With four rounds of fixtures having been played, the 2021-22 Championship season is now well and truly underway. It’s been a joy to see supporters packing into football grounds once again across the EFL, with the much-missed match-going experience now at the forefront of football fandom once again.
There have already been some interesting developments in the Championship, and at this early stage there are three teams who have stood above the rest of the chasing pack. Read on, as we look at the fastest starters to this new Championship season, who are already establishing themselves in the odds on the Championship title winners.
It’s no surprise that Fulham are one of the teams setting the pace in the early stages of the Championship season. Having become something of a yo-yo club in the last few years, the Cottagers will be aiming to earn promotion straight back to the Premier League once again, and they have started off on the right foot, with three wins and a draw from their opening four matches.
The first match of the season brought an unsatisfactory result, with a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough not what the home fans were expecting. However, Fulham found their feet a week later in beating Huddersfield Town 5-1. Two further wins against Millwall and Hull City have seen Marco Silva’s side install themselves as league leaders, a position they will hope to cling to for the entirety of the campaign.
Another side to be relegated from the Premier League last season, West Bromwich Albion are on a similar quest to immediately restore their top-flight status. They’ve started on a positive note, with three successive wins over Luton Town, Sheffield United and Blackburn Rovers following a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth on opening night.
The Baggies’ hierarchy wasted no time this summer in appointing talented coach Valérien Ismaël, who led Barnsley to the play-offs last season against the odds. With a strong squad and a knowledge of what it takes to win games in the Championship, West Brom will take some stopping this season. It is rare that they are not one of the clubs challenging for promotion from English football’s second tier, and it would be no surprise to see them there or thereabouts come the end of the campaign.
Having been relegated from the Premier League in 2018, Stoke City have showed little sign of regaining their position among the elite in the seasons since. However, this season they have got their campaign off to the best possible start, with three wins from four. An entertaining 3-2 win over Reading on the opening day was followed by a goalless draw with Birmingham City, but since then Stoke have recorded successive victories over Swansea City and Nottingham Forest.
With plenty of experience in the team through players like Joe Allen and Steven Fletcher, Stoke undoubtedly have the capability to produce promotion-winning form, and it will be interesting to see whether they can maintain it for a whole season. Manager Michael O’Neill knows a thing or two about pulling off big scalps, having led Northern Ireland to Euro 2016, and he’ll be keen to pull off another surprise and bring Stoke back to the big time.