EFL season preview: Storylines galore as London’s clubs prepare for big 2022/23 kick-off

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
New appointment: Michael Beale will hope to hit the ground running as QPR boss  (Getty Images)
New appointment: Michael Beale will hope to hit the ground running as QPR boss (Getty Images)

A new EFL season is upon us, with plenty of intriguing storylines surrounding London’s cohort of league clubs.

QPR and relegated Watford both have new managers at the helm, while Millwall are hoping stability will win the day as they look to mount another play-off push under Gary Rowett.

Ben Garner will be expected to lead Charlton to promotion in his first season in charge at The Valley, while the same is true for ex-Addicks boss Johnnie Jackson, now at AFC Wimbledon.

Leyton Orient will be aiming for a top-six finish in League Two, with Sutton United hoping to build upon their excellent maiden season in the Football League, when they missed out on the play-offs on the final day after also reaching the Papa John’s Trophy final.

Here, Standard Sport’s team of football writers assess the aims of each London club before the big kick-off...

QPR

Rangers were promotion contenders for the first two-thirds of last season but imploded from February. The headline act at Loftus Road this term may well come in the dugout, as Michael Beale takes his first step into management having built a lofty reputation as a coach under Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa and Rangers.

Stefan Johansen captains one of the youngest squads in the division, while Tyler Roberts’ arrival from Leeds brings promotion know-how.

Opening game: Saturday vs Blackburn (A)

Millwall

Gary Rowett’s Lions are nothing if not stable but the aim this season is to finally make the play-offs after finishes of 8th, 11th and 9th in the past three seasons. The Lions must score more but the loss of creative force Jed Wallace, who joined West Brom, is a major blow.

The Bermondsey Bergkamp: New Millwall record signing Zian Flemming (Getty Images)
The Bermondsey Bergkamp: New Millwall record signing Zian Flemming (Getty Images)

Record-signing Zian Flemming, dubbed ‘the Bermondsey Bergkamp’, needs to hit the ground running and add sparkle, while George Honeyman is an astute addition from Hull City. Benik Afobe has made his loan permanent, while promising pair Charlie Cresswell and Jamie Shackleton have joined on loan from Leeds.

Opening game: Saturday vs Stoke (H)

Watford

The Hornets have bucked their trend of usual managerial hires by appointing a young, British coach in Rob Edwards. The 39-year-old helped Forest Green Rovers get promoted from League Two last season and has a growing reputation.

Watford have bucked their usual trend by employing a young British coach in Rob Edwards (Getty Images)
Watford have bucked their usual trend by employing a young British coach in Rob Edwards (Getty Images)

Watford have, so far, kept hold of most of their squad following their relegation from the top flight but all eyes will be on Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr before the transfer window shuts at the end of next month. Watford should be fighting for promotion but, if they keep both Dennis and Sarr, then going up as champions seems a real possibility.

Opening game: Monday vs Sheffield United (H)

Charlton

The challenge for new boss Ben Garner is not simply promotion but promotion in style. Predecessor Johnnie Jackson was sacked because his football was not progressive enough for demanding owner Thomas Sandgaard, who is already on his fourth head coach.

New Charlton manager Ben Garner is a disciple of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho (CAFC)
New Charlton manager Ben Garner is a disciple of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho (CAFC)

Garner, a disciple of Pep Guardiola, earned a reputation for attractive football with League Two Swindon and has raided his former club for three players, including midfielder Jack Payne. Steven Sessegnon — twin brother of Spurs’ Ryan — has joined on loan from Fulham but losing striker Conor Washington to Rotherham is a blow.

Opening game: Saturday vs Accrington (A)

AFC Wimbledon

New Wimbledon manager Johnnie Jackson has set his sights on promotion and he has a point to prove after being sacked by Charlton at the end of last season. The Dons were relegated from League One last term, but Jackson believes they can bounce straight back up.

Johnnie Jackson will be expected to guide AFC Wimbledon back to League One this season (Getty Images)
Johnnie Jackson will be expected to guide AFC Wimbledon back to League One this season (Getty Images)

The loss of academy graduate and star midfielder Jack Rudoni to Huddersfield is a blow but the club did bank a club-record fee of about £1million. Jackson has added experience to a young Dons squad this summer, bringing in Wales international Chris Gunter and veteran centre-back Alex Pearce.

Opening game: Saturday vs Gillingham (H)

Leyton Orient

At one point last season, Orient’s Football League status looked under threat but the appointment of Richie Wellens in March steadied the ship and they secured a comfortable 13th-placed finish.

Leyton Orient star Aaron Drinan will miss the start of the new season due to injury (Getty Images)
Leyton Orient star Aaron Drinan will miss the start of the new season due to injury (Getty Images)

After 11 new faces arrived this time last year, recruitment during the summer has been more focused and much of Orient’s most important deals have come in keeping their best players at the club. They include last season’s top-scorer Aaron Drinan, who has signed a new two-year deal but will miss the start of the season through injury. A play-off push should be the aim.

Opening game: Saturday vs Grimsby (H)

Sutton United

It is tempting to say Sutton’s remarkable first season in the Football League could not have gone any better. However, given they lost the EFL Trophy Final at Wembley in extra-time and then only missed out on the play-offs on the final day, it is quite clear it ended on a sour note.

Sutton goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis left over the summer to join Championship club Reading (Getty Images)
Sutton goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis left over the summer to join Championship club Reading (Getty Images)

Simply matching last season would be some accomplishment for a side that are no longer an unknown, particularly after goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis and winger David Ajiboye have moved on, but speak to anyone at the club and the dream of going higher up the football pyramid still is very much alive.

Opening game: Saturday v Newport (H)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting