The 2016/17 Championship season will probably be the most competitive ever in its history, given the array of the top coaching and playing talents set to challenge for its top spots making the Championship a seemingly intriguing affair.
Di Matteo and Benitez; both Champions League winning manager are at the helm of affairs in Aston Villa and Newcastle United respectively, and former Swansea head coach, Garry Monk, has been appointed to lead Leeds United out of the Championship.
Out of the lot, these five players are likely to shine the most as their mission to lead their team to glory gets underway this weekend.
5 Mohamed Diamé – Newcastle United
With seven seasons of EPL experience under his belt, the former Hull City midfield maestro is well-equipped to help Newcastle United regain promotion pronto next season after joining their ranks a few days ago.
An instrumental figure in Hull’s promotion-earning campaign, Diame capped it off by netting the only and winning goal in the 1–0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship play-off final.
Having chosen to remain in the division by joining Newcastle, all eyes will be on him as he attempts to set a record of consecutively earning promotion with different Championship sides.
Will he be able to fill Sissoko’s shoes and fire Benitez side straight back to Premier League?
4 Ross McCormack – Aston Villa
The latest Aston Villa acquisition is a veteran when it comes to the Championship having spent nine consecutive seasons in the division.
The Scotland international helped keep Fulham up last season scoring 21 goals; just four shy of the highest goalscorer, Gray. His goal poaching prowess also attracted Norwich as they sought for attacking options upon demotion.
McCormack will be Villa’s attack focal point as they looked to secure promotion after their first ever EPL relegation last season. The 29-year-old former Leeds United striker is also known for his all-around contributions to goal, a feature that saw him provide most assists and create most chances for Fulham last season.
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Considered a late bloomer of sorts, the former Leeds United star has at various times been linked with moves to the top flight, and that could finally materialise next season if he leads Villa back to where they belong.
3 Alan Judge – Brentford
The Brentford winger would have represented Northern Ireland at the Euros if not for a severe leg break he suffered in April.
It consequently ruled him out of the season’s remainder and the club could only finish in 9th place – 2 spots away from the last playoff spot as a result, as he couldn’t add to his tally of 18 goals and eight assists.
Now back in action ahead of new the season, the club will be counting on his goals and assists as they make another attempt to finish in top 6 by the end of the season.
Judge helped promote Brentford from the League One two seasons ago and can take it a notch higher by taking them to the peak next season.
2 Fernando Forestieri – Sheffield Wednesday
A part of the Watford team that secured top flight promotion at the end of the 2014/15 session, the Argentine-born Italian striker stayed back in the division to boost his chances of regular football.
He got it with Sheffield Wednesday and helped them reach last season’s playoffs with 15 goals while also creating 35 chances, and completing 45 take-ons overall.
Losing to Hull City in the Championship play-off final further delayed his transition to the EPL, and that will be a motivation as the new season resumes.
He will hope to help the team eventually secure promotion with more goals next season, and they can sure count on the 26-year-old to deliver the goods.
1 Chris Wood – Leeds United
Leeds United” record signing and top goal scorer for the 2015/16 season is one player to watch out for next term. The club’s hunger for promotion has seen them appoint Garry Monk; the 6th manager in less than three years and he will be demanding the best from the club’s best striking option next season.
He netted 13 times in 26 league appearances last term and will need to do more to increase Leeds United chances of making top 6 by the end of the season. The 24-year-old New Zealand striker has to deliver next season, or he risks becoming the first ever playing staff to get fired by the ruthless Massimo Cellino.