EFL Championship 2018/19 Season Report Card – Part 2
After 46 gruelling games, the regular EFL Championship season has drawn to a close, with only the identity of the team that will be joining Norwich and Sheffield Utd in next season’s Premier League still to be settled.
Here are our snap verdicts on each Championship team after the end of the regular 2018/19 EFL Championship season…
EFL Championship 2018/19 Team-by-Team Report Card – Norwich City to Wigan Athletic
Final position: 1st
Verdict: A lesson for every Championship club at Carrow Road this season – sometimes patience really is a virtue. The Canaries kept the faith with Daniel Farke despite his indifferent first season at the club and were richly rewarded for opting to stick rather than twist. With the canny Stuart Webber in charge of recruitment, don’t bet against them ruffling a few feathers back in the Premier League.
Final position: 9th
Verdict: Yet another frustrating season in the East Midlands for a club that had huge designs pre-season on a promotion charge after several seasons of treading water. Ninth place did represent a first top half finish for Forest since 2013/14, and fans will be hoping Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane are finally the right managerial fit at the City Ground after several missteps. The early signs have been mixed, but as Norwich have demonstrated, maybe next season is the time for Forest to hold their nerve.
Preston North End
Final position: 14th
Verdict: With the minimum of fuss, Alex Neil is beginning to rebuild his reputation as one of the canniest operators at this level as he continues to keep Preston punching above their weight in a league where the financial muscle lies elsewhere. With the Scotsman recently committing to the club for another three years, the future looks bright at Deepdale if Neil can keep squeezing out marginal gains from his thrifty squad. Can they edge a little closer to the play-offs next season?
Final position: 19th
Verdict: A strange season at Loftus Road, which ultimately ended pretty much as you’d have expected it to pre-season. It started in farce with Steve McClaren’s side shipping goals for fun with four defeats in their opening four games, before some much-needed loan signings helped QPR mount an unlikely flirtation with the play-offs throughout the autumn. After that, McClaren’s men nose-dived towards relegation danger, costing the former England man his job. The low maintenance Mark Warburton could be a good fit for 2019/20 as the Rs look to regroup.
Final position: 20th
Verdict: It wasn’t necessarily always pretty, but the Royals did just enough to drag themselves over the finish line for another Championship campaign. The leftfield appointment of Jose Gomes ultimately offered the Royals players the fresh voice they needed to keep relegation at bay after Paul Clement’s underwhelming spell in charge, but the Portuguese boss’ task won’t get much easier next season with FFP likely to bite. An interesting pre-season of creative thinking surely lies ahead, as the Royals need some spark from somewhere to avoid that déjà vu feeling in 2019/20.
Final position: 22nd
Verdict: Relegation again, but by all means no disgrace for a Rotherham side always at an instant disadvantage at this level. Paul Warne can leave his second Championship campaign with far more positives than his first crack at the second tier in 2016/17, with the Millers staying in the fight for pretty much the entire campaign. As the ultimate yo-yo club between the Championship and League One, expect them to brush off this latest disappointment extremely quickly.
Final position: 2nd
Verdict: A fairy-tale story in Yorkshire as proud fan Chris Wilder delivered his boyhood club a first Premier League adventure in over a decade. The Blades went off the boil in 2017/18, slipping out of play-off contention to finish 10th, but channelled their energies from that disappointment perfectly in this campaign, staying consistent in their form all season as their closest rivals repeatedly slipped up. Hard-working but with the touch of class needed to seal the deal, the Blades will be a worthy addition to the Premier League.
Final position: 12th
Verdict: Who knows where the Owls might have finished had Steve Bruce been sitting in the dugout back in August? One of the Championship’s most experienced campaigners wisely opted to take a break to re-set after a disappointing end to his time at Aston Villa, and the 58-year-old looks every inch the safe pair of hands the Owls need to move themselves back to the heights of a few seasons ago where they looked the next Premier League side in waiting. Rivals will have deeper pockets, but with Bruce’s steady hand at the tiller, expect the Owls to improve on mid-table in 2019/20.
Final position: 16th
Verdict: The biggest underachievers of the 2018/19 season. The appointment of Gary Rowett looked a smart move to many outside observers at the start of this campaign, but the former Derby man got off to a stuttering start and never truly recovered, alienating much of the Potters fanbase in the process. It’s been a low-key start for his replacement Nathan Jones, but a few green shoots finally look to be appearing, and Stoke still have time on their side to get over their false start back in this division. With a full pre-season to work with an expensively assembled squad, Welshman Jones has the talent and drive needed to turn draws (22 in total) into wins as he looks to start working some of his Luton magic in the Potteries.
Final position: 10th
Verdict: A season of consolidation in South Wales, and that’s probably no bad thing as Graham Potter came through his first season as a manager in English football with his reputation enhanced. Both Potter and the Swans took a little time to acclimatise to life at this level, but if Potter can keep hold of some of his most exciting young talent and add some more experience, the Swans look well placed to come on stronger in their second season back in the Championship. A project to build upon at the Liberty – if Potter is backed.
Final position: 4th
Verdict: Relegation from the Premier League is fraught with danger for any club, so West Brom deserve credit for regrouping quickly and staying in promotion contention for nearly the entire season. The decision to sack Darren Moore raised eyebrows away from the Hawthorns, but questionable tactical decisions arguably held the Baggies back from achieving more. With their play-off slot having been secure for weeks, West Brom continue to sneak under the radar in the promotion chase – and that could play to their advantage.
Final position: 18th
Verdict: It’s not been a vintage season by any means for the Latics, but as a newly promoted club, survival was always the aim and they ultimately achieved that ambition with room to spare. That said, Paul Cook’s side have work to do to avoid a repeat next season, with their poor away form proving the biggest barrier to their survival efforts. They’ve passed the first test – can Cook now move them up another level?
Do you agree with our grades?
Who would you choose as the EFL Championship Team of the Season?
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All image sources from PA Images