With the EFL fixtures for the upcoming 2018/19 season released, we take an in-depth look at the Sky Bet Championship’s newest members who all endured torrid Premier League campaigns that ended in relegation as they waved goodbye to their top-flight status. Now that they know who they will face, preparation for their assault on the division’s promotion places has already begun for these three outfits.
First up, Stoke City.
Ex-Derby County manager Gary Rowett took over at Stoke after the Ram’s play-off semi-final defeat to Fulham saw Rowett jump ship following Paul Lambert’s departure from the Bet 365 Stadium having failed to steer his side away from the bottom three, guiding them to 19th in the table having secured just two wins during his five-month-long stint with the Potters.
Xherdan Shaqiri tops the list of inevitable big-name departures as he remains heavily linked with a move to Liverpool having expressed his desire to leave the club, bringing an end to his three-year spell, which saw him hit the net fifteen times. Jack Butland has also been touted for a move to Anfield and Ramadan Sobhi has opted for a move to Huddersfield Town. Meanwhile, centre-back Kevin Wimmer heads out on loan to Hannover and experienced duo, Steven Ireland and Glen Johnson have been released.
Rowett has shown no lack of intent as his summer recruitment process continues following the additions of Nigerian international midfielder, Oghenekaro Etebo in a deal worth over £6 million, and Wolverhampton Wanderers striker, Benik Afobe who joins just 12 days after signing a permanent deal with Wolves in a bizarre £12 million switch. Afobe and Etebo undoubtedly represent two exciting, attacking acquisitions for a side that will be hoping they can seal promotion at the first time of asking having watched their side concede a concerning 68 times last season.
The Potters were handed a boost after Welsh midfielder Joe Allen committed his long-term future to Stoke having signed a new four-year deal to end speculation surrounding a move elsewhere. However, the futures of many players still hang in the balance with the likes of Maxim Choupo-Moting, Mame Biram Diouf, and Giannelli Imbula still unaccounted for.
Stoke’s ten-year stay in the Premier League was brought to a solemn end following a home defeat to Crystal Palace and the days of FA Cup finals and Europa League qualification seem worlds apart, however, the introduction of a young, English manager who knows the division will prove a very welcome addition, with the board trusting Rowett to splash the cash.
Opening fixture: Leeds United (A)
Next up, Swansea City.
Having left Sheffield Wednesday for Swansea in December, Carlos Carvalhal’s promising start to his time in Wales soon turned sour as he failed to prevent the 18th placed Swans from returning to the second tier after seven years in the top flight. After just eight wins in 25 games at the helm, the Portuguese boss called time on his trip across the border, making way for new manager, Graham Potter.
Labelled a risky appointment and untested in England during his managerial career, Potter returns home eager to prove his credentials in the Championship having achieved success at Swedish outfit, Ostersund FK, where he spent eight years plying his trade, taking them from the fourth tier of Swedish Football to the Allsvenskan and beyond into the Europa League in a groundbreaking campaign that saw them meet Arsenal in the competition’s last 32.
Leaving Sweden as a hero, Potter embarks on his new venture with a 51%win ratio to show for his only job in management. At just 43 years-old the ex-Birmingham, Stoke and West Brom player is thoroughly deserving of the opportunity to take Swansea straight back up and has been rewarded with a three-year deal.
Alfie Mawson’s rise to prominence was one of the few high points for Swansea in a season full of lows however the England under-21 international has been linked with a move back to the Premier League and could follow goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski through the door at West Ham United with talks ongoing. Jordan Ayew has also been subject of a rejected bid from newly-promoted Fulham however he currently remains at the Liberty Stadium with brother Andrew. While midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung announced he would leave the club in the wake of their relegation.
With outgoings the only transfer activity so far for the Welsh side, Potter will be hoping to complete the Swan’s first flurry of summer signings sooner rather than later as their Championship rivals continue to their rebuilding during the off-season. Without some serious reinvestment, the Swans could face a troubling season despite an automatic return remaining their aim.
Opening fixture: Sheffield United (A)
Lastly, West Bromwich Albion.
Darren Moore engineered a stunning end to a shocking campaign for the Baggies as wins over Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur saw Moore named Premier League Manager of the Month for April. Despite his rightfully received plaudits, Moore failed to drag his side to safety after they were left rooted to the foot of the table following Alan Pardew’s dismissal in April.
Having been appointed Head Coach at the Hawthorns on a permanent basis in May, Moore prepares for his first full season in charge of the Baggies who like Stoke and Swansea, will be hoping for an instant return to the promised land, where they had spent nine years, during which they previously flirted with the drop zone on numerous occasions.
Burnley remain the favourites to seal a deal for Baggies duo, Craig Dawson, and top-scorer Jay Rodriguez although the two clubs have reached a stalemate regarding a valuation for the pair in recent negotiations. Defender Jonny Evans brought an end to his three years at the Hawthorns as he joined Leicester City, with Nacer Chadli remaining unsure on his future.
28-year-old Venezuelan frontman, Salomon Rondon has been heavily linked with a move away from England, with European heavyweights, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid expressing an interest in the powerful centre-forward who has a £16 million release clause. Experienced goalkeeper, Ben Foster has confirmed his desire to stay at the club, while Gareth Barry has triggered his optional one-year extension.
Much like Swansea, West Brom are also yet to add to their ranks although Moore has reportedly lined up a £7 million bid for Bristol City’s Bobby Reid who netted 19 times as his side narrowly missed out on a place in the top six. Hot prospect Jonathan Leko signed a new deal which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2021 and we could witness the youngster make his breakthrough into the first-team as big names move on.
Opening fixture: Bolton Wanderers (H)
Stoke, Swansea, and West Brom fans, let us know your thoughts by commenting down below and by taking part in the poll. How do you think your side will fare in the Championship next year, can you bounce straight back? You can tweet us @AllOutFootball_ using the hashtag #AOF.
featured image credit nst.com