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The Championship: Current State Of Play

Wayne Rooney has been unveiled as Head Coach of Plymouth Argyle

With the summer transfer window now open, we take a look at how each of Pompey's opponents next season are currently shaping up, ahead of what will be a busy summer of transfer activity.

Blackburn Rovers secured their Championship status on the final day of the season, with victory at champions Leicester City. Head Coach John Eustace arrived at the beginning of February and was able to navigate Rovers to safety, following the dismissal of Jon Dahl Tomasson.

Don't expect too much activity in the transfer market, with the club's biggest business being whether they are able to retain league top goalscorer Sammie Szmodics. As is usually the case at Ewood Park, there remains some in-stability off the field with Director of Football Gregg Broughton having left the club, following a disagreement with the Venky's at the end of the season over the direction of the club.

Bristol City are preparing for their 10th consecutive season in the second tier of English Football, the 2023/24 campaign brought another mid-table finish for The Robins. The support base will be keen to see their side offer more hope of a top 6 finish, having averaged a league position of 14th since reaching The Championship.

Liam Manning will begin his first full season in charge, having been tempted from Oxford last November. Manning's style of play has brought more optimism amongst fans, but with owner John Lansdown very open about the need for further outside investment, Manning will likely be reliant on the clubs young talent to step up.

It was a disappointing return to top flight for Burnley, which saw an immediate return The Championship. Title winning manager Vincent Kompany has since departed in a shock move to German giants Bayern Munich, with the club hierarchy placing Welshman Craig Bellamy at the helm on an interim basis.

The rumours around Turf Moor are that Chairman Alan Pace will be looking to bring in another big name to the home dugout, with Frank Lampard currently strongly linked. The existing squad, built by the now departed Kompany, are more than capable of providing the club with another promotion push.

Bluebirds fans have delighted in the news that Manager Erol Bulut has now committed his future to the Cardiff City, having agreed a new deal. Bulut was able to bring much needed stability to the Welsh side, staying far away from the relegation battle.

Vincent Tan has not heavily invested during previous transfer windows over recent years, with many expecting that trend to continue. If Cardiff are able to stay away from the danger zone again in the upcoming season, it will be largely down to the Turkish manager's ability to get the best out of his players, deploying a pragmatic and robust style.

Having lost out on penalties in the play-off final at Wembley the previous season, Coventry City were unable to get themselves in the promotion picture this time round. Having lost some of their most impressive performers, with the likes of Gustavo Hamer moving onto Sheffield United, the squad produced inconsistent results and performances, reflected by the ninth place finish.

The Sky Blues have ambitions to return back to the big time and have already made moves in the transfer market.  Raphael Borges Rodrigues is their first summer signing, with the 20-year old joining from the Australian top flight. Electric winger Ephron Mason-Clark will be available, having completed his 'loan-back' period at Peterborough United.

Derby County are a team that Blues fans know plenty about having been promoted alongside Pompey from League One, Paul Warne will be keen to prove himself in the division, having not been able to cement Rotherham United status as a Championship club, suffering relegation on three occasions.

The Rams have experience within their ranks, but will no doubt look to add further quality. Backed by owner David Clowes, who to this point has invested upwards of £55m into the club, expect plenty of movement around Pride Park.

Rob Edward's Luton Town team fought gallantly to avoid the drop, but were unable to defy the odds and retain their Premier League status. Not many expected The Hatters to survive relegation and they return to the second tier with their reputation and bank balance significantly increased.

Having overachieved in gaining promotion first time, the expectancy now will be to push for a place back in the big time. They have never been big spenders and despite the luxury of parachute payments, it would be a surprise to see that approach change, especially with a new stadium on the horizon.

It came as a huge shock when Liam Rosenior was relieved of his duties as Hull City boss following the climax of the campaign. The Tigers missed out on a play-off berth with a final day defeat at Home Park, home of Plymouth Argyle.

Owner Acun Medya has stated that it is his ambition to see the team back in the big time and has moved quickly to appoint Tim Walter, the German coach making his first foray into English football. No doubt, Hull will look to make some moves in the market to match their ambitions.

Despite completing the season on 90 points, the Yorkshire giants Leeds United missed out on securing an immediate return to the Premier League, eventually going down in the play-off final at Wembley. Daneil Frake has a proud record of obtaining promotions and has been retained in the dugout by the Leeds bosses.

Following the conclusion of the season chairman Paraag Marathe had told the media that top players would need to be sold, ahead of any new recruits coming through the door. Since that admission, owners the 49ers Enterprise announced a new minority stakeholder in Red Bull. This new investment could indicate that the club may be able to keep hold of top talents such as Summerville, Gnonto and academy sensation Archie Gray and still have the financial power to recruit further.

Much was expected of Carrick's Middlesbrough side before the season began, fancied by many as promotion hopefuls. Injuries to major players played a role in what was an inconsistent season for Boro. Only picking up nine draws throughout the campaign, Boro tended to win or lose with no in between.

The ex-Manchester United midfielder has put pen to paper on a new three year contract in the off-season, with the club also securing the services of Luke Ayling on a permanent basis, following the conclusion of his loan from Leeds United. Owner and chairman Steve Gibson has put his faith in the young manager's project, so much will be expected on Middlesbrough once more, regardless of how much transfer activity is seen around The Riverside Stadium.

It was to be a crazy season at The Den for Millwall, with the club having used four managers through the campaign. Gary Rowett departed by mutual consent and was replaced by the much reputed Joe Edwards. The South East London club never really got any run of form together and would find themselves in serious relegation trouble. Edwards was sacked from his role, with The Lions turning to club legend Neil Harris, who was brought in from Cambridge.

Harris was able to navigate the club to comfortable position of 13th, with a notable win away at St. Marys stadium along the way. Millwall traditionally don't throw large fees around to bring in talent, so expect more shrewd operating in the transfer and loan market.

Despite getting into the play-off picture, Norwich City would fall extremely short against Leeds, costing David Wagner his job, with the club acting quickly to bring in Hoff Throup. The disappointing performace at Elland Road, coupled with the pain of seeing local rivals Ipswich achieve promotion, means Canaries fans will be desperate to see their side go one step further this time round.

There is a good blend of youth and experience within the Norwich ranks, with young talent like Jonathan Rowe and a certain Abu Kamara returning to his parent club, they should certainly be in the mix again. The question remains is how much faith will be put in the young guns, or do the club dip into the market to add more experienced pedigree for the promotion push.

Oxford United sealed their place with Derby and Pompey in The Championship, with a brilliant victory at Wembley by humbling Ian Evatt's Bolton Wanderers. It took Des Buckingham time to win over the supporters at The Kassam Stadium having been appointed when Liam Manning left for Bristol City, but his side's performances improved significantly over time after the inconsistent start, becoming harder to breakdown - As brilliantly displayed in those play-off games that saw them get over the line.

They will do well to retain Josh Murphy, with the winger out on contract and linked with several clubs, including Portsmouth of course. They are likely to have the lowest budget in the division, so will have to do some smart business in the free agent and loan market. They have already made some moves, announcing the arrivals of Jacob Knightbridge and Will Vaulks from West Ham and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.

Plymouth Argyle made a solid start to life in The Championship after promotion from League One, but the exit of Steven Schumacher to Stoke City saw the wheels come off. Results were poor under Ian Foster, with the Green Army quickly becoming disillusioned with the style of play and negative tactics from the former Pompey coach. The would scrape home, securing their spot in this season competition by a solitary point.

Ex-England captain Wayne Rooney has now been brought in to lead the Devon side, despite experiencing his own troubles with managing Birmingham City. Much of Plymouth's season will hinge on whether they are able to hang onto exciting forward Morgan Whittaker, who if rumours are to be believed, is attracting interest from all over Europe.

Ryan Lowe's Preston North End appeared to be in with a good shout of a play-off berth heading into the final six games of the season, but their form would let down, losing five of those remaining fixtures. The Lilywhites had started the season very promisingly, being top of the table for some points during September.

Club captain Alan Browne has been offered a new deal, although the belief among supporters is that he has played his last game for the club. The same can be said for popular loanee Liam Millar, who will return to Basel in Switzerland. Ryan Lowe will need to recruit and will have to do some very smart business if he is able to propel Preston into the play-off picture.

QPR made a disastrous start to the season under then manager Gareth Ainsworth, The Hoops brought in unknown Martí Cifuentes to turn their fortunes around. The unheralded Spaniard would on to forge a wonderful bond with the supporters and guide QPR to safety.

The club have had well documented financial troubles for a number of years now, so the board will be reliant on their head coach to squeeze every piece of quality he can from his troops, in what could be another season of struggle.

it was a season to forget for Sheffield United in the Premier League, finishing rock bottom with a paltry return of 16 points, conceding over 100 goals in the process. Chris Wilder was brought back to the club he supports, but was unable to drag them any nearer to survival.

Wilder has an incredible promotion record over the course of his managerial career, but this could present his greatest challenge yet. Owner Prince Abdullah had stated last summer that he was looking to sell up and move on, selling Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge on the eve of the season. Over the years the club have paid large fees to get their targets, but perhaps we shouldn't expect the same this time around.

Sheffield Wednesday supporters will be delighted to have the steel city derby to look forward to, now that rivals Sheffield United have joined them in the second tier. Danny Rohl was able to mastermind a miraculous recovery to safety, after the club had endure its worst ever start to a season, which was them wait until October 25th to win their first game of the season.

Fans at Hilsborough are jubilant to see their manager commit to a new deal, but many challenges will remain whilst working under an owner such as Dejphon Chansiri. The man at the top at times has withdrawn funding, depending on how his relationship with supporters are at the time. It's unlikely we will see wholesale changes from last seasons squad, but with the highly regarded Danny Rohl at the helm, expect any incomings to be of quality.

It was another drab season for Stoke City, but the club have made moves to try and arrest the slide that we have seen in recent years. Schumacher was appointed as boss during last season and the club have now added Jonathon Walters as a new sporting director, as well as announcing a £12m investment into updating the training ground.

The Potters will be very busy in the market between now and the close of the window, as they will look to try and get their team closer to the play-offs' this season.

It is now well over 100 days since Michael Beale was dismissed as the Sunderland boss, but the club are still yet to appoint a permanent successor. The season itself meandered its way to another 'let-down' for supporters, after the shock dismissal of Tony Mowbray when the club looked well set for a top-6 push, it all went downhill from there.

Frustration is growing amongst the fanbase at the clear lack of conviction from the club board and it is very hard to gauge where Sunderland's ambitions will be until the new man is put in place.

a 14th place finish would have pleased Swansea City fans, after what was a very poor start to the season saw the club make a managerial change, hiring Luke Williams from Notts County.

Williams brings an exiting and progressive style of play, but will have to work with limited resources.

Tom Cleverley is now the man in the hot-seat at Watford, having impressed during his spell as interim boss. The Hornets will be hoping to greatly improve on the mid-table finish of the past season.

The club made the remarkable step of looking to sell 10% of the club to supporters and investors, looking to raise £17.5m in transfer funds. The owners have since released a statement assuring club fans that everything financially is solid, but it remains to be seen how true that statement is.

And finally, West Brom were able to finish within the top-6, before falling way short in the play-off semi final. They will do well to keep hold of manager Carlos Corberán, who is attracting attention from many clubs, as he continues to show his tactical nous.

Catch The Football Hour every Monday and Friday from 6pm for all of the latest Portsmouth FC news with host Jake Smith!

*except the week commencing the 24th of June.

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