Last weekend saw the football Championship begin, and the first week of fixtures for the second tier of English football have now been completed. Players such as Matt Ritchie and Ross McCormack made their competitive debuts for their new clubs Newcastle and Aston Villa respectively, and newly appointed managers including former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam had their first fixture in charge. Newly promoted clubs, such as Burton Albion, also played their first ever match in the Championship, and may be vying for their third consecutive promotion. With three promotion places to the Premier League available, all teams may be aiming for a consistent season to give them the best chance of playing Premier League football next season, and banking a £170 million prize.
The first fixture of the season took place on Friday night, between former Premier League club Newcastle United and London club Fulham. Fulham edged the match 1-0, with Matt Smith’s goal separating the two sides. With Newcastle still perhaps expected to win, as they are favourites to win the Championship title, the match may still provide vital experience for Newcastle in their first Championship appearance in six years. Manager Rafael Benitez has made eight new signings and provided debuts for five of those players, including former Blackburn captain Grant Hanley, and these players may need further time to settle in their new team. Their talent may be unquestionable; Matt Ritchie won Bournemouth’s goal of the season award last season, and Dwight Gayle scored 25 goals for Crystal Palace.
Aston Villa, another club who played Premier League football last season, made their Championship debut, and Sheffield Wednesday won the fixture 1-0. This was Roberto Di Matteo’s first competitive match in charge of the Midlands club, and his players may be given other matches to adapt to his philosophy and tactics. Norwich City seemed to convincingly win their match with Blackburn, a 4-1 victory taking them to the top of the table. They recorded 12 shots, with scorers including young winger Jacob Murphy, his first goal for the club, and Cameron Jerome, his 25th strike for the Canaries. Wolves, recently bought by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, came from 2 goals down to draw 2-2, even with 10 men.
League 1 champions Wigan Athletic began their campaign at Bristol City, and Bristol came back from 1-0 to win the match after two late goals. Fellow promoted club Burton Albion were edged out in a seven-goal game, which may be seen as a surprise result; they had more shots in their first ever Championship match and also lead 2-1. With ranging results, an insight may have been given the season ahead may be competitive, with any club perhaps possessing the quality and talent to win promotion.
All clubs may want to win promotion to the top tier, predominantly due to the money available to win if they play Premier League football. Last season’s 20th placed club Aston Villa earned £66.2 million, the highest amount ever recorded, and with the Premier League TV rights deal providing a further £5.14 billion, the amount may increase in the upcoming seasons. Additionally, 16 of the 24 clubs have played in the Premier League, and thus may want to get back to the top in order to showcase their talents amongst the best clubs in England. The League may be also useful as a stepping stone for young players and managers; Chelsea loanee’s Tammy Abraham and Kasey Palmer both scored in their first Championship game, and new managers Jaap Stam and Alan Stubbs both managed creditable results.
This season is the first since the rebranding of the football league to the EFL, and the first week of fixtures may give an insight into how competitive this season may be. With 16 former Premier League clubs, two Champions League winning managers, European Cup winning teams and record transfer amounts being spent, it seems all factors are suggesting the title may be won by any club. Ultimately, the league provides opportunities for any team, and any player, to showcase their talents, with the grand prize of promotion up for grabs.
What clubs may win promotion to the Premier League?