7 Players Who Will Prove Key to Their Side's Chances of Promotion From the Championship

Looking forward at the new Championship campaign, not much is certain. The division always sees heavy turnover as clubs that just missed out on promotion look to improve their sides to get over the hump, and three clubs loaded with Premier League quality are thrown in the mix with an immediate return to the top flight in their sights. 

Here we will take a look at one player on each of the Championship sides who will be challenging for promotion, who will be the key to his side's success this campaign...

1. Middlesbrough: Martin Braithwaite

Despite an underwhelming year in the Premier League that saw them immediately relegated, Middlesbrough have real reason for optimism heading into the new campaign after spending serious money to upgrade their attack this summer.

Headlining their summer business is Danish striker Martin Braithwaite. Brought in from French Ligue 1 side Toulouse for £9m, Braithwaite has scored 11 league goals each of the past two seasons in France. 

Middlesbrough will rely on him to lead their line as they attempt to make a quick return to the Premier League, and he could very well be the difference come May.

2. Reading: Liam Moore

After a 3rd place finish and a heart-breaking loss in the Play-Off Final at Wembley, Reading will feel they are favorites to challenge for promotion again this season. 

The most glaring reason for missing out on the automatic promotion spots last season was their defense, which conceded a dreadful 64 goals, far off the pace of 40 goals against set by Newcastle and Brighton, the only teams to finish above Reading. 

The player they will rely on the most to right the ship defensively is 23-year-old centre-back Liam Moore. A mainstay in the squad last season, the young defender showed promise throughout, and if his partnership with Tiago Ilori is given time to develop, Reading will be right up there in the mix for promotion again. 

3. Wolverhampton: Ruben Neves

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the summer was Wolverhampton landing highly-rated 20-year-old Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves from Porto for a club and league-record fee of £15.8m, beating out the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea for his signature. 

A holding midfielder who thrives on creative passing and vision has proven his class in the Champions League with Porto. Joining fellow Portuguese Helder Costa, Ivan Cavaleiro, and Diego Jota at Wolves, Neves could be the missing piece Wolves have needed as they have stagnated in the Championship the past few seasons. 

The signing shows real ambition from Wolves, and if Neves can mesh the attacking talent in the squad, they will undoubtedly be involved in the promotion push. 

4. Sheffield Wednesday: George Boyd

Sheffield Wednesday are coming off of an impressive season where they exceeded expectations on their way to a 4th place finish. Losing to Huddersfield, who would go on to secure promotion, Wednesday will be hungry to get back into a playoff position.

With the league's third-best defense and a well-balanced attack, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what could propel them further this campaign, but new addition George Boyd could be exactly the spark they need.

Boyd was part of the Hull squad that gained promotion in 2013, and has Premier League experience with both them and with Burnley more recently. He knows what it takes to both get to the Premier League and compete at that level, and that kind of experience is what Wednesday need in their quest for promotion this season. 

5. Fulham: Tom Cairney

Fulham will look to their captain and last season's team-leader in both goals and assists Tom Cairney to lead their promotion efforts this season. 

The only Championship player with double-digit goals and assists last season, Cairney has shown he is one of the division's best players, relentlessly controlling possession in midfield while picking the right moments to inject his creativity with a final ball. 

Fulham have a plethora of dynamic attacking players, highlighted by new signing in French striker Aboubakar Kamara. If Cairney can effectively cast his influence over Fulham's attacking core, they will be a real threat to make a return to the Premier League. 

6. Sunderland: Didier Ndong

Brought in for a club record  £13.6m last summer, Sunderland will lean on 23-year-old central midfielder Didier Ndong to anchor their midfield this season. 

Every successful team at any level needs a durable, ball-winning midfielder that can dynamically turn defense into attack, and that is exactly what Ndong was brought in by Sunderland to do. 

Despite numerous changes in the Sunderland squad after relegation, they still have enough quality to challenge for promotion; Ndong being able to live up to his price-tag and be the glue to hold the team together will be the decisive factor for their success. 

7. Norwich: Timm Klose

Norwich are one of the Championship's stranger cases. Despite scoring 85 goals last season, joint-highest in the division, they also conceded the third-most, which lead to a disappointing 8th place finish. 

A player who was brought in to shore up the defense last January and could very well be their key to a successful season is Swiss center-back Timm Klose. With Bundesliga experience under his belt, Klose has the quality to solidify Norwich's backline.

He showed glimpses of his ability last season, named Norwich's Player of the Month in March, and if he can consistently perform at that level, there is no reason why Norwich cannot make a run at promotion.