Gus Poyet controversially labelled the Championship as an “average” competition earlier in the week, but is the Brighton and Hove Albion right to criticise a league his side aren’t exactly setting alight?
By Henry Tydeman – @HenryTydeman
In November of last year, following the ‘race row’ involving Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, he publicly backed the Liverpool forward; “Luis is not a racist”, Poyet told talkSPORT radio station. Many though were left feeling uncomfortable with the Brighton and Hove Albion manager’s remarks, as he seemed to have missed the point that, regardless of Suarez’s views, his treatment of the United fullback was fundamentally racist and totally unacceptable.
Earlier this week Poyet branded the Championship “average”. His point was that, in theory, Brighton’s recent results should have seen them slip much further down the table than they have done (the Seagulls are currently in 8th position, whereas Poyet suggested that “we should be 15th or 18th”).
The Uruguayan’s team, who are after a play-off place, should really have done quite a bit better over the last two months or so; they have drawn eight games out of their last 15, and the side’s profligacy in front of goal has reached alarming levels.
But is Poyet accurate in his assessment of the quality of the division as a whole?
Some would argue that it is not so much that the Championship is packed with “average” teams, and more that levels of competitiveness are exceptionally high. Last weekend saw bottom-of-the-table Peterborough United win away at Cardiff City, the Championship leaders, and, for many neutrals, it is stories like this that make the division what it is.
The league’s reputation as one in which ‘anyone can beat anyone’, is strengthened whenever the Championship is compared with the Premier League, which has undoubtedly been dominated by the same small amount of teams for many years.
Confusingly though, Gus Poyet might well use this result as evidence to support his argument. He would very probably suggest that Peterborough and Cardiff are, in fact, just two of the 24 “average” teams that make up the Championship, and that the league table can make for deceptive reading.
It is not totally clear what he meant by the term “average”; he may have meant it in relation to the divisions directly below and above the Championship in the football pyramid. Poyet might well have been surprised at the ease with which Brighton appeared to take to the division following their promotion from League 1 in 2011 – they went top of the table for a brief period early on, before tailing off and finishing in a comfortable mid-table position. The threat of relegation never loomed, despite the side being brand new to the league.
As well as this, both Norwich and Southampton have achieved promotion to the Premier League just a year after reaching the second-tier of English football in recent seasons. This evidence would indeed suggest that the quality of sides in the Championship is not particularly high, as does the fact that last year’s winners, Reading, are currently bottom of the Premier League; the Royals have looked horribly out of their depth at times in the top-flight this term, and appear destined to be relegated.
Poyet certainly does have a point; it does appear that, for all its competitiveness, the Championship lacks quality, particularly when set against other divisions.
Ultimately though, does this really matter? Anyone who watches football from this division regularly will tell you that it is so very exciting, so much of the time.
Brighton have played out some thrilling encounters in recent weeks; they drew 2-2 with Leeds, 3-3 with Wolves and 2-2 with Millwall on Tuesday in what were thoroughly entertaining games to watch.
If it is the case that an “average” set of teams is needed in order to create a thoroughly competitive competition, so be it. The Premier League is brilliant in its own way, but for pure competitiveness, the Championship cannot be beaten. It is so very refreshing to see different teams prosper each season, and, who knows, what with the league being such an “average” one, this year might just be yours, Mr. Poyet …
Is the Championship average? Is Gus Poyet in a position to criticise the league he’s trying to win? Tweet us @talkingbaws or comment below.