EFL season preview: Paddy’s tips on who is going up and who is going down in each division

Another EFL season is upon us... let the madness begin.


The Championship

This Championship season is shaping up to be one of the most unpredictable seasons in recent memory and the above predictions could very well leave us with egg on our face, but we have our reasons. If Brentford and Nottingham Forest are to have successful seasons, they will have to put last season’s final day heartbreak behind them, but both are well equipped to do so.

Brentford have just lost top scorer and talisman Ollie Watkins to Aston Villa and how they reinvest that hefty sum will be crucial to their promotion hopes. The signing of Ivan Toney from Peterborough should help mitigate the loss of Watkins and, in the unlikely event that they hold onto Said Benrahma, Brentford will still be extremely formidable going forward.

Forest, on the other hand, suffered a humiliating last day defeat to Stoke to drop out of the top-six and will need to quickly get over that final day embarrassment.

They have, however, persisted with a manager for more than one season for the first time in almost a decade and that should bring stability. After all, there were plenty of encouraging signs under Sabri Lamouchi last season before the end-of-season capitulation.

Forest have been shrewd in the transfer market, signing a number of promising free agents, Charlton’s Lyle Taylor chief amongst them. They have lost Matty Cash, but now have time to reinvest that sum elsewhere.

Millwall, meanwhile, are the dark horses of the promotion trio. However, the Lions came very close to a top-six place last season and drastically improved as the season carried on.

They are extremely tough to beat and the loan signing of Troy Parrott from Tottenham should add goals in their push for a play-off place.

Parrott has not yet been given a chance at senior level, but his performance for both the Irish and Tottenham youth sides have earned him a glowing reputation.

The fact that he is as low as he is to finish top scorer without ever really kicking a ball at senior level is proof of this and he could emulate the likes of Tammy Abraham by having a stellar season in the second tier.

There are plenty of other potential promotion candidates; Stoke look like they are constantly improving under Michael O’Neill, while all three relegated clubs will target an immediate return to the top-flight.


However, all three clubs have lost some of their best players and only two of the last 12 clubs to be relegated from the Premier League have managed an immediate return.

Finally, the Championship relegation battle is shaping up to be extremely tight, but the three clubs mentioned above stand out as candidates for the drop.

Wycombe punched above their weight to gain a spot in the Championship and may find the step up in class to be too much too soon, while Sheffield Wednesday’s 12-point deduction makes it very difficult for them to avoid the drop. Let’s not forget that they would have been relegated last season had the deduction been applied then.

Lastly, Birmingham have not won a game since February and demonstrated some of the worst form in the entire division after the restart. They have been teetering on the edge of relegation for a number of seasons and may finally fall through the trap door this year.

Tips for The Championship in 2020/21

Promoted: Brentford, Nottingham Forest and Millwall
Relegated: Wycombe Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham
Top Scorer: Troy Parrott

League One

Predicting the final League One table is particularly dangerous given that most clubs haven’t played a league match since March, but a number of clubs are poised to take a step towards Premier League football in May next year.

Sunderland were making strides towards the play-off places when the season was halted this year and Phil Parkinson seems to have made a big impact in the North-East. The signings of Danny Graham and Aiden O’Brien should bring goals and experience up front and Sunderland’s squad looks as strong as anyone’s in the third tier.

Portsmouth, meanwhile, have fallen at the play-off semi-final hurdle in each of the last two seasons and will be looking to finally return to the Championship next May. Pompey have managed to keep the bulk of that squad together and their experience should see them finally seal a promotion place next summer.

Peterborough, on the other hand, may have lost talisman Ivan Toney to Brentford over the summer, but they have reinvested the money very wisely.

The signings of Sammie Szmodics and Jonson Clarke-Harris, in particular, are proved at League One level and Posh now boast one of the most formidable attacks in the league. They will be looking to improve on last season when they narrowly missed out on the top-six.

If Peterborough do indeed secure a top-six finish, then it stands to reason that Mohamed Eisa will find himself among the league’s top scorers.

Eisa scored 14 times in the league last season, but was overshadowed by Toney’s staggering 24-goal haul. He will look to become top dog following Toney’s departure and will surely look to forge a formidable partnership with Clarke-Harris.

At the other end of the table, newly-promoted Northampton look in danger of an immediate return to League Two. Very few of their summer acquisitions have much League One experience and they may be staring relegation in the face next May.

Wigan, meanwhile, were massively unlucky to drop out of the Championship last season, but their relegation has precipitated a mass exodus of players. To say that Wigan’s squad is threadbare would be a massive understatement and they simply don’t have the finances to recruit the necessary players.

Rochdale have spent the last six seasons in League One, almost always finishing towards the lower end of the table and look in real trouble of finally succumbing to the pressure of relegation. They lost top scorer Ian Henderson to Salford earlier in the year and will struggle to replace his goals.

Finally, Shrewsbury are now entering their sixth successive season in League One and, aside from a play-off run in 2018, they have consistently placed close to the bottom three. That play-off final appearance appears to have been an outlier and Shrewsbury have undoubtedly regressed since losing to Rotherham.

Tips for League One in 2020/21

Promoted: Sunderland, Portsmouth and Peterborough
Relegated: Rochdale, Northampton, Shrewsbury and Wigan
Top Scorer: Mohamed Eisa

League Two

League Two, like League One, is something of a minefield since most clubs haven’t really played properly in six months. Again, however, there are certain promotion and relegation candidates that stand out above the rest.

Bolton, for instance, are utterly transformed compared to this time 12 months ago when it was difficult to see a future for the club. They have recruited well in the summer and managed to lure Ian Evatt away from newly-promoted Barrow, who will struggle in his absence.

Furthermore, the Trotters have signed a host of players proven in the fourth tier of English football, including Eoin Doyle who finished as top scorer last season and is a very good bet to do so again. Antoni Sarcevic and George Taft also represent good business and Bolton are well placed to put a miserable year behind them.

Salford, similarly, are in a much better position this year compared to last year with a full season in the Football League under their belts. They improved as the year wore on and have made a number of excellent signings.

Matt Taylor Exeter

Exeter and Cheltenham, who both lost out to Northampton in the play-offs last year, will look to build on that heartache and launch another promotion bid this year. Both sides have retained most of their squad from last season and will hope to go one better this time around.

At the other end of the table, Stevenage look set for another difficult season. Boro managed to retain their Football League status thanks to Macclesfield’s 11th hour points deduction, but they head into this campaign in disarray with a rookie manager. It’s hard to see them escaping the trapdoor yet again.

Morecambe, meanwhile, were saved from a potential relegation dogfight thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and face another tough season. They have signed some decent players in their bid to stave off another relegation-threatened season, but may face the drop at the season’s end.

Tips for League Two in 2020/21

Promotion: Bolton, Salford, Exeter and Cheltenham
Relegation: Stevenage and Morecambe
Top Scorer: Eoin Doyle

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