Teams will beg, borrow and steal (ok, maybe not steal) to get out of the nPower Championship and into the Barclays Premier League. But for the lucky few that do make it each May, is all the effort really worth it?
Swansea and Norwich are proving this season that it is possible to come straight up from the Championship and enjoy moderate success at the first attempt. Teams such as Stoke, Fulham and Bolton have also demonstrated the ability to earn promotion and gradually build their clubs into established Premier League sides.
What of the teams that emerge into the bright lights of the Premier League only to be dazzled and fade back into the Championship at the first attempt though? Do the supporters of these clubs really enjoy watching their side lose week after week without any hope of progressing up the table? Or would they rather have a happier life winning games in the Championship?
Many clubs work to a plan that a single season in the Premier League, then relegation and the parachute payments that come with it, will leave them in a stronger position to bounce straight back up and stay there. The Championship is littered with ex-Premier League teams though, scrapping it out in the dog-fight for promotion that is the English second tier. Supporters of Reading, Middlesbrough, Derby, Hull, Burnley and Portsmouth have all seen their clubs in the top tier in recent seasons but subsequently fail to navigate a route back there. The Championship is notoriously difficult to plan as escape route from, but many argue it provides more competition than the Premier League.
Norwich managed successive promotions in 2010 and 2011, Southampton look likely to repeat the trick this year and Leicester made the Championship playoffs in 2010 following promotion the previous season. The Championship offers a chance of success for newly promoted sides that the Premier League just can’t. Gone are the days of Nottingham Forest and Ipswich, promoted teams who went on to finish 3rd and 5th respectively in their first season in the Premier League. Norwich’s ventures into the top ten this season have been rightly lauded because it is now such a rare feat for a side to adapt so quickly to life with England’s footballing elite.
Were you to ask supporters of the Premier League’s basement sides whether they’d prefer to be winning games in the Championship or fighting for their lives in the top tier then I’d suggest many would opt for the former. It works both ways though, all supporters of Cardiff or Forest, the Championship’s nearly men of recent seasons, would most likely would bite your hand off for a chance in the big league.
So it seems a case of the grass always being greener. Supporters don’t always appreciate how lucky they are to be in the Premier League, as those of Championship sides would happily trade places with them for a way out of the Championship and their moment in the spotlight.