Five Championship Promotion Hopefuls

It is nearing the start of August and that means the Championship bun fight is about to begin again. England's first division, as it used to be known, is a relentless scrap that lasts 46 games and spans over all four seasons. There is nothing quite like it around the world and that's why it is the third most watched league in European football behind the Bundesliga and Premier League.

The Championship attraction lies in the fact that 24 teams battle it out to reach the Premier League with two teams going up automatically and one via the lottery of the play-offs. Not only is it broadcast all around the world but it is also followed religiously by fans up and down the country as they live the journey of a Championship campaign with their teams.

Aston Villa had the highest home attendances in the Championship last season with 32,097, which was followed closely by Leeds United with 31,527. With those attendances, Villa and Leeds would be in La Liga's top 10 highest home attendances for the 2017/2018 season.

Who then will be the fortunate few to reach the promised land of the Premier League come the end of the 2018/2019 season? Here are five promotion hopefuls to keep your eyes on.

Derby County

The Rams are showing they still mean business this season and their supporters will be relieved to see that, after some unease when Gary Rowett left. It was a fairly amicable parting of ways but the looming challenges ahead with regards to falling in line with Financial Fair Play rules may have signalled a summer of lean spending at Pride Park.

New manager Frank Lampard has come in and given the whole club a lift and even if they don't break the bank on players, Lampard will be able to use his connections within the game to bring players in on loan. The ex-Chelsea man has raided his former side for Mason Mount and also managed to grab Liverpool youngster Harry Wilson on loan.

These loan deals should carry on and give the Rams a young and exciting feel come the start of the season. Add this to the strong spine they have and Derby could go all the way next season.

Nottingham Forest

No one is going for it this season like Nottingham Forest are and their early spending in the transfer market should act as a warning sign for the teams around them. So far, Forest have spent over 27m on players which include the marquee signings of Joao Carvalho for 15m and Lewis Grabban for 6.8m.

New Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis has opened the purse strings for manager Aitor Karanka with the remit looking like promotion by winning the league. They are the smart bet despite not being outright favourites at 8/1. It is proved time and time again in the Championship that if you spend money, you will go up and it doesn't look like Forest have concluded their business in the transfer market either.

Punters who back Aitor Karanka to take Forest to promotion can claim up to 100 in free bets from Betfair when visiting Infogol. The Spaniard did it with Middlesbrough in 2016 and knows exactly how to navigate the marathon Championship season.

West Bromwich Albion

A month before Albion's Premier League campaign finished last season it looked like they might do a Sunderland and be relegated twice in two seasons. The club looked in free fall and an ineffective Alan Pardew was dragging West Brom all the way down with players ready to jump ship as they drifted off into the Championship without a plan or any direction.

The West Brom board saw fit to sack Alan Pardew and put Darren Moore in as caretaker boss and that appointment has probably saved West Brom from years of obscurity. Moore almost pulled off the impossible by saving West Brom from relegation after it looked nailed on only three weeks before.



The Baggies have arrived in the Championship rejuvenated, energized and ready to go straight back up under the leadership of Moore. A few handy acquisitions have strengthened the Hawthorns outfit and they will be a side that will hit the ground running from the off. If most of last season was torture for fans of the Baggies, then this season in the Championship will be their salvation.

Middlesbrough

If you're a season ticket holder at the Riverside then the upcoming prospect of a season of Tony Pulis football won't be keeping you awake at night with excitement. What will be interrupting the sleeping patterns of the Boro faithful is the very real prospect of promotion to the Premier League because, in Pulis, they have one of the most experienced and successful managers in the Championship.

After Garry Monk was sacked midway through last season, Pulis came in and did a sterling job by stabilising an underperforming side and then guiding them into the play-offs, where they would eventually lose to Aston Villa. Pulis will now have a full pre-season with his players in Germany as they get more accustomed to the 60-year-old's tactics and robust style of play.

It may not be pretty and there will quite possibly be an alarming amount of long throw-ins and balls hoofed upfield into the mixer but, at the end of the day, Boro will be one of the hardest teams to beat in the Championship next season.

Leeds United

It is just as well that humans can't tell the future because if the Leeds faithful had been informed that after their relegation in 2004 it would be 14 years later and there would still be no sign of promotion back to the Premier League, it could have broken some hearts. Leeds' journey in league football has caused their fans unbelievable hurt but, still, they flock to games home and away in their thousands, even if there hasn't been any faint hope of promotion - that was, up until now.

In an extraordinary turn of events, former Argentina and Chile boss Marcelo Bielsa was appointed Leeds manager and now the club are going to mount the biggest promotion push since their relegation a decade and a half ago.



Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani will fork out 67k every week for Bielsa's services and if the Argentine's philosophy comes off, Leeds are certain to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. There isn't a manager with more pedigree in the Championship or even in some parts of the Premier League than Bielsa, and Leeds fans have every right to feel upbeat about the season ahead.

The long wait could be over for Leeds United and their fans now they have broken the bank to have Bielsa come to West Yorkshire and guide them back to where they belong.

2018/2019 Season

The upcoming Championship season will be one of the best in recent years with most of the big boys ready to come out swinging after healthy and productive pre-seasons. No inch will be given as the bone-crunching tackles and heart-stopping action commences in early August.

Promotion Hopefuls