Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Championship: As Unpredictable As Ever - allwell

Ah, the Championship, the annual festival of the desperate. Its football might not please the connoisseur but it’s a compellingly competitive division where predicting the outcome of anything is harder than Duncan Ferguson and just as likely to disappoint.

Take the start of last season. The received wisdom was that the clubs relegated from the Premiership would dominate. Instead, they amazed us with their ineptitude, failing to add to the paltry tally of three teams that have bounced straight back over the course of the last six seasons.

Of the rest, it was widely accepted that Reading were going backwards and Watford were going down. Sheffield United, meanwhile, were clearly going for broke, and going broke appeared to be the most likely fate to befall them. Nevertheless, up they all went.

This year things are slightly different. The Premiership’s three most recent refugees – Birmingham City, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion – could all still win the mad dash for promotion, but with seven points separating the top seven teams, so could plenty of others.

Nerves are beginning to show. Of those top seven, only Preston North End were winners in a full programme of midweek fixtures. The free-spending duo of Derby County and Sunderland each needed a late goal to salvage a draw from a home game they were expected to win; Cardiff City shared four goals with a Southampton team who themselves are only three points from the play-offs; Birmingham, West Brom and Wolves all lost.

At the other end of the table, unpredictability also reigns. The fresh-faced arrivistes from League One are habitually discounted as relegation fodder, but over the last six years only Brighton have been forced to return to a life of smirking at Bristol City and visiting Vale Park. This season’s surprise package is Colchester United. Playing their first season at this level and surviving on attendances of just over 5000, they shrugged off the loss of their manager, many of their best players and their first four games to charge into a play-off spot before settling for the comfort of mid-table. The other new arrivals, Southend United and Barnsley, are hanging on grimly, just above the bottom three.

It’s a bottom three that includes QPR – a club whose boardroom shenanigans warrant an article of their own – and Leeds United, who are seemingly intent on proving that no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse, and whose captain wants to defect to the final member of the trio. That member is Luton Town, whose problems were not helped by responding to a haul of nine points from 14 games by selling their two best players.

In the latest in a series of crunch matches, this weekend sees Derby take on Cardiff while Birmingham’s trip to West Brom has the added spice of a West Midlands derby. At the bottom, Leeds visit Southend.

There are eight games to go; the climax to the season should be a real humdinger, whatever one of those is.


andrewm said...

I love "the annual festival of the desperate".

The Championship's ace. I'm far more interested in it than in most Premiership matches.

I'd quite like to see Derby and Preston promoted, though I don't really know why.

MotM said...

I've taken on editorial duties for a short while and have struggled with my recalcitrant computer. Consequently, I'm not sure if this piece is up to date or not, and profuse apologies if it's not - my fault not allwell.

Anyway I enjoyed it and loved the Duncan Ferguson line which is on the money. The Championship does seem a bit of a Keystone Cops movie this year, but it's more exciting than yet another Premiership boreathon.

Leeds eh? Is it impolite to laugh?

MotM said...

Is Billy Davies manager at PNE? I think we is and he'll be fun in the Premiership so long as Match of the Day subtitle his interviews in the same way Gregory's Girl was subtitled in the US.

If not, Andrewm will have to transcribe / translate and post here.

marcela said...

best opening line i've read for ages. festival of the desperate... brilliant.

also, really good to focus on something other than premiership/champions league... excellent summary. perhaps we could have regular round-ups on PC?

bluedaddy said...

MOTM. Billy Davies is now at Derby, so your hopes of him appearing on MOTD still stand. Paul Simpson is in charge at PNE, but they never get their man, despite always being around to catch the bouquet. Despite Keane's obvious potential entertainment value coming up against Fergie, Jose et al, I dont wish him that much success too early. He's too much of a c*nt.

Dont like Birmingham's various personalities, so wouldnt say no to the Baggies, North End and Derby (as long as they promise to replace the Pride park pitch with the sandpit from the Baseball Ground for old times sake).

Leeds Luton and Hull for the drop. McCarthy vs Keano in the play offs would be good too.

MotM said...

Bluedaddy - Thanks for the detail there. I had a feeling I was quite up to date.

McCarthy vs Keane is just too good to be true for the Play-Off Final. Will Wembley be big enough to deal with it?

I'm going to take a much closer look at the ... SECOND DIVISION. There, I've said it now and feel much better. Anyway, the point is that the piece above has enriched my football at a time when it needed it. Cheers allwell.

Tony said...

good stuff, allwell. My own unforgivable lack of interest in the Championship is about to end with the bursting of the West Ham bubble. How do you see our chances of bouncing back up?

mimi said...

I'm on side with Mouth here: the Championship is the 2nd Division and the Premiership is the 1st Division. Never seen the need to do all this chopping and changing with which lot of clubs are called what. It's quite straightforward as anyone who owns a tallboy can tell you. There's the Top Drawer, where you keep all the important stuff like passports, wallet, keys etc. Then the 2nd drawer with the not quite so vital, but really interesting stuff, then a whole bunch of other drawers where you stick the detritus of life!
What could be simpler?

tony said...

now this is really off-topic but cockneycanadian is back on GU...

allwell said...

Thanks all. I was out yesterday - a jaunt that included an entertaining trip home on a break-down lorry - so I missed this.

The piece was written about ten days ago, so it is out of date although most teams have only played one additional game and not a huge amount has changed.

motm: to laugh at Leeds? Impolite but inevitable. There is just something about them that invites schadenfreude.

motm and mimi: I agree about the second division. I toyed with the idea of using that rather than the Championship, but bottled out in the end for the sake of clarity.

tony: i'm afraid bubbles don't bounce, especially when they've burst. Or something. As I mentioned in the article, surprisingly few teams manage an immediate return. Much depends on the stability of the club and their ability to hang on to their better players. It looks a bit grim for West Ham, but the great thing about the second division is that you just never know.

MotM said...

Allwell - I was (am?) guest editing for the sainted Ebren and didn't know how old this piece was. I thought it good and well worth a post as comments have suggested. How about an update closer to the nail-biters?

Anonymous said...

C'mon Hoops

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