CHAMPIONSHIP football is back and with it a chance to dream. The reality of promotion-winning Sheffield United's 100-point performance last season came sharply into focus when the English Football League released its fixtures for the new season.
Long-awaited Steel City derbies at Hillsborough, scheduled for September 23 and a rematch at Bramall Lane on January 13, immediately caught the eye. Both matches will be sell-outs as will a potential thriller on Boxing Day against visiting Sunderland. A difficult looking January starts on New Year's Day at Derby County. After Wednesday's visit, the Blades travel to Norwich City and finish the month at home against Aston Villa.
Two ex-bosses, Neil Warnock (Cardiff City) and Nigel Clough (Burton Albion) will be heading to the Lane if fate doesn't intervene first.
United finish their league schedule at Bristol City by which time fans will be hoping that Chris Wilder has achieved the unthinkable and secured a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. For many seasoned observers a competitive Championship campaign will be considered good enough. For the more ambitious a play-off place is the goal.
But Wilder demonstrated last season that anything is possible and who could bet against him squeezing the absolute maximum out of whatever he has to work with?
CHAMPIONSHIP FIXTURES 2017-18
(Subject to amendment)