Ask any English football fan and no doubt they’ll argue the Premier League is amongst the best leagues in Europe. But whilst the prize for the World’s greatest league now firmly swings towards both Spain and Germany, it’s worth remembering that England’s second-tiered league just might be a surprising contender too.
Surely this will divide opinion and many will claim I’m plugging the Championship to cement my own beliefs that it’s a competitive alternative to the Premier League or Ligue 1. But having experienced the Premier League, Ligue 1 and the Championship, I make no mistake when I say; it’s the most competitive of the three.
Most competitive league in Europe
Whilst my days spent with Newcastle in the Championship was one of both sadness and joy – initially, if was difficult for a club of Newcastle’s stature to comprehend a season away from the Premier League – but our ruthless winning mentality enabled us to gel as a team. During this period, I gained respect for a league most Premier League players don’t really have any affiliation to. No game was easy and unlike the Premier League whereby the top four are rarely beaten, anyone could beat their opponent on the day.
Although I believe Newcastle were a recent anomaly to this – losing only four games all season – comparable to last season, with recently promoted Cardiff City losing nine and Hull City 15.
The sheer number of losses helps build a better picture on how competitive the league is compared to the Premier League. The top four in the Championship totaled 48 losses between them last season, with the Premier League equally just 25. And there’s good reason for this. The financial stability of clubs such as Man United, Man City and Chelsea, are able to attract the World’s elite, subsequently winning the majority of matches. With the exception of QPR and Cardiff recently, there’s been little financial backing from outsiders, but this could all soon change. Nottingham Forest, a club currently topping the league with two others, and ourselves has undergone modest financial backing since last season and could well be a promotion contender come May. But if last season’s anything to go by, then predicting the final standing is an almost impossible task.
Anything can happen
With three games remaining last season, any team ninth downward was theoretically in a relegation scrap and 13 teams by the same logic could’ve made the final playoff spot – this Sky Sports montage encapsulating all the drama from the final of the day season.
Furthermore, the table below puts into context just how tight things really were. With the exception of Cardiff City and Bristol City whose fate was determined prior to the final game of the season, many of the other teams had plenty to play for and comparing form helps us understand the fine margins between success and failure.
Hull City, who miraculously won automated promotion, lost 15 games during their campaign, compare this to Blackburn who lost just once more and finished in 17th. Obviously, Hull won significantly more games, but had Blackburn’s defensive performances improved slightly, then a large proportion of those draws could’ve been wins and their story could’ve been much different. This is obviously just one example of how a number of events could’ve unfolded.
It’s this unpredictability that helps add to league’s excitement. Unlike the Premier League that sees only three new teams in August, the Championship accumulates the three best from League 1 and the three worst the Premier League, further adding to its irregularity – as teams are required to adapt season on season. And the fans absolutely love it too, during the 2011/12 season (apologies, but these are the latest figures I could find) total attendance for the league was the fourth highest in Europe [http://comparetheleagues.com/], whether this indicates a love for the league or just football in general, it’s a great sign for football away from the top tier.
Is it really the best league in the World?
Whilst some may judge the title misleading, this depends on your personal interpretations. The overall quality of the Championship is lesser than the other top leagues in Europe, individual displays may not be up there with the likes of Man United and Chelsea, but if you’re willing to see pass that, you’ll learn to love a league built on hard-work, in which players fight till their death. For that reason, a league that once was a place for players to see-out their playing days and collect final pay-cheques, could well be the most competitive in the World, and for me, that makes the Championship a league worth indulging in.
Regardless of who you support, I want to hear your thoughts on the Championship.