The dometic season returns on Friday as two sides who arrived in the Championship from opposite directions look to land the first punch.
Southampton were relegated from the Premier League for the first time since 2005 after a harrowing season which saw them sucked under long before their sorry campaign drew to a close.
It’s fair to say the mood at Sheffield Wednesday is rather different, the Owls returning to the top flight after a last-gasp goal sunk Barnsley at Wembley. Even after that incredible day and a simply stunning semi-final fightback to crush Peterborough, the drama was nowhere near over.
After taking the club up, manager Darren Moore departed to a queue of head-scratching at Hillsborough. His replacement, the former Watford promotion winner Xisco Munoz, must settle quickly or the fans will be demanding answers.
They may not be as demanding as those supporters on the south coast, who can’t quite fathom how they fell so forcefully from the top flight.
Saints start as one of the sides fancied for automatic promotion and will point to Burnley and their instant mood-reversing start to life in the Championship months after things went so horribly wrong.
It wasn’t a straight forward close season at St Mary’s, the club eventually convincing Swansea City manager Russell Martin to guide them forward after Ruben Selles’ departure, unable to prevent a meek surrender and not seen as the man to take the club back.
They turned to the 37-year-old, who led Swansea to a 10th-placed finish last term, after Manchester City assistant Enzo Maresca turned the role down.
There was even some doubt about Martin’s arrival after things went very quiet for weeks after a deal was said to have been struck. Eventually he arrived as talk of a collapse vanished, but the Scotsman knows the importance of flying out of the blocks.
The Saints have so far kept hold of inspirational James Ward-Prowse but with a month of the window to go, many see the season’s first few weeks as a shop window.
Building from the back will be the new manager’s first objective, Southampton conceded 13 goals in their final four Premier League away games, with Wednesday firing in 53 goals on home turf. Winning 17 of their 24 matches in front of their fantastic fans including the epic play-off second leg, the Owls hope the stage is set for a blockbuster of a start.
|Sheff Wed to win||29/20 – Bet365|
|Southampton to win||9/5 – PaddyPower|
|Draw||11/5 – William Hill|
The curtain raiser to the new season begins in south Yorkshire but will Hillsborough be a happy hunting ground for Southampton as they bid for an instant Premier League return?
They’ll be desperate to start in style so with that in mind, our punters.pub bet of the day is for Saints to leave with a 1-0 win at 13/2 with SkyBet.