Richard Sutcliffe: Wagner to repeat the trick at Huddersfield Town and Pulis to take Middlesbrough up

TIME flies when you're having fun, or so the saying goes.

Repeat performance: David Wagner salutes the crowd after sealing Huddersfields Premier League survival last season. (Picture: PA)
Repeat performance: David Wagner salutes the crowd after sealing Huddersfields Premier League survival last season. (Picture: PA)

Sixty eight days have elapsed since the curtain came down on the 2017-18 season for Yorkshire football with Rotherham United’s triumph at Wembley and yet it feels like only yesterday.

England’s stirring run to the World Cup semi-finals against all expectation explains why the summer has passed in something of a blur. As it does the increased sense of anticipation that is evident ahead of our Football League clubs returning to action over the next few days.

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As ever there is plenty to look forward to over the coming months from a White Rose perspective, not least Premier League football thanks to Huddersfield Town.

Tony Pulis has brought pragmatism to Middlesbrough. (Picture: PA)

Spending a few days in Austria earlier this week with the Terriers has really whetted the appetite. Relaxed head coach David Wagner was in good form when discussing what is likely to lay ahead for a side that, once again, seems to have been written off outside Huddersfield.

Expect Town to defy the odds again, with a relegation treble of Cardiff, Watford and Newcastle the subject of a Sutcliffe pound. Manchester City as champions, too, but with a slightly more substantial stake.

The Championship, as ever, is so tight only a fool would predict the outcome. So, my pick is Stoke City to bounce straight back with Middlesbrough bagging runners-up spot following this summer’s pragmatic reboot under Tony Pulis at the Riverside.

After that stick a pin in any one of ten teams for the play-off winners, but Nottingham Forest, West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City and Derby County – or Frank Lampard’s Derby, as the Midlands club seems to have been re-named this summer – will all be in with a shout, along with Aston Villa.

Closer to home the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa makes this an even more intriguing season than usual for Leeds United and the first XI looks strong after the recent influx of arrivals. A lack of depth, however, could yet prove to be United’s Achilles heel under a manager whose physical and mental demands on his players are legendary.

What surely isn’t in doubt, though, is that Elland Road is not going to be dull this season.

Sheffield Wednesday’s summer has all been about reducing the wage bill, but, crucially, Fernando Forestieri is still at Hillsborough so there has to be hope.

Across the Steel City United have had a much more productive time with the additions of Dean Henderson and John Egan making manager Chris Wilder’s men my outside bet to be among those teams jostling for a place in the play-offs.

Rotherham United, fresh from winning promotion, seem to be the second tier’s equivalent of Huddersfield in the eyes of the bookies.

But don’t be so sure in a division where Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town look particularly vulnerable.

QPR and Reading are also heading only one way on last season’s evidence so, providing manager Paul Warne gets the signings he wants before the window closes, this Millers tale has every chance of being a happy one.

Into League One and this is surely the season for Sunderland’s slide to end, especially with Charlie Wyke now on board from Bradford City.

Barnsley, presuming Daniel Stendel settles quickly, look a good bet to follow the Wearsiders up along with Burton Albion in the play-offs, while AFC Wimbledon, Accrington, Gillingham and Wycombe will struggle.

All, or quite possibly none, of these tips may come to fruition in May. But I, for one, cannot wait for the action to get under way.