Ahead of fixture release day, we’re taking a closer look at some of the new teams competing in the 2022/23 Championship season and what PNE fans can expect when they make the trip to Deepdale. We start with the teams relegated from the Premier League.
After six consecutive years in the top flight, Burnley were relegated in May 2022 when a final day 2-1 home defeat to Newcastle United sealed their fate. The season also saw the end of Sean Dyche’s reign as manager which would have reached ten years in October 2022. The 50-year-old was sacked after a defeat to Norwich City at Carrow Road and was temporarily replaced by U23s manager Mike Jackson who couldn’t save them from the drop.
The biggest talking point at Turf Moor at the moment is new manager Vincent Kompany, who was recently announced as Dyche's permanent replacement. The Belgian’s reputation precedes him due to his outstanding playing career, winning four league titles with Manchester City, and he’ll be keen to add some gloss to his managerial CV, after two top-four finishes with boyhood club Anderlecht.
Dwight McNeil will be expected to step up now his side have dropped down to the Championship. The tricky winger appeared in every single Premier League match for the Clarets in the 2021/22 campaign but failed to score a single goal and only created one assist. With only Norwich City scoring fewer times than Burnley last season, the 22-year-old will undoubtedly be feeling the weight as one of the club’s most influential attackers to provide more goals.
It has been six years since North End last faced Burnley, but they’ll be looking to improve on their recent record against their Lancashire rivals, having lost five out of their last seven meetings. Under Simon Grayson in 2015, PNE ended the Clarets’ nine-match unbeaten run in the league with goals from Will Keane and Daniel Johnson securing a 2-0 win at Turf Moor. Sean Dyche’s men got their own back later that season however, with a 1-0 victory at Deepdale in April 2016, which left them needing just one win to secure the Championship title.
After getting promoted from the Championship in 2020/21, Watford were always one of the favourites for the drop and finished in 19th, just a point ahead of bottom-placed Norwich City. They also ended up going through three managers: Xisco, Claudio Ranieri and Roy Hodgson, and will begin the 2022/23 season with another different boss in the dugout.
Rob Edwards is the new head coach of the Hornets after being poached from Forest Green Rovers, whom he guided to the League Two title last season. The Welshman is still only 39 and just a year into this career as a senior manager and therefore has a lot to prove in such a huge role and at a considerably higher level than that of his previous employers.
If Watford manage to keep hold of Joao Pedro, he will undoubtedly be one of their biggest goal threats throughout the 2022/23 campaign. He scored nine goals aged just 19 during his previous season in the second tier and the Brazilian’s stock continues to rise. He is reportedly attracting interest from other clubs and so the challenge to keep him at Vicarage Road will be a tricky one.
North End and Watford have only met each other only three times in the last ten years and the Hornets have come out on top, doing the double over the Lilywhites in the 2020/21 season. However, PNE were the surprise victors in a League Cup second round tie in August 2015 when Marnick Vermijl’s eighth-minute strike was enough to defeat the then-Premier League outfit.
Norwich City raced to the Championship title during 2020/21 but were unable to do much to prevent them returning straight back to the second tier, finishing rock bottom. Not even a mid-season managerial change – as the popular Daniel Farke was replaced by Dean Smith in November 2021 – was enough to save them as they slumped to just 22 points, shipping 84 goals.
Dean Smith remains the boss going into the new season and Norwich supporters have a right to be encouraged. The 51-year-old has previous experience of getting a team promoted from the Championship with Aston Villa and continues to demand a free-flowing attacking system, in the same mould as Farke before him.
Teemu Pukki was Norwich’s only real source of goals last season – scoring 11 of the club’s 26 league goals throughout the campaign – and so he will undoubtedly be a key figure if the Canaries are going to mount another promotion challenge. The Finn is now 32 but continues to be at the top of his game and has proven before he can tear it up in the Championship, finding the net 26 times when his side came up in 2021.
PNE and Norwich have frequently played each other in recent years but the Lilywhites have only come out on top once in the last eight meetings. However, it was a memorable victory, coming at Deepdale in February 2019, as goals from Ben Davies, Paul Gallagher and Sean Maguire consigned the East Anglian outfit to their only defeat within an otherwise unbeaten 21-game spell.
Part two of our In Focus series, which will take a look at the teams who have come up to the Championship ahead of the new season, will be published on Wednesday afternoon.