In Focus: Five things to look out for in the Championship this season
Another season of Championship football is upon us — and England’s second tier is set to be tougher than ever.
Only five teams in the division — Bristol City, Luton, Millwall, Peterborough and Preston — are yet to feature in the Premier League since its 1992 inception.
With a whole host of sides striving for promotion to the promised land, everything is shaping up nicely for a scintillating campaign.
As the runners and riders get ready to return to action, starting with tonight's game between Bournemouth and West Brom, here are five things to look out for this season.
Both Norwich and Watford secured an immediate return to the top flight last season and the trio of Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United will be hoping to do the same this term.
It will be the Cottagers and new boss Marco Silva who will arrive most confident of achieving that feat, having bounced back at the first attempt last time they found themselves in the Championship.
West Brom, arguably the most famous yo-yo side, are also under new management, with Valerien Ismael now in the dugout at The Hawthorns.
And the former Barnsley boss will be keen to add to the Baggies' five second-tier promotions in the past two decades.
By contrast, it took Sheffield United 12 years to climb back up to the Premier League the last time they were relegated, with their fans also being forced to endure a six-year stint in League One.
The appointment of former Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic means all three of last season's relegated sides enter 2021-22 with new managers at the helm.
New records to beat
Brentford’s Ivan Toney set a new league record with his 31 regular season goals last term — but will anybody be able to get close to that number this time around?
Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic is the favourite in the race for the Golden Boot, with the Serbian striker aiming to put a difficult 2020-21 behind him.
Mitrovic, 26, only found the back of the net three times in the Premier League last term but 42 goals in his 82 career Championship appearances will fill him with confidence ahead of a fourth season in England's second tier.
Another former Newcastle man who could top the goalscoring charts is Adam Armstrong.
Am impressive tally of 28 league goals last season placed the 24-year-old second behind Toney, despite featuring in a Blackburn team that finished 15th.
Wayne Rooney miraculously managed to keep Derby up last season but doing so again would surely rank as one of his greatest achievements in the game.
England’s record goalscorer has led the Rams through a punishing transfer embargo this summer.
And with a threadbare squad, self-inflicted training injuries and off-pitch personal drama, it is looking like another tough campaign ahead.
Rooney reflected on the current situation at the club last weekend.
He said: "It’s been very difficult in terms of not knowing what my squad will be.
"If I’m being honest, it would be easy for a manager in this situation to walk away but it’s a challenge for me.
"I’m a fighter and I’m grateful to Derby for giving me the opportunity and I’ll do everything I can to make sure we get through this."
Robins looking to take flight
Bristol City have everything in place to end their 42-year exile from the top flight — and with Nigel Pearson in the dugout, they have a man with Premier League promotion experience.
Ashton Gate is a stadium worthy of elite football and a state-of-the-art training facility that would rival many in the division above has just been completed.
Bristol is the biggest city in England to have never hosted Premier League football but it may now be time for that to change.
Robins fans are eagerly anticipating the upcoming campaign under Pearson, with high hopes of promotion.
Defying the odds
After eight seasons of trying, Peterborough are back in the Championship — and Darren Ferguson’s talented side are looking to make a mockery of their status as relegation favourites.
Replacing Brentford-bound Toney was always going to be tough but former Bristol Rovers star Jonson Clarke-Harris more than stepped up to the mark with 31 league goals in 2020-21.
The Posh, famous for signing lower league talents, have gems throughout their ranks.
Midfield duo Sammie Szmodics and Jack Taylor provide an attacking threat from the centre of the park, while Scottish winger Siriki Dembele will have opposition defenders on the back foot with his dribbling ability.
A fierce relegation battle will undoubtedly be in store but Peterborough have what it takes to steer clear of the drop.