How will Preston North End fare in the Championship next season?

Paul McKenna pictured during PNE's last meeting with Luton Town in December 2006
Paul McKenna pictured during PNE's last meeting with Luton Town in December 2006

The release of the EFL fixture list on Thursday morning will sharpen minds and bring the new season into focus.

This will be Preston’s fifth season in the Championship since promotion at Wembley in 2015, previous campaigns seeing them finish 11th twice, the heady heights of seventh in 2017/18 and then last season’s 14th place.

The manner in which North End slipped off the pace in the final few weeks of last term was hard for supporters to swallow and there is a need to hit the ground running in 2019/20.

There is little doubt that the Championship will be its usual unpredictable self in the months ahead.

Few people would have had Norwich and Sheffield United as their top two when making their predictions this time 12 months ago. They came out of the pack to take the two automatic promotion slots, having finished 14th and 10th respectively in 2017/18.

Aston Villa followed them up to the Premier League via the play-off final.

Coming the other way and dropping out of the top flight into the Championship are Huddersfield, Fulham and Cardiff City.

Traditionally it is difficult for clubs to bounce straight back up, so have that trio got it in them to buck the trend?

You would argue that all three require an element of a re-build, Fulham perhaps the best equipped but by no means guaranteed.

The Cottagers and Cardiff lasted a season in the Premier League, Huddersfield two.

With four seasons under their belt at this level, North End will be familiar with a lot of the sides they face.

Two of the three clubs coming up from League One offer an element of newness.

It is more than 12 years since PNE last played Luton Town who finished as League One champions.

The 2015/16 season was the last time they came up against Charlton – the play-off winners – doing the double over them.

Barnsley are more familiar, the Tykes back in the division after one season away.

Five Championship teams will start the season with a new manager/head coach.

Middlesbrough, Swansea, Luton, West Bromwich and Queens Park Rangers have appointed new bosses.

A sixth, Fulham, turned Scott Parker’s caretaker role into a full-time job.

Hull are currently without a boss after the resignation of Nigel Adkins, while at Derby, Frank Lampard continues to be linked with Chelsea.