In the blink of an eye, the EFL season is again upon us. In the championship, Leeds, Leicester and Southampton are all desperate to make this a one-season stay in the second tier.
At the same time, last year’s play-off semi-finalists, Middlesbrough and Sunderland, will have something to say about the outcome of this campaign.
Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday finally got out of the division in League One. Now that they are gone, will it be easier for teams to get out, or will it make the table even more unpredictable?
League Two finally has Hollywood duo Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s Wexham in the division. Will their fairy-tale story continue with another promotion?
In what could be the most unpredictable season yet, we try to predict what will happen.
New ownership brings hope to the former League Cup champions after an impressive 17th place finish last season under boss John Eustance. Replacing the quality of their loan signings will be tough, so securing another season in the division before rebuilding would be a success.
How will Jon Dal Tomasson deal with the departures of Daniel Ayala and Bradley Dack, and the top scorer with 16 Ben Brereton-Diaz is still left to be seen? They have learned to recruit smartly, and if Niall Ennis settles in quickly, another push for the playoffs is on.
Last season was as good as you could expect for Bristol City; they never looked in relegation trouble but never threatened the playoffs. With star man Alex Scott set to get a Premier League move, pressure will be on new £2 million man Jason Knight to hit the ground running.
Last season was dreadful in the Welsh capital but somehow managed to stay up thanks to the impact of Sabri Lamouchi’s three-month term. The fact that the former Forrest manager wouldn’t sign a new deal doesn’t look good. Former Fenerbache coach Erol Bulut has much to fix with star loanees gone. Will the homecoming of Aaron Ramsey save them from the drop?
Having progressed in each season of Mark Robin’s second term as Coventry boss, he will want to get over last year’s play-off heartbreak by gaining promotion. Under new ownership, stability seems to be in place finally. However, will they follow a similar season as Huddersfield after they came so close to the promised land?
Another Neil Warnock retirement U-turn saved Huddersfield from the drop, thanks to an impressive final 15 games last season. Can the 74-year rebuild a side is the real question? It’s a gamble, especially if you only average 25 to 30 per cent possession.
Liam Rosenior’s have proved to be a masterstroke with only six defeats from 28 games. The real question is can they trouble the play-off this season? If they can solve last season’s goal-scoring woes (Oscar Estupinan was the top scorer with 13 in all competitions), then progress on the previous season’s 15th place is likely.
Kieran McKenna was the man to lead Ipswich Town to their first promotion in 23 years in dramatic fashion, with the Tractor Boys scoring 101 goals and gaining 98 points. A top-half finish would be satisfactory, but if Conor Chaplin can carry his 29-goal season form into this campaign, the playoffs could be on the cards.
New boss Daniel Farke has a proven track record in the championship, winning the league title two times out of three seasons. However, this is only the fourth time in 60 years that Leeds has been relegated, and with the slow takeover from the 49ers Enterprisers and many players wanting to leave for the exit door, certainty about returning to the top division is doubtful.
Despite surviving a surprise relegation in a turmoil season for the club, new boss Enzo Maresca should have enough quality to guide his side back to the promised land in a swift return. Even though they lost James Maddison and Your Tielemans, players like Harry Winks, veteran Jamie Vardy and Harry Souttar should thrive in this league.
When Michael Carrick replaced Chris Wilder, the former Manchester United midfielder transformed his side from 21st place to 4th. Despite the campaign ending with a play-off defeat, they will push for automatic promotion if they can tidy up the defence, improve on the 35 goals conceded, and replace loanees like Camron Archer.
Is this the season that Gary Rowett finally guides Millwall to the playoffs after finishing 5 of the last six seasons in the top half? That should be the aim. However, with the championship becoming increasingly competitive and without parachute payments to aid them in repeating that feat would be a good season.
David Wagner has a job on his hands if he wants to guide Norwich back to the Premier League. One win in his final 11 games meant the Canneries finished in the bottom half. Will the addition of Ashely Barnes replace the goals in talisman Teemu Pukki? The addition of Shane Duffy could be good for his international career if he gets regular game time.
After being written off all of last season, Plymouth Argyle stormed to the League One title with 101 points. Survival is the main aim. However, with Steven Schumacher still at the helm, they will definitely surprise a few teams. The return of goalkeeper Michael Cooper from a long-term injury could prove vital.
Preston North End
Is this the season where Preston pushes for the playoffs? Since taking over, Ryan Lowe only knows top-half finishes, but with an overreliance on the loan market, it doesn’t inspire fans. However, the addition of Calvin Ramsay is a good bit of business regarding their defence. If they can’t find goals, a struggle is on the cards.
Queens Park Rangers
How QPR are still in the league is anyone’s question. Their form took a dramatic nosedive after losing Michael Beal to the Rangers. The appointment of Gareth Ainsworth just about managed to keep his job by beating an already Burnley to secure safety. With an ill-suited squad for how he wants to play, relegation is inevitable.
Matt Taylor joined an exclusive club when he became only the second manager after Warnock to keep Rotherham in the league. However, with crucial players departing, including Chiedozie Ogbene, they must do drastic business in the market.
Following an incredible play-off turnaround, hope was growing on Wednesday. However, with the departure of Darren Moore, that hope is well and truly gone. If Dejphon Chansiri can stay calm and midfield dup George Byers and Barry Bannan keep fit, they should just about survive.
Russell Martin has gotten the big gig at Southampton. His attacking keep-ball approach should suit this Saint’s side, and if they can keep the likes of James Ward-Prowse and Charles Alcaraz, promotion should be there’s. It will be interesting to see how Gavin Bazunu will cope at this level should be a confidence booster.
Another rebuilding season is on the cards at Stoke, who have seen a change in every department apart from manager Alex Neil. Since returning to the league in 2018, The Potters haven’t finished higher than the 14th, so aiming for a top-half finish should be the aim. If they get recruitment right might achieve that.
Sunderland was magnificent in their first season back in the second division, reaching the play-offs without key players up front and in defence. If they can find a replacement for loan star Amad Diallo and keep Ross Stewart fit, they will be in contention for the Premier League.
Michael Duff has a job on his hands if he wants to transition Swansea from a ball-playing side to a high-pressing team. Will the Swans be able to keep a hold of top scorer Joel Piroe? If they don’t, goals could be lacking. With minimal spending so far, the new boss must be given time.
The real question for any Watford manager is how long they will be given before they are given the sack. A job like this might not suit new boss Valerien Ismael as his high-pressing methods need to be given time. With a max exit including Ismaïla Sarr, a playoff push is unlikely.
West Bromwich Albion
This is a make-or-break season for Carlos Corberan and his West Brom side. With the club’s future unclear, they need to gain promotion now. The former Leeds assistant is arguably the best manager in the league now is the time to show it.
After last season’s play-off heartbreak, Barnsley again starts life under a new boss, Neill Collins. The last time the Tykes’ had a manager in charge for two full campaigns was in 2009. Irish man Luca Connell will be pivotal if they want to return to the championship.
Last year was a disastrous campaign for the seaside club with relegation. Simon Sadler has put his promotion hopes in returning boss Neil Critchley. The former Liverpool coach will have to rely on Waterford native CJ Hamilton if they want to make it back up.
Since becoming manager Ian Evatt has only seen Bolton progress upwards in the league table. With that assumption, promotion is the only option. They will hope that Nathan Baxter can replace loanee James Trafford while also hoping Dion Charles can score 20-plus goals again this season.
Catching the eye with a young, vibrant side, Bristol Rovers should secure a top-half finish if they can replace the goals from Aaron Collins. Always confident boss Joey Barton will hope to carry on their early season form from last season for a much more extended.
Since Dino Maamria replaced Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as Burton’s manager, his side has performed in the top 10 based on points gained since taking charge. However, key players have since departed, including on-loan striker Dale Taylor.
Cambridge completed one of the most incredible football league escapes last season. Mark Bonner’s side needs a drastic rebuild, especially after losing top scorer Sam Smith. Another relegation dogfight is on the cards.
Paul Simpson worked miracles last season, getting Carlisle promoted to League One. Survival is already hanging on by a thread, especially if Owen Moxon leaves. The departure of top scorer Kristian Dennis doesn’t help the situation.
Dean Holden is a manager on the rise after securing 38 points from 25 games last season. However, the future could be more apparent at the former Premier League club, with owner Thomas Sandgaard putting the club up for sale. Finding a replacement for Crystal Place loanee Jesurun Rak-Sakyi will be vital as he was their top scorer with 15.
The Robins could be in for a long season. Top scorer Alfie May looks certain to go, and if they can’t find a suitable replacement, Wade Elliot’s side could struggle.
After last season’s takeover, the garden is looking rosier in Derby. The Rams have already made impressive recruitment by adding Callum Elder, Joe Ward and Curtis Nelson. Replacing top scorer David McGoldrick could be an issue for Paul Warne.
Gary Caldwell’s season could depend on the head of recruitment Marcus Flitcroft as he needs to replace Kevin McDonald. Mid-table consolidation would be taken.
Owner Andy Pilley’s legal sentence has caused plenty of headaches for Fleetwood, but Scott Brown has recruited wisely with Danny Mayor and Ryan Broom. Hence, the pressure is on the former Celtic player to perform.
The League Two champions have lost star players Lawrence Vigouroux and Paul Smyth. However, Richie Wellens won’t panic, especially with the additions of Dan Agyei and Ethan Galbraith should secure a midtable finish.
Lincoln could push for the playoffs if Ethan Erhahon and Ben House perform to their usual standards. It could be the underdog’s best chance of getting promoted to the championship.
Despite being riddled with injuries, Northampton managed to secure promotion back to League One. So, the most apparent solution to staying up is keeping players off the physio bed. Look out for 20-year-old Max Dyche, son of Everton manager Sean.
With Reuben Rodrigues and Josh McEachran, play-offs should be on the cards for Oxford, especially after last season’s 19th-place finish.
The return of Darren Ferguson for the fifth time in his career couldn’t gain Peterborough promotion after last year’s play-off collapse against Sheffield Wednesday. Will there be mental scars from that capitulation? Only time will tell.
Will this finally be the season that Portsmouth make progress by returning to the Championship? The appointment of manager John Mousinho has proved to be a masterstroke after replacing the Crowley brothers. They will be close if Colby Bishop can score 24 goals again this term.
Vale’s decision to sack Darrell Clarke was unpopular among fans after they fell apart after Christmas last season. New boss Andy Crosby needs to hit the ground running to get support from the home group. With funds limited and Tom Pett and David Worrall departing, a tough season awaits.
Pre-season prep could have been better for former Southampton caretaker boss Ruben Selles, who has been put into a baptism of fire with low squad numbers. This season will be about stopping the rot, and securing further relegation troubles isn’t on the cards, especially after losing Tom Ince.
After a top-half finish last season, the Shrews are deciding to go for a more youth development approach this term. This approach might put Matthew Taylor under pressure.
Steve Evan is again back in League One with the addition of Nick Freeman and captain Carl Piergianni continuing on his fine form. Safety should be secured.
After finical struggles, Wigan will start the campaign on minus eight. However, with stability found thanks to a takeover, Shaun Maloney could use it as motivation to prove how good his side is. They could be dangerous if Ireland striker Will Keane can find his scoring boots again in this division.
Life outside of Gareth Ainsworth begins under Matt Bloomfield. A season of transition is on the cards due to the managers having different playing styles, but with experience in the squad, they could challenge.
For the first time in 22 years, Accrington Stanely was relegated under John Coleman. Recruitment will be a challenge with a bloated squad and a small budget. Improving on the injury front will be a start, as they had 19 out at one stage.
The Bluebirds impressed last season with their high-octane style but still managed to miss out on the playoffs. The signing of David Worrall could help Peter Wild, but they will also have to replace Josh Gordan, Patrick Brough and Josh Kay.
How can Mark Hughes’s side recover from last season’s play-off heartbreak? Getting top scorer Andy Cook to sign a new contract was a good start, and adding Kevin McDonald and Alex Pattison should see them return to the top six.
The aim will be a fresh investment, a promising young team, and Ben Garner replacing Matt Bloomfield’s progress on last season’s 20th finish.
Crawley’s crypto-currency owners brought attention off the field with Preston Johnson taking a game on the sideline and trying to sign a Youtuber from the Sidemen’s charity match. More uncertainty on the field is also expected.
Crew stopped the rot last season after relegation from League One in 2021-2022. However, with the loss of key players, top scorer Dan Agyei and defender Rod McDonald, it will take much work to replicate a 13th-place season.
With the reappointment of Gareth McCann and the signing of Jamie Sterry and Joe Ironside, the Donny’s will aim to finish way higher than last season’s 18th place.
Forest Green Rovers
With the departure of Ducan Ferguson before preseason even started with a dismal campaign in League Two, shaking off that losing feeling will be hard.
The investment from Brad Galinson has transformed Gillingham as his new side went from scoring seven goals in the first half of the season to the in-form side of the league. The addition of Jonny Williams could see them gain promotion.
Paul Hurst oversaw the Mariner’s best FA Cup runs in 84 years. The aim now is to transform that underdog mentality into the league. The signing of Danny Rose should help with that.
With League Two getting stronger and stronger each campaign, it’s hard to see Harrogate making it five seasons in the division, especially after losing Kazeem Olaigbe, Tom Eastman and Alex Pattison.
The Stags don’t seem to have any luck. They have challenged for the promotion for four out of the last six seasons, and missing out on the playoffs by one goal last campaign must have been bitterly disappointing for Nigel Clough. The signing of Baily Cargile should help with another challenge at the top.
Milton Keynes Dons
The last time MK Dons dropped to League Two, they appointed a proven manager, which saw them make an instant return up the division. Will lighting strike twice with Graham Alexander at the helm?
This season, ownership concerns at the club could be about staying in the division rather than aiming for instant promotion back to League One, especially after a massive turnover in the squad.
If Newport continues their form since Graham Coughlan’s arrival, they could challenge this season. However, this might be a struggle with the departure of Cam Norman and others.
In any other season, the Magpies would have gone down as the all-time greatest National League side. But they had to settle for second place with 107 points and a nail-biting play-off campaign to gain promotion. With the addition of David McGoldrick, him and Macaulay Longstaff could form a formidable frontline.
Despite achieving a top-seven League Two finish at the fourth attempt, Salford needed to cut back on spending with Ibou Touray departing. However, the signing of former Everton player Luke Garbutt could see them challenging again.
Dave Challinor’s side was fresh air in League Two last season. However, the real question is how they will bounce back from play-off defeat. If they can, then promotion awaits.
Matt Gray is in for a highly stressful season if he wants his side to stay up. The departures of Ali Smith, Will Randall Omar Bugiel and Donovan Wilson won’t help that cause.
After two seasons of a youth signing approach, Swindon Town has gone down a different route this time to get back into League One. Michael Flynn hopes Charlie Austin can bang in the goals so they can push for the playoffs.
Expectations are high after a disappointing mid-table finish without a challenge for the playoffs. However, a similar season is in store if new boss Ian Dawes doesn’t work out.
The appointment of Mat Sadler doesn’t seem to have inspired many Walsall fans who were expecting to push on from last season’s 16th-place finish. With the league being so competitive, a similar pattern will follow.
After a steady start to last season, Wimbledon fell apart at the start of the new year. Last year’s squad should have done better than a 21st-place finish.
The only way is up for this Hollywood journey. After decades of dismay, Wrexham fans have a team to believe in. They might not get 111 points this campaign, but promotion should be there. It will be interesting to see how they handle the first few games after only returning from the USA in the past few days and how they will take early games without top scorer Paul Mullins from a punctured lung.