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FM21 – Championship Club Guide

In this post we’ll be taking an in depth look at each club in the Championship, including an overview of the club, predicted finish, club vision and some key players, hot prospects and finally I’ll suggest a formation. Welcome to the Football Manager 2021 Championship Guide.

Clubs in this post

Barnsley

Barnsley were promoted to the Championship in 2019, on the back of a campaign that saw them finish second in League One under Daniel Stendel. Having only played in the top flight for a single season (1997-98), reaching the Premier League would be a huge achievement.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
19thGoodGoodOakwell (22,815)

Club Vision

Sign players under the age of 23 for the first teamDesired
Sign players under the age of 20 for the futurePreferred
Develop players using the club’s youth systemFavoured
Play entertaining footballFavoured
Play high-tempo pressing footballFavoured
Do not sign players over the age of 29Desired
Sign players from the lower levels of the domestic gameFavoured
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Avoid RelegationRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Second RoundRequired

Key Players

Alex Mowatt

Cauley Woodrowe

Herbie Kane

Hot Prospects

Luke Thomas

Jack Walton

Elliot Simões

Suggested Formation – 4-4-1-1

There’s a lack of depth at left back, and not much quality out wide, but Barnsley do have a lot of quality in the centre of the park, so it’s worth looking at using a formation with three CMs. Cauley Woodrow is capable of leading the line himself, so one up top is definitely an option. A fluid counter attacking style could work well here.


Birmingham

Birmingham City are championship regulars, this year will be their tenth season in a row in England’s second tier. Throughout the 00’s they were ritual yo-yo’ers, with three promotions and three relegations in ten seasons. Taking them back to the Premier League would be a tough ask.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
18thGreatGreatSt Andrew’s (30,016)

Club Vision

Develop players using the club’s youth systemDesired
Play entertaining footballDesired
Play attacking footballDesired
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Top HalfRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundDesired
– Second Season
Sky Bet Championship – Play OffsFavoured

Key Players

Iván Sánchez

Mikel San José

Neil Etheridge

Hot Prospects

Jonathan Leko

Odin Bailey

Fran Villalba

Suggested Formation – 4-2-3-1

The blues have excellent options at full back, as well as impressive options in the AM strata, so a counter-attacking 4-2-3-1 could be a great choice. Dan Crowley looks a great option to play at number 10, with Gardener and Kieftenbeld good options for functional central midfielders. Reaching the play-offs in your second season is a big ask, but the squad definitely has potential.


Blackburn Rovers

Premier League winners Blackburn Rovers find themselves stable again in the Championship after bouncing back from relegation in 2016. Rovers will have their eyes set on returning to the top flight, having been outside the Premier League since 2012. It may take a couple of seasons to reach, however.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
12thExcellentGreatEwood Park (31,363)

Club Vision

Develop players using the club’s youth systemDesired
Sign players under the age of 22 for the first teamPreferred
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Reach Play-OffsRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred

Key Players

Adam Armstrong

Stewart Downing

Bradley Dack

Hot Prospects

Tyrhys Dolan

Daniel Butterworth

Ryan Nyambe

Suggested Formation – 4-4-2

With Bradley Dack and Adam Armstrong both exceptional options up front, it’s hard to stray from two up top. Nyambe adds quality at Right Back, and 4-4-2 just seems to fit the squad well. If you wanted to experiment slightly, you could try a variant of 5-3-2, with Lenihan Ayala and Williams all possessing the ability to play at centre half in the first team.


Bournemouth

After being relegated last season, The Cherries will have aspirations of a swift return to the top flight. They have a strong squad for the division, but poorer facilities than you might imagine. Promotion is definitely the aim here, anything less and you could be in trouble.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
6thGoodAverageVitality Stadium (11,464)

Club Vision

Play possession footballPreferred
Play attacking footballPreferred
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Win the TitleRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fifth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Fourth RoundPreferred

Key Players

Jefferson Lerma

David Brooks

Josh King

Hot Prospects

Chris Mepham

Lloyd Kelly

Mark Travers

Suggested Formation – 4-4-2

The Bournemouth team picks itself, there is so much quality and depth here, you should have no problem selecting any formation. However, I think an attacking 4-4-2 would work wonders, with Brooks and Stanislas operating from the wings, and King and Solanke up front. There are plenty of options at left back, with Kelly and Rico both capable of playing in the first team.


Brentford

Brentford had so many chances to win promotion last season and flopped every time, culminating in a 2-1 loss in extra time of the play-off final against Fulham. Promotion will be the aim again this season, but could be a tough ask with the loss of Ollie Watkins.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
3rdAverageBasicBrentford Community Stadium (17,250)

Club Vision

Play possession footballPreferred
Play attacking footballPreferred
Do not sign players over the age of 29Preferred
Sign players from the lower levels of the domestic gameFavoured
Play entertaining football Preferred
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Play-OffsRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred
– Second Season
Sky Bet Championship – Win PromotionDesired

Key Players

Christian Nørgaard

David Raya

Ivan Toney

Hot Prospects

Bryan Mbeumo

Jan Zamburek

Ellery Balcombe

Suggested Formation – 4-3-3 DM Wide

The Bees have plenty of depth in wide areas and a 4-3-3 seems a good fit for their central midfielders. Nørgaard is an excellent Deep Lying Playmaker who I would play in the DM strata, with Dasilva and Jensen adding quality and energy ahead of him. Ivan Toney is a capable striker, and with a technical squad, tiki-taka or a similar heavy possession tactic would be my choice here.

Bristol City

Bristol City have been building momentum in the Championship since their promotion from League One in 2015. The Robins will be eyeing the play-offs this year, but it will be a tough ask. They have a few great young prospects coming though so this could be a great club if you’re looking for a youth development save.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
13rdGoodGoodAshton Gate (27,000)

Club Vision

Develop players using the clubs youth systemFavoured
Sign players to sell for a profitFavoured
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Play-OffsRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred

Key Players

Joe Williams

Adrian Marriapa

Nahki Wells

Hot Prospects

Tyreeq Bakinson

Han-Noah Massengo

Antoine Semenyo

Suggested Formation – 4-2-3-1

Bristol are strongest down the wings, and don’t have particularly great options at STC, so a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 looks a good fit. They are particularly strong at centre back, with Alfie Mawson and Adrian Mariappa both great options. There is a lot of depth at the club, and therefore a lot of formations could work here.


Cardiff City

Cardiff have been fluctuating between the Premier League and Championship for the last few years, with two promotions and relegations in eight years. The Bluebirds will have a tough time attempting to win promotion this season, but after finishing 5th last season, they will be expecting to finish similarly this time around.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
4thGreatGreatCardiff City Stadium (33,280)

Club Vision

Play attacking footballPreferred
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Play-OffsRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred

Key Players

Joe Ralls

Joe Bennett

Lee Tomlin

Hot Prospects

Joel Bagan

Ntazana Mayembe

Caleb Hughes

Suggested Formation – 4-2-3-1

Cardiff have a solid squad and potential to reach the top 6. They are strong at the front with players such as Harry Wilson, Junior Hoilett and Sheyi Ojo in wide areas, and Kieffer Moore upfront. They are a fairly physical with strong free-kick and corner takers. A direct attacking tactic could work really well here.


Coventry

Coventry did exceptionally well to win League One last season especially when you consider they were playing their home games in Birmingham at St Andrew’s. This year they will be looking to consolidate and attempt to stay in the Championship. They also have an FA Cup win to their name, winning the ’87 final. Recreating that success could make for a great save.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
17thGreatGreatSt Andrew’s Rented (30,016)

Club Vision

Play attacking footballPreferred
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Play-OffsRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred

Key Players

Callum O’Hare

Gustavo Hamer

Wesley Jobello

Hot Prostpects

Josh Eccles

Will Bapaga

Jordan Shipley

Suggested Formation – 5-2-1-2

Callum O’Hare is a great fit at AMC so I would be trying to include one here. Coventry have a great defence, McCallum and Dabo excellent options at full back or wing back. Considering you will be the weaker team in most games, backing the defence could be the way to go. 5-2-3 is also a good option if you want to include Jobello in the team, as O’Hare can also play on the left.


Derby County

Derby have been banging on the Premier League door for a few seasons now, their closest being a 3rd place finish in 2014. The Rams expectations are pretty low compared with their predicted finish, so this could be a good save for someone inexperienced with Football Manager. Wayne Rooney adds a lot of quality to the side and there is a huge wave of young talent at the club.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
8thExcellentExcellentPride Park (33,597)

Club Vision

Play entertaining footballFavoured
Develop players using the club’s youth systemRequired
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Avoid a relegation battleRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred
– Second Season
Sky Bet Championship – Top halfPreferred

Key Players

Wayne Rooney

Martyn Waghorn

Tom Lawrence

Hot Prospects

Louie Sibley

Jason Knight

Max Bird

Suggested Formation – 4-2-3-1

In my opinion, Rooney fits best as an AMC who will not be asked to run very much. An Enganche is a great option here, with runners helping from the central positions, such as Sibley and Shinnie. The defence is pretty strong here, but you may need to bolster the forward line if you find you aren’t scoring many.


Huddersfield

Huddesfield were relegated in 2019 on the back of a pretty poor second season in the Premier League. They finished 18th last year, and will be looking to improve on that this time around. Guiding them back to the Premier League could take a couple of seasons, but they’re capable of reaching those heights again

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
21stGreatGreatThe John Smith’s Stadium (24,590)

Club Vision

Sign players from the lower levels of the domestic gameFavoured
Develop players using the club’s youth systemFavoured
Sign players under the age of 22 for the first teamFavoured
Sign players under the age of 20 for the futureFavoured
Sign players to sell for a profitDesired
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Avoid a relegation battleRequired
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred

Key Players

Danny Ward

Juninho Bacuna

Alex Pritchard

Hot Prospects

Demeaco Duhaney

Ryan Schofield

Kieran Phillips

Suggested Formation – 4-4-1-1

Fitting Mbenza, Bacuna, Pritchard and O’Brien into your team means you’ll be looking to play an AMC and two wide players, so a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 looks good hear. I’d lean towards the latter, as you’ll be looking to defend more than you will attack with this Terriers side. Schindler and Stearman are solid centre halves, but lack pace, so you would be best playing without a high line.


Luton Town

Luton are a really interesting story. After three successive relegations from 2006 to 2009, they found themselves in the National League, owing to financial mismanagement at the club. Over the past few years Luton have clawed their way back from the brink, and reached the second tier again in 2019. They also have one of the most iconic stadiums in the EFL, Kenilworth Road, with entrances built into the surrounding housing estate.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
20thGreatGreatKenilworth Road (10,265)

Club Vision

Play possession footballFavoured
Play attacking footballPreferred
Make the most of set piecesFavoured
Sign players under the age of 22 for the futureFavoured
Develop players using the clubs youth systemPreferred
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Avoid relegation Required
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred
– Second Season
Sky Bet Championship – Become an established sideFavoured

Key Players

Simon Sluga

Tom Lockyer

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu

Hot Prospects

Gabriel Osho

Peter Kioso

Eddie Corbit

Suggested Formation – 5-3-2

With Elliot Lee and James Collins at the club, it’s hard to look past two up top. There are also a lot of good options at Centre Mid and Centre Half, as well as Bree and Norrington-Davies at Full Back, who are capable of playing further forwards, so a 5-3-2 seems a good option. The only issue is there’s no room for Kazenga Lua Lua or Harry Cornick, so if you wanted to include them, a 4-3-3 DM Wide is your best bet.


Middlesbrough

Once a staple Premier League team and a team capable of European qualification, Boro have now solidified themselves as a Championship side, for better or worse. A poor season last year saw them finish 17th, so it could be a while before they are back in the top flight, where most fans would argue they belong. If you’re looking for a youth development save, you might want to start here, Boro have a great youth system.

Predicted FinishTraining FacilitiesYouth FacilitiesStadium
10thSuperbSuperbRiverside Stadium (34,746)

Club Vision

Develop players using the clubs youth systemPreferred
Sign players from the lower levels of the domestic gameFavoured
– First Season
Sky Bet Championship – Top Half Required
FA Cup – Reach Fourth RoundRequired
Carabao Cup – Reach Third RoundPreferred
– Second Season
Sky Bet Championship – Reach the play-offsPreferred

Key Players

Sam Morsy

Chuba Akpom

Dael Fry

Hot Prospects

Djed Spence

Nathan Wood

Calum Kavanagh

Suggested Formation – 5-2-3 WB Wide

Boro have a lot of quality up front, so playing with a wide front three looks like a good option. In central areas, McNair and Morsy offer solid partnership which should allow your wing backs to get further forward. Another option could be 4-3-3 DM Wide.


Thanks for reading, Part 2 is in the works and will include the remaining 12 clubs in the Championship. After that I aim on making a League One and League Two Club Guide. Hopefully this guide will have given you some insight to clubs in the second tier and maybe guide your choice of club.

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