There was a surprise in rugby union's Aviva Premiership this week, Sam Harrison looks at the changes in the tableWritten by Sam Harrison on 28th September 2016
Unpredictability makes the Championship a compelling watch
Ross Highfield says the wide-range of competition in England's second-tier makes a nice change from the dominance of certain teams in the Premier League...
Two games into the Championship season and the only certainty so far is that this division, as has been the case for a few years, is one where there is no such thing as certainty. Whilst the Premier League attracts more column inches, the Championship is a place where anything can happen, anyone can genuinely beat anyone, and few would successfully predict which six teams would either be promoted or relegated each season.
In the last two seasons, both Norwich and Southampton have arrived in the division from League One and left it within a year for the top flight, both without making huge changes to their starting line-ups. This season, there have been positive starts for two of the promoted clubs, Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton, both of whom have taken points from last season’s play-off semi-finalists Birmingham.
The team who beat Birmingham in the play-offs, Blackpool, find themselves with the division’s only 100% record after two games, clear proof of the division’s strength where only one out of 24 teams have won both games so far. Elsewhere, all teams have taken points off each other, with 11 teams holding the record of ‘won one, lost one’ after the season’s first week. Only two teams are yet to gain a point.
This is a division with a bigger net spend this summer than La Liga, a division with higher average attendances than most top-level European leagues. The Premier League is undoubtedly a place of high class football – with new recruits such as Santi Cazorla and Eden Hazard already looking like excellent additions – but the fact remains that it is a division that only three teams can realistically hope to win. A few teams will fight for fourth place, five or six will battle to stay in the division, whilst the other half of the league will settle for mediocrity.
No such middling in the Championship; more than half of the division will fancy their chances at making a push for the play-offs. After Blackpool, Norwich and others, not many will feel that success here is beyond them.
The teams relegated from the Premier League look strong, with only Wolves set to lose key players. Throw in Leicester and Cardiff, both of whom have invested heavily, and huge clubs Nottingham Forest and Leeds who still must feel like they do not belong here, and we end up with quite possibly Europe’s most competitive division.
It all makes for a fine season ahead, with 44 games to separate success from failure and, most likely, to separate numerous managers from their jobs. Reputations, as ever, will mean nothing here. The paradox of the division, of course, is that for all of its strengths, most of us are dreaming of leaving.