We’re used to seeing the hearts of fans, players and managers get broken during the Championship playoffs but last season the collective spirit of Leeds United was broken even before the playoffs got underway. When Chris Wood scored a 96th minute equaliser against Newcastle, Leeds were in a position of strength with just four games of the season to go. However, just three games later and their dreams of Premier League promotion had been dashed. Leeds now have to go again under new manager Thomas Christiansen and their first task is a tricky away game against Bolton. The Trotters are back in the Championship having won promotion from League One but they’re not content to make up the numbers this season. They want to make an impact under Phil Parkinson and will need no extra motivation for this Lancashire v Yorkshire grudge match.
After the long summer break it is time for the English domestic season to get back under way. This weekend we’ve got the return of the Football League before the Community Shield takes place at Wembley on Sunday. The season’s traditional curtain raiser sees the reining FA Cup winners, Arsenal, take on the Premier League champions, Chelsea. This London derby is always a heated affair but the fact that it is a replay of May’s FA Cup final adds another level of intrigue to the game.
It may not feel like much of an honour but Sunderland are getting the new Championship season underway with their Friday night match against Derby. The Black Cats fans are still getting over their relegation from the Premier League but the players have to get their heads back in the game or else things could get a whole lot worse for the club over the next nine months. That Derby are shorter odds than Sunderland to win the Championship shows the size of the problems at the Stadium of Light and the Rams will be hoping to capitalise on the negativity by picking up three points to get their season off to the best possible start.
The WGC Bridgestone Invitational is one of the biggest golf tournaments of the year. However, last year’s event wasn’t quite up to the usual standards. The inclusion of golf in the Olympics meant that the Bridgestone Invitational was shunted about in the schedule and several of the world’s best players were not in attendance. Thankfully it’s back in its regular slot the week before the US PGA Championship and we’ve got the best players in the game taking part in what should be a cracking edition.
Aston Villa are one of the biggest football clubs in England. Their past includes success at the top of European but their future is very much unknown. The club spent serious money last year after being relegated to the Championship but never threatened to get out of second flight and back into the Premier League. With just one more year of parachute payments left, Villa’s desperation to win promotion has increased even more. Hull too are desperate for a return to the Premier League. The Tigers rallied well under Marco Silva last season but it wasn’t enough to avoid the drop. They’ve now regrouped under new manager, Leonid Slutsky, and are looking to get off to the best possible start at Villa Park on Saturday.