The 2016/17 Championship season began with an array of new faces. Aston Villa being relegated from the Premier League was an outcome that had been brewing for a number of years after some chronic under-investment in the playing staff.
Norwich City have become something of a yo-yo club in recent seasons, so their demise was not overly surprising, despite the best efforts of Alex Neil who is one of the most talented young British managers in the game. Newcastle United were the major shock in becoming a Championship side. They spent big last summer and hired Steve McClaren, but his short reign was disastrous and he was sacked early into his contract.
This meant that Rafa Benitez – who began the season coaching Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid – took over and could not save the North East club despite some spirited performances. An opening defeat to Fulham was followed by a 2-1 loss to Huddersfield, despite the Magpies looking like early-season favourites for the title.
These results show how difficult it is for sides to navigate their way back out of England’s second tier, and no fixtures can be taken lightly. Clearly there is a long way to go before teams get promoted either automatically or via play-offs, but getting an early points buffer can be extremely handy.
With the season now underway, Coral offer numerous Championship football odds. They offer bets such as outright to get promoted or win the league title, or in-play if you feel that you know what will happen before it does. Their tips on Norwich and Brighton were off the mark last week, so it will be interesting to see if they do better this weekend on teams hoping to reach the play-offs.
Brighton & Hove Albion are the early season pace-setters, following up on an opening day draw with two 3-0 wins against Nottingham Forest and Rotherham United respectively. They have looked like promotion candidates numerous times, and in Chris Hughton they have a manager with Premier League nous.
However, the league is about so much more than the traditional favourites – this season sees Burton Albion in the division for the first time in their history. Managed by Nigel Clough, they compounded expectations to reach the Championship. They have fared well so far, winning their first ever match by beating promotion hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday 3-1. Staying in the league has to be their immediate aim but it will be intriguing to see how high they can finish.
Overall, the results have been unpredictable and the Championship is all set for another long slog to the finishing line as clubs look to reach the Premier League at a time of all its riches.