Championship Preview: How every team is shaping up for 2018/19
After an exciting summer for England at the World Cup, domestic football returns this coming weekend. Twenty-four teams will play forty-six games each in a division which is always notoriously close; while remaining immensely difficult to earn promotion from.
Sometimes, recently relegated Premier League sides tend to go into free-fall for a few seasons. However, this year, things could well be different. West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City have both had pretty impressive transfer windows, while keeping their core players together in an attempt to return at the first time of asking. If I had to choose winners, I'd opt for The Potters, but The Baggies will be hot on their heels throughout the long and tough campaign.
From then on out, it's pretty much take your pick. The Championship is filled with quality. If you make a good start, you could well be in the hunt come next May. Begin poorly, though, your campaign could already be over. I look towards Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Hull City and Leeds United as the best of the rest, but who knows how things will pan out?
It should be a season that'll once again be filled with intrigue, shocks and no doubt surprises. Hang on to your hats, folks, because it's going to be yet another bumpy Championship ride during 2018/19. Let's give you the low-down on each team...
Manager: Steve Bruce
Last Season: 4th, lost play-off final 1-0 to Fulham
Remaining needs: Goalkeeper. After Sam Johnstone left following a season-long loan spell, Aston Villa are looking short in between the sticks. The former Manchester United shot-stopper did remain in the Midlands, though, but with West Bromwich Albion.
Season outlook: Steve Bruce is a wily old fox. With him at the helm, Villa will always stand a chance. They're currently fighting to keep Jack Grealish at the club which would be a huge boost, but even if he does depart, their front line is packed with talent.
Manager: Garry Monk
Last season: 19th
Remaining needs: Goalkeeper and midfield are the two big holes for Birmingham, but I'd argue they need strengthening in practically every position.
Season outlook: Garry Monk is an excellent manager. However, one major signing isn't enough, more work was needed. Expect Birmingham to sit comfortably in mid-table. I'd be surprised if they push for a play-off spot.
Manager: Tony Mowbray
Last season: 2nd, League One, Promoted
Remaining needs: They've some excellent players and a well-rounded squad. Their manager won't enter the market for the sake of it. If I'm being picky, I'd love to see a 20+ goal-a-season striker brought into the mix.
Season outlook: It's always tough to judge newly promoted sides. Tony Mowbray has done an excellent job with a side that are certainly on the rise. I'd expect them to avoid relegation, but only just; giving them something to build upon.
Manager: Phil Parkinson
Last season: 21st
Remaining needs: Bolton have been extremely busy, signing players all over the field. They've filled several gaps, but a top quality centre-half wouldn't go amiss...
Season outlook: Phil Parkinson's side barely hung onto their Championship place, but they managed to avoid dropping down into the third-tier. Their fans will be hoping to see marked progression, but The Trotters could be in for another long twelve months.
Manager: Dean Smith
Last season: 9th
Remaining needs: Their squad is looking well balanced. Perhaps the best transfer business they can do is keeping Ryan Woods at the club. He's being targeted by Swansea City.
Season outlook: Time is key, Smith has been in charge for three years now, so it's no surprise to see Brentford sitting in the top-half. They've spent money this summer, fans will be hoping for a real play-off push; which is something they're capable of.
Manager: Lee Johnson
Last season: 11th
Remaining needs: Losing Luke Steele was equally as big a problem to losing Bobby Reid. A goalkeeper and an attacker have to be signed. Time is running out, though.
Season outlook: Lee Johnson enters his third year in charge, although there has been some huge overturn in the squad. It may be tough to replicate their top-half finish this season. Staying in the division, then building on that in twelve months time has to be the aim.
Manager: Frank Lampard
Last season: 6th, lost to Fulham in playoffs
Remaining needs: Derby County were pushing hard to sign a midfielder until Evans was signed. They'd probably like to acquire another striker before the window slams shut, though, to replace the ageing Chris Martin.
Season outlook: Frank Lampard is unproven, untried and untested in management. For him, it's going to be sink or swim. Derby have taken a risk by employing the Chelsea legend, but they'll be expecting a play-off push as the minimum.
Manager: Nigel Adkins
Last season: 18th
Remaining needs: Bringing in a top quality central midfielder could be the difference, Oliver Norwood, who Hull have been linked with, would be an excellent signing if it goes through.
Season outlook: Nigel Adkins' men hung onto their Championship place last term, but they've spent well and are slowly heading in the right direction. If they can make safety a little more comfortable this time around, everyone will be happy.
Manager: Paul Hurst
Last season: 12th
Remaining needs: A top-class striker is an absolute must. Ipswich lacked any real firepower last term, that simply has to change if they're to move up the table.
Season outlook: Nobody really knows how Paul Hurst is going to get on, but currently, he's trying to raid his old club Shrewsbury to help out matters. A top-half finish would be a success.
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa
Last season: 13th
Remaining needs: They've cleared dead-wood and made some astute signings. For now, it's time to let the manager do his work with the squad.
Season outlook: Marcelo Bielsa in the Championship is pretty crazy. He's an elite level coach who's made some brilliant signings. It'll go one of two ways; they'll either romp to promotion or fail miserably. There is no middle-ground with him...
Manager: Tony Pulis
Last season: 5th, lost in playoffs to Aston Villa
Remaining needs: Losing Patrick Bamford was pretty good, but Britt Assombalonga can fill that void. If there was one need, it'd be bringing in another attacking midfielder.
Season outlook: Pulis is an experienced coach with a brilliant squad at his disposal. Personally, I can see them comfortably sitting in the play-offs come late-April. They are my pick to finish third.
Manager: Neil Harris
Last season: 8th
Remaining needs: With no real stars, it's was very much a team effort. Personally, they could add a top-class player in a few positions, but you don't want to disrupt team harmony.
Season outlook: Millwall surprised people last term with an eight-placed finish, although lack of transfer activity may cost them. Harris is working wonders in charge, his players trust in him fully. A play-off push may be just beyond them, but it'll be intriguing to see how they go.
Manager: Daniel Farke
Last Season: 14th
Remaining needs: They have a few holes. A striker would be lovely, as would one more midfielder. Time is running out, though, and they certainly don't look like spending big.
Season outlook: Daniel Farke joined last September and has won 33% of his fixtures. Norwich City will be hoping he can build upon that this year, although the James Maddison loss will hurt them massively. Expect mid-table.
Manager: Aitor Karanka
Last season: 17th
Remaining needs: Forest have strengthened hard, while not losing too many key squad members. Let the manager do his job, delve back into the transfer market next summer if needs be.
Season outlook: Aitor Karanka is an outstanding coach, he'll have his team back in the top half of the table at the very least. They could be an outside shot at earning promotion via the play-offs.
Manager: Alex Neil
Last season: 7th
Remaining needs: Their glaring need is a striker. Cameron Jerome has been rumoured, it'd be an astute signing. He won't get you 20+ goals-a-season, though.
Season outlook: Alex Neil took charge in 2017 and guided Preston to their best-ever finish in years. They've haven't been overly active in the transfer market, and they'll do well to perform as well as they did last year.
Manager: Steve McClaren
Last season: 16th
Remaining needs: They have too many needs to list, but the money just isn't there to spend. I'd like to see a couple of loan deals or free signings secured. Things seem way too quiet, though...
Season outlook: QPR are in free-fall, which is a shame because Steve McLaren is an excellent manager at this level. Unfortunately, I can see the London club getting relegated this season.
Manager: Paul Clement
Last season: 20th
Remaining needs: Perhaps the best thing for Reading is to keep ahold of Liam Moore. If they can manage to do so, it'll be a nice morale boost.
Season outlook: Clement took over in March and has since steadied the ship. Reading's transfer activity has been decent, but probably not enough to challenge for promotion. Expect a mid-table finish.
Manager: Paul Warne
Last Season: 4th, League One, promoted via play-offs, beat Shrewsbury 2-1 in final.
Remaining needs: Their summer has contained several free transfers and loan signings, they've cautiously approached the summer; which is fair enough. A striker would be nice, as would a genuinely talented central midfielder.
Season outlook: Relegation, probably bottom of the table, too. Rotherham will likely be a yo-yo club over the next few seasons.
Manager: Chris Wilder
Last Season: 10th
Remaining needs: The Blades have made some super loan signings and tree transfers, however, David Brooks left and there is a huge hole in the attacking midfielder role.
Season outlook: They won't face relegation, nor will Sheffield challenge seriously. Mid-table is the best they can hope for this year, but with the right investment, they can certainly build.
Manager: Jos Luhukay
Last Season: 15th
Remaining needs: A right-back, they've lost Jack Hunt and failed to replace him. Other teams may cause havoc down that side this season, but they're pretty strong everywhere else.
Season outlook: Remaining in the division is pretty much the goal. If they climb into the top-half, everyone associated with the club will be happy. Things change so quickly in the Championship, though, so they have to get off to a good start.
Manager: Gary Rowett
Last Season: 19th, Premier League, relegated.
Remaining needs: Benik Afobe and Tom Ince are great replacements for Xherdan Shaqiri, although they've lost both Lee Grant and Giannelli Imbula. A midfielder and a goalkeeper would be nice.
Season outlook: Stoke are stacked with quality, they'll be right up there come the season's end. Personally, I've tipped them to finish second, but still earn promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Manager: Graham Potter
Last Season: 18th, Premier League, relegated.
Remaining needs: Swansea have lost a lot of squad players. A midfielder is a must, a left-winger would also be nice, as would a centre-half...
Season outlook: A play-off place, maybe? Graham Potter is a superb up-and-coming manager, but he just doesn't have the talent that others do. It's going to be a long season for Swansea City fans, particularly as fierce rivals Cardiff have taken their top-flight place.
Manager: Darren Moore
Last Season: 20th, Premier League, relegated.
Remaining needs: A left-winger would be nice, losing James McLean isn't easy. They have spent well, though.
Season outlook: They're gearing up for a real promotion push. I fully expect it to be between WBA and Stoke City for the title. It could well be a close battle that goes right down to the wire, with The Baggies coming out on top.
Manager: Paul Cook.
Last Season: 1st, League One, promoted.
Remaining needs: A left-back would help out, as would a centre-half. Cook did a good job to get promoted, now he requires some board backing.
Season outlook: It's going to be a long one. Wigan just don't have the quality to go toe-to-toe with the elite Championship teams. Expect a few hidings along the way, and they will likely head straight back down.