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Thread: Well said! The Championship, the home of real football

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Well said! The Championship, the home of real football

    Stolen from another board

    Even though Championship clubs have played their 46th game of the season and set the final league table in stone for the ages, the excitement isnít over yet, with the play-offs to come and still Ė as ever in the Championship Ė no-one can call who will go up. Derby will play Leeds and Aston Villa play West Bromwich Albion. You canít call those games. You just canít. Brilliant.

    Thatís the league all over though. It is largely unpredictable. Three of the four play-off teams have lost a whopping 12 games each this outing. Norwich won the league still losing six, Sheffield United a substantial nine. In other words, you can lose a hefty chunk of matches in any season and still have hope. You can lose 25% of your games and still get in the play-offs. This is superb. It shows how evenly matched many of the sides are on any given day.

    My own club Middlesbrough ended up seventh but conceded fewer goals than any other side, sharing that honour with Sheffield United. Bottom side Ipswich Town Ė who had won just four all year Ė somehow beat third-placed Leeds on the final day. Stoke City drew an astonishing 22 games. Brentford somehow scored 72 goals but ended up 11th.

    Who wouldíve thought Norwich, a side that finished 14th last season, wouldíve won the title this year? Who wouldíve thought Sheffield United would get promoted having finished tenth last year? Probably few if any of the fans of those clubs could have expected it but both would definitely have hoped for some sort of success. Hope is what this league gives you; it allows you to hope and to dream. To illustrate this, if the Canariesí and the Bladesí success had been mirrored in the Premier League, the winners this year would have been Watford and runners-up Newcastle. That well shows the sheer gulf of opportunity between the leagues. The Championship, not the Premier League, is how all football should be.

    Money matters so much less and, when it does matter, it is much less money. You can come down with pockets stuffed with parachute payment cash like Stoke City and Swansea this season and it makes little difference. They have finished 16th and 10th. Derby scraped into the play-offs having thrown £25 million at transfers (with consequent FFP contravention allegations), Nottingham Forest spent more still and ended up ninth. Trying to achieve success on the back of big spending so often does not work at this level.

    And it doesnít stop there. A new trend is developing. While all four clubs in the play-offs obviously want to be victorious, the three who fall short will not necessarily shed many or any tears, or at least not if theyíre being run properly and are not caught up in a desperate bankrupting bid for promotion. Because financial considerations aside, time and again I hear from fans of clubs Ė especially those recently in the top flight Ė who do not really want to return there. It is simply too much fun in the Championship and even lower (why else would Sunderland get over 40,000 to see them in the third tier?)

    Who wants to exchange playing in a properly competitive league for being in a league where youíre playing for nothing from day one? Surely almost no-one. With Boro finishing one place outside the play offs, thankfully the prospect of promotion has finally evaporated but it was still a possibility with 20 minutes to go, even after all these games across nine months. Itís always a relief to be able to play in the Championship for another season and Iíve felt this way for years now. As long as the club is financially stable, why would anyone want to endure winning maybe just seven games next season, perhaps drawing 11 and possibly hanging onto 17th for grim death? Thatís no life.

    We know weíll have another rollicking good tilt at the Championship title next season (almost certainly under a new manager). And while we all want the glory of victory in the division, we all want a taste of that, itís a pity to have to wash it down with a bitter glass of corked Premier League promotion.

    The Premier League proponents love to sell promotion as though it is some sort of massive honour to be visiting Old Trafford, The Etihad, Emirates, Anfield etc etc. However, the lived experience of many is the exact opposite. All too often, compared to the Championship it is too expensive, too quiet, too soulless and there is too little chance of winning. Thatís all worse. I would not consider it an honour for the Boro to get beaten by some of the richest clubs on the planet.

    Many Championship supporters simply prefer going to a greater variety of stadiums for away games, others love the fact there are lots more midweek night games, but for most the major attraction is the fact that before kick-off, you are just not sure who will win any game. And that is such a big thing: unpredictability. And when we kick off in August, while we already know the three or at best four teams the Premier League winner will be drawn from, we have no such notion in the Championship. And I mean none. If it was the 14th and 10th-placed teams from the previous season again, itíll be Preston and Swansea. It could be. It really could. But we have no idea.

    Football is more about hope and possibility than it ever is about achievement. Itís about feeling that this year it could be your year to win it, or even to come second. Hope that a new striker, a new manager, a new goalie just might make the difference. And it isnít vain hope. It does happen and very few teams start a Championship season without being justified in feeling like this year could be their year in some way or other.

    The quality of your manager matters so much. Because the likes of Daniel Farke and Chris Wilder had little budget to play with at the start of the season, they have had to rely on a winning mix of man-management, tactical nous and shopping in the bargain basement. You can be a new manager at this level like Farke or Frank Lampard, cut your teeth and prove your talent in the league. Or you can be an old experienced pro like Wilder or Marcelo Bielsa and get a team up. How good you are at the job in any one season is the important thing, not how much money youíve got to spend.

    Norwich spent £4.2 million on players and that, quite remarkably, is Alexis Sanchezís wages for little more than a couple of months. Compared to the Premier League it feels like sanity versus insanity, healthy v sick. Sheffield United spent just six million. Both made profits on transfers with Norwich getting £22m in for James Maddison. Boro on the other hand outspent both, splashing out over 13 million, but fell well short of them. Money shouldnít be the be all and end all. And in this league, it isnít. Coaching, innovation, youth development and good scouting are all more important. And youth gets a chance too. For example, over half of Derbyís starting 11 on Sunday was under 24.

    If anyone had backed Teemu Pukki to be the leagueís top scorer, having joined on a free from Brondby, they must be a visionary. But this is what the Championship is like. Even the unfancied can have a great season. Thereís none of the big £90million fee pressure, none of the disgust engendered by £400,000 per week wages plus £75,000 if they actually play. It is all far more sane and relatable. It feels connected to real life, not hiding behind the tinted windows of privilege. We watch Championship players and the first thing we think about isnít their money, itís their talent. And thatís exactly how it should be.

    The Premier Leagueís claim to be the Best League in The World is at best highly debatable. Many of us know it isnít even the best league in England. That honour belongs to the Championship: the really premier league.
    John Nicholson

    One of the most sensible things I have ever read.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Good read Sam. Thanks for sharing. Certainly some food for thought.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Well I for one have thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Championship. We go into every game with the anticipation of being able to win it and hope is the thing that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. It was thoroughly miserable in the latter years of the prem when dreading how many we were going to lose by not to mention the dejection of both the players and the fans.

    If we don’t go up this year it will be far from disaster. Admittedly we will lose Jack and probably Super John not to mention our loan signings but we will pick ourselves up and start again and in Dean Smith we have a manager who I trust to build a team even better and stronger just as we did this year.

    That’s not to say I don’t want to go up but if we I do feel we need to be strong enough to compete rather than just hang on. It’s just no fun fighting relegation. Either way, this summer is going to be an important building programme. I trust Dean to get it right. UTV

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    It would be awful loosing Grealish. Tammy is made for the Villa. We have the foundation of a really decent side.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    The premier league is boring, even Man U are crap. We all know its about money and those who can burn the most are the successful ones!
    Having the disapoint of losing out last year, i dont think it will hit me as hard if we fail again. If we do win the play offs, the feeling of elation will be purely winning at wembley, then reality will hit home.
    We could have gone the route of Bolton under Dr Tony but saved by the bell, im sure another season in this league will not be a disaster knowing we have the financials in place, i would swap a play off win at wembley for one more season in the championship and come up as Champions, with or without our own Jack!
    Im off to the church shortly and feeling strangely relaxed about the game.
    I do believe in fate and maybe just maybe this will be Jacks greatest season? Making him captain, all the right headlines, minus the pleb who tried to harm him. He is the envy of most clubs, they all hate him but would also love him in their team. I would prefer he gets to the prem with us but if losing him gains us 40 million then so be it. It would be fitting to see him lift the trophy at wembley.
    The Championship is a great league with proper clubs except that lot down in small heath, proper fans, traditional old grounds, villa leeds and both sheff clubs embarass most prem clubs for attendances.
    It is a great league and the premiership is lost between its greed and over exposure, it is boring, i think thats why so many loved both CL semi finals this week, both English clubs, for once were the underdog.
    It is very disapointing when getting to the promised land your target is to Survive, very sad wolves and Leicester being the welcome exception.
    Well here we go again i suppose you got to be in it to win it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Great article

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