The Championship, probably the most competitive sporting league in the world. The prize – the ever-increasing riches of the Premier League, the promised land, an opportunity at the very least to make a fast buck, but who will make the grade? Every season even the most loyal and optimistic fan has no real idea as the new campaign gets underway, quite how their team will fare, it really is a roll of a dice.
Did anyone really expect just 12 short months ago that Wolves would go on to put together one of the most impressive promotion campaigns the league has ever seen, or indeed that come August 2018 Fulham would not only be back in with the big boys but spending over £100 million on new signings?!
Furthermore, we’ve just seen the previous years three promoted clubs in Huddersfield, Brighton, and Newcastle secure their Premier League status, an impressive feat given the meagre budgets, but one that makes this hallowed golden ticket ever more tantalising.
Add a new face to the Premier League roster this season and they will become the 50th Premier League team, but who on earth will that be? Will the experience of Pulis, Bruce, and McClaren secure a return for some old faces?
Well, if Saturday’s drubbing at the hands of West Brom is anything to go by QPR might be getting out of the Championship the easy way – through relegation. It’s such an unforgiving league, a quick glance at the table and any of the 24 managers must be thinking where am I getting three points?
Aside from the three relegated Premier League sides and a sprinkling of stardust in the ranks in the form of Joe Allen, Jay Rodriguez or Leroy Fer, there’s also some bloody big clubs with incredible support and equally grand ambitions.
The Championship this season harbours Villa, Leeds, Bolton, Forest, Blackburn, Derby and the two Sheffield clubs, while offering unforgiving away days at Brentford, Millwall and Birmingham. If there’s ever been a more open, competitive league, we’d like to see it.
Six managers will find out the hard way and inevitably at least two probably won’t last that long. Paul Hurst, Graham Potter, Gary Rowett, Frank Lampard, Marco Bielsa and Steve McClaren we salute you.
Like proverbial lambs to the slaughter or is it gluttons for punishment, all are set to be a little bit greyer (probably in the face) if they have any hair left that is, should they survive the footballing equivalent of The Running Man. There’s only so long you can go without sleep, and Lampard and McClaren are probably already wondering what the hell they were thinking.
Frank Lampard is fast learning that the Championship is no place for a novice, no matter how esteemed one’s playing career. A trip to The Den the equivalent for the inexperienced to some sort of military boot camp for juvenile offenders, in your face English football, laid bare.
The Championship will eat you up and spit you out, preseason playoff promise quickly becoming relegation fear, returning to play off hope before resulting in the drop. A couple of wins in this league can propel a team halfway up the table and two defeats? Managers will lose their jobs for less. Of course, it’s early days, but with the potential rewards so great, patience is a thing of the past.
Picking three sides that’ll get promoted is tantamount to selecting the winning lottery numbers, but that doesn’t stop us playing the game.
We’re going for, in no particular order, Middlesbrough, Leeds Utd to finally grace the Premier League turf once more and for the sheer hell of it Preston North End, under the guidance of Alex Neill, to improve on three consecutive top half finishes and receive the glorious accolade of ’50th Premier League Team’. Picking a winner in the Championship – it’ll make fools of us all.
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