The new Championship season is almost upon us and, despite the pain of relegation only a few weeks ago, there is an optimism amongst the Fulham fanbase. We gathered our contributors, including HammyEnd’s most recent recruits, and asked them to predict how the next nine months might pan out.
Where do you expect Fulham to finish in May?
Billy Wright: It’s a year of change for sure, but given the abundance of talent we have in the squad, I would fully expect us to make automatics. The players suit the play style which the manager wants so let’s hope for a successful year.
Kieran Stutley: I feel can Fulham certainly can win the league and should be targeting the top two. We have a strong squad and have upgraded in terms of management with Marco Silva, who is clearly desperate to prove a point at the highest level. The Championship will be brutally tough, as ever, but I have full faith in Fulham to raise to the challenge.
Alan Drewett: I am excited for a start of the season for the first time since Slav took us up and I feel this could be our time to get promoted via the automatics. The vibes coming out of the club have been positive ever since the appointment of Marco Silva and the transfers made so far have been impressive. I do think we have enough to finish top 2 and with the addition of one or two, we could finish top.
Dan Crawford: I’m cautiously tipping Fulham to finish second. A combination of a squad full of players with the memory of how to get out of the Championship – twice in some cases – and the recruitment of Marco Silva makes me feel like the Whites should be strong enough to avoid the play-off torment this term. This league is full of surprises, though.
Tom: I expect Fulham to go up automatically. The Whites have retained enough quality in the squad to be confident of putting up a good showing in the Championship and adding Silva as well as bringing in Paulo Gazzaniga and Harry Wilson were big statements of intent over the summer.
Buster Waddell: The Whites have a strong squad, plenty of whom have experience of earning promotion from the Championship, and a manager hungry to make his point in England. I genuinely think we’ll win the Championship.
Olly Johnson: After reaching the play offs in our last 3 Championship seasons, I’m predicting this time we will gain automatic promotion and finish top of the pile. We have incredible strength in depth and shouldn’t be looking at anything less than top 2 – over to you Marco.
Seb Mayer: I’m quietly optimistic about our chances this term. We should finish in the top two – presuming there are no late surprise departures – given the quality at our disposal. We all know the Championship is a very competitive league and never straightforward, but Silva should have us right up there.
Louis Wishlade: I expect Fulham to finish in the automatic promotion places given the quality of our squad and Silva’s stylistic suitability. However, Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and Bournemouth will be no pushover. Hopefully, we won’t have to endure a fourth set of play-offs in six seasons …
Chris Simpson: Given the appointment of Marco Silva, the expectation and the need to bounce straight back for financial reasons we should expect nothing less than a top 2 finish. Anything but an immediate return will signal a huge rebuilding process and likely yet another change in management that will result in a good few more seasons in the 2nd tier before we are ready to challenge again.
Spike Waddell: Promoted as champions. I don’t see why not, the squad is looking very strong as it is and I think it could even be stronger by the end of the transfer window.
Player to watch for the season?
Talented playmaker Fabio Carvalho could be set for a big season
Billy Wright: Mitro. Granted he wasn’t great last year but under a manager who wants him to play, he will get back to his best and be the difference between going out automatically and the play-offs for me.
Kieran Stutley: Silva will have plenty of attacking weapons at his disposal, with the likes of Cairney and Mitrovic proven performers at Championship level, but I’m going to go for Kenny Tete. Silva will used advanced full backs and give them licence to bomb on. Tete has terrific crossing abilities that we didn’t see enough of last season and he can make a real difference to the side offensively. I’m hoping for more assists from him and some dynamic displays.
Alan Drewett: My player to watch for the season will be Kenny Tete. With the formation and the attacking football Silva likes to play, our wing backs are going to be vital and the quality of Tete, will make him a potential player of the season if we do achieve our goal of promotion.
Buster Waddell: After his outstanding display against Charlton at the weekend, I’m hoping Tyrese Francois will have plenty of opportunities to impress in the first team but I am quite excited to see how Alfie Mawson can strengthen our defence – should he stay fit.
Chris Simpson: While there is excitement among the fans for the new faces like Wilson and potentially others I think any success this season for Fulham will naturally be tied to Mitrovic being back to his scoring best. If Fulham are to succeed then a big part of that will be a reliance on a spine of Mitrovic, Reed and Tosin. The very fact all three are still with us is testament to the project Silva is building but just seeing these them line up week, in week out will inspire confidence that we can beat anyone.
Olly Johnson: I always like to pick a youngster and prior to the Charlton friendly it was an easy choice – Fabio Carvalho. He has cemented himself as my choice now but having watched Francois, I did think twice about it. Hopefully, both of them can take big strides forward this season.
Spike Waddell: We’re actually spoilt for choice looking at the attacking options in this squad – with Mitrovic, Wilson and Carvalho all primed to attack the Championship. The one who may surprise people is Tyrese Francois. He took his opportunity well against Charlton and this could be a real breakthrough season for the young Australian midfielder.
Seb Meyer: In my opinion I think Fulham’s player to watch this season is Fabio Carvalho, having seen what he can do after getting some runouts at the end of our premier league campaign, I’m very excited to see what he can do at this level, he’s got the pace to beat a man and at such a young age already has the talent to be a top class winger and his goal this weekend just cemented that.
Dan Crawford: It has to be Carvalho, who should get a serious opportunity to strut his stuff as a number ten with Tom Cairney yet to prove his fitness. He’s got the quality to make a real impact as we’ve already seen and Silva has shown a willingness to blood the youngsters, having rewarded Tyrese Francois’ fine pre-season with game time as well.
Tom: Fab broke through last season and didn’t look out of place in the Premier League. He’s played very well for Fulham in pre-season and took the winner against Charlton really well. Silva already speaks very highly of him – and I expect he’ll get plenty of game time this season and flourish as a result.
Louis Wishlade: Fulham’s players to watch have to be one of the youngsters. We saw Carvalho light up our last few Premier League games and we have also seen his link up with fellow academy graduate Francois. During his time at Everton and Watford, the wingers and the number 10 were some of the most important roles in Silva’s system and with Cairney’s unfortunate susceptibility to injury, we could see a lot more of Francois this season.
Who’s going up automatically?
Fulham fans won’t need reminding of how good a manager Slavisa Jokanovic is
Billy Wright: West Brom are my tip to top the table, with Fulham in second.
Kieran Stutley: Fulham and Sheffield United. I absolutely have to back Slavisa Jokanovic on his return to English football. The Blades have one of the strongest squads in the division and I’m not overly concerned that they’ve yet to make significant additions. Jokanovic concurs – saying that it compares favourably to the ones he inherited here and at Watford – and, while it may take a while to fully implement his methods, he’ll definitely get the best of the players.
Alan Drewett: This is a very open division – with seven or eight sides shooting for the promotion positions. I fancy Sheffield United to finish second behind the Whites. Their squad has remained pretty much intact despite coming down from the top flight and Slavisa Jokanovic’s arrival could prove the difference between automatic promotion and the play-offs, where the Blades have a history of heartache.
Buster Waddell: Slavisa Jokanovic will definitely get Sheffield United firing and I’m backing the Blades to grab the other automatic promotion spot.
Olly Johnson: Fulham first, West Brom second. You can argue this isn’t the most entertaining prediction but last season we saw Norwich and Watford bounce straight back up and given the ongoing pandemic it seems the teams who were relegated are once again in the strongest financial positions. This is often the case but has been extenuated for the past two seasons.
Seb Mayer: I struggle to see past Sheffield United. The Blades were bitterly disappointing last year but the return of Slavisa Jokanovic has already given the red half of the steel city a serious lift. He’s a proven manager at this level and knows how to get sides to deliver when it matters.
Spike Waddell: West Brom will follow the mighty Fulham up to the Premier League automatically.
Dan Crawford: I’ve picked West Brom. They’ve got a squad of players who can perform at this level and in Valerien Ishmael they moved quickly for the Championship’s sharpest coach. The Baggies should be right up there come the business end of the season.
Louis Wishlade: I think it will be West Brom and ourselves but there are a number of sides who can challenge including Bournemouth and Sheffield United. We can’t afford a slow start – our previous seasons have shown how difficult playing catch up can be in the Championship.
Chris Simpson: Jokanovic has a track record for success in this league so coupled with what is still a strong squad I would expect Sheffield United to join us in the automatic positions. West Brom are another potential especially if we fail to start quickly.
Tom: I think it will be West Brom alongside the Whites. The bookies have made us favourites – and with the possible additions of Grimes and Muniz in the pipeline that would plug the only real gaps that are left in the squad. West Brom probably have very similar expectations of bouncing back straight away. They did well to lure Valerien Ismael from Barnsley and have made good signings so far.
Who’ll be in the play-off picture?
Billy Wright: I think the playoffs will be a battle between Bournemouth, Sheff Utd, Middlesbrough and Millwall. I can see Sheff Utd winning the playoffs, simply due to the fact that their manager is a genius.
Spike Waddell: I’ve got Bournemouth, Sheffield United, QPR and Birmingham to finish in the top six.
Kieran Stutley: This was a really tough choice. I’ve plumped with West Brom, Bournemouth, QPR and Luton. That’s harsh on Cardiff City and Swansea City as I think both Welsh sides will be there or thereabouts.
Alan Drewett: I’ve got West Brom, Bournemouth, Millwall and QPR in the play-off berth. The Baggies have enough quality in their squad to contest an automatic spot, but something tells me they will fall just short. Bournemouth lost out in the play-off semi finals last season and should be in the mix again. I think the other two places are wide open, but Mark Warburton had QPR firing at the end of last term and his summer acquisitions look strong, so Rangers should go well. Millwall have made some smart signings and have not been far away from the top six in the past – the return of supporters to the New Den might spur them on to the top six.
Seb Meyer: Bournemouth have a great chance of repeating their play-off finish from last year and West Brom should also be there or thereabouts come May. I wouldn’t discount Barnsley or Swansea from reaching the top six for a second season in succession and Reading are my dark horse for the top six.
Louis Wishlade: I think Sheffield United will win the play-offs. Jokanovic has got too much know-how in this league to not be seriously contending for promotion with that squad. The Blades will be joined by Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth and QPR.
Chris Simpson: There are a number of teams who could well have strong seasons but I would expect Swansea, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough to be there or there about. As much as it pains me to say it I think QPR have made some excellent additions this summer and along with Blackburn could well push for top 6 given a number of talented players in their squads.
Dan Crawford: Sheffield United, Barnsley, QPR, Bournemouth. The Blades will be boosted by the recruitment of Jokanovic, who knows his way out of this division, and our former favourite has a squad capable of pushing for an immediate return. Barnsley might have lost Ismael but they have kept a significant portion of the squad that performed so well last term and have made some smart signings in the last couple of weeks. QPR were excellent in the second half of last season under Mark Warburton and their shrewd summer additions bode well. Bournemouth should be there or thereabouts and they have a manager who … well, there’s no need to go into all of that again.
Olly Johnson: Bournemouth should benefit both from their remaining parachute payments and Parker’s previous experience of taking Fulham up via the play-offs – I’m backing them to win promotion via this route. The other teams in the play-offs will be Cardiff, Swansea and Reading.
Tom: I’ve picked QPR, Bournemouth, Stoke and Sheffield United. QPR finished last season with momentum, which is key in this division, and they’ve moved shrewdly in the market to strengthen. Sheffield United will need to transition from Wilder’s style to the way Jokanovic wants to be play, but they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Stoke have made some astute signings and this could be a strong season, whilst Bournemouth are probably in the last chance saloon before they have to sell their prized assets.
Buster Waddell: West Brom, Bristol City, Swansea City, QPR.
And who’s going down?
Wayne Rooney’s Derby looked doomed before a ball has even been kicked
Billy Wright: Huddersfield seem to quality and struggled towards the back end of last season. I hope Peterborough beat the drop because I’m a big fan of chairman Darren MacAnthony but, as of the time of writing, they’ve not made any big signings and I can’t see them having enough to survive. Derby seem destined for disaster with the club’s dire financial position, a lack of senior professionals and Wayne Rooney’s antics all adding up to a pre-season that has been far from ideal.
Kieran Stutley: Derby, Hull City and Huddersfield.
Buster Waddell: Blackpool, Nottingham Forest, Peterborough United.
Alan Drewett: I think Derby look in turmoil at present and I can’t see them staying up and expect them to finish bottom. It seems like Blackburn are struggling with finances and they haven’t had the best of pre seasons either. My last team for the drop will be Blackpool who got promoted via the play offs last season but I do feel they are the weakest of the three that came up and I can’t see them surviving.
Olly Johnson: Derby are an obvious choice given we’re one week from the start of the season and they’re currently unable to field 11 senior players. Alongside the Rams, I am going to pick Blackpool, who came up via the League One play offs, and Huddersfield, who have struggled since relegation from the Premier League in 2019.
Chris Simpson: I think both Peterborough and Blackpool will struggle this season alongside Luton perhaps finding it tougher than they did last year. Huddersfield are a club in a bit of a mess right now as well so could all feature towards the bottom.
Seb Mayer: Your eyes are immediately drawn to the three newly-promoted sides in Hull, Peterborough and Blackpool but Derby are in a massive downward spiral and seem doomed. Coventry and Luton look like they’ll also have their hands full avoiding the drop.
Spike Waddell: I have picked Blackpool, Huddersfield and Derby to go down.
Dan Crawford: Derby are in a dreadful position. Financially hamstrung, with a novice manager still to prove himself and a conspicuous lack of senior players, it looks like being a long season at Pride Park. I don’t think Luton will be able to repeat the feats of previous seasons and Blackpool don’t look strong enough to survive.
Louis Wishslade: Peterborough United, Blackpool and Derby County.
Tom: Derby are a team in turmoil and can hardly get a side together, which spells trouble. I don’t think Blackpool or Hull have added enough and they will both struggle.