Things all seemed to be going swimmingly for Burton Albion. Following on from last term’s survival, the Brewers had racked up some high-scoring friendly wins and signed a top-class striker in the form of Liam Boyce from Ross County.
And then he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament…
With the Staffordshire club already having the league’s lowest average attendance and perhaps the division’s smallest budget, many are now treating them as relegation likelihoods. But a closer look at the Pirelli Stadium outfit suggests they’ll actually be just fine.
First off, they’ve got Nigel Clough in charge. The Burton boss has never suffered a relegation in almost twenty years of management. And the 51-year-old knows how to handle a battle against the drop.
As well as helping the Championship underdogs avoid relegation by a point last year, he also guided Derby County to safety during a difficult 2010-11 campaign.
However, he’s far from the only experienced and talented campaigner at the Pirelli this season.
All of Burton’s top seven outfield appearance makers from 2016-17 are still with the club this term. That includes key performers like tricky winger Lucas Akins, dynamic midfielder Jackson Irvine and rock-solid captain John Mousinho.
Clough has also bought well this summer. While Boyce looked to be the jewel amongst his summer signings, he’s far from the only savvy addition.
Dynamic midfielder Matty Lund tore up League One with Rochdale last term, netting 10 times for Dale from midfield. With former Everton and Reading man Hope Akpan also adding steel and Luke Murphy returning for a second loan spell with the club, they’ve definitely strengthened from the side that stayed up last season.
While Boyce will be missed, that trio are all guaranteed to add goals. Besides, Burton’s Championship success last term was based more on defensive strength than high-scoring feats.
The Brewers recorded the best defensive record in the bottom eight last term, and actually conceded fewer goals than third-placed Reading, who reached the play-off final.
Their goals have also been well spread around, meaning they’re not over-reliant on one player to do the damage in attacking areas. Irvine was Burton’s top scorer in the Champ last year with 10 goals. However, seven players managed four or more league goals, with 15 different players registering for them in the second tier.
Clough’s side also proved they could beat just about anyone at this level in 2016-17, meaning that consistency was the only thing really missing.
The Brewers enjoyed victories over five of the top nine sides in the Championship, including taking four points from Sheffield Wednesday and were one of only six visiting sides to win away at Huddersfield Town last term.
If they can translate that level of performance to games against the likes of Millwall, Barnsley and Ipswich Town this term, then they’re certain to ensure a third successive season at this level.
Burton Albion’s next league game is away at Hull City on Saturday, with 9/2 on offer for Brewers fans to be cheering a first win of the new season at full-time.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing