Is the Championship the toughest league?

By Jerome Butcher
The Coca-Cola Championship, second only in the world to the Premier League?

The Coca-Cola Championship, second only in the world to the Premier League?

The Championship has often been praised as one of the most exciting, nail biting and most competitive leagues in the land. But does it have a case to make against other top-flight leagues such as La Liga, the Premier League or the Bundesliga?

How can England’s second division make such a claim?

Well, the Championship is, after all, the fourth most watched league in Europe, after the three aforementioned. These fans must surely be turning up to watch something worthwhile. It comes as no surprise that teams such as Derby County still boast average attendances of around 32,000 at Pride Park. As equally popular are Wolves, Reading and Sheffield United who regularly attract crowds of between 20,000 and 25,000.

So, there are a total of 24 teams rather than the conventional 20, but what else makes this league so much tougher?

The hallowed prize of earning a place in next season’s Premier League is obviously a massive incentive for all 24 of these teams. This season looks to go right down to the wire as it has done in the past. At the close of the previous two seasons, only two points separated the eventual champions and the runners up. This year Wolves and Birmingham City appear to be fighting it out to lift the trophy.

Wolves have been helped by ex-United striker, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who picked up the Championship Player of the Year award at the Football League Awards on Sunday. The 23-year-old Englishman has scored an amazing 24 goals and is leading scorer, six ahead of Reading’s Kevin Doyle.

But the table looks as tight as ever and it’s not just the top two spots that are to play for. Four other teams get one last chance to reach the Premier League through the play-offs. As it stands a mere seven points separate third place and seventh place.

Furthermore, besides sorry Charlton who seem destined to be relegated this year, only 11 points separate, second from bottom, Southampton and 12th place Crystal Palace. The fact that virtually no one is safe and that so many are still in contention for a top-six finish highlights the cutthroat nature of this league.

Some very good sides play in this league, some of which have a proud history, namely, Nottingham Forest (two-times European Cup Winners). Some have done exceptionally well in this year’s FA Cup knocking out Premiership opposition. Coventry reached the quarterfinals, Burnley and Sheffield United the round before that.

This year looks like the Premier League will finish as it has done for the last five seasons: a top four finish of Arsenal (despite Aston Villa’s best efforts), Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, with the exception of Everton’s fourth place finish in 2004/05.

Lyon have won Ligue 1 for the last seven consecutive seasons. La Liga has only seen three teams share the spoils over the last eight years: Real Madrid (4), Barcelona (3) and Valencia (2). Finally Bayern Munich have won an impressive eight Bundesliga titles out of the last 12.

Obviously with sides coming and going, being promoted and relegated every season from the Championship, this point is made a little redundant. Nonetheless it is important to stress how it really is anyone’s guess as to who will win it. Eight different teams have won this division in the last ten years!

Bored of top-flight football? Too predictable, too mundane? Tune into the Championship – only six games remain before we can look forward to a brand new season.

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