04/05/2013

Championship > Premier League

The Championship. The second tier of English Football, an extraordinarily difficult league to exit, a league of unpredictability. The Championship - the most exciting league in England.

The expectations before kick off today were that Hull would seize automatic promotion alongside already promoted Cardiff, the play-off's would feature Watford, Bolton, Brighton and Crystal Palace, and Wolves, Barnsley and Bristol were due to make an exit to League One.

But an unbelievable afternoon saw the script rewritten time and time again - Nottingham Forest took the lead against Leicester through Simon Cox, which forced the Foxes out of the play off positions to be replaced by Forest.

The bottom of the table was flipped as Barnsley took the lead against Huddersfield, saving themselves and dooming Peterborough to League One, while Watford endured a nightmare as Jonathon Bond clashed with a Leeds player which saw 19 year old Jack Bonham make his goalkeeping debut.

Peterborough demoralised Palace with a goal seeing them rise out of the bottom three and instead endangering Huddersfield Town (already losing 1-0 to Barnsley). Blackpool then doubled their lead with drastic consequences for Bolton as they lost their place in the play-offs.

Brighton bagged a second at the Amex sealing relegation for Wolves while at the top of the table, the Foxes snatched the lead and the play off place back against Forest, Leeds scored against Watford, and Bolton salvaged one back.

Just before half time Crystal Palace equalised through a penalty to put the Posh back in the bottom three, and Bolton equalised but would only be able to achieve play off's provided their goal difference increased.

After the break both Watford and Notts Forest equalised, while the champions took the lead at the KC Stadium putting Watford on course to steal automatic promotion, Huddersfield then equalised which brought the Posh back out of the relegation zone and pushed Barnsley back in it.

Hull equalised and proceeded to take the lead reversing the previous twist in the automatic promotion race. The relegation battle continued as the Posh bagged a second goal, and Barnsley restored their lead putting Huddersfield back in the bottom three.

Before Barnsley could say they were safe Huddersfield equalised countering the previous change to the bottom three, while Troy Deaney received a red card at Vicarage Road. Peterborough conceded a third, replacing Barnsley in the relegation zone while Leicester salvaged the lead against Forest ensuring their play off position.

Hull missed a penalty before Cardiff scored (through another penalty) which meant that if Watford scored, Hull would miss out on automatic promotion. Peterborough's spiral to League One  was confirmed, and unbelievably Ross McCormack scored for Leeds much to Hull City's delight.

After one hundred and six minutes of nail biting, hyperventilation and undoubted phenomenon the destiny of the League was decided. Hull join Cardiff on their plight to the Premier League, Watford, Brighton, Palace and Leicester will battle for the third space while Bristol City, Wolves and Peterborough fall to League One.

An eventful afternoon is conclusive evidence for the claim that the Championship, is indeed, more exciting than the Premier League. The Championship has qualities that the Premier League lacks - firstly, the sheer unpredictability of the league itself. At the beginning of the season Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers were two of the favourites for promotion, instead Bolton narrowly missed out on play-off's, as Blackburn somehow escaped relegation to League One.

Unlike the Premier League it is difficult to make successful predictions - in the Championship everyone is an underdog. The top flight replays the same story with evolving chapters each season; the same teams win the trophy, the same teams stay mid table every season, and often recently promoted teams suffer immediate relegation. Of course the league has exceptions; for example, Manchester City winning the title, Swansea have managed to establish themselves in the league and admittedly Newcastle do have an element of unpredictability.

Ultimately though, the Premier League table is already decided by the Christmas period, excluding perhaps a relegation battle, whereas the fate of teams in the second tier boils down to the last day of the season. While in the Premier League there is a gap of over thirty points between the relegation zone and the top four, at one time, there was a gap of only seven points in the Championship.

Another crucial contributing factor to the pleasure experienced in the Championship is the general financial equality of teams; most clubs in the league are in similar financial positions resulting in no one club having an obvious advantage in transfer periods and squad building. This is completely different in the Premier League as the financial situations of the top four clubs bear extraordinary differences to the majority of the remaining clubs.

The Championship is a league combined of teams with "underdog status", it is a regular achievement for a lower table club to smash a play off position contending team, again enhancing the unpredictability of the league. Darren Ferguson's Peterborough, despite tumbling to League One, have beaten the champions Cardiff City twice this season.

The one thing the Premier League does have that the Championship lacks is the supreme quality of football although arguably every quality player started somewhere. In replacement of quality, the Championship does have incredible pace which some quality players do struggle to handle. For example Danny Murphy has offered nothing to Blackburn this season often appearing inept and losing the ball. However when playing for Fulham, Murphy was a credible player.

Finally, the stakes appear higher in the second flight. The prize of promotion or the punishment of relegation can be intensely motivating. In the PL however, the realistic target for all but the top four, is avoiding relegation and attempting to get as close to fifth place as possible.

Although yes, the Premier League is an outstanding contribution to football compiled of undoubted talent and supreme quality, the Championship is more exciting and arguably deserves much more coverage. The thought of relegation to the Championship is undesirable, but the Championship should be embraced more by the media; it is unlikely that the finale to the PL will be anywhere near as eventful as today's Championship send off.

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