The 2021-22 English Football League fixtures have been released, with the campaign set to get under way on August 7.
Here, the PA news agency’s Sunny Badwal looks at some of the talking points across the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two.
Can home help give Slav the rhythm?
Slavisa Jokanovic has signed a three-year deal with Sheffield United and is back in English management for the first time since 2018. If the Serbian boss, who has previously led Watford and Fulham to the Premier League, was hoping for an easy start, he is out of luck. A home start, against Birmingham, will be welcome but next up are away matches at Swansea and West Brom. The run-in, which reaches a climax with the visit of another relegated team, Fulham, on the final day, also looks challenging.
Uncertainty for Derby and Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney’s first season in charge at Pride Park did not quite go to plan as they narrowly avoided relegation on the final day by a single point. The former England and Manchester United captain’s reign got off to a promising start but turned sour when speculation over the club’s ownership started to take centre stage – they failed to win any of their last seven games. Now the Rams face the prospect of being relegated to League One anyway – and taking on Wycombe’s fixture list – after an independent disciplinary commission ordered a £100,000 fine to be paid to the EFL over accounting irregularities, while the club must file restated accounts for the financial years ending 30 June 2016, 2017 and 2018. A possible outcome could see Derby change places with the Chairboys, who finished a place behind them and duly suffered the drop last term. If Rooney’s men remain in the Championship, however, then a good start is needed on the pitch, and matches against Huddersfield, Peterborough and Hull could help them.
Can Moore make Wednesday merrier?
Sheffield Wednesday boss Darren Moore thought he escaped the depths of League One when he left Doncaster to take charge of the Owls in March, albeit with the club in a precarious position, sitting in 23rd and six points adrift of safety in the Championship relegation places. However, soon after Moore took charge at Hillsborough, he contracted pneumonia from Covid-19 which kept him away from the touchline for much of his tenure and the Owls failed to avoid relegation despite taking the lead twice against Derby on the final day.
Many are predicting Wednesday to struggle this season in League One as the division looks set to be one of the most competitive in recent years and the club have yet to make any signings of note with a little more than six weeks to go until the start of the season. They will need to be ready, as a trip to Charlton and derby matches against Doncaster and Rotherham inside the first four games are on the agenda. The League One campaign will end on April 30 but the curtains will be drawn on the regular Championship and League Two seasons a week later on May 7 and 8.
It’s how you finish
Morecambe, who beat Newport in the play-off final to move up to English football’s first tier for the third time, appear to have a tough start and finish to the campaign, Ipswich, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday are among their first six fixtures, while the run-in sees games against Charlton and Portsmouth followed by a final day visit of Sunderland, who are keen to make a fourth season at this level their last under Lee Johnson.
Welcome Sutton – and welcome back Hartlepool
Sutton will play in the EFL for the first time in their history following their promotion as champions from the National League. The south London club are replacing the plastic pitch at Gander Green Lane with grass to meet the requirements of the EFL, with Salford providing the opposition in their first home game on August 14, after an opening day trip to Forest Green. The other team promoted from the National League, Hartlepool, are no strangers to the level, having been relegated in 2017. Dave Challinor’s Pools appear to have been handed a slightly less challenging start, with Crawley, Barrow, Sutton, Harrogate and Carlisle awaiting.