West Brom begin season as Championship big beast

Albion fans know all about the Championship and what a tough division it can be.

Valerien Ismael the head coach / manager of West Bromwich Albion (AMA)
Valerien Ismael the head coach / manager of West Bromwich Albion (AMA)

But the truth is the Baggies are about to re-enter a league that is very different to the one they left just over a year ago.

The Championship has always been a distorted division where bigger clubs – like Albion and Fulham for example – compete with sides with much smaller revenue streams.

But the coronavirus pandemic, whilst having a major impact on the finances of all football clubs, has managed to make that gap even bigger.

We saw it last year to a degree with Norwich and Watford both winning promotion at the first attempt following their relegation from the Premier League.

But even more so this year, the teams in receipt of parachute payments have no excuse not to be competing for automatic promotion.

Albion should expect to be part of a ‘big four’ in the Championship this season – with Fulham, Sheffield United and opening-day opponents Bournemouth their big rivals.

The reality is those four sides should be way ahead of everyone else because the competition just isn’t as strong as it has been in years gone by.

The reason for that is a host of big clubs – who in recent years have been aiming for promotion – are now in disarray.

Derby, managed by Wayne Rooney, are in such a state that the bookies aren’t even taking bets on them being relegated.

Reading, who haven’t signed any players, are currently under a transfer embargo having made a staggering pre-tax loss of £93 million over the past three years.

Financially, both those sides look in chaos.

But other teams who recently had ambitions to reach the Premier League also look in trouble.

Manager Steve Cooper walked out on Swansea because of issues behind the scenes in South Wales.

They have since appointed former Walsall coach Russell Martin as boss after poaching him from MK Dons.

But as well as losing Andre Ayew, they have also lost a host of loan players that makes their squad a lot weaker.

Other teams also haven’t been able to improve because of the financial implications of Covid-19.

Huddersfield were in the Premier League just two years ago but look to be on a downward trajectory

Bristol City have lost Famara Diedhiou.

Blackburn haven’t signed anyone and look destined to lose star striker Adam Armstrong.

While you can’t help but feel former boss Alex Neil also got Preston North End punching above their weight – with the atmosphere around Deepdale far from positive.

With experienced managers at the helm in Neil Warnock and Mick McCarthy – you’d expect Middlesbrough and Cardiff to be fairly strong.

Stoke always have some good players while Birmingham and QPR have made good additons.

But the quality that exists at Albion, Fulham, Sheffield United and Bournemouth far outweighs what everyone else has.

The Baggies still need some additions to boost squad numbers.

But the lack of competition from elsewhere in the Championship means a top-four finish should be the minimum Albion fans expect.

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