Tightest of Battles in the Championship

      

Every year the standard of football in the English Championship continues to grow and grow, this year is no exception. The amount of teams in the division now competing for the elusive prize of a place in the Premier League is massive, with only eleven points separating a playoff place with the drop zone. Over the years experts and pundits talk about the competitiveness of the league, however now we can see the quality of the league added with the competitive side of the game in the division. Currently there are three teams sharing top spot in the division, all locked on thirty-one points, with Hull City AFC leading the way on goal difference.

The league really engages fans and football viewers and with the added coverage of matches from Sky on a Friday night, Saturday daytime and sometimes evenings and even now on certain Sundays, the league is captivating the football audience. Teams have now got money to help propel them out of the division, the investment opportunity in these clubs is a rich reward with the money they will receive providing they can gain promotion, and as a result we are viewing a better standard of players within the division. During the summer transfer window 100 million was spent by clubs in the division, this is significantly more than clubs in the second tier of leagues around Europe. The pressure on the managers in the league is now huge, with five managers already lost their jobs at their respective clubs. Marinus Dijkhuizen was brought in during the summer at Brentford and after a slow start was sacked in early October, Uwe Rosler lost his job at Leeds that was no real surprise given the record of managers at Leeds recently, Guy Luzon lost his job at Charlton after their awful run which now stretches to eleven games without a win, Steve Evans is a popular man at Rotherham and he lost his job only to take the reins at Leeds shortly after, and most recently Chris Powell was sacked at Huddersfield after a credible draw away to Reading. At this stage of the season this proves the cut throat nature of clubs in the division, worried about their futures in the second tier of English football. Neil Lennon at Bolton and Dougie Freedman at Nottingham Forest will certainly be looking over their shoulders as their respective positions in the league don’t make for good reading.

At the top tier of the division, this could potentially be the most interesting promotion race for many years now. The two relegated sides Hull and Burnley are locked at the top of the division with surprise packages Brighton. Looking at the Hull City team they potentially have the strongest squad in the division, keeping the majority of the squad that got relegated from the Premier League. Abel Hernandez and Mohammed Diame returning to the first team and gaining confidence back makes them look certainly on paper the team to beat. Burnley is a team that are organised, even in the Premier League last season they never really got a beating from opposite teams. They have a small squad and operate very well under the guidance of Sean Dyche, the acquisition of Andre Gray for 9 million raised a few eyebrows, and his partnership with Sam Vokes now looks potentially lethal.

Chris Hughton at Brighton has always been a very good coach and his good work looks to be paying off, still unbeaten within the league, though question marks will be raised if they can maintain a push throughout the season, summer signing Bobby Zamora could play a massive part of the club’s quest for promotion. Middlesbrough are a team who have threatened to gain promotion over the last three seasons but still find themselves in the division, Aitor Karanka may feel that personally this could be his last opportunity to lead the club to the heights of the Premier League, the additions of Stewart Downing and David Nugent will prove very important for the club and they should be up and around the top of the division come the end of the season. Derby County after a slow start under new manager Paul Clement however now they look a team that could make their way out of the league. Ten games unbeaten now and Derby look strong, the centre midfield additions on transfer deadline day have proved important, Bradley Johnson signed for 6 million from Norwich was a surprise move but one that could make all the difference for them gaining promotion, with Chris Martin providing the goals currently.

A run of results in this league can jump the position of a club from mid table to a playoff place. The league is filtered with many club to have graced the Premier League and these clubs will believe that with a few good results they can propel themselves in the mix, Fulham and Ross McCormack will believe that they could push into contention, Reading are just outside the playoff places now but a run of results takes them into the mix again, and sleeping giants Sheffield Wednesday can also consider themselves in with a chance this season. The championship every season contains excitement and drama; however this season may just provide the fans with the nerviest and tense end to a season in every way, relegation battles, automatic promotion battles and the all-important playoff competition.  The completion this season is of the highest quality and will keep everyone guessing from now to the end of the season.

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