Level-pegging league no picnic for the punters

With just over a third of the season gone, once again The Championship appears tighter than the proverbial duck's arse. This of course is nothing new. But what does it say about the division itself? Emyr Price dissects England's second tier.

Not since Reading's runaway success in the 2005/06 campaign has a team taken a stranglehold in the division that is widely regarded as the most competitive outside of the Premier League.

A quick glance at this season's league standings show that just 10 points separate the entire top 10.

Yes, in just four games' time the side who currently occupy 10th position – Bristol City – could be top of the table.

OK, this is rather unlikely.

But not because City aren't good enough to win their next four games, or indeed Newcastle too good to lose their next four.

Or that every single result needed for this scenario could go The Robins' way.

Rather it's because the reality of life in the Championship is that there is no 'Big Four' or relegation certainties.

Or even a handful of teams you could confidently label as likely to finish in mid-table obscurity.

No. The reality is that everyone in the division is capable of beating one another week in week out. And this is what tends to happen.

It's a betting man's nightmare, and one reason why I take evasive action when I'm marking my weekend coupon.

So then, an embarrassment of riches or just in-depth mediocrity?

Well, looking at how recently promoted teams have fared in the promised land of the Premier League might offer some clues as how to best answer this question.

Of the 11 teams promoted between 2004 and 2008 (Sunderland have managed it on two separate occasions), seven have returned to the Championship at one point or another in the same time period.

And of the four who haven't tasted the bitter pill of demotion – Wigan, West Ham, Hull and Stoke – well you'd be hard pressed to describe either of them as Premier League mainstays.

Not even Upton Park has been free from relegation worry in recent times.

What for the current crop then?

Newcastle lead the way, and they'd be a good bet to go up and stay up. West Brom have been up and come back down in the past. Blame the frugal board I say.

Cardiff? Unlikely survivors. Blackpool? Nah. Leicester? Possibly. QPR? Yes!

Bristol City, Nottingham Forest and Swansea? Forget it.

Middlesbrough (currently 11th) – maybe, at a push.

So that's two teams out of the current top 10 who, once promoted, have realistic ambitions of plying their trade in the top-flight for the foreseeable future.

The fact that one of these two could stand toe-to-toe with Manchester City in the big spenders prize ring is hardly surprising.

And the rest? It just might be that the majority of teams in the Championship have found their true level.

Yes, they are one promotion away from the Premier League dream, but the reality is that the gap is unbridgeable for most, and it shows no signs of narrowing.

So that's settled then: A division that is by and large utter shite, with one or two notable exceptions.

Simple.

Brilliant. Right, I'm off to the bookies.

Topics

SHARES
comments