LiveScore's 2022-23 Championship preview: Stoke to Wigan

Matthew Hill
LiveScore
Josh Tymon is one of the stars of a youthful Stoke outfit
Josh Tymon is one of the stars of a youthful Stoke outfit

LiveScore's Matthew Hill speaks exclusively to journalists and podcasters from all 24 Championship clubs ahead of the 2022-23 campaign. Our final piece covers Stoke, Sunderland, Swansea, Watford, West Brom and Wigan.

Stoke

Dan Buxton, Every Step Along The Way podcast (@everystepalong)

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

Weirdly, it went the exact same way as the previous season. 

We started really well, were in the hunt for automatic promotion by November mainly thanks to a breakthrough youngster, only to have that very player do his ACL. Eventually, we just dropped away to finish 14th. 

The previous year the player in question was Tyrese Campbell and then last season it was Harry Souttar. 

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

Well, we’ve got a very young side and we’ve been massively hampered by FFP for two or three years now, so the wage bill has been drastically reduced. 

It largely depends on whether these youngsters can push on, though the recent acquisition of Will Smallbone and Championship goal machine Dwight Gayle could give us the firepower and creativity we’ve appeared to lack in pre-season.

How is the mood around the club in general?

Unfortunately, there is a growing apathy towards the manager Michael O’Neill from a small-ish section of the fanbase. 

He needs a good start to keep the boo boys away. Personally, I see the issues we’ve had with FFP and injuries as legitimate reasons for our struggles but others aren’t as forgiving.

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

We’ve got a good crop of young players around the side now like Josef Bursik, Josh Tymon, Jacob Brown, Ben Wilmot and D'Margio Wright-Phillips to name just a few. 

Souttar won’t be back until October time, nor will the seemingly forever injured Nick Powell, so they will provide a nice boost a couple of months into the season. 

We have also got a 16-year-old striker called Emre Tezgel who has recently rejected the advances of a number of top clubs over Europe (and Leeds) to sign a pro deal with us, his boyhood club.

After a couple of sub appearances last season, expect to see him get a few games as the campaign goes on.

Sunderland

Ross Stewart (left) was instrumental in helping Sunderland back to the Championship last term
Ross Stewart (left) was instrumental in helping Sunderland back to the Championship last term

Richard Easterbrook, Wise Men Say podcast (@wisemensaypod)

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

Ultimately, yes. Going into every season in League One we expected Sunderland to be promoted. 

It wasn’t arrogance or unfair expectation, we were simply too big for that league — our wage bill, fanbase and stadium a testament to that. 

Somehow it took us four years to do it. There were times during the season where we thought it wouldn’t happen, but once Alex Neil came in, the belief grew from there.

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

Very low. It’s tough for any promoted League One club coming into the Championship when there’s teams coming down from the Premier League who will be swimming in parachute money.

There’s some big old clubs in there who will make a single signing that would dwarf anything we can do in the market all summer. 

This season, we simply need to stay up, and build from there.

How is the mood around the club in general?

There’s still a feelgood factor from winning at Wembley. The short summer means that it’s still fresh in our minds and hopefully the players that were involved in May will take that momentum into the new campaign. 

We’ve made some decent signings and turned Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke’s loans into permanent deals, so there’s the makings of a good squad — we need more bodies in, but that will come.

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

Ross Stewart is the obvious one. He scored 24 goals in all competitions last season and there’s no reason why he can’t take that into the Championship. 

He’s got a great touch, he’s quick, positionally intelligent and, crucially, is a superb finisher.

Sunderland fans have also been excited about Daniel Ballard, who has arrived on a permanent deal following successful loan spells at Blackpool and Millwall.

Both sets of fans have sung the praises of the centre-half and it will be exciting to see what he can do in a Sunderland shirt.

Swansea

Joel Piroe is forging a fine reputation with his goalscoring exploits at Swansea
Joel Piroe is forging a fine reputation with his goalscoring exploits at Swansea

Graham Thomas, Dai Sport director (@Dai_Sport_)

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

It probably exceeded expectations. Russell Martin only arrived as head coach at the start of August, but his influence on the playing style was immediate.

Results were patchy, but a mid-season surge made them briefly play-off contenders before defensive vulnerabilities undermined any dreams of promotion.

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

Another, more sustained crack at the play-offs should be a realistic aim. Martin’s ultra-possession-based style should be more embedded and defensive cracks mended somewhat.

The big requirement will be to hang on to last season’s top scorer, Joel Piroe, and not cave in to any bids late in the transfer window.

How is the mood around the club in general?

There’s genuine optimism that the squad is capable of a promotion challenge, tempered with realism that other clubs in the division have far deeper pockets.

Swansea know they’ve missed the boat on any immediate bounce back to the Premier League now parachute payments are over. It’s all about nurturing young talent, not splashing cash they don’t have.

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

Harry Darling is a very promising centre back who Martin reared at his former club, MK Dons. 

The 22-year-old is very calm and assured on the ball and likes to act as a deep-lying playmaker.

Meanwhile, Piroe is a genuine quality goal-scorer. Flynn Downes was sold to West Ham but has been replaced by Joe Allen — like trading a new Tesla for a comfy old Porsche 911, there should be no drop off in quality.

Watford

It remains to be seen how much time new boss Rob Edwards will be given at Watford
It remains to be seen how much time new boss Rob Edwards will be given at Watford

Tom Bodell, Watford Buzz podcast co-host (@WatfordPod)

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

If you had asked me after beating Aston Villa 3-2 on the opening day, I would have said absolutely not. 

But the season quickly fell apart from there and no one was at all surprised when Watford were eventually relegated.

Three managers — two of whom were some way past their best — coaching a squad lacking character, quality and key man Ismaila Sarr was never a recipe for success.

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

That we stick with something long enough to give it a chance. 

The mood music from the club suggests they are willing to try a different approach this time around. That means giving Rob Edwards time and backing him to implement a new style of play and culture.

However, promotion is the target and if Watford are languishing outside the top six by October or November, no one would be surprised if Edwards was sacked.

How is the mood around the club in general?

Not great. There is a lot of resentment towards the owner Gino Pozzo, CEO Scott Duxbury and sporting director Cristiano Giaretta.

It is long overdue, but Watford have tried to negate this with a new-found openness and dramatically enhanced communication. 

But results are what matter and, at the moment, it is hard to muster much optimism when half the squad has left and Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis are expected to follow.

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

If we work on the assumption that Sarr and Dennis will depart before September 1, I will go with new-boy Yaser Asprilla.

He is a highly-rated 18-year-old Colombian attacker who signed in January before joining up with the squad for pre-season. 

There have already been some impressive moments in pre-season with his dribbling ability, confidence and creativity impressing.  

The Championship is a tough introduction to English football, though.

West Brom

John Swift's arrival from Reading has boosted West Brom's midfield options significantly
John Swift's arrival from Reading has boosted West Brom's midfield options significantly

Joe Chapman, Birmingham Live West Brom reporter (@ChapmanJ92)

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

No. Albion were expected to be up and challenging for an immediate return to the Premier League, but things went pear-shaped after Christmas. 

That said, the warning signs that things weren't going to work under Valerien Ismael — only appointed last summer — were on display long before the festive period. 

An eventual 10th-place finish in the second tier was the worst Albion have managed since 2002, so there's plenty of improvement needed.

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

Having finished tenth last year and having had a full pre-season under Steve Bruce, as well as one or two eye-catching additions, the top six ought to be a minimum target and expectation of Albion this coming season. 

As mentioned, they've recruited smartly with John Swift and Jed Wallace appearing to have settled into their surroundings seamlessly already. That bodes well.

How is the mood around the club in general?

Positive. There is still work to be done in the transfer window at the time of writing — still needing to address two or three areas of the squad, and potentially move a few on the periphery out of the club. But Albion in the close season have fared well.

The new signings have been well received, the home and away kits are a hit with the supporters, they've posted one or two decent pre-season wins — things are ticking along nicely without a ball being kicked. 

They've a tough start fixtures-wise but should they come through that without too much damage, the optimism ought to continue.

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

Swift has been excellent for large periods of pre-season games. 

Brought into the club to address the creative deficiency which hampered Albion desperately last season, he scored two goals and produced two further assists in his early friendly appearances.

Pre-season is pre-season and you need to do it when the real stuff begins — but ultimately Swift has hit the ground running at the club and is the one to watch, without doubt.

Wigan

Leam Richardson guided Wigan to the League One title in 2021-22
Leam Richardson guided Wigan to the League One title in 2021-22

Barry Worthington, Progress with Unity podcast (@WorthingtonBaz)

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

Last season massively exceeded expectations. Coming out of administration with just three senior players under contract, I knew we'd be competitive once recruitment had begun, but mid-table to playoff fringe was the expectation. 

To actually go and win the League One title was an outstanding achievement.  

What are your expectations heading into 2022-23?

This coming season I am hoping for a season of mid-table mediocrity, but here at the Latics we don't seem to do that. 

It’s either pushing up at the top or fighting for survival — the blood pressure rate here in Wigan is the highest in the country! 

I expect us to survive. We have a good squad who know each other, so no settling in required, though I’d be delighted with any finish outside the bottom three. I'm going for 18th.

How is the mood around the club in general?

The mood around the club is quite buoyant — after all, we are champions! We’ve had a good pre-season, though some supporters are a little concerned about the lack of activity in the market. 

So far, only one player has been brought in, Ryan Nyambe from Blackburn, but I like the softly, softly approach and putting faith in a squad that served us so well last campaign.

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

We have some good young talent who will be looking to prove themselves in the Championship and I am quite excited to see how they step up.

Jack Whatmough is an excellent defender who reads the game superbly well, is confident on the ball and our current player of the season.

Thelo Aasgaard, our bright young talent who has flown through our academy — a 19-year-old attacking midfielder, he has it all with great vision, technically superb and an eye for goal. 

Last but not least, another academy graduate in Callum Lang. A right-sided forward, 23, had an excellent season last time, scores goals, makes assists, plays with a swagger, a real cheeky scouser and the fans' favourite.

Tags

ChampionshipStokeSunderlandSwanseaWatfordWest BromwichWigan
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