Five things we learned on opening weekend of the Championship
The opening weekend of the new football season got Coral experts thinking about more than the Premier League.
With a huge TV cash bonanza from 2016, Championship promotion this term will be more sought after than ever. We got our heads together, and came up with five things we learned from the second tier’s return.
Are Leeds United dark horses?
Given the complete lack of stability under maverick Italian owner Massimo Cellino last term, few if any commentators were talking up Leeds’ promotion chances. Under new management in Uwe Rosler, however, their battling Roses derby draw with Burnley showed a new spirit and strength.
Winger Stuart Dallas’ impressive debut was so unlucky not to be capped with a goal, while Mirco Antenucci’s stunning strike showed that major summer signing Chris Wood does not have to bear the burden alone up top.
It was also refreshing to see so many Whites academy graduates on the field, and midfield duo Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt certainly get their team on the front foot. Leeds are 10/1 to be promoted.
Meanwhile, Sean Dyche’s side stole a point with a lovely looping header from Wales target man Sam Vokes. A serious knee injury robbed him of the chance to make much of an impression on the Premier League, but he gave a timely reminder of his class at Championship level.
Clarets coach Dyche needs to trust in Vokes and that he is back to full fitness. Pairing him with summer signing Jelle Vossen, who replaces Danny Ings at Turf Moor, looks to be a front two that almost any second tier club would be envious of. Burnley are 5/1 chances to go straight back up.
Turnover means new-look QPR will need time
Anyone who fancies the money bankrolling Lotfus Road outfit QPR to make them promotion contenders needs to remember that squad overhauls often mean there is a gelling process to go through.
Hoops coach Chris Ramsey seeing his side lose 2-0 across the capital at London rivals Charlton Athletic will know this. If and when Charlie Austin goes, the task facing QPR is only going to get bigger. They are now 13/2 (from 5/1) for promotion.
In contrast to lauded promotion rivals Derby County and Middlesbrough, Hull City were rather late off the mark when it came to transfers, but two of Steve Bruce’s summer signings hit the ground running. Sam Clucas capped his Championship bow with a goal, and there was a first senior strike for Arsenal loanee Chuba Akpom.
With right-sided player Moses Odubajo to also come in after a £3.5m move from promotion rivals Brentford, there is renewed optimism surrounding the KC Stadium after the sales of James Chester and Robbie Brady. An immediate top-flight return for the Tigers is now 9/4 from 5/2.
Big name signings shot shy for title favourites
Much has been made of the excellent recruitment done by Derby and Boro, yet both of the pre-season 5/1 Championship title and 13/8 promotion joint-favourites had to make do with 0-0 stalemates away in the northwest. Darren Bent and Stewart Downing may be England internationals, but that doesn’t guarantee anything.
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka lost three attacking options in Patrick Bamford, Lee Tomlin and Vossen with only one out-and-out striker in Christian Stuani, joining Downing and Watford loanee Diego Fabbrini, They had no shots on target at Preston North End.
Paul Clement’s competitive managerial bow against Bolton Wanderers, meanwhile, saw the Rams suffer first half injuries to midfield duo Craig Bryson and Will Hughes. Their attack suffered from a lack of supply as a result.