Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Championship. Is it more competitive than ever before?

“The Championship is the best league in the world.” A bold statement, you might think. The Championship hardly attracts the world’s best players and it doesn’t boast the world’s best teams. So whoever was to issue the statement above might be seen as a bit mad.

But what the Championship is though, it is by far the most competitive league in the world. The league has 24 teams as its capacity, realistically about 22 of those can go up. That’s not an exaggeration either. With the exceptions of Barnsley and Peterborough, there is no reason as to why the remaining 22 can’t mount a promotion charge.

Admittedly, for at least 8 of those 22, there are a lot of ‘ifs’ involved. If Watford and Millwall can replace free scoring strikers Danny Graham and Steve Morison they could be in the play offs. If Derby can secure a proven holding midfielder and acquire a target man, they could also be in the play offs. If Coventry can get a striker or get consistency out of Freddy Eastwood, they could be in the play offs too. There are so many ‘if’ variables in the Championship that I could highlight.

Then again, all football is immersed by ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. Even if Coventry, Millwall and Watford do what’s needed, they could still get relegated; such is the competitive edge of this league. The general consensus regarding the teams who have just been promoted (Brighton (League One Champions, Southampton (League One runners off) and Peterborough (playoff winners)) is that the first two teams will survive comfortably, more so Southampton.

Incidentally, Brighton have somehow pipped West Ham and Leicester City to Peterborough’s top goal scorer last season, Craig Mackail-Smith. He is the perfect replacement for the recently departed Glenn Murray.

Even the teams coming up will be challenging for promotion!

However, there are the more notable teams which are expected to do well. Despite a currently possessing squad which contains just fourteen players, Nottingham Forest under the guidance of ex England manager Steve McClaren are expected to finish in the top 6. They have re-signed former fan favourite Andy Reid and this is a statement of their intentions, and after finishing so close in the last two years, they could make it 3rd time lucky.

While Cardiff under new management in Malky Mackay, they have done well so far to replace the players who have recently departed, and with more signings on the horizon, they will be favourites to challenge in the play offs yet again.

There is also the small matter of the teams that have just been relegated from the Premier League. Blackpool seem certain to lose their talismatic midfielder Charlie Adam. There is also the possibility that the money gained from Adam (£9 million price tag) could go straight into the Blackpool budget.

The Carling Cup holders Birmingham will no doubt make a charge for the top 2 under Chris Hughton. This is regardless even if they have lost key players and will continue to do so. Signing Chris Burke and Marlon King means goals, and with a sturdy defence, they will be amongst the top 6.

The favourites however, are West Ham and Leicester. Leicester have strengthened enormously, Kasper Schmeichel, Sean St Ledger and Neil Danns have all joined the Foxes and under the supervision from another ex England manager Sven Goran Erikson. Leicester seem certain to go up. Although West Ham look certain to lose Scott Parker, they have signed Kevin Nolan and haven’t lost many other players. Those that have left have been expendable, and someone will come in to take their chance. This relegation could be a blessing in disguise for West Ham, as many expect them to storm the league like Newcastle did a few years ago.

Having said all this, you would be foolish to predict anything that happens in the Championship. So often people are proved wrong. West Ham may well be the runaway favourites, but with the league being as competitive as ever, whether they do get automatically promoted is not a nailed on certainty. However, if West Ham don’t finish in the automatic slots and fall into the lottery of the play offs, the West Ham fLinkans know too well the feelings of joy and despair that the £90 million game in football can bring.

Only 3 teams can go up, and the way things are shaping up for this year, this is the league to watch.

This piece was written by Christian Brown, you can follow him on his Twitter - @Chris78901, Chris also writes for The Sports Pallet too. All of Chris' work is on his blog, 1-chris78901.

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