Before the start of the season, Sky Bet surveyed fans of each Championship club, asking what their predicted finish would be in England’s second tier in the 2022/23 campaign and worked out their average results.
The survey, as shown below, states that recently relegated Watford have the most optimistic fans ahead of the new season, with Sheffield United and Norwich City following closely in second and third.
Meanwhile, Birmingham City fans are the least optimistic following plenty of takeover talk and the departure of Lee Bowyer, whilst fans of Reading and Rotherham United also look to be fearing the worst ahead of the start of the new season next weekend.
Watford to be Promoted, Sheffield United top 6 Finish, Preston top Half Finish, Reading & Birmingham to be Relegated - 80/1
Watford fans are unsurprisingly optimistic about the upcoming season as the Vicarage Road club have managed to keep hold of the likes of Ismaila Sarr, Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis. This attacking trio has the capability to be the division’s best on its day and could well fire the Hornets to promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Something that will also excite Watford fans is the arrival of new manager Rob Edwards, who managed to win the League Two title with Forest Green last season in his only campaign at the New Lawn Stadium.
Fans of Sheffield United will be hoping that the Blades can continue their fine run of form under Paul Heckingbottom.
The Bramall Lane club had a poor start to the season under Slavisa Jokanovic last time out, seeing the former Fulham manager sacked and replaced by Heckingbottom, who was previously interim manager following Chris Wilder’s departure back in 2020/21.
Heckingbottom managed to win 16 and draw seven of his 30 matches in charge of United as they finished fifth, and if he’d started last campaign as their manager, the Blades could well have had a chance of being promoted automatically.
United have made some good signings in the transfer market to strengthen their side this summer, as they’ve added the likes of Ciaran Clark from Newcastle on loan, Anel Ahmedhodzic of Malmo and Tommy Doyle on loan from Manchester City to their ranks.
Preston North End
Preston North End earned a respectable 13th place finish in the Championship last season and improved significantly under the management of Ryan Lowe.
North End started life last season under Frankie McAvoy who oversaw his side win just six of the opening 21 matches, culminating in the Scots sacking. Lowe took over having left Plymouth Argyle in a promising position in League One and managed to win 10 and draw nine of his 26 matches in charge.
The Deepdale club have made some good signings so far this transfer window, bringing in the likes of Robbie Brady and Ben Woodburn, as well as Freddie Woodman and David Cornell, boosting their chances of pushing for a top-half finish and maybe even a place in the play-offs.
Reading & Birmingham City
Reading had an abysmal 2021/22 campaign as they finished just four points better off than 22nd placed Peterborough United in the standings, although they did have a nine-point penalty.
But, what must also be mentioned, is that the Royals would have finished behind the likes of Derby County if they had both started the season on zero points, rather than the Rams being given a 21-point penalty.
There are reasons for concern at Reading as they have seen the departures of key players such as Michael Morrison, Orjan Nyland, Josh Laurent, John Swift and more, whilst patchily replacing them with experienced free transfers in Sam Hutchinson, Shane Long andTom Ince, as well as loaning in Jeff Hendrick and Joe Lumley.
Meanwhile, Birmingham City will be hoping that they can defy the odds and stay up once again, as despite finishing 20th last season, they have since seen Lee Bowyer depart and be replaced by John Eustace, whose only managerial experience came with Kidderminster Harriers between 2016 and 2018.
The Blues have seen key players leave such as Fran Villalba, Ivan Sanchez, Kristian Pederson, Ivan Sunjic, Jeremie Bela and Connal Trueman, and only replaced them with the loan signings of Dion Sanderson, Przemyslaw Placheta and Auston Trusty. Their only permanent transfer this summer saw them acquire experiences goalkeeper John Ruddy on a free.