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Finding Value in the Championship


Photo by @cfcunofficial (Chelsea Debs) London / CC BY SA 2.0

The Championship is without a doubt one of the hardest and most competitive leagues in football. It is brutal in its unrelenting fixture list where teams play twice a week, practically every week. It is also notoriously one of hardest leagues in the world to predict, with very little difference between most of the teams. The one thing that is predictable, however, and something that happens year in and year out without fail is the shortsightedness of pundits — and bookmakers alike — when it comes to their predictions for the Championship season ahead. What that means for punters is that alongside the usual free bets and offers available in the summer, there is an extra value to be found in England’s second tier.

Short Term Memory Loss

Maybe it is down to the fact that the all-conquering, all-pervading Premier League has such an effect on our mindsets, including those of the supposedly impartial pundits, but every year, come July and August, the three favorite teams to gain promotion will be the same three who fell through the EPL trapdoor a few weeks earlier. The same goes for the pundits on the back pages of newspapers and those in the bookmakers’ think tanks. Let us not forget: these are the same teams who weeks earlier pilloried for their lack of effort, skill and ability to both get the ball in the opposition’s net as well as keep it out of their own. These are the same players who are coming off the back of a morale-sapping run of defeats and more than likely dissension in the dressing room, the boardroom and the terraces.

In much the same way that a team who has successfully secured promotion from the Championship has a fortnight at the very most to enjoy the adulation before immediately installing as EPL fall guys, those coming in the other direction are elevated to footballing gods. West Brom the team who you remember went on a run of eight consecutive defeats from the end of January until the beginning of April, started the season as the second favorites to go straight back up and are still the fourth favorites to achieve it.


So how often does a team falling down into the maelstrom of the Championship manage to bounce straight back? Not as often as you would think, and for sure not as often as those who are paid to give their views in the press seem to think.

Between the start of the Premiership (1992/93) and up until and including the 2015/16 season, only 20 teams have come back up. Over that period, the average finishing position for a team in its first year after relegation from the EPL was 8th. In the two seasons since then, Newcastle managed to bounce back two years ago while none did last time out, with Sunderland, of course, leaving the league in the other direction.

Blinded by the Stars

Photo by @cfcunofficial (Chelsea Debs) London / CC BY SA 2.0

Another occurrence that can massively shorten a club’s odds in the Championship is the taking on of a “celebrity” manager. Throwing an unmistakably talented footballer, and no doubt a potentially good manager into his first role in the Championship is akin to madness. It rarely works despite given free rein with the purse strings, and the added attention, as well as the inevitable prefixing of said manager’s name to that of the club, cause more problems than it can ever solve.

Added Value

Annoying though all this is year after year, it is good news for those punters who can lift their head above the EPL cacophony. Since these clubs occupy the top births in the odds columns, it pushes those with real opportunities further down. The average number of seasons for a relegated club to get promoted again is three. Which gives the club an opportunity to get rid of the so-called deadwood — much of it on inflated wages — to adapt to a new league and to regain their confidence and mojo. Coincidentally (or not), that is also the number of years these clubs receive parachute payments. Those are the teams that you should be looking at in the most-likely-to-put-together-a-sustained-push-for-promotion category.

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