The ultimate Championship preview - from 24 'experts' who cover the clubs: Part 2

We asked local journalists from all 24 Championship clubs to give their predictions on the 2019/20 season

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 1:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 2:25 pm
Nick Powell

The 2019-20 Championship campaign gets under way this weekend, with Wigan Athletic hoping to build on last season's 18th-placed finish on their return to the second tier.

With Cardiff, Huddersfield and Fulham dropping down from the Premier League, and Luton, Barnsley and Charlton coming up from League One, it could turn out to be the most competitive Championship yet.

Who's going up? Who's going down? Who's doing neither?

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====Luton Town - Simon Pitts (@SimonStattoP)One to watch this season: One to watch is always a difficult question as if you'd asked a handful of Luton fans you'd probably get several different names in reply! Andrew Shinnie had an excellent 2018/19 season in midfield, and you would hope a Scotland call-up isn't far off. George Moncur is full of energy and can score some great free-kicks, whilst Kazenga LuaLua who has recently re-signed for the club has the skills and flair to brighten up any game. James Collins was the League One Golden Boot winner last season and he'll certainly be looking for goals again this campaign.Prediction for the season: The good old prediction question you know someone will send back to you in nine months if you've got it horribly wrong! The Championship is a tough league and, after two successive promotions, and three in the last five years, we've come a long way in a short time and we're now a small fish in a big pond. However, the squad and management team we have at Luton are good enough for us to be looking at surviving in the League and hopefully causing a shock or two along the way.Promoted: Leeds, Derby, MiddlesbroughRelegated: Barnsley, Charlton, QPR.====Middlesbrough - Philip Tallentire (Gazette Live)One to watch this season: Hopes are high that Marcus Browne lights up the Championship this season. Signed from West Ham following a promising loan spell with Oxford last season, the 21-year-old will be given every chance to stake a regular place in a Boro team committed to attacking footballer. His debut against Saint Etienne suggested he can cope against quality opposition and he looks to have plenty of confidence. Browne caught the eye as a wide midfielder who can deliver the ball with either foot, though he favours his right for set-pieces. And the ability to score is a bonus in a team that's suffered over the years from a lack of goals from midfield.Prediction for the season: The timing is right for Middlebrough to change tack. One promotion in 10 seasons is proof that something has been fundamentally wrong structurally inside a club that boasts a magnificent training ground and quality stadium. Factor in a forgettable season under Tony Pulis that left many supporters feeling disenfranchised from the club and you have fertile ground for new ideas. That's what Jonathan Woodgate brings. He's determined the play the kind of football that will convince the stay-away fans back to home games and he's determined to recruit the kind of player who'll entertain the supporters and wear the shirt with pride. The Championship is a brutal, unforgiving environment and Boro will still have to be competitive, mixing silk and steel. There will be setbacks but if the football is entertaining the fans will back the boss and his players. There's no reason to think Boro can't finish in the top 10 and potentially threaten the play-off spots if they can keep the key players fit.Promoted: West Brom, Stoke, LeedsRelegated: Millwall, Hull, Luton====Millwall - Jake Sanders (@JakeSanders92)One to watch this season: Prior to the signing of Connor Mahoney from AFC Bournemouth, I would have said Jed Wallace, who has been Millwalll's most consistent performer since they were promoted back to the Championship in 2017. But two games in pre-season - including a wonderful individual goal against Real Sociedad on Saturday - was enough to convince me that Mahoney is going to be a massive hit at The Den this season. With his two excellent feet and a deadly delivery, I believe 15-goal contributions in the league would mark a good return for the 22-year-old.Prediction for the season: Millwall are quite predictably among the favourites to be fighting relegation in the Championship, along with rivals Charlton, but they have shown in the FA Cup over the last few years they thrive off the underdog tag and won't be bothered by what the bookies think. With everyone fit, which includes the likes of Jayson Molumby, Ben Thompson, Wallace, Mahoney and Tom Bradshaw - who has recently recovered from a long-term knee injury - the Lions have some extremely talented footballers, meaning there is no reason they can't compete with the likes of Hull City, Blackburn, Preston, Brentford and Nottingham Forest at the top-half of the bottom-half of the Championship table. If I was going to take a punt, I'd say between 13th-16th.Promoted: Fulham, Leeds, StokeRelegated: Barnsley, Reading, Wigan====Nottingham Forest - Tom Leach (Nottinghamshire Live)One to watch this season: Tiago Silva. The tricky Portuguese midfielder has looked a level above during pre-season. But only time will tell how Sabri Lamouchi plans to fit him and Carvalho, a player who looks a spitting image to his team-mate while on the ball, into a starting XI. But Forest have a number of players who will not want to hang around in the Championship for too long, such as Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban.Prediction for the season: As I said before, this could go either way, but if Lamouchi can get his side playing with the quality that they have at times been playing with during pre-season then Forest fans have a lot to look forward to. I do not think they will manage to fight off the best of the best to land an automatic promotion spot, but they could just be that side who turns up in the play-off to upset the odds and - with the likes of Leeds and Derby likely to be their play-off rivals - that would be tasty.Promoted: Fulham, West Brom, Nottingham ForestRelegated: Luton, Reading, Charlton====Read part 1 of the Championship predictions herePreston North End - Dave Seddon (Lancashire Post)One to watch this season: Billy Bodin - this is a big season for the winger. He joined from Bristol Rovers in January 2018 and showed enough promise in the second half of the 2017/18 season. But four days before the start of last season, Bodin tore his cruciate ligament in training and missed the whole of the campaign. In pre-season he has looked really sharp and scored a couple of goals, a man looking to make up for lost time?Prediction for the season: As things stand 11th but, with some clever transfer business, maybe they can push higher and challenge for the play-offs. With a fair wind with injuries - they had an horrendous injury list last season - they can be more than a match for a lot of teams. But I do think fortunes will hinge on the transfer window.Promoted: Fulham, West Brom, Derby.Relegated: Luton, Hull, Charlton.====Queens Park Rangers - Phil Spencer (Football.London)One to watch this season: After losing so many key players, it’s time for Ebere Eze to show his quality. The attacking midfielder showed glimpses of his undoubted potential last term, but did go missing for long spells – particularly in the second half of the season. With Luke Freeman moving on, there’s spot available to be QPR’s talisman and, if the 20-year-old can build on his experience from last term, he could be in for a big season.Prediction for the season: It could be a really difficult campaign for QPR. It’s been a summer of wholesale changes for the west London club, and I think that will play a big part in how the season unfolds. Mark Warburton did well to add some talented youngsters to the squad, but with a real lack of Championship experience in the ranks, I feel like it might be a bit of a struggle. I believe QPR will have enough quality to keep their heads above water, but only because there’s at least three teams with a weaker squad than the Hoops.Promoted: Fulham, Cardiff, West BromRelegated: Charlton, Luton, Barnsley====Reading - Jonathan Low (Get Reading)One to watch this season: Andy Rinomhota - last season's player of the year was a cut above the rest in the team, having burst onto the scene earlier in the campaign. If the midfielder can continue his fine form, he won't stay much longer at Reading. The 22-year-old is a huge prospect who is composed and confident on the ball. He does the basics of the game so well and allows the attacking players in the side to flourish.Prediction for the season: I do expect Reading to improve on last season but I'm not expecting them to be pushing into the top half of the table. Their opening month of fixtures will set the tone for what lies in store so much will depend on the first six matches. They have been dealt a difficult hand with trips to Hull, West Brom and Huddersfield so if they can pick up anything from those three matches then they will have done well. Granted Reading will lose more matches than they win, but I think they will hold their own in lower mid-table.Promoted: Leeds, Fulham, StokeRelegated: Luton, Barnsley, Charlton====Sheffield Wednesday - Alex Miller (Sheffield Star)One to watch this season: Kadeem Harris. Pushed onto the bench for much of Cardiff's doomed dash at Premier League survival last season, the tricky winger has a point to prove at Wednesday, who look set to use him as a starter. The 26-year-old has bags of pace and a drop of the shoulder that could turn a wheelie bin inside-out. If he stays fit, he could be a fine early shout for signing of the season.Prediction for the season: With no idea who the new manager of Sheffield Wednesday is likely to be that is almost impossible to answer. Get the right man in and the Owls have a squad that could finish in the play-off places. Get it wrong - Jos Luhukay wrong - and the hangover of a turbulent summer could see them once again flirt with an unthinkable return to League One. The optimist in me says they will challenge for the top six and certainly finish in the top half, at the very least laying down building blocks for the next few seasons. One thing is for sure with Sheffield Wednesday - it won't be dull.Promoted: Leeds, Fulham, BrentfordRelegated: Charlton, Reading, QPR====Stoke City - Martin Spinks (Stoke On Trent Live)One to watch this season: If there is one signing capable of getting us on the edge of our seats then it must be Nick Powell. Once of Manchester United, he has never consistently done justice to his talent and we are hoping now is the time because supporters certainly want the 'X Factor' from someone somewhere. He fluked a cross to score against Leicester at the weekend and with luck like that he/we should be in for some fun.Prediction for the season: The squad as it stands should certainly improve on last season’s miserable 16th place. Without being able to measure it against anyone else yet, it’s probably fair to say it can finish in the top 10 and, once there, who’s to say they can’t squeeze into the top six by the end of the season? It’s crucial they have the flair and energy to take games by the scruff of the neck and have the mentality to grind them out whenever they don’t.Promoted: Leeds, West Brom, StokeRelegated: Reading, Millwall, Barnsley====Swansea City - Mathew Davies (WalesOnline)One to watch this season: Matt Grimes was Swansea’s player of the season last year and I expect him to be one of the leaders of this team once again. Oli McBurnie provides the goals for this side but it Grimes and Bersant Celina who keep the team ticking over. In terms of youngsters - watch Joe Rodon go from strength to strength yet again in his second full season in professional football.Prediction for the season: I don’t mean to labour the point but Swansea’s whole season revolves around what happens with McBurnie. If he leaves for Sheffield United, who are pursuing him, Swansea will struggle massively and would do well to finish anywhere near mid-table. Keep the 23-year-old, add two more, and Swansea could have a chance of upsetting a few.Promoted: Fulham, Cardiff, LeedsRelegated: Charlton, Barnsley, Luton====West Bromwich Albion - Joseph Chapman (Birmingham Live)One to watch this season: Kyle Edwards was my youngster to watch - he’s put in a couple of excellent performances in pre-season - but the player who I think could have quite an influential role is Filip Krovinovic. The Croatian was Albion and Slaven Bilic’s first summer signing, on loan from Benfica, and he plays just behind the striker. The 23-year-old comes highly rated and could possess the skills to make Albion tick; they’ve not had an effective No.10 for a long time, but Krovinovic’s displays in pre-season have excited.Prediction for the season: It remains difficult to tell, what with the window still open and some clubs still to conduct significant business. If Albion add the four or five players they still need to be competitive at the top of the division, then there is no reason at all they can’t be a top six side once again. If not, then they could be facing a season with a mid-table finish.Promoted: Cardiff, Fulham, LeedsRelegated: Charlton, Barnsley, Millwall====Wigan Athletic - Paul Kendrick (Wigan Observer)One to watch this season: Josh Windass has looked sharp in pre-season and could well be the one to step into the Nick Powell mantle. He took time to settle last season after arriving for big money from Rangers, but the stage is set for him to lead the team in the No.10 role behind the lone striker. England Under-17 star Joe Gelhardt has also been fast-tracked into the first-team squad and, judging by his pre-season displays against Premier League opposition, could ruffle a few feathers. At the back, the January arrival of Danny Fox looks to be a masterstroke - the whole backline looks so much more at ease with him around.Prediction for the season: It's still very hard to say, with so many question marks regarding recruitment. Even Paul Cook won't say what the seasonal goals are until the squad is complete, and I tend to agree. Obviously the first priority will again be to stay up - which I'm confident they will do. The hope at the end of last season was to build on survival and push towards the safety of mid-table this term. But that would be a more realistic goal if the club is successful in bringing in a few more players. They'll miss Powell and Reece James massively but - if the likes of Michael Jacobs and Gavin Massey can avoid the injuries that dogged them last term - they still have enough to be looking up rather than down.Promoted: Leeds, Cardiff, StokeRelegated: Charlton, Hull, Millwall