72 Football League teams get their campaigns underway this weekend, but the pressure and interest will primarily be focused on the Championship, where Wigan Athletic are among the sides harbouring genuine ambitions of securing a Premier League return worth a quite staggering £100m.
European football last season was probably a distraction that cost Wigan promotion last season, although Uwe Rosler did a fantastic job to turn their campaign around with a play-off finish and another Wembley appearance in the FA Cup semi-final.
Cup run proved costly
In fact were it not for a poor finish Rosler’s well-drilled side may even have pushed Derby for automatic promotion. This season Rosler will be targeting the next step and aiming for a return to the Premier League.
The loss of Jordi Gomez and loanee Nick Powell is a blow, but Rosler will believe he has more than enough creativity and spark in the likes of James McLean, Shaun Maloney, Ben Watson and Callum McManaman.
Experience has also been added with deals for Andrew Taylor and Don Cowie (champions with Cardiff in 2012/13), while £2 million striker Oriol Riera will be expected to score the goals that were missing last season.
Building on last season I would expect Rosler and Wigan to be at the heart of the promotion race and it would not be a surprise to me if they are lifting the Championship trophy next May and celebrating a return to the top flight.
Transfers In*: Andrew Taylor & Don Cowie (Cardiff, free), Aaron Taylor-Sinclair (Partick Thistle, free), James Tavernier (Newcastle, undisclosed), Oriol Riera (Osasuna, undisclosed), Emyr Huws (Manchester City, loan)
Transfers Out*: Jordi Gomez (Sunderland, free), Danny Redmond (Hamilton, free), Adam Buxton (Accrington, free), Stephen Crainey (Fleetwood, free), Marko Marosi (Doncaster, free), Peter Aylmer, Domene Crusat, Franco Di Santo, David Jones, Adrian Lopez, Jonathan Lynch, Callum Norris, Filip Orsula, Ronnie Stam, Josh Sumner, Ryan Watson (released)
One To Watch: Emyr Huws
Manchester City loanee Huws played a key role in Birmingham City’s relegation escape last season and his performances not only earned praise from Lee Clark, but also brought him to the attention of Wales manager Chris Coleman.
Huws made his Wales debut in the spring and in both international appearances has put in performances of surprising maturity and discipline. Huws’ natural instincts are those of a box-to-box midfielder, but he is more than capable of playing a holding midfield role.
Capable with both feet, athletic and rarely wasteful in possession Huws to have the opportunity to play at a higher level within the Championship and could well turn out to be one of the unknown gems in the division.
Given the riches of talent at the Etihad these days Huws would find game time hard to come by, so a move to Wigan under the astute tutelage should do wonders for the young Welshman’s development and do not be surprise if he makes a big impact in the season ahead.
Selected Odds: Champions 11-1; Promotion 10-3; Relegation 33-1
Opening Fixtures: Reading (H), Charlton (A), Cardiff (A)
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