Birmingham, Sunderland and Preston fortunes predicted as National World writers have their say

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National World writers have their say ahead of the new EFL season

The new EFL season is finally here!

Action across the Championship, League One and League Two starts this weekend with teams looking for a strong start following their summer transfer business.

Here at National World our team of writers across the divisions have their say on how they see the fortunes of their teams playing out.

Championship writer predictions

Philip Smith (Sunderland Echo)

Sunderland

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The mood on Wearside is optimistic: Sunderland’s policy of buying talented young players from around the world has created a vibrant, attacking side that surpassed all expectations last season. There’s no reason to think the football or the results will be any different this campaign. Where there is some concern is that the division looks far stronger this time around. Southampton and Leeds United look well placed to bounce back quickly and Leicester City’s all-round talent means they can’t be ignored. Middlesbrough, too, were superb after Michael Carrick’s arrival and if he can reproduce that over a full season then they will be the best of the rest. Rotherham, QPR and Cardiff City look the weakest sides to me right now in what is going to be an unforgiving division.

Paul Davis (Rotherham Advertiser)

Fifty points, 19th place, survival ...

That’s what Rotherham United managed in the Championship last season and a similar achievement in the forthcoming 2023/24 campaign would represent another year of success for the smallest club in the division.

Manager Matt Taylor describes the second tier as “a monster” this time around considering the quality of the clubs that have come down from the Premier League and up from League One.

The Millers will have more self-belief after last year’s experience and they have recruited well this summer. Star man Chiedozie may have departed for the top flight but the squad contains plenty of Championship know-how and a smattering of class.

Fifty points, 19th place, survival ... it can happen again.

Going up: Southampton, Leeds United, Middlesbrough.

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Going down: Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town, Queens Park Rangers.

Charlie Haffenden (BirminghamWorld)

Birmingham City are kick-starting an exciting new era under fresh ownership and brewing optimism. They have made more signings than any other Championship side this summer and they’ve all been budget-clever transfers, not panic buys. Head coach John Eustace has also instilled a fighting spirit amongst his squad, making it clear that if the effort levels drop, players will lose their places immediately. With all of this in mind, I strongly believe Blues can surpass expectations this season and achieve a top-half finish. Play-off qualification is too big of a jump, but top 12 would be a truly brilliant achievement.

West Bromwich Albion

There’s a strange feeling around West Bromwich Albion at the moment. Take a flashback to 10 months or so ago and it was a toxic environment under Steve Bruce’s management. Fast forward to the end of 2022/23, and fans were delighted with the progress made under Carlos Corberan. Now, though, that headway has almost entirely stalled as Albion have made just one signing this summer and lost their captain, Dara O’Shea. Supporters are frustrated with the lack of movement and a rather poor showing in pre-season. As a result, I think West Brom will disappoint and finish outside the play-offs.

Harry Mail (Football writer covering North West)

Preston have made some smart signings so far this summer and have added some real depth into their ranks with the additions of Will Keane and Duane Holmes. Highly-rated defender Calvin Ramsay has arrived on loan from Liverpool and is an exciting acquisition for the Lancashire outfit, whilst Danish attacking midfielder Mads Frøkjær-Jensen has caught the eye over pre-season and could surprise a few in the Championship. The league is becoming increasingly difficult with every passing year but the Lilywhites weren’t too far off last term with just six points separating them from the play-offs so Ryan Lowe will be quietly confident.

Prediction: 8th

Promoted: Leicester, Middlesbrough, Southampton

League One writer predictions

Neil Allen (Portsmouth News)

Portsmouth

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Now League One has rid itself of the financial muscle of Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday and a hugely-talented Plymouth, sides who totalled at least 96 points and beyond last term, the ridiculously high bar has thankfully now dropped.

Certainly without their intimidating presence, the division finds itself wide open for 2023-24, becoming far more favourable for those with promotion aspirations. That includes Pompey, once play-off regulars who, alarmingly, have now failed to qualify for three successive seasons.

Under sporting director Rich Hughes, recruitment has been at breakneck speed this summer, with nine of the Blues’ 12 signings arriving before their pre-season training camp in Spain. They bolster a squad which, crucially, has managed to retain 24-goal Colby Bishop and Wales international Joe Morrell as Pompey bid to improve on an unsatisfying eighth spot.

Top six; Derby, Bolton, Barnsley, Pompey, Reading, Oxford.

Relegated: Carlisle, Cambridge United, Fleetwood.

Dylan Oakley (DerbyWorld)

The Rams have got a pivotal season ahead of them. With mounting pressure from the fans, the expectation is nothing less than promotion. Paul Warne has finally had the chance to bring in some of his signings this summer and so there can really be no excuse.

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Concerns still stand around the status of the striker position with no outright replacement for last year’s talisman David McGoldrick, something that will have to be addressed.

However, regardless of whether anymore signings are made, Derby fans will be looking at automatic promotion and the team will face criticism if anything less than that is achieved.

League One promotion:

- Barnsley

- Derby County

- Charlton Athletic (play-offs)

- Honourable mentions include: Blackpool, Peterborough, Bolton and Portsmouth.

Harry Mail (Football writer covering North West)

Blackpool

Blackpool have looked strong over pre-season and have a manager in Neil Critchley who knows what it takes to get promoted to the Championship having guided the Tangerines up via the play-offs back in 2021. The Seasiders have made a few shrewd signings under the radar such as experienced midfielder Ollie Norburn from Peterborough United and centre-back Matthew Pennington from Shrewsbury Town and they bolster what they already have at their disposal.

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Losing key striker Jerry Yates to Swansea City is a blow, but his replacement Kyle Joseph has the potential to step into his shoes at the age of just 21 and managed 10 goals on loan at Oxford United in the last campaign.

Prediction: 4th

Promoted: Bolton, Charlton, Blackpool (play-offs)

Leon Wobschall (Senior Reporter)

Barnsley

Barnsley have set a high bar following last season’s unexpected and enthralling run to the play-off final. Unfortunately, they have lost their manager and assistant since and two-thirds of arguably the best defence in League One last term.

Bobby Thomas and especially Mads Andersen will be huge misses. The Reds’ success was built on a bedrock of strong defence and they need reinforcements to be firm top-six contenders this season.

Their midfield, with Luca Connell, Herbie Kane and Adam Phillips, was one of the strongest in the division last term. Up front, their options are handy, but they will need to keep James Norwood, a target of Wrexham. There is a lingering fear others may also leave before the deadline including Jordan Williams.

Prediction: 9th.

Ben Jones

Peterborough

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Posh are set for a season where expectations from fans and the outside world should be tempered. Almost all who helped Fergie’s men to the play-offs have either been sold or are on the transfer list; including Ronnie Edwards, Jack Taylor and Jonson Clarke-Harris.

A younger and as yet inexperienced band have taken their place as Posh take a step into the unknown with no pre-season expectations set.

Relegation surely beckons for rivals exodus-hit Cambridge and Northampton along with Carlisle and Exeter.

Charlton’s impressive business could make them champions with Bolton to follow them up along with Neil Critchley’s Blackpool.

James Heneghan

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Northampton are desperate for a season of consolidation in League One after their two most recent forays into the division, in 2018 and 2021, both ended abruptly. Opting for evolution over revolution, manager Jon Brady has kept together the bulk of his promotion-winning squad this summer, including the returns of impressive loanees Kieron Bowie and Marc Leonard. Tyreece Simpson should add some firepower up front and there’s good depth and balance across the squad. Should they avoid a repeat of last season’s injury crisis, there’s no reason the Cobblers can’t be competitive at this level and steer clear of relegation trouble.

Promotion - Barnsley, Derby and Portsmouth

Relegation - Carlisle, Port Vale, Fleetwood, Cambridge

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