The 2021/2022 Championship campaign got under way this weekend and the opening day brought with it even more buzz than usual.
Stadiums were at full capacity for the first time in 18 months and despite the lunch-time kick-off letting your banker 3512/1 accumulator down, it was all fine because all that really mattered was that football was back.
Week one had all the cliches. Plenty of goals, a few upsets and a couple of hammerings.
As always there were winners and there were losers. After 90 minutes of football there will be those that are convinced they are winning it all and there will be those that have already accepted their fate of a League One tour in 2022.
It is of course far too early to predict either of those things, but reflecting on the opening weekend, here’s who we believe to be the four biggest winners and losers from week one of the EFL Championship.
The Blues couldn’t have asked for a tougher test to open their campaign than a visit to promotion favourites Sheffield United.
Lee Bowyer’s team went into the game on the back of a rough 4-0 loss to West Brom in their final pre-season match and it left many fans fearing the worst heading to a packed out Bramall Lane.
Despite this, Birmingham were the better team from the off. They weren’t intimidated by the home faithful and instead were spurred on by their own sold-out away end.
Maxime Colin’s header on 19 minutes was the only goal of the game as it gave Bowyer’s side the perfect start to the season and a thoroughly deserved three points.
Hull City were making their first appearance back in the Championship after being crowned champions of League One last season and they kicked off their season in style.
After going down 1-0 early doors against Preston North End, the Tigers fought back to claim an impressive 4-1 victory.
Plenty already will have done, but if you screenshot the league table now, Hull fans, you’ve just been promoted to the Premier League as champions.
The Hatters showed their Championship quality in this one with a comfortable 3-0 victory over newcomers Peterborough United.
An equally matched first-half was contrasted by a dominant second by the home side who were buoyed by a sold-out Kenilworth Road throughout.
Luton have made some decent additions this summer and will be optimistic about their prospects for the new campaign based on this performance.
A special mention for Stoke City whose excellent 3-2 victory over Reading earned them their first opening day win since 2009. They have quite literally not been able to make this list in 12 years.
It was a case of a new season, same old Nottingham Forest in this one.
After taking the lead in the first half, the Reds held on against Coventry City until the 81st minute when Viktor Gyokeres equalised for the Sky Blues.
A point wouldn’t have been a bad result in truth for Chris Hughton’s men but up popped Kyle McFadzean in the sixth minute of additional time to score a City winner in front of the 3,784 travelling Forest fans. Nobody has missed that feeling.
Preston North End
As mentioned in the winners section, Preston North End were drubbed 4-1 at home by Championship newcomers Hull City. What in contrast was a perfect start for the Tigers was a disastrous one for North End.
A home game against a newly promoted side is normally one of the better games you can ask for to start the season and if that is anything to go by, then things aren’t really going to get much better for Frankie McAvoy’s team.
McAvoy publicly apologised to the Preston fans following the game and said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the performance.
An away point on the road is normally always a good one. But one against a side that have been in constant turmoil this summer and had a bench full of academy players for their opening fixture and it suddenly doesn’t sound all that great.
The Terriers had a terrible back-end to the previous campaign and that looked to be continuing when they fell behind to Curtis Davies’ opener.
Huddersfield did however find an equaliser and probably should have gone on to win the game but the fact is, they didn’t and there won’t be many better opportunities to get three points away from home this year.
The Blades were playing their first game back in the Championship following relegation from the Premier League and were heavy favourites for their Saturday night match-up against Birmingham City.
It was the start of the Slavisa Jokanovic era in the Steel City and Bramall Lane was bouncing but the team’s performance just didn’t match that same aura.
There was no real rhythm or tempo with any of the play and the team often looked disconnected, similar to that of their relegation campaign.
It may seem harsh to name a team within the ‘losers’ category based on a 1-0 defeat but with a team that has such high expectations surrounding them, they really failed to back them up.