Note: Unless something newsworthy happens, chances are that we will not be talking about The Championship or any other division beneath the Premier League, though as the season progresses and we approach promotion/relegation that may change. This piece is a brief look at where the Championship teams finished last year, some important players, and who might be fighting for promotion/relegation at the end of the season. Plus, since these teams will be competing in the EFL and FA Cups in England, it might be nice to know if they’ll have any chance when competing against their Premier League brethren.
This is the first of four posts about the 24 teams that will be competing for the Championship this season. Teams are listed in alphabetical order, and will feature a bit about the teams history, as well as simple expectations for this season.
Nickname: The Lions
Team Colors: Claret/Blue
Kit Manufacturer: Luke Sports
Kit Sponsor: 32Red
Ground: Villa Park (1897-Present)
Steve Bruce (sacked 3 October 2018) Dean Smith (since 10 October 2018)
2017-18 Season: 4th in Championship (lost promotion play-off to Fulham)
Seasons in Premier League: 24, last in 2015-2016
The Lions came as close as any team last year of getting promoted to the Premier League, losing to Fulham in the Championship Playoff 1-0. They finished fourth overall in the Championship, five points behind Fulham and seven points away from automatic promotion. They reached as high as second in the table after seven match win streak in the middle of the season, sitting with 17 wins, eight draws, and only six losses after 31 matches. However, they finished the season on a but of a slide, winning only seven more times over their final 15 games – as well as three more draws and five losses – which led to their finish in the playoffs. Though the team beat the teams it was supposed to based on table position, a loss to 21st-place finisher (one spot out of relegation) Bolton Wanderers saved the Wanderers season while probably dooming the Lions to the playoffs.
As the current leader in Premier League seasons among current Championship teams, as well as a team that has only spent 13 seasons at Tier 2, Aston Villa hopes that with all the teams above them last season now in the Premier League that they can climb to the top of the table this season and earn an automatic promotion as champions.
Team Colors: Blue/White
Kit Manufacturer: Adidas
Kit Sponsor: 888sport
Ground: St. Andrew’s (1906-Present)
Manager: Garry Monk (since 2018)
2017-18 Season: 19th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: Seven, last in 2010-2011
Of the 24 teams currently in the Championship, only Hull City has spent more total seasons at Tier 2 than the Blues, who have spent a total of 55 seasons in the tier. Those seven seasons in the Premier League haven’t featured much success either, with a best finish of 9th place (in 2009-2010) and an average finish around 14th. While I don’t think they will complete for the title – especially considering that Birmingham City is currently under a transfer embargo after “having failed to convince the Championship’s governing body that they were working within Financial Fair Play guidelines” – chances are that they avoid relegation, but early season struggles could indicate otherwise. It will be worth keeping an eye on the team to see if the embargo truly has an effect.
Team Colors: Blue/White
Kit Manufacturer: Umbro
Kit Sponsor: 10Bet
Ground: Ewood Park (1890-Present)
Manager: Tony Mowbray (since 2017)
2017-18 Season: 2nd in League One (promoted to Championship)
Seasons in Premier League: 18, last in 2011-2012
The Rovers returned to the Championship after a strong showing in League One, finishing well ahead of Shrewsbury Town and challenging Wigan Athletic for the title. They were in first place as late as week 40, but a middling finish to the season – as well as Wigan’s unbeaten streak to end the season (5W-3D-0L) – prevented that from happening.
In the Premier League era, Blackburn is one of two teams – Leicester City is the other – outside of the “Big Six” to win a title, and I’m sure they would enjoy another trip back to the top tier sooner rather than later. This season, however, I think they’d be content with a better season than the last time they were in the Championship, which resulted in a 22nd-place finish after the 2016-2017 season.
Nickname: The Trotters
Founded: 1874 (as Christ Church F.C.)
Team Colors: White / Navy
Kit Manufacturer: Macron
Kit Sponsor: Betfred
Ground: Macron Stadium (1997-Present)
Manager: Phil Parkinson (since 2016)
2017-18 Season: 21st of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: 13, last in 2011-2012
In a season that saw many more losses than wins (or even draws), the Trotters finished the season on a winning note, beating Nottingham Forest on the last day of the season to avoid relegation, finishing two points ahead of Barnsley, who could have secured a stay with a victory themselves on the last day.
Can the Trotters improve this season? That remains to be seen. But with three new teams up from League One, they start out with an advantage, but they should hope to not have a repeat of last season, which they had 13 draws and 23 losses. Convert a few of those draws to wins – and those losses to draws – and they have the opportunity to move up in the standings. Nevertheless, to expect anything more than a lower table finish would be foolish, and we’ll have to check back in throughout the season to see if they can defy the odds and avoid relegation.
Nickname: The Bees
Team Colors: Red / White
Kit Manufacturer: Adidas
Kit Sponsor: LeoVegas
Ground: Griffin Park (1904-Present)
Dean Smith (left for Aston Villa 10 October 2018); Thomas Frank (since 16 October 2018)
2017-18 Season: 9th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: None; last season at Tier 1 was 1946-1947
Brentford has never experienced a season in the Premier League, which started in 1992-1993, and was last in the top tier of English football in 1946-1947. Its history in Tier 2 aren’t that solid either, with only 15 total seasons spent at Tier 2. However, its average finish during its most recent run (starting in 2014-2015) has been 8th place, including a playoff appearance in that first season.
The Bees seem poised to have another top half finish, and could even compete for another playoff appearance. A change in two of three results from last season – they finished six points out of the playoff last season (though they would have lost on point differential). Preseason odds place them in 7th or 8th place before a match is played, and their form in preseason matches seems to justify that faith. Time will tell if their first Premier League season will be in 2019-2020, or if they will spend another season in the Championship.
Nickname: The Robins
Team Colors: Red / White
Kit Manufacturer: Bristol Sport
Kit Sponsor: Dunder
Ground: Ashton Gate (1904-Present)
Manager: Lee Johnson (since 2016)
2017-18 Season: 11th of 24 in Championship
Seasons in Premier League: None; last season at Tier 1 was 1979-1980
The Robins have also never appeared in the Premier League, though their last Tier 1 appearance was a bit more recent than the Bees. They have spent a total of 51 seasons at Tier 2 in their 120+ year history – compared to only nine a Tier 1 – and they haven’t shown great success, with an average finish of 13 in those 51 seasons.
Based on that history, Bristol City slightly exceeded expectations last season, and hope to continue their showing within the top 12 of the table. They were only two points behind Brentford and Sheffield United, and seven points clear of 12th-place Ipswich Town. Subtracting the three teams that were promoted and not expecting much competition from the teams up from League One, the Robins should be disappointed with a finish outside the top 10, and like Brentford, could compete for a playoff birth if things go their way against lower table teams.
Check back tomorrow for the next six teams in Part 2!