I have written a fair bit already about Championship predictions for next season. This article is not exactly the same thing as these are not predictions of such. Instead, this is a discussion piece about teams that might be surprise packages next season. As a reminder, Fulham, Reading, and Huddersfield all had unexpectedly good seasons last season.
Some people will think that there will be at least one team that does the same next season. So, that’s the focus of the article. In terms of the selections, it’s largely based on opinion – but there will also be stats and facts included.
Of course, I do expect my selections to be debated and that is all part of the fun.
So, now we have that out of the way, let’s get stuck into my selections…
1. Sheffield United
Sheffield United may well be a newly promoted club in the Championship – but they are a big club that had fallen on challenging times.
The club’s stadium has a capacity of 32,702, which is certainly a substantial size for the Championship. Their manager Chris Wilder is a man with a growing reputation in the game – who may well be snapped up by a bigger club before too long.
The Blades weren’t in the Championship last season so it’s difficult to gauge how they will get on. However, the club performed very well in League One.
Some of those stats include 100 points, scoring 92 goals, as well as a goal difference of +45. It’s clear that kind of form could carry some serious positive momentum into next season – so they could certainly be a surprise package.
Brentford are a club that have a lot going for them and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them performing well, around the play-offs. In fact, in one of my previous articles, I tipped them to be a team that could do well next season.
I think a lot of top football people agree that the key to a successful team is often having a squad with limited numbers and a young average age.
Information from Transfermarkt makes enjoyable reading as well, as the club has a squad size of 23 and an average age of just 25. It’s no great surprise that the average age is largely underpinned by a group of very talented youngsters. Examples of this quality include Daniel Bentley, Sergi Canos, Harlee Dean, and John Egan.
However, the real star of this team is attacking midfielder Jota; the Spanish star features on another one of my articles on attacking midfielders to watch in the Championship. There is no doubt that he is one of the leading players in the Championship – so it’s vital for the Bees to hold onto him. If they can do that, then there is every chance they will be challenging for a play-off place.
3. Burton Albion
Burton Albion may have only finished 20th in the Championship last season, but they impressed a lot of people who expected them to get relegated. In the end, they only survived by one point – but survival is survival at the end of the day.
Nigel Clough is a well-established manager with some great experience having previously been in charge of Derby County and Sheffield United. Various bigger clubs will certainly be looking at Clough, the more he continues to produce miracles with Burton.
The team only scored 49 goals from 46 games, so that’s an area they may like to look at for improvement. There are certainly several players that performed well for the club last season – but a top-quality striker is something they seem to lack.
The club also needs to hold onto their best players and central defender Kyle McFadzean is crucial in regards to that. Another player they will want to keep is Jackson Irvine – who was Burton’s top scorer with 10 strikes for the season.
Barnsley managed to have a decent season in the Championship last term in which they flirted with the play-offs at various times in the first half of the season. The club also has a talented young manager in the shape of Paul Heckingbottom and managed to finish in a respectable 14th place in the league. In addition, they had one of the better-attacking records in the league after scoring 64 goals in their 46 games.
However, things aren’t all rosy because Barnsley have also lost several of their key players – so a successful summer re-build will be crucial. Probably, the best players left in the squad are defensive ones – so attacking reinforcements will be needed.
Heckingbottom has already proved his ability to get the best out of his unfancied team – so don’t be surprised to see Barnsley making a play-off push next season.
Preston were another team that performed better than expected last season, and further progress could well be made next season. A lot of things rest on manager Simon Grayson and that’s where things get a little bit interesting – because he seems to be in the running to be Sunderland’s new manager.
Grayson is an experienced manager, at this level, following previous spells with Blackpool, Leeds, and Huddersfield. There is no doubt that it would be a major disadvantage to Preston if they lost their manager. However, there is certainly plenty of reasons why fans of the club should be confident about the future.
Preston certainly have plenty of Championship quality within the squad – especially in defensive positions such as Bailey Wright and Tom Clarke. However, they also have attacking quality to consider in the shape of Callum Robinson and Jordan Hugill – who were the club’s two leading goalscorers last season. So, there are certainly plenty of reasons to be hopeful that Preston could be a surprise package next season. Check the Championship betting odds here.
This completes the end of the content section for this article. Remember this isn’t an official prediction, but more a look at teams that might do well. Of course, this is largely a matter of whether we will see surprise packages in the league or not. Anyway, hopefully, this has been good food for thought and will create a healthy debate.
If you enjoyed this article, please also have a look at my content on the biggest Championship clubs according to Twitter followers. As always, keep an eye on my profile page for the latest list-style articles covering the Championship.