The Championship is one of the most exciting leagues in the world. In every second tier of football around the world, nothing can beat the feeling of gaining promotion to the Premier League in England. Also, with an estimated £80m up for grabs by going up via the play-offs, lifting that trophy at Wembley, whether you’re experiencing as a player of watching in the stands, is one of the best moments in football.
Currently, Derby County occupy top spot, but the way this league has gone in the past few years, anyone in the top half of the table could potentially reach that all important automatic promotion spot. At the moment, Brentford in sixth could quite easily go into second in one matchday weekend if results go their way. Two weeks ago, Norwich City where sitting pretty at the top of the pack, now they have fallen like a stone and sit in 10th place, six points off the top – that’s how tight and punishing this league can be. Looking at the current squad and the experience of manager Steve McClaren, the Rams don’t look like slipping up anytime soon, and the recent 5-0 demolishion of fellow promotion chasers Wolves proved that.
So are the Pride Park outfit certain for promotion. Again, the way the league is, and has been for many years, anything could happen, and before you know it, Derby could find themselves scrapping at the wrong end of the table. With the squad in good shape, and players who know this league inside out, a blip during the season will not likely result in finishing in the bottom half. The severity will not be that high.
The current crop of players are good enough to perform at the highest level. England under-21 international Will Hughes is one of the most talented young midfielders in the country, and will eventually play regularly in the Premier League. Whether it’s for the club that brought him into the footballing world is a different matter.
Craig Bryson, who was voted Derby’s player of the season in the last campaign, was one of many to experience the heartache of last year’s agonising play-off final defeat at the hands of QPR. However, like Hughes, Bryson is another bright spark who can turn defence into attack in a blink of an eye, a trait that is often used at the top level. Forwards Jamie Ward and Jonny Russell have the pace and sprinting speed to cause havoc to the opposition defence, while Chris Martin, who has played in the Premier League with Norwich City, is deadly in front of goal.
Having a top gaffer in McClaren is also a fantastic asset. Yes, many will keep reminding him of his unsuccessful as the man in charge of the Three Lions, however, spending a couple of seasons abroad with FC Twente has helped become a better man manager and is now proving doubters wrong. With the intrigue and excitement of the Championship, Derby’s experience across the board at this level will be too strong for other teams and promotions should definitely be in sight by the end of the season.