The 2021-22 EFL Championship season got underway at the weekend, beginning with Friday night football as Bournemouth hosted West Bromwich Albion. It was a busy opening weekend, with plenty of goals as well as talking points. So, without further ado, let’s round up the action.
- Jubilation as fans return
As the old adage goes, football is nothing without fans. And after 18-or-so months of soulless stadiums playing host to the action behind closed doors, there was a welcome return to fans up and down the country, as they finally got behind their teams again. There’s no denying that having a home crowd could influence the English Football League Championship odds.
The biggest attendance was found at Bramall Lane, where a bumper crowd of 29,043 turned out to watch recently relegated Sheffield United host second-tier stalwarts Birmingham City. However, the biggest attendance across the whole of the EFL was at the Stadium of Light, with over 31,000 spectators watching Sunderland v Wigan Athletic.
- Points on the board with plenty of draws
12 teams picked up points on opening weekend, as there were six score draws. The first was on Friday night as Bournemouth and West Brom shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw – with the hosts going ahead twice in that match.
There were a further five 1-1 draws over the course of the weekend. That’s right – five out of the twelve fixtures ended a point apiece. Amongst them were Blackpool, who landed a last minute leveller against Bristol City. We’ll talk about them more later on but Derby County also went ahead against Huddersfield Town.
- Not the best of starts for the relegated clubs
Of course, a new season brings new hope – and not least for the sides relegated from the Premier League last season, who look to bounce back at the first opportunity.
However, amongst them: Sheffield United, West Brom and Fulham, none were able to secure a vital win. In fact, the trio picked up only two points with the Blades losing. West Brom came from behind twice to secure a point, while the Cottagers were unable to preserve their lead against Middlesbrough.
As we all know, the Championship is a marathon not a sprint and there’s bound to be a twist in the plot to come.
- Derby’s dramatic summer. What despair?
The trials and tribulations of the Rams have been there for all to see during the close season. Not only on the pitch, but the misdemeanours of their current boss Wayne Rooney. In terms of drama, it hasn’t rained, it’s poured.
In their opening match against Huddersfield Town, Derby County could barely field a full side. Academy products littered the bench, while more sporadic members of the squad made it into the starting XI. Bereft of experience, and strength in depth, it could be a long, arduous season. However, they got off to a decent start against the Terriers – who too, have been hit by covid, with four first-teamers (and manager Carlos Corberán) out of their clash at the weekend.
Derby went ahead through Curtis Davies’ header and while the visitors pegged them back before half time, the Rams will be hoping to put up a fight, rather than go down with a whimper – even if they are the heavy favourites in the EFL Championship relegation odds.
- Hull City: the tigers roar once more
Opening day often throws up a mixed bag for Hull City, but after their promotion from League One last campaign, many were wondering how they would fare in English football’s second tier. After all, they were relegated in 2019-20, having lost 25 out of 46 matches. And who could forget they were on the end of an 8-0 hammering (v Wigan) towards the end of the extended campaign and lost their final six games of the season.
They were slapped with a transfer embargo and went behind in their opening match at Deepdale, as Preston North End hosted. But against the odds, and to much surprise amongst the black-and-amber faithful, Keane Lewis-Potter, Richie Smallwood, Josh Magennis and Andy Cannon all got their names on the score sheet as Hull won 4-1 – and sit at the top of the Championship table.