good start.
Huddersfield Town – Steven Chicken (Examiner Live)
Not the automatic promotion that many outside writers and pundits seem to assume they want.
Last season’s dire relegation was a hugely chastening experience, and has reset the expectations of a group of fans that have always been pretty realistic to begin with.
Over the past six months Town have replaced their chairman, head coach, several key players, their playing style, and are set to appoint a new head of football operations (kind of like a director of football, but less powerful). The club and most fans alike therefore acknowledge that the club may not be in a position to mount a promotion challenge straight after relegation: there’s just too many adjustments to be made.
While he does have some outspoken critics, most fans are willing to accept that Jan Siewert walked into an impossible job in January, and are willing to judge him on what he does in the Championship alone. As long as there are signs of progress with his young squad throughout the season, a challenge for a playoff spot would go down pretty nicely.
Hull City – Philip Buckingham (Hull Live)
It’s not been an easy summer at the KCOM Stadium. Just when Nigel Adkins was starting to build a team able to flirt with the Championship play-offs in the second half of last season, Hull City are having to start over again.
Half of the summer was spent waiting on a decision from Adkins and Grant McCann has been left to play catch-up as he looks to assemble a squad that can meet the demands of the Championship. Supporters seem content with the appointment of McCann and the potential of his new signings, but the off-field issues continue to hang over the club.
Only a change of ownership can genuinely reinvigorate a fan base where apathy has taken root and the cost-cutting implemented over recent months means Hull City will start the new season with one of the smallest budgets in the division.
All that combined ensures you’ll be hard pushed to find a supporter expecting a promotion challenge but optimism levels will ultimately be shaped by whether Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki remain in East Yorkshire. They’re this team’s game-changers.
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Leeds United – Beren Cross (Leeds Live)
The fans expect another tilt at promotion, in short. The Championship’s sleeping giant has been dozing for so long now it may have finally slipped into something more like a coma.
However, Marcelo Bielsa’s arrival last summer has brought them closer than anyone can remember to returning to the promised land.
The play-offs crushed every man and his dog in May, but the supporters are just about coming out the other side now. Pre-season has been up and down, but the bottom line is optimistic because Bielsa has stuck around.
Helder Costa’s signature turned heads, but the head coach is the star man and the majority feel his first full season in England will stand him in stead to go one better in 2019-20.
Luton Town – Simon Pitts (@SimonStattoP)
After two successive promotions Luton fans are in good spirits and are looking forward to the season ahead in the Championship.
Most are obviously expecting a tough campaign and the general feeling is that we’d take anything above a bottom three finish, to then build on this in 2020/21.
Our recruitment has been great for the past few years and has been preparing us for the next level each time, so we’re in a position that we have players who have good experience at this level, and above, already.
Middlesbrough – Philip Tallentire (Gazette Live)
By and large the Boro fans have bought into the idea that the club has to change the policy of trying to spend their way to success.
The parachute payments have been spent, cash is tight and there’s a realisation that young, hungry players have to be recruited for small fees.
It’s fair to say Jonathan Woodgate wasn’t the first choice replacement for Tony Pulis among the majority of the fanbase but he’s won respect by being open and honest about the style of football he wants to play and the kind of team he wants to build.
The stated aim is to finish as high as possible and a play-off bid certainly hasn’t been ruled out. But it’s also accepted that it will take time to turn Pulis’s functional, safety-first side into one that looks to express itself, to play out from the back, to press high and to score plenty of goals.
The mood among the fans who attended the final friendly of the summer against Saint Etienne was positive and the recruitment of two players aged just 21 has gone down well.
If Middlesbrough play an enterprising brand of football and maintain a regular place in the Championship top 10 then the fans will almost certainly stay onside.
Millwall – Jake Sanders (@JakeSanders92)
There was a dark cloud surrounding the supporters towards the back end of last season. Millwall were winless in their final seven matches, scoring just three goals.
The football wasn’t pretty and their poor form meant they flirted extremely dangerously with relegation.
But heading into this campaign, there is a newfound optimism around the fan base and a large portion are quietly confident about having a successful season with what is possibly their best squad for years.
Nottingham Forest – Tom Leach (Nottinghamshire Live)
Nottingham Forest supporters want nothing less than promotion this season and those expectations have stemmed from the club themselves.
Martin O’Neill was told that a return to the Premier League was the minimum expected of him by owner Evangelos Marinakis, who to his credit is doing his utmost to set the club up with a platform strong enough to challenge.
But with O’Neill sacked for losing the backing of some of the dressing room’s senior players, supporters would be wise to adjust their expectations slightly under manager Sabri Lamouchi.
The relatively unknown Frenchman will undoubtedly take time to adjust to life in England but could equally prove a few people wrong.
This could go either way.
Preston North End – Alex James (Lancs Live)
The delight at seeing a fan favourite return in David Nugent has been offset by the relatively quiet summer at Deepdale.
Social media has people speculating over a possible relegation fight but North End have an astute manager in Alex Neil and, if he can pull a couple of late arrivals out of the hat then it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom.
PNE threatened the play-offs last spring and, given the competitive nature of the Championship, know they must find consistency to improve on their 14th place of last season.
Queens Park Rangers – Phil Spencer (Football.London)
With Queens Park Rangers currently battling to balance the book, there’s a resignation among the fans that this season is purely about consolidation.
Losing players such a Darnell Furlong, Luke Freeman and Matt Smith is a huge blow, and it’ll certainly be interesting to see how the Hoops get on without that Championship experience.
While expectations are low, the 12 new additions have ignited a small amount of hope that with plenty of high potential new talent in the squad, Mark Warburton’s side might just be able to cause a real upset in the months ahead.
In reality, any finish outside of the bottom three would be an acceptable season, but there’s always that glimmer of hope that they might just surprise a few.
Reading – Jonathan Low (Get Reading)
Optimism is slowly building among Reading fans after a slow start to the transfer window.
Some sensible recruitment has allowed Jose Gomes to have a more competitive squad in 2019/20.
The primary aim is to improve on the past two seasons which have seen them finish 20th in the league table.
The hope is of a mid-table finish, which would represent an improvement, albeit small.
Having some stability on and off the pitch is arguably the most important factor, however, for the club going forward.
Sheffield Wednesday – Alex Miller (Sheffield Star)
Had that questions been posed a few weeks ago, the answer would be simple – a play-off spot.
But the Hillsborough landscape has been blown to bits since the shock departure of Steve Bruce.
While the players seem to have coped with the distraction admirably, with no sign of a managerial appointment just days out from the season opener at Reading, the fans’ expectations are ranging from unmoved to unprintable.
Add to the Bruce ship-jump an only recently lifted ‘soft transfer embargo’ and Sheffield Wednesday fans have been put through the ringer this summer.
Despite this, alongside a little confusion, the general feeling is still one of optimism, that the squad left behind is more than capable of following through with the promise shown in the second half of last season and challenging for a place in the division’s top quarter.
Get the right man into the hotseat and that feeling may be right. Maybe.
Stoke City – Martin Spinks (Stoke On Trent Live)
They are far more realistic than this time last year when the play-offs was probably the least of most expectations in this neck of the woods.
This time round a top-six finish is probably the height of their expectations after a chastening first season back in the Championship (finishing 16th).
Pre-season results have been good by and large, but largely against lower league opposition, but victories have been a rare commodity over the past few years, friendlies or competitive, and so we are grateful for anything right now.
Most seem to be sitting on the fence, but most certainly want to see Nathan Jones succeed with a band of players that may lack the style of some of their predecessors, but who should certainly boast more substance.
Supporters have suffered long enough and most seem to have got their anger out of their system and now seem ready to celebrate something again.
Swansea City – Mathew Davies (WalesOnline)
Quiet optimism. Swansea have seen yet another change in manager but the early signs are good under Steve Cooper.
A few more additions before the window closes – replacing Daniel James is a must – and keeping Oli McBurnie could see Swansea in the mix for a top-half finish.
If the Scotland international stays, they could even trouble the play-offs. But lose him and it will be a struggle.
West Bromwich Albion – Joseph Chapman (Birmingham Live)
For much of the season the fanbase has been particularly frustrated – certainly as far as the percentage of those that use social media would suggest.
The club missed out on promotion via the play-offs, then the supporters were informed that there’d be no chance of fan favourite and loanee Dwight Gayle returning.
New boss Slaven Bilic was generally considered a coup by supporters, and he has finally been able to recruit players of his own.
Those additions, particularly when you consider they’re all on permanent deals, has given the fanbase fresh optimism – though the consensus remains that the club still needs another four or five players.
Wigan Athletic – Paul Kendrick (Wigan Observer)
To be fair to Wiganers, most have their feet firmly on the ground.
While the younger end of the fanbase – brought up on Premier League football – is probably hoping one day for a top-flight return, most supporters would acknowledge the Championship is a very decent level for a club this size.
After two relegations and two promotions in the space of four years, consolidating in the Championship last term represented a massive step in terms of building a platform from which to build. And looking at the rest of the division, I think another season of consolidation would represent relative success.
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