Can the promoted sides make the step up to the Championship?
Jonny Williams is back at Charlton, but many of their play-off winners have moved elsewhere. Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

The three teams who came up to the Championship last season had all had just one year in League One while Rotherham United fell through the trapdoor once again, Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic eased to safety.

There’s a mixed bag this year with Barnsley promoted after just one year away from the second tier, Charlton Athletic returning after three years, and Luton Town making it back after a tumultuous 12 years.

How well equipped are each of the teams to successfully make the climb into the Championship?

Luton Town

It’s been a long road back for Luton, but after 12 years they’ve returned to the Championship. Three consecutive relegations – the latter two with the help of points deductions as financial problems crippled the club – and five years in the non-league wilderness were suffered before their remarkable return began.

They won the Conference in 2014 under John Still, and two successive promotions have brought them back to the second tier. Nathan Jones saw them up from League Two before Mick Hartford, the Hatters’ boss when they were relegated from the Football League 10 years previously, returned to complete their title-winning campaign last season.

The reins have now been handed to Graeme Jones, who is in the hot seat for the first time after over a decade as an assistant manager to Roberto Martinez at Swansea City, Wigan Athletic, Everton and the Belgium national side before working under Darren Moore at West Bromwich Albion.

It’s a fine CV but appointing an assistant boss always comes with risk – does he have the skills required to thrive will the full responsibilities that come with the top job?

Their impressive promotion campaign saw eyes inevitably turn towards some of their key players and both full-backs, Jack Stacey and James Justin, have departed for Bournemouth and Leicester City respectively to the tune of a combined £10m.

It is indicative of the club’s history that the capture of goalkeeper Simon Sluga broke a club transfer record that had lasted for 30 years, with an outlay of at least £1.34m for the Croatian international. He’s the first to be brought in for a fee but their other four additions so far have been notable too.

Left-back Brendan Galloway, once seen as a future England star when breaking through at Everton, is still only 23 and will be keen to show his potential and get his career back on track under a manager who knows him well.

Jones is also very familiar with winger Callum McManaman, who has headed to Bedfordshire after bringing a second spell at Wigan to an end, while defender Martin Cranie and midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe have also been added to the ranks.

With the exception of the signings they’ve made so far, it’s a squad short on Championship experience on the whole.

They had League One’s top scorer last year in James Collins, who bagged 25 of the team’s 90 goals, and if he is capable of making the same sort of impact a division higher then they will be in fine shape.

The money is there to make some signings and they will surely look to bring a couple of extra players in, but one of their biggest strengths has been team unity and Jones will do well to keep that.

Losing two of their top stars is far from ideal, but their hard-working side is more than capable of maintaining their Championship place.


When taking a Portuguese turn failed miserably as Jose Morais relegated Barnsley into League One last summer, the club made another unexpected choice by this time going for the German approach.

Jurgen Klopp brought gegenpressing to the world, and David Wagner and Daniel Farke showed that it was a devastating style down in the Championship, but Daniel Stendel took it a step further and looked to prove it could be equally effective in the rough and tumble of English football’s third tier.

One year, 91 league points and zero home defeats later, Championship football is back in Barnsley. Stendel and his team wiped the slate clean and, with the buy-in of an undoubtedly talented squad and the fanbase, brought back the optimism and success.

Such success can come at a price though, and Barnsley have already felt it keenly. The promotion campaign was built on their defence, which was the best in the division conceding only 39 goals, and other sides noticed.

Goalkeeper Adam Davies opted not to sign a new deal and headed to Stoke City on a free transfer, while their first-choice centre-back pairing has also been ripped apart with Liam Lindsay also heading to the Potters while Ethan Pinnock has been snapped up by Brentford.

They have wasted little time in searching far and wide for replacements to three of their most important players. Chelsea’s Brad Collins and Hannover’s Samuel Sahin-Radlinger have come in to fight for the gloves, while defenders have arrived from Denmark, Belgium and Leeds in the shape of Mads Juel Andersen, Bambo Diaby and Aapo Halme respectively.

Stendel has also recruited attacking midfielder Mike Bahre from his old Hannover side, while youngsters Luke Thomas and Mallik Wilks have been taken from Derby and Leeds.

None of their signings are guaranteed to be a success, but they are all in line with Barnsley’s approach. Not a single member of their squad is over the age of 26, and the likes of Cameron McGeehan and Alex Mowatt – both still only 24 - have been given the chance to thrive.

Upfront, Kieffer Moore hit 17 goals last year while Cauley Woodrow knocked in one fewer. Five players in the PFA League One Team of the Year – also including right-back Dimitri Cavare – reflects the quality of the individual talent at the club, and most of all the way that Stendel has got the best out of it.

However, those key departures mean that the manager must rebuild again. If leading Barnsley back into the Championship was a great achievement, it will be even harder to keep them there.

Charlton Athletic

Amidst a background of fan protests, staff unrest and open warfare between supporters and owner Roland Duchatelet, Lee Bowyer did a miraculous job to return Charlton to the Championship after three years in League One.

Almost 40,000 Addicks fans were packed into Wembley to see Patrick Bauer guide home a dramatic injury-time winner to defeat Sunderland in May’s play-off final, but things were not so cheery for long.

For a while, it seemed as though Bowyer would not be staying at all. Contract talks had broken down between himself and the club, who released a statement saying that they had failed to reach an agreement before a new deal was then announced the very next day.

This was to the relief of fans who rightly acknowledge just how remarkable a job he has done in his first year of management.

That saga only demonstrates the state of affairs at Charlton, with Duchatelet still trying in vain to get his hands rid almost two years after first putting them up for sale. Cash in not forthcoming, leaving them to try and prepare for the Championship on a shoestring.

Wembley hero Bauer has moved on to Preston after four years at the club, even though the German defender had been offered a new deal. Joe Aribo, the ace in their pack last season, also turned down the contract put in front of him to move across the border to Rangers.

One player who has re-signed is Jonny Williams, who was let go at the end of the season but has now agreed to return on a considerably lower wage. The likes of Ben Reeves and Igor Vetokele have been allowed to depart, and likewise, Josh Parker who featured in the promotion decider, while the loans of West Ham’s Josh Cullen and Arsenal’s Krystian Bielik have come to an end.

That leaves Athletic without close to half of their regulars going into the new season. Unsurprisingly, the signings so far have been far from spectacular with all coming from the lower divisions.

Goalkeeper Ben Amos arrives in from Bolton, defender Tom Lockyer moves from Bristol Rovers, full-back Ben Purrington moves from Rotherham while forwards Chuks Aneke and Macauley Bonne have been taken from MK Dons and Leyton Orient respectively.

Reasons for optimism are in short supply. At least they still have striker Lyle Taylor, who scored 25 goals and set up another 13 in all competitions after being picked up from AFC Wimbledon for free last year.

With the owner’s wallet tightly sealed back in Belgium, Bowyer will have to find more bargains to get his squad in shape to battle for survival. He may be one of the brightest young English managers around, but it will take one awesome job to steer this side to safety.