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Five Championship stars to watch next season

:Headline: Five Championship stars to watch next season:
Sports Mole takes a look at five Championship players that could be worth keeping an eye on ahead of the 2022-23 campaign kicking off in August.
Sports Mole

Following a thrilling 2021-22 Championship campaign, Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest eventually secured the top prize - a lucrative promotion to the Premier League.

Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic would go on to break numerous second-tier records after scoring a remarkable 43 goals, thus securing him the Championship player of the year award.

Forest forward Brennan Johnson also enjoyed an excellent campaign - his first in the second tier - with the 21-year-old netting 16 goals and registering 10 assists on his way to picking up the Championship young player of the year award.

Norwich City, Watford and Burnley return to the second tier for the 2022-23 campaign, whilst Wigan Athletic, Rotherham United and Sunderland will compete in the Championship again following their promotions from League One.

Barnsley, Derby County and Peterborough United were the sides to suffer heartache and drop out of the division following disappointing campaigns for many differing reasons.

Taking into account the 24 sides to compete in the division when it gets underway in August, Sports Mole takes a look at which players could be worth keeping an eye on with the view to replicating the success of the likes of Mitrovic and Johnson.



Daryl Dike (West Bromwich Albion)

Following his move to West Brom for around £7m back in January from Orlando City, Dike was expected to provide the goals to reignite the club's promotion bid during the 2021-22 Championship campaign.

The 22-year-old had enjoyed a productive six-month loan spell at Barnsley under Valerien Ismael the previous year, scoring nine goals to help the Yorkshire side to a surprise top-six finish.

However, following defeat to Swansea City in the playoffs, Dike returned to his parent club in the MLS for the remainder of the 2021 campaign, during which he continued his fine form by firing in 11 goals across 19 appearances.

Ismael retained his interest in reuniting with Dike when he moved to the Baggies in the summer of 2021, but the Frenchman got the axe just one month after getting his wish following a dismal run of results at The Hawthorns.

West Brom still found themselves positioned well enough to push for a playoff place for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign under Steve Bruce, but the former Newcastle United boss had to do it without the services of Dike.

The young American would feature for just 84 minutes for his new club before being forced off with a hamstring injury against Peterborough on his first start for the club, before an injury to a knee tendon would follow before he could make a return to the starting 11 in the West Midlands.

Fast forward to the 2022-23 campaign, and West Brom will be expected to be in and around the promotion-chasing pack once more, despite their dreadful season, and with Dike set to be Bruce's focal point in attack, the striker is likely to play a huge part in any success at West Brom.

Possessing plenty of pace, strength and finishing ability, Dike has already proved how much of a handful he can be for Championship defences, and as long as he receives the service from his teammates, he could well be the 20-goal-a-season striker that West Brom were crying out for last season.



Todd Cantwell (Norwich City)

Like Dike, the 2021-22 campaign proved to be a hugely disappointing one for Norwich's academy product Cantwell.

A hugely influential figure in Norwich's promotion successes in 2020-21, after netting six goals and registering as many assists, as well as being one of the few bright sparks during the side's relegation from the Premier League in 2019-20, Cantwell's importance deteriorated rapidly last season.

The 24-year-old quickly fell out with then Canaries boss Daniel Farke off the pitch, leading to the winger featuring just eight times in the Premier League, during which he failed to register any goal contributions during another poor top-flight campaign for Norwich.

As a result of his falling down the pecking order at Carrow Road, Cantwell was sent out on loan to Championship outfit Bournemouth in January, who would eventually seal a return to the Premier League under Scott Parker.

However, despite featuring regularly initially, Cantwell would play little part in the success on the south coast, once again failing to find the back of the net or assist a teammate in 11 league appearances.

In fact, Cantwell would go on to be excluded from the final four matchday squads for the Cherries, and as a result, they decided against triggering an option to sign the Norwich player on a permanent basis for around £11m.

Therefore, Cantwell will return home to Norwich with plenty of relationships to rebuild in Norfolk ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.

Dean Smith is the boss in the dugout after replacing Farke last season however, who Cantwell only featured under three times before his loan move in January.

The 24-year-old is set to be part of the former Aston Villa manager's plans in pre-season, ahead of a potentially revitalised year in which Cantwell could play a huge part in any promotion bid that Norwich may put together, with the winger certainly possessing the potential to dazzle opposition defences with his neat footwork and creativity on the ball.



Isaiah Jones (Middlesbrough)

Unlike the previous two candidates that failed to live up to expectations in the 2021-22 Championship campaign, Middlesbrough wing-back Jones enjoyed an excellent past year.

Jones only made his senior debut for Middlesbrough in January 2021 with a substitute appearance in the FA Cup against Brentford, and up to last season, he had not managed to make a second appearance for the first team.

Therefore, few could have predicted such a breakthrough season for the 22-year-old, but he certainly proved to be influential in Middlesbrough's late push for a playoff place.

Under Neil Warnock at the beginning of the season, Jones would perform as expected, but would certainly not stand out, but after Chris Wilder's appointment in November, Jones would kick on from this point.

The former Sheffield United boss's 3-5-2 formation would suit Jones perfectly, with Wilder utilising Jones, who had started out his career as a winger, in a right wing-back role.

From here, Jones would show excellent stamina to cover attacking and defensive phases of play with ease, and it would be in the final third that the Englishman would prove to be most effective.

Possessing great speed and determination to beat his man, Jones would regularly cause opposition full-backs a headache and leave them trailing in his wake, and would go on to score one goal and record eight assists, although his importance to Boro was certainly not completely reflected in those numbers.

Remarkably, fellow right wing-back Djed Spence returns to Boro this summer following a remarkable campaign on loan with Nottingham Forest during 2021-22, but with several Premier League sides interested in his signature, he is unlikely to be around at the Riverside Stadium for next season anyway.

In a first full season under Wilder, Boro are expected to be in and around the playoff places once again after tailing off towards the end of the 2021-22 campaign, which eventually cost them a place in the top six, and after being the go-to man for creativity and a spark, Jones is likely to play a huge role in any success in the North East, so is certainly one to keep an eye on.



Joao Pedro (Watford)

A new era begins at Watford ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, with former Forest Green Rovers boss Rob Edwards taking charge at Vicarage Road this summer.

The 39-year-old makes a huge step up to take charge of a side expected to be challenging for the automatic promotion places in their effort to return to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Edwards is being tasked with overseeing a long-term vision at the Hornets, something not usually associated with the Pozzo family in charge, and numerous departures are expected this summer to kickstart their plan.

Key players Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis are expected to leave following the club's relegation, with interest in the pair beginning to surface, whilst Pedro's name has also been linked with a surprise move to Liverpool as a potential replacement for the departing Sadio Mane.

However, no follow up to that interest has been made as of yet, so as things stand, Pedro is expected to be a key component in Watford's promotion push during the 2022-23 Championship campaign.

The 20-year-old played an influential role along with Sarr during their last success in the division back in 2020-21, scoring nine league goals and registering two assists in 38 appearances, but would go on to score just three times in 28 Premier League games this past year, although only 15 of which were starts.

With the likes of Sarr and Dennis expected to depart, Pedro could quickly become the key man at Vicarage Road when it comes to providing the goals required to fire Watford to promotion.

At just 20 years old too, the Brazilian certainly possesses the potential to improve significantly in the coming years, and the forward's development in the Championship next season looks to be an intriguing one to watch indeed.



Joel Piroe (Swansea City)

A name many may not be too familiar with, Piroe's excellent displays for Swansea during the 2021-22 Championship campaign went under the radar in some parts.

The Dutchman netted an impressive 22 league goals and registered six assists during 45 appearances in his debut campaign in England, following his move for around £2m from PSV last summer.

Such form has reportedly prompted interest from the likes of Leicester City, but should Swansea be able to shake off interest in the 22-year-old, he looks to be a key component in Russell Martin's side ahead of the new season.

The former MK Dons boss oversaw a largely inconsistent campaign in which they finished in a disappointing 15th place, with much of the year spent transitioning to Martin's focus on a possession-based style of play.

For Piroe to fire himself to joint-third in the division's goalscoring charts during a largely poor campaign for the Welsh side by their standards of recent years, it certainly shows the amount of potential that the striker has.

Piroe is also sure to only get better with further experience in the second tier, as well as developing during a hopeful overall improvement of his team's play next season.

If Martin can turn the Swans into a promotion-chasing side once again, Piroe is likely to be the main man in their success, and he will surely be in and around the top of the goalscoring charts if he sticks around in south Wales thanks to his excellent finishing ability in front of goal.


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