As we approach the business end of the season the race for success is really starting to hot up with a whole host of clubs all in with a shout of glory!
It’s just a shame I am talking about the Championship as opposed to what has been labelled ‘the greatest league in the world’, the Premier League.
As a fan of a club that has been in the top flight for the past decade I have witnessed the demise of quality competition on offer as the ‘big four’ keep on getting stronger with Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool expected to fight it out for the title and the rest of us there to make up the numbers and target a top-six European place or just try and avoid the financial disaster that comes with relegation.
We used to pour scorn on the Old Firm dominated Scottish Premier League years ago, but the Premier League is now just as bad, if not worse. Take the much-hyped ‘Grand Slam Sunday’ in mid-December which saw two cagey 1-0 wins for Manchester United and Arsenal against Liverpool and Chelsea respectively, while on the same weekend struggling Wigan smashed five past Blackburn, who themselves had at one stage stormed back from three-down to draw level, while having a man sent off!
There is some element of excitement about which of the ‘big four’ will win the league but it’s the fact it’s the same four and how they get there that is boring the rest of us to tears! Then look at the battle for survival and the battle to be in the Premier League and it’s a whole different ball game of entertainment on offer.
I have just mentioned Wigan v Blackburn this season, while in recent seasons fans have watched on as West Brom, Portsmouth and then West Ham went on title-winning runs in the final third of the campaign to rescue what looked like impossible situations to stay in the top flight.
Not only that but their desperation for survival has thrown up some fantastic spectacles with the Hammers’ 4-3 home defeat against Tottenham last season one of the best live games I have watched in a long time.
But for pure unpredictability let us drop down a division into the Championship where there does not seem to be a team capable of taking matters by the scruff of its neck and pulling away from the pack. Watford did threaten it earlier in the campaign only to throw away a ten-point lead, before West Brom took over the reins and then realised being out on top was not for them.
Now we have Stoke at the top with Bristol City spurning the opportunity to leapfrog them on Monday with a last-gasp 1-1 home draw against a Crystal Palace side which had lost its previous two games going into the clash.
The entire division is a betting punter’s nightmare as anyone can beat anyone else on any given day with occurrences on a weekly basis not just once in a blue moon like the Premier League. A perfect example of this is West Brom and Coventry City’s two Championship games this season. Tony Mowbray’s high-flying Baggies went to the Ricoh Arena on November 12 and destroyed the struggling Sky Blues 4-0 on their own patch. Three weeks later on December 4 Coventry turn up at the Hawthorns and promptly win 4-2. You could not make it up, especially when West Brom then returned to the Ricoh Arena in the FA Cup fifth round and won 5-0.
Look at the current table and the top three are divided by just one point, while anyone from Ipswich in sixth will fancy their chances of lifting the title with only 13 games remaining. Crystal Palace are tenth but will feel capable of securing a top-six place which offers the chance of promotion via the play-offs.
So what I would say is keep an eye on the Premier League, but pull up a chair and engross yourself in the climax to the Championship campaign if it is excitement your after!