Some familiar faces are jostling for places in the hotly contested race for promotion to the Premier League.
As another season full of surprises, as we have come to expect from the Premier League is drawing to a close, with Manchester City coming out as runaway winners, our attention now shifts to the race from promotion from the Championship to the Premier League.
The Championship is a largely unknown division to most English football fans, outside the country. To the outside world, it is a league that provides the quintessential underdogs in any cup competition. However, it is so much more.
The Football League First Division was re-christened as the English Football League Championship from the 2004-2005 season onwards. It consists of 24 teams battling for promotion to the top tier. Each team in the league plays a 46-game league season which is a gruelling task in itself.
While the league may not garner the same worldwide attention as the Premier league does, it still draws in some of the most passionate crowds with some of the most fiercest rivalries on the continent. It has been the birthplace of some of the most awe-inspiring teams that have come into the Premier League and is an indispensable part of English football culture.
The winners and the runners-up of the Championship are rewarded with automatic promotion to the Premier League, while the teams placed third to sixth enter two legged playoffs. The third-placed team and the sixth-placed team will compete in a two-legged semi-final, while the team in fourth place and the team in fifth place compete in the other. The winners of the semi-finals over two legs then face-off in a final held at Wembley Stadium to secure promotion to the top flight.
Along with the pride that comes with promotion to the Premier League, the teams securing promotion will also be rewarded with an enormous influx of monetary benefits, in the form of shirt sponsors and perhaps most lucratively, TV deals. The Premier league has deals worth around £5.14 billion. This means that even the lowest placed Premier league club will earn significantly more than their counterparts in the Championship.
The average weekly salary for a Premier League footballer is £50,817 per week, though the average Championship player earns below £10,000 a week. This is the kind of money that attracts foreign talent and will inevitably lead to a club’s growth and development.
A promotion to the Premier League opens a club to a whole world of new opportunities, opportunities for growth, for riches, for plying their trade in Europe and all around the world. However, securing promotion to the top tier has proven to be one of the most demanding tasks in world football.
Unlike the Premier League, where certain clubs are more established than others, the Championship is a league wherein everything is up for grabs. Thus, no team can be totally assured of their safety in the league. One of most recent examples of this would have to be Sunderland.
Following their relegation from the Premiership, the Black Cats were expected to be fighting for promotion back to the top flight. Fast forward a few months and they find themselves condemned to League One football next season. This is an incredible testament to just how competitive the league is.
John Terry may feature in the Premier League again, if Aston Villa are promoted and he decides to extend his stay at the club
Despite the unforgiving nature of the Championship, it has given birth to some of the best teams and greatest players to ever grace a football pitch. It wasn’t so long ago that a swashbuckling Leicester City team, playing a former Non-League player as their main striker, rampaged their way to the Premier League title. Players like Patrick Bamford and Ryan Sessegnon could soon find themselves lighting up the world of football and they will have their experiences in the Championship to thank for it.
As far as this season is concerned, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City have both already secured promotion to the Premier League for the 2018-2019 campaign, leaving one more spot up for grabs.
Fulham, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Derby County have all qualified for the playoffs, with the Cottagers being favourites to claim the spot having played some attractive football all season long.
The new teams coming into the Premiership, come in with a vigour and an urge to prove themselves in one of the world’s top leagues. They fight for this with all they have and look to give the well-established teams a run for their money. We may not have to wait long before a manager of a newcomer goes up in front of the world and says “Dilly-Ding, Dilly-Dong, We’re in the Champions League man” once more.