By Riegan Thompson

With the start of the football season upon us, BA (Hons) Multimedia Sports Journalism student Riegan Thompson has been taking a look at the runners and riders in each of English football’s four leagues. With the EFL Championship set to kick off tonight, he analyses those most likely to reach the Premier League promise land next year…

The EFL Championship is always an exciting division and plays host to some of England’s most historic clubs. Usually, it would be the recently relegated sides from the Premier League who would be made favourites for the title. However, Sunderland and Hull City haven’t impressed many with their summer business so far, and both have appointed new managers who’ve focused on shifting the dead wood within their squads before beginning the rebuilding process.

Middlesbrough are being tipped for the title by many. They struggled going forward in the Premier League last year, but conceded the fewest amount of goals of any team in the bottom half, and have added to their attacking ranks with Britt Assombalonga and Martin Braithwaite. With Gary Monk leading from the dugout, their favourites tag is justified.

Aston Villa are also fancied this time round under Steve Bruce. With experienced players joining, including former Chelsea captain John Terry, Bruce will hope he can carry on his good start to life at Villa Park following his appointment last season.

Fulham have managed to retain their prized assets in Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney, and will hope to push on from last year’s sixth placed finish. Meanwhile, Reading and Sheffield Wednesday will both look to at least match last season’s play-off finish. Fellow Londoners Brentford will also be ones to watch after a summer of impressive recruitment, including French youngster Neal Maupay and keeping hold of Spanish star Jota.

Wolves have been the big spenders and have added impressive names to their squad, most notably Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota. They are yet to add a striker to their ranks and if they manage to do so before the end of the transfer window, they will be challenging at the right end of the table.

Down at the bottom, Burton Albion and Barnsley are favourites for the drop once more and will face a tough task to maintain their Championship status. New boys Bolton Wanderers and Millwall will also have a fight on their hands to stay in the second tier.

UCFB student and Bolton fan Phil Crow, who studies BA (Hons) Multimedia Sports Journalism, gave his thoughts on what will be a tough Championship. He thinks that Middlesbrough should be able to bounce back from relegation and that Aston Villa will also challenge.

He said: “Bruce has a history of promotions and John Terry signing for Villa is great for the club. They’ve got goals in them but leaked too many last year. Terry, Glenn Whelan and Ahmed Elmohamady could be what they need.”

He added: “Boro have done some great business in an attacking sense with Britt Aassombaloga, Ashley Fletcher and Jonny Howson. Keeping hold of Ben Gibson is huge, so as it stands they look good for automatic promotion.”

Phil named a number teams to watch out for in the race for the play-offs: “Reading, Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday should all push again, but I think Derby and Birmingham could join the race. For Derby, Tom Huddlestone, Curtis Davies and Andres Wisdom should all excel at this level. Birmingham were in the play-offs when Zola took over last year, and with the Harry Redknapp effect they could push on after regaining confidence.”

Commenting on his own team, Phil said: “Signing wise, Buckley is solid at this level and Ameobi should finally get regular football – with his talent he could be one of the best in the Championship. With the signing of some young loan players from Premier League teams, I’m thinking mid-table is realistic as there is a great atmosphere around the place after our promotion.”