Dave Seddon's PNE Press View
The Championship has become a considerably richer place this summer.
Hence the big challenge facing Preston as they prepare to kick off the new season at Reading.
In recent weeks, the bar has risen in terms of transfer fees and wages as some of the division’s bigger clubs begin to flex their financial muscles.
Newcastle have spent some serious money, that said against the backdrop of a couple of big sales.
This week, Aston Villa got the cheque book open to sign Ross McCormack for £12m.
Norwich, the other club to have come down from the Premier League, splashed out £8m on Alex Pritchard from Tottenham, gazumping Brighton in the process.
It is reasonable to say that the Championship has never had so much money being spent by its clubs – or at least some of them – than now.
That is a pattern which is likely to continue over the next few years as clubs topple out of the Premier League with more and more parachute money.
Will it reach the point when it is the same clubs yo-yo-ing between the top flight and second tier, simply because they have the financial muscle to do so?
It could come to that, with promotion getting harder and harder to achieve.
If a Championship club – one without the benefit of parachute payments – decides to go for broke and do some serious spending, they put themselves at risk of falling foul of the financial fair play rules which govern the division.
Do they risk busting the bank but then copping a huge fine for doing so?
If you achieve your goal and get promoted, the riches of the Premier League will more than cover the fine.
But if a promotion bid does not come off, a club stays down and FFP rules have been broken, the resulting fine and potential embargo can be hard to bear to say the least.
As Simon Grayson was keen to point out at his Thursday press call, money does not guarantee anything.
It helps, of course it does, and I fully expect Newcastle’s stay in the Championship to be a short one.
But money also brings with it a certain pressure to succeed, an expectation from owners and supporters.
I get the impression from Grayson that he is relishing the extra challenge of guiding North End through a division where some clubs are spending like there is no tomorrow.
The Championship was a big enough test last season but this time there is the extra financial muscle to contend with.
So, who can we expect to see pushing at the top end of the division?
As mentioned, Newcastle are firm favourites and have done some excellent business.
They have brought in some players who know the division, concentrating on what needs to be done this season rather than looking too far ahead.
I fancy Derby County to be in and around the promotion places, Nigel Pearson an astute managerial appointment during the summer.
Norwich should also be up there, Villa I’m not sure about and maybe this season will be more of a rebuilding job.
That said, McCormack scores goals in this division and is a step in the right direction for them.
He is the second of two strikers to leave Fulham over the summer, Moussa Dembele having left for Celtic.
McCormack and Dembele scored 36 league goals between them last season, so will be a big miss for the Cottagers, who are aiming to improve on finishing 20th in 2015/16.
As for North End, what will represent success in the months ahead?
Similar to last term, pushing up a place or two, challenging for the play-offs or simply staying in the division? If they can find a few more goals from somewhere, I see no reason why they cannot better May’s 11th place finish.
It might only be by a position or two but that would represent progress.
The majority of the squad have had a taste now of Championship football, either with PNE or elsewhere.
How the side evolves will be interesting.
Rarely does the XI which takes to the pitch on the first afternoon of the season, resemble that which finishes the campaign.
As far as the team which starts at Reading is concerned, we will all have our ideas and views on it.
Last week’s friendly at Bolton didn’t provide too many clues, Grayson playing a system he had not used previously.
Eoin Doyle has impressed me in the friendlies – he might not start at Reading but has got to be close.