The EFL Championship – The story so far


It’s been a thrilling season so far in England’s most entertaining league, with goals galore, just two points separating the top three sides and 16 sides harbouring realistic hopes for success at the top end of the table.

the-efl-championship-the-story-so-farNo, not the English Premier League. Liverpool won that last weekend. We’re talking about the EFL Championship of course.

If you’re one of the many fans of Premier League teams who scoff at the EFL Championship, say, until you join them, such as fans of Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Fulham, Derby and West Brom might be accused of in the past, then we have the analysis for you. We’re talking to you, Norwich fans. You know that you’ll be back here next season, face facts. And while you’re doing so, understand that we understand and that we can adequately catch you up with what’s been happening in your absence.

If you support a solid, dependable Premier League side – like Bournemouth, for example – and want to know who might join you in the big league next year, we have the definitive answer, if by the term definitive you understand that it could be anybody. Because The Championship is amazing. It really is.

Automatic promotion challengers

When the season starts, literally every club in The Championship has a chance of winning it. Even the name of the league is a joke. The Championship like it’s somehow the only one that matters, it’s the gag that keeps giggling, and at itself as all good things should.

Relegated clubs from the Premier League almost always do terribly upon landing with a soft whimper back down in the doldrums of second tier football. Look at Stoke, if you can bear it.

West Bromwich Albion are currently top of the table, with Slaven Bilic’s men suffering just one defeat in 16 games, although they’re drawn half a dozen. Preston North End are the surprise packages in the automatic promotion places at present, and have two of the best strikers in the division in Daniel Johnson and Tom Barkhuizen. Leeds United currently sit third, but have shown inconsistencies of their own, their mean defence conceding just nine goals along the way.

Our tip: West Brom and Leeds get the job done

Play-off hopefuls

Almost anyone could make the play-offs, right down to bottom half Millwall. While teams such as Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest started brilliantly, their form has waned a little in recent weeks, with The Owls’ possible penance for selling their own stadium to their chairman likely to bite them on the Barnsley…ahem, we mean bottom.

Forest have been inconsistent of late, but then, over 46 games, anything could happen. Stoke might make the play-offs under Michael O’Neill. It’s that superbly silly. Of the teams hovering around the area, however, we like two from London and two very big names to battle for the best feeling of all – sneaking up into the Premier League having lost 10 games in the league, one of which was against Wigan.

Our tips: Fulham, Nottingham Forest, Swansea and Charlton Athletic (Charlton to be promoted).

Managerial merry-go-round 

The mid-table area is ironically one of the deepest fascination. Not with the players, you understand, who after playing two games every week for five months, start to develop oddities by mid-February, wearing orange socks underneath their proper ones, hopping onto the pitch chanting the chorus to Steps’ Tragedy in the tunnel like a mantra, that sort of thing.

No, far more fascinating is the managerial merry-go-round that usually sees one manager who suffered a bitter defeat at the hands of another club then being sacked, before being appointed manager for the team who beat his own after they endure a sorry spell. With 46 games to play, every team should have at least four or five ‘blips’. The whole thing is a blip.

Our tip: Queens Park Rangers to Appoint four managers in same season. 

The relegation scrap 

At the foot of the table are the also-rans, alongside the Premier League primadonnas. Look at Huddersfield. Not with one eye open, with both. There. Now remember David Wagner’s team beating Manchester United in their debut Premier League season.

Genuinely, it was the same club.

While Huddersfield and Stoke face battles for self-respect, other teams, such as Wigan and Barnsley face the uphill struggle to retain Championship status while knowing all along that it’s a tremendous reach to even attempt it. Middlesbrough should be nowhere near that relegation zone, but they are. They’re knee-deep in wet Wednesdays, and we’re not talking Fernando Forestieri.

Our tip: Barnsley, Wigan and Blackburn to be relegated.