The Championship’s champion

Supporters of Watford, Charlton and Sheffield United may not yet be in the mood for small consolations. But whether or not it makes them feel any better, one is being offered from across the Irish Sea.

Shane Breslin’s football blog at www.eleven-a-side.com has produced a decent argument for the proposition that the Nationwide Championship is better, that is to say more attractive, passionate and exciting, than the Premiership.

He cites six key reasons in support of his claim: five of them being the theatre of the playoffs, the unpredictability of success and failure, the abundance of goals, a relative absence of simulation (also known as cheating) and also the relative absence – in the Premiership – of fair play.

The sixth reason, of course, is Sunderland.

“Have more column inches been devoted to any other story this year?” Shane asks, drawing a sharp contrast between the respective levels of hope generated by Mick McCarthy’s promotion season and Roy Keane’s.

“Indeed, it is difficult to recall greater goodwill towards any club in the modern era, from this side of the Irish Sea in particular. From Boylesports to Aer Arann, from Drumaville and Niall Quinn to Keane’s apparent mastery of the management game, it is an Irish feel-good yarn clad in red-and-white stripes.”

It’s good knockabout stuff. And how many of us can readily admit to enjoying our second-tier seasons a lot more than all but two of those we have experienced in the top flight in living memory?

We see more wins, more goals at the right end and we can usually expect to be at or near the top of the league.

But the whole purpose of cheering the Lads on to victory in the Championship is that success there means a return to the Premiership the season after. That has always been the case, long before the money, commitment and flair of the Celtic injection gave us cause for such raised expectations.

And once we’re there, we want to stay there, and compete on equal terms with the best in the land – without ever, I fervently hope, losing sight of the fact that Sunderland is a club, a great and proud club, and not just a brand.

Derby and West Brom fans will be thinking much the same (though Tony Mowbray’s sour response to our Hawthorns victory makes me hope very much that County win the playoff final)

Have your say, at Shane’s site or here, or both.

Bradley2
But the airing of the topic gives me an excuse to recall this anecdote from Bill Taylor, a Sunderland fan living in Toronto (the Canadian one, not the village near his own home town of Bishop Auckland).

“Dunno if you’ll remember the name of Gordon Bradley (pictured) , who signed for Sunderland as a 16-year-old back in the ’50s,” says Bill, who writes for the Toronto Star.

“A knee injury put him out of the game for two years and then after that he played for Bradford and Carlisle before emigrating.

“I got to know him quite well when I worked in New York in the ’70s and he was managing the New York Cosmos (with Pele on his books!).

“He always said that he’d rather watch a good second division game than a bad first division one, echoing sentiments expressed to me (while I’m name-dropping) by Michael Parkinson when I interviewed him once for the Northern Echo.”

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2 thoughts on “The Championship’s champion”

  1. I too will be sorry to leave the Football League. One of the attractions is the fact that you can visit towns that have a bit if character (Colchester) rather than soulless conurbations (Wigan). I would prefer a day in Norwich to a week in Manchester. Last season I had a cracking morning in Preston. Although I had been to Deepdale at least a dozen times, I had never been into the city. I spent a happy couple of hours(and a few quid) wandering around the shops and cafes and getting a feel for another English provincial town. As for the football, we will have to put up with disjointed kick off times thanks to Sky, Setanta and the UEFA Cup, the mind numbing Premiership theme and the absurd shaking hands with the opponents routine that starts every match. Then we have to put up with Premiership referees, part time supporters who carp and criticise all the time,electronic advertising hoardings and visiting fans who refuse to sit down. Finally, you have to stay up half the night to watch the highlights on Match of the Day and if you are desperately unlucky might even have to suffer a Tony Gubba commentary not to mention a Garth Crooks interview that takes you into the early hours of Sunday morning. All things considered, I am almost beginning to hope that Keane makes a right mess of it and we can get back into the Championship where it is all fun and frolics. Somehow, I don’t think he will agree with me.

  2. I’d definitely agree that the Championship is a better division than the Premiership. The hype, constant whingeing and arrogance in the Premiership has changed the game from what we know and want to hang onto – competitiveness and a healthy respect for your opponent. Wenger’s recent comment that Arsenal Reserves should play in the Football League shows how narrow and blinkered his perspective is; if you’re not in Europe you don’t count. While I’m very happy that Sunderland are back in the top division, I’ll miss the Championship. And I won’t be adding my 40 quid to Chelsea’s coffers next season (unless it’s the Premiership title decider of course).

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