The fixture list for the 2020-21 English Football League campaign has been released.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some talking points across the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two.
Vlad needs a fast start
Unknown Serbian Vladimir Ivic is the man charged with making sure Watford’s stay in the Championship is a brief one. Ivic has replaced Nigel Pearson, who was sacked just two games before their relegation from the Premier League was confirmed, and given how the land lies at Vicarage Road, and their owners’ penchant for sacking managers, he will have to start well. A home game against Championship veteran Neil Warnock, who is now in permanent charge of Middlesbrough, begins the campaign, with a trip to Sheffield Wednesday and a local derby against Luton next up. Back-to-back away games at Reading and Derby follow, making it a tough start. If Ivic does not deliver some early wins, he could easily be fearing for his job.
Howe do you follow Eddie?
Bournemouth decided to keep things in-house following Eddie Howe’s exit in the wake of their relegation from the Premier League and appointed Jason Tindall. Tindall, a former Cherries player, was Howe’s number two and his first game in charge is a home game against Blackburn. Warnock is in the opposing dugout as they hit the road to Middlesbrough for a lengthy first away trip before taking on fellow relegated side Norwich in another tough encounter. Much of how Tindall gets on will depend on which of his best players he can keep before the campaign gets under way. Nathan Ake and Aaron Ramsdale have already departed, with the future of Callum Wilson, Josh King and David Brooks all uncertain. Tindall is one of five new managers in the division, with Watford, Birmingham, Bristol City and Huddersfield all taking new men on.
League One scrap
🗓 𝙁𝙞𝙭𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙚 𝙍𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙚 𝘿𝙖𝙮 🗓 pic.twitter.com/CCwueg1f5G
— Sky Bet League One (@SkyBetLeagueOne) August 21, 2020
League One was robbed of what looked like being a thrilling promotion race last season as the coronavirus pandemic meant the season ended on a points-per-game basis. This campaign looks like it could be just as mouth-watering as six ex-Premier League teams will be eyeing up a promotion charge. Sunderland begin their third season in the division, playing Bristol Rovers first up, and surely will be hoping this is the one where they return to the Championship, but it will not be easy. Hull are back at this level for the first time since 2005 and have backed boss Grant McCann, meaning they should challenge, while Wigan will be hoping their off-field problems will not deter their attempts to bounce straight back from relegation last season. Ipswich will be keen to make a better fist of a promotion challenge than they did last season, and Paul Lambert will have to get things right at Portman Road, while Charlton, who are also having ownership issues, will hope to bounce straight back. Perennial challengers Portsmouth should also be in the mix.
Former England international David Dunn is the man who will lead Barrow’s first English Football League campaign in 48 years. Dunn got the job at Holker Street after Ian Evatt left to join Bolton, having won promotion from the National League. Dunn’s first game in charge sees them host Stevenage, the side who earned a reprieve from relegation by Macclesfield’s points deduction, before matches against Newport and Colchester, with a relatively short 87-mile trip to Carlisle coming in early October. Morecambe are their closest opponents, with games at the Globe Arena in December and at Holker Street in February.
Harrogate history makers
If the disjointed 2019-20 season and the problematic ending it endured at all levels gave us anything heart-warming, then it was the historic promotion for Harrogate, who are now in the EFL for the first time in their history. The Yorkshire club won the National League play-offs and are rewarded with an opening-day trip to Southend. Their first home game – to be played at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium while their own ground is refurbished and has a grass pitch laid – will be against Walsall. Simon Weaver’s men then play Port Vale and Bolton before a local derby against Bradford at Valley Parade in early October.