LiveScore's 2022-23 Championship preview: Norwich to Sheffield United

Matthew Hill
LiveScore
Norwich striker Teemu Pukki will be eyeing another proflic Championship campaign
Norwich striker Teemu Pukki will be eyeing another proflic Championship campaign

LiveScore's Matthew Hill speaks exclusively to journalists and podcasters from all 24 Championship clubs ahead of the 2022-23 campaign. Part three hears from experts on Norwich, Preston, QPR, Reading, Rotherham and Sheffield United.

Norwich

Connor Southwell, Norwich Evening News chief reporter (@cjsouthwell1902)

Did 2021-22 go the way you expected it to for Norwich? 

Not at all. I think most people could have accepted relegation had there been an element of fight and signs that they had learned from their mistakes back in 2019-20.  

The way it unravelled after the expectation of improvement, set by those leading the club, and how far the club was off it created a disconnect between the club and its supporters.  

The mission now is to repair all that damage.

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23? 

It’s tough — there are so many questions that need to be answered.  

Can Dean Smith implement a clear playing style? How deeply will the scars of last season affect the current group? How do they address the ‘losing culture’ that was present at the end of the campaign?  

It’s been intriguing to see that expectations externally are probably higher than those of the supporters.  

But everyone knows the aim and expectation is to get promoted at the first attempt.  

How is the mood around the club in general? 

Like I’ve hinted at, I think some repair work still needs to be done to pull everyone back together again.  

Communication has improved in recent weeks. Wins will help that process too and time is a natural healer. People want to get back to Carrow Road, watch entertaining football and fall in love with their team again.  

That is the challenge everyone inside the club has to overcome in the upcoming season. Recent output has helped with explaining why certain decisions were made.  

Which players should LiveScore users be keeping a close eye on?

Teemu Pukki is an obvious one but generally brings a guarantee of goals at this level, while young Irishman Andrew Omobamidele is somebody who will hope to establish himself this term.

 Brazilian attacking midfielder Gabriel Sara has arrived from Sao Paulo and he certainly merits a mention as a wildcard.

Preston

Emil Riis was Preston's top scorer in the Championship last term with 16 goals
Emil Riis was Preston's top scorer in the Championship last term with 16 goals

George Hodgson, LancsLive Preston reporter (@GHodgsonSport)

Did 2021-22 go the way you expected it to for Preston?

I don't think many expected Frankie McAvoy to see the season out and most were hopeful of an improvement following the arrival of Ryan Lowe, so I'd have to say yes. 

It did feel like a bit of a missed opportunity, with last season not the strongest Championship in recent years. 

Thankfully, North End finished on a pretty positive note after a tough first-half to the campaign. 

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

There are still deals to be done and so it's hard to say for sure until transfer business has concluded. Right now, the squad doesn't feel quite ready to push for a top-six spot. 

North End signed two solid goalkeepers in Freddie Woodman and Dai Cornell, as well as adding Ben Woodburn and Robbie Brady after trials. 

Troy Parrott has arrived on loan from Tottenham to boost the forward ranks but they still need another striker and another full-back to go with new face Alvaro Fernandez.

If Lowe is backed, he'll be confident of having PNE in and around the business end. 

How is the mood around the club in general?

North End supporters love what Lowe has brought to the club. Fans were reengaged by his passion and personality and this feels like a big season for the club to give him the best chance to succeed. 

At the moment, it's all a little tentative as the North End faithful eagerly await more additions. 

Which players should LiveScore users be keeping a close eye on?

Emil Riis was the top scorer with 16 league goals last season and he'll be looking to back that up in 2022-23. 

I think it's going to be a big year for Ben Whiteman in midfield, while Woodman is an exciting permanent addition in net.

QPR

Chris Willock has a big role to play for QPR this term
Chris Willock has a big role to play for QPR this term

Clive Whittingham, LoftForWords fan site (@LoftforWords)

Did 2021-22 go the way you expected it to for QPR?

Not in the end, no. We’d finished 2020/21 so strongly and carried out a really strong summer of recruitment without losing any of our best players, so I thought we’d make the top six. 

For a long time that looked like being the case and actually, after an unbeaten January, all the talk was whether we could run Bournemouth down in second. 

At that point we needed seven wins from our last 18 matches to make the play-offs, yet we came up miles short. 

We fell off a cliff after a 4-0 home victory against Reading, struggling to win another game and actually showing relegation form through to the end where a mid-table finish awaited.

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

Much lower. 

QPR as a club loses £1.8million a month even in its current pared down state, which puts us right on the cusp of another FFP breach unless we can develop players and sell them for decent money regularly. 

After flogging Alex Smithies, Luke Freeman, Mass Luongo, Darnell Furlong and then most lucratively Ebere Eze, last summer was the first for a while in which we didn’t sell a player. 

We also spent reasonably big money by our own standards on a clutch of signings, some of which worked and some didn’t. 

Having not gone up, there is very little remaining budget or FFP headroom for us to spend on recruitment and the team is short at right back, up front and across the board in terms of depth.

How is the mood around the club in general?

It all depends on where you go for your opinions.

On Facebook and Twitter, the world is ending, everything is terrible and if we don’t sign 12 players yesterday, we’re going to be relegated.

At the games, in the pubs and among those that actually attend matches and go away, I’d say it’s reasonably sanguine. 

We all know the financial situation we’re in and we’re realistic. Michael Beale is a very highly-rated coach coming into his first managerial position, so we’re very interested to see how that goes.

Which players should LiveScore users be keeping a close eye on?

We will need some Eze-sized money for somebody else soon, and Chris Willock is probably the next cab on that rank. 

Already one of the best ten players in this league, it feels like a big season for him — and us, with only two years left on his contract. Ilias Chair, too, looks ready to really blossom. 

They’ll need to though because at the moment we’re starting the season with Lyndon Dykes and Macauley Bonne as our leading strikers, which doesn’t exactly scream goals.

Reading

Tom Ince could be a difference-maker in Reading's battle against the drop
Tom Ince could be a difference-maker in Reading's battle against the drop

Johnny Hunt, 1871 podcast co-host (@Huntyroyal)

Did 2021-22 go the way you expected it to for Reading?

After the previous season, where we finished seventh after running out of steam, it was always going to be difficult. 

Losing huge talents like Michael Olise and Omar Richards combined with the impact of the points deduction meant a tough campaign felt inevitable — though not quite as tough as it ended up being.

One of the worst defensive records in the division and a real lack of direction off the pitch. Only Derby's bigger point deduction kept us up and that says it all.

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

Pundits say we are nailed on for relegation, but I don't agree. 

Paul Ince and (Head of Football Operations) Mark Bowen have restructured things in the background and though we’re still restricted transfer wise, Shane Long, Jeff Hendrick and Sam Hutchinson appear to be good additions in very difficult times.

The key will be avoiding injuries with a small squad. If we start well and build momentum, anything is possible but just staying up will be a huge achievement and is all that really matters for the future of the club.

How is the mood around the club in general?

Up and down!

The loss of our academy one status is a big blow for now, but the aforementioned restructure behind the scenes means the club is turning a corner. Maybe the owners are finally listening to the people that love the club.

Everyone knows it's going to be a tough season but Ince is a fighter and has a point to prove. So do the team, so it's not going to be boring — even the new shirt is causing a few arguments!

Which players should LiveScore users be keeping a close eye on?

I mentioned the new signings, but the loss of John Swift is huge. However, his departure creates a chance for Ovie Ejaria to step up to be the team’s playmaker.

Tom Ince has a big point to prove as well, while Femi Azeez and Jahmari Clarke have a chance to step up as regular first-teamers. 

The goals and fitness of Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite will define our season. Fit and firing, I'm confident we stay up. If not — well, let's not go there!

Rotherham

Paul Warne will once again look to keep Rotherham afloat in the second tier
Paul Warne will once again look to keep Rotherham afloat in the second tier

Danny Ogden-Glaves, New York Talk podcast (@rufc_pod)

Did 2021-22 go the way you expected it to for Rotherham?

Yes and no, to be honest. There was always the thought in the back of our minds that we’d challenge for promotion as it seems to be the standard business for Rotherham in League One these days. 

But to say we gave the division both barrels in the early stages would be an understatement. When Following September’s Fleetwood defeat at New York, we went on a 21-game unbeaten run in all competitions — a new club record. We were witnessing history! 

Then the inevitable rocky patch came and promotion was starting to slip through our grasp. Thankfully, we got the job done on the final day and discovered a new cult hero in Georgie Kelly. 

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

I’m quietly optimistic for next season, as things stand. 

The fanbase as a whole isn’t because, well, they like a good moan about everything! But I’m hopeful we will stay up by catching a few teams out. 

Our direct play and use of wingbacks will cause problems in the opposition boxes and with players like Tom Eaves and Kelly in there attacking these chances, as well as the passing of the midfield and an improving defence, I think we’ll be okay.

How is the mood around the club in general?

In the club itself, it is good. Stressed about recruitment, but good! The players appear to be in full swing and ready to go. 

As a fanbase, as I’ve already touched upon, we do seem to like a moan, so Twitter is a no-go for me at the moment.

Which players should LiveScore users be keeping a close eye on?

Some names at the club will be on people’s radar already. The likes of Dan Barlaser, Ben Wiles, and Chieo Ogbene are all quality operators. 

But my gaze will be cast over Kelly. I’m really excited to see what he can do this season and, if pre-season is anything to go by, he could be a real surprise package. Even an unpolished gem, perhaps.

Sheffield United

Billy Sharp and Sheffield United go again in the Championship after play-off heartbreak last season
Billy Sharp and Sheffield United go again in the Championship after play-off heartbreak last season

Jonny Gascoigne, The Shoreham View podcast (@TheShorehamView)

Did 2021-22 go the way you expected it to for Sheffield United?

No, not at all unfortunately.

As it turned out, the new manager we had appointed, Slavisa Jokanovic was a poor fit for the club and was gone by November with only six wins from 19 games.

By the time his replacement Paul Heckingbottom came took over, we were in a really poor position but still managed to make the play-offs.

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

We have made some fairly decent signings to date and Hecky certainly knows what is required to get the best out of those available.

However, I do think the quality of this year’s Championship looks significantly higher than last year and a few other teams have done some impressive business.

I’d be inclined to say a top-six finish, but I’m probably being a tad optimistic.

How is the mood around the club in general?

It’s never easy to bounce back from a play-off defeat — even though we should be used to it as a club by now!

All things considered though, the mood is optimistic among supporters overall. I think the removal of some problematic personnel within the playing staff has helped a lot.

Which players should LiveScore users be keeping a close eye on?

You may have heard it before, but I think Rhian Brewster is ready for a breakout season and can significantly improve his goal tally this time around.

The living legend that is Billy Sharp continues to produce the goods when called upon, while Iliman Ndiaye will hope to impress again after catching the eye in 2021-22.

Tags

ChampionshipNorwich CityPrestonQueens Park RangersReadingRotherhamSheffield United
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