With the EFL Championship campaign set to get underway in just a few weeks, here are three teams who could surprise a few this season.
Luton Town were staring down the barrel of relegation in the 2019/20 campaign. The Hatters looked set to be relegated before the coronavirus pandemic hit leading to a halt in all forms of football. The hierarchy decided to sack then manager Graeme Jones and re-appointed former boss Nathan Jones to the surprise of the fanbase.
The appointment turned out to be a masterstroke, with Luton losing just one of their last nine games and subsequently securing Championship safety on the final day with a victory over Blackburn Rovers, despite being in the bottom three since Boxing Day.
Last season was another step in the right direction for Jones' men as they secured their highest league finish since 2005/2006 with a 12th placed finish. They nearly emulated the previous campaign by losing one of their last seven fixtures coming into the new season, giving fans optimism for a top-six push this season.
However, the task of pushing for promotion this season was dealt a huge blow with top scorer James Collins leaving the club on a free to join fellow Championship side Cardiff City after his contract expired. Influential figure, Matty Pearson also left the club at the end of his contract. Pearson decided to join Huddersfield Town on a three-year contract.
Another major loss for Jones is midfielder Kieran Dewsbury-Hall. The youngster joined on loan from Leicester City and played a key role throughout last season. However, a second loan spell to Kenilworth Road was ruled out, so it was important the Luton recruitment team found adequate replacements.
With little time to waste, the Hatters completed eight signings in the first couple of weeks of the Summer window. Four of the eight all arrived on free transfers, but all come with plenty of second-tier experience. Amari'i Bell, Henri Lansbury, Cameron Jerome and Reece Burke all joined the club upon the expiry of the deals at their former clubs.
The other four deals were completed for undisclosed fees. 22-year-old Allan Campbell turned down offers from Scotland and multiple other Championship sides to join the club. After leading Morecambe to League One for the first time in their history, Carlos Mendes Gomes bagged himself a move to Kenilworth Road just a couple of years after being released from Atletico Madrid. Young forwards Fred Onyedinma and Admiral Muskwe both joined permanently from Wycombe Wanderers and Leicester City respectively to try and replace the firepower of the departed Collins.
Before the end of the window, Luton may need to add another striker to their ranks if they are to mount a serious push towards the top six. However, their business up to now has been superb and they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Queens Park Rangers
Since boss Mark Warburton was appointed back in May 2019, Queens Park Rangers have been on a steady incline in results and league positions. In the three previous campaigns before Warburton's arrival, the R's finished no higher than 16th place.
His first season saw him lead the club to a respectable 13th place finish, just 12 points off the top six. The pandemic in 2020 halted their decent run of form. They were unbeaten in six before games were suspended. The break had a catastrophic effect on their results, with the club only winning two games out of the last nine.
Last season, they finished in ninth place, an improvement of 10 points from the previous campaign, their highest finish since their return to the second tier back in 2015. This was aided by the tremendous form of Warburton's men in the last 10 matches. His side only lost on three occasions with six wins and one draw, including an impressive 1-0 away victory at play-off finalists Swansea City thanks to a late goal from top scorer Lydon Dykes.
With only a couple of weeks left until the start of the new season, QPR have done well so far to keep hold of key players such as Ilias Chair and Dykes. However, there has been a couple of departures from the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium this summer.
Striker Macauley Bonne has failed to hit the ground running since his £2 million move from Charlton Athletic just under 12 months ago. He has agreed a loan move to League One side Ipswich Town for the upcoming campaign. Backup 'keeper Joe Lumley left the club after his deal expired and subsequently joined Championship rivals Middlesbrough. Talented youngster Olamide Shodipo had a successful loan spell at Oxford United after joining the club during the winter transfer window. However, manager Warburton has decided to send the 24-year-old out on loan again, this time joining Sheffield Wednesday.
After two full seasons in charge of the R's, Warburton has a good idea of where he needs to improve his side. So far this window, the club have signed seven new players, four of which are on undisclosed deals. Andre Dozzell, a young midfielder with bags of potential, signed a long term contract after completing his move from Ipswich. The business in the central midfield department was not done there though. Sam Field rejoined the club on a permanent deal from recently relegated West Bromwich Albion after a successful loan spell last year.
The defence was often what held them back last season, with some poor defensive displays. To prevent this from happening once more, Jimmy Dunne and Jordy De Wijs were both signed from Burnley and Hull City respectively to try and sure up the leaky defence. Sam McCallum is a youngster who caught the eye whilst on loan at Coventry City in the previous campaign. With a place in Norwich City's first team unlikely for a few seasons, Warburton pounced and brought the left-back in on a season-long loan.
After Lumley swapped London for Teeside, the R's picked up departing Boro goalkeeper Jordan Archer as a backup for Seny Dieng. The final arrival is a returning hero. Charlie Austin helped fired the club into the Premier League back in 2013/14 with 18 league goals. The fan favourite returned on loan last season and impressed once more, resulting in another permanent stint at Loftus Road.
After a combination of a good finish to the previous campaign and a good start to this window, QPR could shock a few and potentially gate crash the top six party this season and return to the top flight for the first time in seven years.
After multiple attempts at promotion, last season Darren Ferguson finally led his Peterborough United back to the second tier of English football for the first time since the 2012/13 season where they were relegated on the final day after a 3-2 loss away to Crystal Palace.
Much of the credit for last season must go to top scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris. Posh needed a new striker after striker Ivan Toney joined Brentford for £10 million, and decided to take the gamble on Clark-Harris who joined from Bristol Rovers for just £1.2 million. Peterborough's number nine ended up scoring 31 leagie goals last season, which propelled Posh to a second tier return and also the PFA League One Player of the Season award.
It is of paramount importance that Ferguson and his team get the summer window spot on in order to give themselves the best chance to stay up and shock the division this season. It has been a relatively quiet start to the window for Posh with just four signings, but they all add significant quality to an already impressive squad.
Jorge Grant impressed for a Lincoln City side who narrowly missed out on Championship football after losing in the play-off final against Blackpool. Posh wasted no time in signing the box-to-box midfielder, and fended off multiple other Championship sides for the 26-year-old's signature. Jack Marriott is a name all Peterborough fans will know. The centre forward scored 33 goals in all competitions back in the 2017/18 season and subsequently secured himself a move to Derby County for a fee in the region of £5 million. However, his time in the East Midlands was hit by injury and he only managed to score 10 goals in 70 appearances for the Rams. He left Derby at the end of his contract last season and agreed a move back to London Road ahead of this season.
Josh Knight, a talented ball playing centre back, joined the club for an undisclosed fee from Leicester, with 30-year-old 'keeper David Cornell joining on a free from Ipswich to help solve the squad depth in goalkeeping department.
Peterborough have done well to keep hold of their star players up to this point. Skilful winger Siriki Dembele handed in a transfer request in January, but carried on to perform despite this. He has since been linked with a move to Celtic and Rangers, but Peterborough are set to after the 24-year-old a new contract which could keep him at the club. Clarke-Harris would be a good option for many Championship sides, but Posh's high valuation of the striker could see him stay the club for at least one more season.
Despite this, there has been a couple of departures from the club. Louis Reed and Niall Mason, both left the club at the end of their contacts, having being squad players in the promotion winning campaign. Wing back Frazer Blake-Tracy also left the club and joined Burton Albion, with the 25-year-old wanting more regular game time.
Peterborough may need a couple more signings in before the end of the window in order to push for a good finish this season. However, with Ferguson in charge and with the squad he has amassed they should be able to push on and survive as well as causing a few shocks along the way.