Portsmouth handed even tougher task to escape with League One line-up now complete - and threats from Sunderland, Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham and Ipswich
The line-up is complete, the opposition has been finalised.
For a fifth successive season, Pompey will be bidding to escape League One following plentiful false dawns and devastating disappointments.
Yet there’s an ominous look about the make-up of the 2020-21 campaign. Certainly enough to suggest one of the fiercest battles yet lies ahead for the three promotion spots.
League One will boast seven former Premier League teams in Bolton, Charlton, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday Wigan, Sunderland and, of course, Pompey.
Of those, four have recently unveiled new ownership, accompanied by fresh ambition and, presumably, greater financial muscle.
The Blues retain a ‘competitive’ budget, albeit reduced through financial pressures dictated by Covid and Tornante’s desire to operate sustainably.
However, there is every indication that newly-acquired pair Ipswich and Sunderland will, in particular, be ambitious in their bid for a Championship return.
Then there’s the wild card, Sheffield Wednesday, dropping down from the Championship and reportedly continuing to fail in paying their players on time.
The Hillsborough club’s financial issues have long been a concern, yet their existing squad, including the likes of Barry Bannan and Josh Windass, should pose a threat.
Should owner Dejphon Chansiri also opt to grant manager Darren Moore a reasonable war chest, they could also be a force.
As ever, those sides newly-relegated from the Championship are rightly expected to be among the promotion contenders.
It has long been a League One guarantee that at least one of those dropping down from above make an instant return. Last season it was Hull.
Take Rotherham, who have immediately won promotion back to the Championship following their previous two relegations.
Wycombe will be an interesting watch, having survived until the final day. Considering the meagre size of their budget, manager Gareth Ainsworth deserves many plaudits.
Elsewhere, Ipswich under a manager the calibre of Paul Cook will always pose a serious threat, particularly with what appears to be substantial financial power behind them.
Familiar Pompey foes Oxford United are always play-off contenders, while Charlton are bankers to be again challenging for the top six, and play-off final losers Lincoln could once more be involved.
Perhaps also keep a wary eye on Shrewsbury, with ex-Blues boss Steve Cotterill at the helm and reportedly handed an impressive playing budget to drive their ambition.
As for the promoted sides, by all accounts Morecambe talisman Derek Adams is off to Bradford, which will impact massively on the Shrimps, as well as denying a mouthwatering touchline reunion with Ipswich’s Cook.
Then there’s Pompey.
With just 13 contracted players and a busy summer of recruitment on the agenda, it is difficult to accurately evaluate their promotion chances.
After all, by this time in June 2015, Enda Stevens, Gary Roberts, Christian Burgess, Michael Doyle, Gareth Evans, Matt Clarke and Ben Davies had yet to arrive for the 2015-16 season.
We await to see the calibre of players Danny Cowley can unearth – quite simply a Pompey promotion challenge depends on it.
Although the Blues won’t be short of serious competition in 2020-21.
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