2018 KF Pharaohs Abroad Preview: Championship
With the incentive to get into the Premier League greater than ever before, the 24 clubs in the FL Championship will be battling it out once again for a place in England’s top flight. KingFut’s Luke McBride takes a look at what next season could hold for the Egyptians who will be battling for promotion.
Ahmed Hegazi – West Bromwich Albion
While his future at the club is somewhat up in the air, for now Hegazi is still a West Brom player. After he joined under Tony Pulis last summer on a season-long loan, Hegazi proved himself to be a solid Premier League player, with the Baggies signing the former Al Ahly player on a permanent deal. However, the season did not go according to plan. A year after signing: Tony Pulis is gone, the Baggies are in the Championship for the first time since 2010, and Hegazi is as close as ever to leaving West Brom, with the Egyptian being targeted by Newcastle and Brighton.
West Brom retained Darren Moore as their first team manager after his impressive stint as interim manager, and their aim for this season is clear – promotion to the Premier League. While they are historically a ‘yo-yo club’, a team that is relegated and promoted very often, West Brom had managed to maintain their place in the Premier League for almost a decade, and look somewhat out of place in the Championship.
Their ambition is obvious as they appear to be acquiring Dwight Gayle from Newcastle, who played a pivotal role in getting them promoted several seasons ago. West Brom have also been able to retain the services of several key players such as Jake Livermore, Matt Philips and Jay Rodriguez, while Hegazi himself looks to have a new centre back partner as former Swansea, Arsenal, and Rangers player Kyle Bartley will be playing at the Hawthorns next season.
Elmohamady is no stranger to the Championship. The 30-year-old has played multiple seasons at that level, both for Hull City, as well as last season at his current club Aston Villa. The Birmingham-based club came as close as possible to promotion last season, as they lost the playoff final to Fulham, following what was their first season outside the Premier League since the 1992 rebrand.
Villa’s management situation appeared to be in shambles as there were rumours of financial problems circulating. However, they have since received a significant investment from Nassef Sawiris and Wed Edens’ jointly controlled Egyptian group NSWE, and seem to be on the road to recovery. It was also announced that Steve Bruce would be retained as the club’s manager, as he is the most successful manager in the history of the FL Championship.
The Villans’ squad is largely the same as last season as of now, however, while it would appear that Elmohamady’s position is not under threat, it should be noted that the right back position is arguably their deepest position, and he faces competition from the likes of James Bree, Ritchie de Laet and Alan Hutton.
Egypt’s English-born midfielder is set to play his first ever Championship season as a club captain with Wigan Athletic, following their promotion from League 1 last season. They beat their local rivals Blackburn Rovers to the title, in what was quite a long-running race, although simply attaining promotion was always their main priority.
Under the guidance of Paul Cook, Wigan’s immediate aim will be to solidify their place in the Championship before providing a footing to push for promotion in a few seasons. Wigan traditionally are a lower league club in a town more focused on rugby than football, but the 21st century has been kind to them, as they spent most of their time in the Premier League and even famously winning the 2013 FA Cup. Wigan fans will be definitely be hoping that their glory days will be restored sooner rather than later.
As the club captain, it appears that Morsy’s place in the starting lineup is confirmed. Cook has publicly praised Morsy for his World Cup performances, citing the valuable experience he can take to club level to inspire his teammates.
While Hegazi will have the highest expectations going into the season, all three Pharaohs will have high hopes that they can enhance their reputation and help their clubs earn the biggest pay day in football by getting promoted to the Premier League.
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