Welcome to a new section of my blog – Football Friday. Here I will be discussing the beautiful game, talking about hot topics, upcoming games or just having a ramble about anything football. As we are now in close season and indeed it was a very exciting one for many, I can’t talk about any games and a Chelsea fan I love to talk about them and I probably will in the upcoming weeks seeing as we are still without a manager. Today though I though I’d forget the top flight for a while and talk about the second tier of English football, The NPower Championship. Is it fast becoming one the most exciting leagues in Europe?
Well, I think that in recent years the Championship has got closer to the Premier League in terms of player ability, entertainment value and excitement. Sometimes I think that the Premier League has become quite dull with the usual teams winning week in, week out and only the odd upset here and there. The recent decline of Liverpool and the tussle between Manchester Utd and Chelsea added with Manchester City’s new money has certainly made it interesting, but exciting? I’m not so sure anymore.
With many player not finding first team chances at top flight clubs, they are getting many more opportunities at Championship teams and I think this has developed second tier teams a huge amount. Theres nothing better for a young inexperienced player to be doing than training and playing alongside a top rated player with bags of talent. Teams like QPR, Norwich and newly promoted Swansea are testament to this. Lets take Swansea as an example. Look at what Scott Sinclair has added to that team’s frontline firepower since joining from Chelsea just a year ago, he now feels wanted and because he is getting more first team starts due to his ability, he can give much more to every game he plays than he could ever have hoped to give at Chelsea with limited opportunities. This has spurred on the team across the pitch and a sublime performance in the playoff final this year has secured a Premier League debut for them next season.
Now lets look at the league itself. With 24 teams competing for honours, a massive 46 games a season is a huge task to undertake. This of course is not including Cup games which adds to the fatigue throughout the course of a season. Now already at the start of a season three teams have come down from the Premier League, so already the others are under some stiff competition. Its refreshing to see however, that this does not let clubs like Norwich and Swansea be deterred. This season’s example is perfect. The three relegated teams from the top flight were – Burnley, Hull and Portsmouth. Not one of them made the playoffs this season with Burnley the highest finisher in 8th. So there is plenty of drive from the second tier teams to succeed.
With so many really good teams in the league each year, you can easily count half of the league in this, the Championship often goes to the very last couple of weeks to decide the automatic promotion spots and this year was no exception. Some argue that the playoffs are just not exciting and it should just be three automatic promotion places. I disagree and I do so because of what I said at the start of this paragraph. There are so many good teams that work hard and probably deserve to be promoted automatically but just don’t make it. Ah I hear you argue – well they should just be better and get into the top 2. Yes perhaps you are right, but we have to take into account the number of games that these teams are playing, the fact that there isn’t as much money in the 2nd tier, and also I think its good for the fans to have a chance to go to Wembley to see their team – who isn’t in the top flight – play at a huge stadium in a final or sorts. Its a big deal for them and I think the playoffs benefit the league. It also gives some teams who are just in the middle something to aim for as an outside shot.
Te points table this year speaks for itself, from 1st to 7th, there was just a 16 point spread. In the Premier League it was 26, in Spain it was 38. The NPower Championship is a much more competitive league and I have enjoyed some of the games I’ve seen this season much more than the Premier League or indeed El Clasico games of which I saw three and they were all dull. I would reckon that there is much more chance of you getting a ticket to a Championship game than in any top flight league aswell, a much more family oriented atmosphere at the grounds and in turn more enjoyment to be had on your day out.
All this makes me wonder why I support a top flight team. Well I do and thats just how I am, but if Chelsea were one day to be relegated, I would support them all the way to the Blue Square Conference League. For now though, I suggest that without all the money, big star players and huge grounds, The NPower Championship is the most exciting league in European football because, well to put it simply, they just seem to care more.