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.
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.
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.
Darren Moore since he took over at West Brom:— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) May 5, 2018
- 0-1 win at Old Trafford ?
- 0-2 down against Liverpool, come back to draw 2-2 ?
- 0-1 win at St James park ?
- 1-0 win at home to Spurs ?
WHAT A MAN! pic.twitter.com/6XpXMuvJAm