The international break always provides an opportunity to reflect on the first few months of the domestic season, and so far, it seems that the same old story is playing out across England. Florence Lloyd-Hughes looks at the madness of the Championship and all of its highs and lows this season.
The Championship’s traditional unpredictability has continued, and the challenging onslaught of games hasn’t subsided. The instability of the league is both addictive and demoralising as there is rarely any sort of book of form to follow.
It takes a special team to dominate this division and over the last few seasons some impressive squads have won the title. The Championship’s seasonal pattern normally consists of one or two teams cruising and the other 22 struggling to find consistency, battling their inner demons, and Millwall.
The monster that is England’s second-tier is unlike any other beast. It’s unstable, irrational and thrilling. One minute, your team can be in form, playing well and scoring goals, the next it’s manager-less, winless and in dire straits.
Fans of Premier League clubs often admit to losing track of the Championship until their team is relegated and becomes wrapped up in the madness that thousands of fans experience on a weekly basis. However, as an entertainment product, the division is deeply underrated.
England’s top-tier does certainly deliver thrills and spills, but when Saturday comes pundits can often predict that the top four will at least walk away with all three points in their games.
At present, there are only three teams in the Championship that haven’t lost at least once in their last five games. Unsurprisingly, two of those teams are sitting at the top of the table. Of the 22 teams that sit below Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion, just one has won back to back games in that same time frame.
Unlike many other European leagues, good teams regularly lose to bad teams in this competition.
Frank Lampard’s Derby County are the blueprint for this bipolar brand of football. The Rams have had memorable wins against Brentford and Preston, and even Manchester United in the League Cup. But, they have also suffered defeats against some of the worst sides in the division, namely Rotherham and Millwall.
Two of the Premier League’s relegated three have struggled. Stoke, a pre-season favourite, are 14th in the table, while Swansea, a talented side with a new manager, are 11th.
The physicality, and in some cases lack of quality, of some teams has proved hard to deal with for many new and inexperienced managers this season. It’s unsurprising that Thierry Henry, who recently joined Monaco, turned down the opportunity to join Aston Villa when he was linked with the job this summer.
Some high-profile ex-pros have been chewed up and spat out of the Championship because they couldn’t get to grips with its chaos. Paul Ince and Gianfranco Zola are just some of the names that haven’t quite managed to find their feet as head coaches in the Football League.
It’s now the middle of October and two managers have already left their posts in the Championship this season. Plenty more are expected to be gone by December.
Modern football is notorious for impatient fans and belligerent owners, but what if it’s the league itself which is just too difficult and dangerous to master?
Follow Florence on Twitter at @FloydTweet