The Championship is widely regarded as an unpredictable and inconsistent division where anyone can beat anyone, but this season seems to be boarding on the ridiculous.
At the beginning of a Championship campaign, up to fifteen clubs probably harbour realistic attempts of achieving promotion due to the competitive nature of the league. This season, it looks like every single one of the twenty-four teams are in with a shout.
Dominant Newcastle were clearly better than the rest in this division last term, with West Brom not too far behind. But this year, bar a strong start for Neil Warnock’s QPR, it seems to be anyone’s game.
Take last night for example. My beloved Leeds United were seemingly cruising to victory after taking a 4-1 Elland Road lead against Preston, when I had to pop out. By the time I returned thirty minutes later, the unthinkable had happened and the visitors were 5-4 ahead, with thirty minutes still to play. Preston, who were second bottom before the game, went on to score a sixth to leave me wondering whether this was all just a bad dream.
You could say that result last night was a freak, but look around the rest of the division and you’ll find more and more surprising results. Only last week, Portsmouth, who at that stage had yet to win a game, got their season up and running with a 6-1 smashing of Leicester City.
Now that we’re nine games in, you would think that the table would be begginning to take shape. On the contrary, only three points separate fourth to fourteenth, leaving the division as open as ever.
It seems clubs are using Blackpool’s achievements of last year as motivation and inspiration to get into the big time. Ian Holloway’s Tangerines were one the favourites to drop into League One this time last season, with little money to spend and a thin squad short on quality.
But fast forward a year and it’s Blackpool who are flourishing in the Premier League, still with a large quota of the players that got them there. Holloway installed a ‘have-a-go’ attitude into his team, giving them the self-belief to attack teams from the off. And while they may get beat by six or seven at Arsenal, his beliefs haven’t changed his beliefs just because his club is now part of the best league in the world.
While the Championship may give me a few heart attack moments this season, there’s no doubting it is one of the most enjoyable and competitive leagues to be a part of. The Premier League may have the quality, and is ultimately where we all want to be, but we all know at the start of the campaign which two or three teams will be competing for it.
QPR may have the lead in the Championship at the moment, but they’ll know there are twenty-three clubs in the chasing pack that are looking to dispose of them. At this stage, I’m still worried about relegation but hoping for promotion, and it wouldn’t surprise me if my thoughts don’t change until shortly before May.
Sep 29, 2010
The Championship more open than ever
By Simon Glanville