People often talk about the Championship as the most exciting league in the world, but usually what isn’t in dispute is its relative lack of quality in comparison to the Premier League. Yet in recent years, the gap is almost definitely closing between the bottom of the Premier League and the top of the Championship at the very least.
The notion that the Premier League is actually now divided into several smaller leagues by the sheer disparity in resources is in stark contrast to the situation in the Championship. Whilst modern day realities of TV revenue for Championship clubs are quite high due it being the 5th most watched league in Europe, there is a lack of a standout club both financially and through reputation most years. However, what brings some teams even closer to the resources of the Premier League are parachute payments for clubs relegated in the past three seasons from the Premier League. Whilst relegation from the Premier League results in a huge loss of income, the introduction of this form of payment has almost certainly lessened the gap between England’s top two divisions. Whether or not it constitutes an unfair advantage in the Championship leaves us with another debate to ponder.
The knock effect of this is more clubs being able to hold on to their so-called ‘better’ players even after relegation. Financially they can afford to demand more money when selling a player whereas in the past a fire sale was the norm. This has brought transfer revenue up for Championship clubs further strengthening their position alongside the lucrative Premier League. Players are also often tied down to longer contracts to draw them into making a move, often resulting in a player gambling on their team staying in the Premier League when this often doesn’t materialise. One of the players featured in this piece- Loic Remy is a classic example of this.
Perhaps the biggest emerging factor as to why there are more players in the Championship capable of playing Premier League football is the influx of foreign ownership money into the second tier. Often owners will pay Premier League money for a better quality player in the hope that it catapults their team into the promised land. Click on James McCarthy to find out our top five Championship players shortlist.
The Republic of Ireland international arguably established himself as one of the most sought-after talents in the Premier League last season. He was also triumphant in an FA cup winning Wigan side that eventually ran out of steam in their annual bid for survival. As it stands however McCarthy looks set to start the season as a Championship player. Although known to be attracting interest from former manager Roberto Martinez at Everton as well as Tottenham, Wigan have no reason to sell their star player on the cheap. With wages reportedly in the region of £30,000 a week, Wigan can afford to keep him to spearhead a bid to return to the Premier League with the parachute payments they will receive.
There is no doubt that McCarthy is more than just your average Championship player, or your average Premier League player at that, and that’s why he simply had to be on the list for Championship players capable of playing in the highest echelons of English football.
Of the five players featured, you probably have to pinch yourself most to realise that Remy as it stands will be plying his trade in the Championship. Signed for big money and reportedly on astronomical wages for even your average Premier League side, it is likely that QPR will need to get rid of a player they signed for £8 million just six months ago on a four year deal! The former Marseille man has also played 18 times for France-scoring four goals.
To be fair to Remy his goal return of 6 in 13 appearances in the Premier League isn’t bad when you consider he was playing in one of the poorest teams the league has ever witnessed. He would be a hit with most Premier League teams and has been constantly linked with Newcastle this summer. Whether Remy himself is willing to take a pay cut to move up a league is a different question. Don’t be surprised to see the man from Lyon start his campaign at home to Sheffield Wednesday on August 3rd.
I wonder whether when he retires Jordan Rhodes will look back on his £8 million move to Blackburn as the worst decision of his career. He seems to be going in the complete opposite direction to a club in absolute turmoil. He was one of the rare bright spots at Ewood Park last season, mustering an impressive tally of 27 goals in his first season after moving from Huddersfield. He also a full Scottish international. Whilst lacking previous experience of the Premier League, evidence tells us he will not simply be another Dave Nugent-free scoring in the Championship but failing miserably against the best defences.
Rhodes’ goal scoring record across his senior career is phenomenal and it surely worth a punt from a Premier League side or two. Linked with Swansea, it remains to be seen if they will want another striker after signing Wilfried Bony in a club record deal this week. The asking price could also be a stumbling block for many. Jordan might have to roll his sleeves up for another long, hard slog in the Championship.
The 27 year old goalkeeper finally came of age last season churning out some stellar performances for Leicester. His appearance in the Championship team of the year was thoroughly deserved. Sven Goran Eriksson once described him as ‘as good as Joe Hart’. Whilst this is highly debatable, if he is even half as a good as the Man City man or even his dad, he is worth another shot at the Premier League.
The Dane kept 12 clean sheets in 28 games last season and has been linked with a move to newly promoted Hull. After their signing of Alan McGregor, a deal for Schmeichel probably won’t come to fruition. Schmeichel will also be keen to have assured first team football in the event of a move to the Premier League. In all likelihood he will be at Leicester come the start of the 2013-14 season. If he can repeat his form of the last campaign, don’t be surprised to see Leicester up there challenging for playoff spot at the very least.
What a future the 18 year old from Weybridge has. Still at a tender age, the consistency of his Championship performances point to career way beyond the Football League. Derby boss Nigel Clough kept faith him 34 times last year and he grew to become talismanic in Derby’s midfield. He also made his debut for England under-21s. Able to play the intricate passes that the modern game requires is one of Hughes’ biggest assets- and it is rarely seen in the mediocrity of the Championship. Clough, talking about his wonder kid said ‘he often notices passes that no one else does’.
Not only is Hughes too good for the Championship, we could be looking at a future England midfielder too. However, for his career progression it is probably best he remains at Derby for another season instead of falling into the trapdoor some have been victim to- signing with a Premier League team for big money and then struggling to get of the reserve side. In a year’s time we could easily be calling Hughes the best the Championship has to offer he continues his remarkable form.