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Town End 2022/23 Preview: Huddersfield Town, Sheffield United, Luton Town

In part two of our pre-season preview, we’re looking at the three sides who finished 2021/22 in the play-offs but didn’t quite manage to earn promotion to the Premier League.

Huddersfield Town v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Brady Frost (@brady0894) is a writer and podcaster for And He Takes That Chance.

How big a blow will the departure of Carlos Corberan be?

Time will tell but at the time of writing, Carlos Corberan resigning three weeks before the season starts and Lewis O’Brien and Harry Toffolo being sold, it feels like any momentum built from last season has been dramatically removed. Finishing third in the league last campaign was a minor miracle and with a rookie head coach in charge in Danny Schofield and key players gone, it feels like a season where we’ll go backwards.

Is Danny Schofield the right man to take you forward?

The idea with the club appointing Leigh Bromby as head of our football operations means that if our head coach moves on, we have a style that can continue without major disruption.

Danny Schofield is in a similar position as Carlos Corberan was when he joined the club, having not managed a team in any of England’s divisions, but I have my concerns as we developed well under Carlos and it’s another time for us to be patient and restart again. The club have faith in him and he was loved by fans as a player so I hope they can build that connection but I’d be lying if I said there aren’t better options out there.

How would you sum up last season?

It was fantastic. We were abysmal in the 20/21 season, particularly in the second half, but even the most optimistic Town fans weren’t expecting the season we had. Third in the table and just 90 minutes (and two controversial penalty calls) away from the Premier League, it was one of my favourite seasons in a while. Huddersfield is a town that prides itself on hard work and punching above its weight and the team last season embodied that spirit greatly.

What are your general expectations for this season?

I don’t think we will improve on last season’s finish, even if Carlos had stayed. There’s teams I’d expect to improve such as West Brom, Middlesbrough, Millwall, and we have an unproven coach which means there will be some adjustments. We’ll only do better this season if there’s some big managerial shake-ups which disrupt the league and we continue to be as consistent and grind out results, but I’m not confident.

Who’s your player to look out for?

It’ll be interesting to see if Sorba Thomas can replicate the form he showed in his breakthrough season in the campaign just gone; if he does then I think he’ll be the next player who moves for big money. I think Yuta Nakayama might go under the radar too, signed from PEC Zwolle and can play left back and centre back, statistically he was one of the best defenders in the Eredivisie so it’ll be interesting to see if that can translate to this division.

A younger name that could break through?

Our new signing Jack Rudoni is the one that catches the eye. From reports it seems like he has a knack for getting in the right positions to score, so hopefully that can carry on in the Championship. 12 goals last season in League One for a relegated AFC Wimbledon side shows his quality and he’s still just 21 years old. He can play multiple positions either on the wing or in the number 10 role too.

Where will you finish?

It’s difficult to say but I don’t think we’ll be in the playoff picture. The Championship resets every year and other clubs have done impressive business, so I think mid-table awaits for Huddersfield, 12th place.

Chris Davis Smith can be found on Twitter here.

How’s Paul Heckingbottom getting on so far?

Paul Heckingbottom has done a great job since taking over from Slavisa Jokanovic last November. It’s no secret that it didn’t quite work out for Jokanovic at Bramall Lane; the Serbian was the first ever foreign manager at Bramall Lane and the fit just wasn’t right.

When Heckingbottom got the job on a permanent basis he was quickly able to restore confidence amongst the players by reverting to a more familiar 3-5-2 formation, which led to an upturn in results and an eventual play-off finish. Considering the Blades were languishing in the bottom half of the Championship when Heckingbottom took charge, he’s proven himself to be more than up to the job, although it’ll be interesting to see how the team reacts this season after losing on penalties to Nottingham Forest in the play-off semi-finals last season.

How big a blow will not having Morgan Gibbs-White be?

Replacing Morgan Gibbs-White this season will be imperative if Sheffield United are to push for promotion once again. The Wolves loanee was the standout performer at Bramall Lane last season with 12 goals and 10 assists in the Championship, so it’ll be tough to find somebody as effective in that position playing just off the striker.

Personally, I was disappointed that the Blades narrowly lost out to Rangers in the race for Tom Lawrence’s signature, as I believe he could’ve potentially achieved similar numbers this season. Despite this, many Blades fans will look to Iliman Ndiaye in 2022/23 to produce the goods in attack after the Senegal international finished last season impressively for the Blades.

How would you sum up last season?

A lot of people from the outside will look at Sheffield United’s failure to win promotion back to the Premier League as a failure. There’s a good case for this as well - The Blades probably had the best squad in the division last season along with Fulham, so to fall short when it mattered the most will leave a lot of football supporters with the opinion that the Blades had an unsuccessful season.

However, after the slow start under Jokanovic, it felt like Paul Heckingbottom was able to replenish the connection between the supporters and players into something that felt incredibly harmonious and not too dissimilar to what we experienced under Chris Wilder. It was of course disappointing not to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, but I think most fans will look back on the 2021/22 campaign as an enjoyable one which could’ve ended up differently had the team not picked up as many injuries.

What are your general expectations for this season?

This season I believe the Blades should once again be aiming for promotion back to the Premier League. Up to now, we haven’t lost too many key players from the team, and we’ve strengthened our defence with the additions of Anel Ahmedhodzic and Ciaran Clark. It’ll just be interesting to see if we can create as many opportunities in front of goal without the outstanding creative qualities of Morgan Gibbs-White.

The signing of Tommy Doyle on loan from Manchester City could prove to a shrewd bit of business following his impressive stint at Cardiff City last season. Doyle doesn’t play as far forward as Gibbs-White, but his vision and passing range led to him creating an abundance of chances for the Bluebirds last season while he was on loan at the Welsh club.

I’ve seen a lot of supporters panicking recently over a couple of pre-season losses, but I wouldn’t read too much into that myself. I’m sure that when the Blades go to Watford on Monday August 1 for their opening fixture of the Championship season, they’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

Who’s your player to look out for?

This season is huge for Rhian Brewster. Before a hamstring injury ruled him out for the remainder of the season in January, the 22-year-old was starting to show glimpses as to why Sheffield United paid Liverpool around £23.5 million for his signature back in 2020. So far in pre-season, Brewster has found the net a few times already and the fans are keen for him to start easing the pressure on club legend Billy Sharp when it comes to scoring goals.

The England Under-21 international has pace to burn and a lethal strike on him, but it’s all about consistency for him this year. Can Brewster put himself in contention for the golden boot, for instance? That’s what the former Swansea loanee should be aiming for in the back of his mind.

Also, if we can keep Sander Berge, then the Norwegian international is capable of winning games on his own through his physicality and ability to travel effectively with the ball. Whether the 6’5 midfielder will still be here at the end of the transfer window though remains to be seen.

A younger name that could break through?

Ollie Arblaster is a name Paul Heckingbottom has spoken about glowingly in recent weeks. The 18-year-old midfielder has featured a few times in pre-season, and I know a lot of people reckon he’s got all the necessary ability to make it in the first team. At this stage though, it sounds like he needs to develop a bit more physically before we see him break through. I wouldn’t rule out seeing him in the first team before the end of the upcoming campaign though, based on how much Paul Heckingbottom rates him.

Where will you finish?

I believe we’ll achieve a similar sort of finish this season to what we did last year. I’ll go for fourth in the Championship.

Matt Storey can be found on Twitter here.

After an impressive 2021/22, do fans expect a similarly strong 2022/23?

Yes, I’d say so. Not in an unrealistic, “if we don’t challenge for the play-offs then we’ll riot” way. More in a sense that our squad looks just as strong as last term and the feeling around the club remains positive. I’d be slightly disappointed if we were not a top-half side, whereas at the start of last season, despite the business we did, I still just wanted to avoid a relegation battle.

We are weaker at centre-back without Kal Naismith, but we have strengthened in most other positions. Whereas last year we brought in quite a few players who were making the step up to Championship level, we’re in a position to bring players with second tier experience now.

Cauley Woodrow and Carlton Morris from Barnsley always looked dangerous against us, while if we can get Luke Freeman to hit the levels he did two/three years ago, he’s a top-class operator. Hopefully we don’t need numerous emergency loans between the sticks either with Ethan Horvath and Matt Macey on the books.

How important is Nathan Jones to Luton’s success?

I do not think you can ever underestimate how important Nathan Jones is to Luton’s success. We are a fantastically run club, but take away Jones and the product on the pitch would not be the same. Something about Luton and Nathan Jones just works.

You only have to look at the nine-month spell under Graeme Jones to work that out. We struggled, stopped believing we deserved to be a Championship club and the recruitment – which the club do have to take some of the blame for – stunk.

NJ’s relationship with the coaches, the recruitment side and our chief executive Gary Sweet is so in sync, so perfect, that I’m not sure we could get a better manager for Luton than we do at the moment.

How would you sum up last season?

Magical. Ludicrous. Almost unbelievable.

We just never stopped picking up results when we needed to, never stopped turning up when the squad was down to the bare bones and never stopped winding bigger clubs up. The celebrations after our final-day victory over Reading may have seemed over the top to some given we had only made the play-offs, but it was so, so deserved.

I will never forget walking out of Hull after a 3-0 win and heading into the March international break third in the Championship. A decade ago, I’d have laughed in your face if you’d told me that.

What are your general expectations for this season?

As I said earlier, I still think that a top-half, maybe top-10 finish would represent a successful season for Luton. But if that happens and we never threaten the play-offs, I think there would be a sense of disappointment.

I’d also like us to play a bit more football this year. NJ has a clear development plan for each season. Last year was to be more physical and to challenge up at the top end of the table. I think this season he will want to keep that physicality and power, plus be a more attractive side. We went direct a lot with Elijah Adebayo up top and when he was out, we weren’t the same side.

Who’s your player to look out for?

I’m going to go for Carlton Morris. He’s always looked a good player and when Barnsley came to Kenilworth Road in February, he caused us all sort of problems. That was in a poor Tykes side and I reckon in a much happier environment, with a full pre-season and hopefully no injury problems, he will prove himself a really good Championship striker.

A younger name that could break through?

Not an easy question to answer at Luton – our rapid rise means the academy is playing catch-up still. I’m going to pump for Dion Pereira, with the knowledge that he could well end up out on loan in the next couple of weeks.

We signed him from Atlanta United after he made a couple of appearances for our friends from Vicarage Road as a teenager. He spent time on loan at Bradford last year and they all seemed to love him. He’s 23, a really tricky winger with quick feet and looked a real player in a Carabao Cup game at Stevenage last August.

If he does go on loan, then Elliot Thorpe is the other name to keep an eye on.

Where will you finish?

I’ll go for ninth.