The Championship > The Premier League

<span>Leicester are almost … almost … back.</span><span>Photograph: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC/Getty Images</span>
Leicester are almost … almost … back.Photograph: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC/Getty Images


This. Means. More. Anyone can beat anyone. Every game is a contest. The most passionate crowds. Local heroes. Cult heroes. Excitement to the last minute of the season. Commentators treating every kick with a growling portentousness. Clubs spending too much. Points deductions. Dodgy owners. Officious suits. Relegation thrillers. No VAR. And – what’s this? – playoffs and promotion.

Yes, the Championship mirrors its big brother the Premier League in many ways, but has an added jeopardy with a lucrative bonus round that not even Richard Masters’ blue-chip Goliath can boast. There are 46 rounds a season, played over a Saturday-Tuesday-Whatever schedule that would have Virgil van Dijk sobbing in submission, roared on by commentators Gary Weaver and Daniel Mann. Andy Hinchcliffe and Don Goodman bringing the raw-throated co-gravitas, David Prutton plays it cool in a cramped, cold pundits lounge while Lee Hendrie and Jobi McAnuff’s gleaming smiles attempt to make sense of it all. It’s a product almost perfect in a simplicity the suits constantly messing around with Premier League rulebooks must envy.

The climax doesn’t actually come with the winning of the division, but with the playoff final, recognised as the most valuable game in football. Stitch that, Gianni and Cef. Winner takes between £135m and £265m depending on staying up the next season. Loser takes the Wembley gate receipts before getting another spin on the magic carpet ride. And this year’s Championship is nearing its regular-season conclusion. All, barring Rotherham’s demotion, is to play for. Leicester have reached an almighty 94 points with two games left to play yet are still uncertain of promotion. They sit out the weekend before playing at Preston on Monday. Leeds, at QPR on Friday night, and Ipswich – this season’s byword for playing above financial constraints – are sent to Hull and back on Saturday evening to potentially prolong Leicester’s agony.

Should Leeds lose at Loftus Road, then Jamie Vardy will revive his party, the Foxes confirmed to return to the Premier League and, er, potentially collect the points deduction that may await them. QPR, these days fired by Jimmy Dunne, Dundalk’s answer to Cafu, are only just clear of the morass at the bottom, and want to stay away from a situation that looks – we think – like this for Saturday (deep breath): Huddersfield will be relegated if they lose to Birmingham or draw, and Plymouth avoid defeat at Millwall while Sheffield Wednesday beat West Brom. Huddersfield will be close to mathematically down if they draw and Wednesday win due to Argyle’s goal difference. Birmingham – Tom Brady and all – will be League One-bound if they lose to Huddersfield, Wednesday and Plymouth win, and Blackburn avoid defeat to FA Cup heroes Coventry. That Cov and Hull also retain outside – if close to algebraic – chances of reaching the playoffs adds further dimensions to increase mockery of those shilling, needy cries of the Premier League being the best bloody league in the whole world.


Join Taha Hashim from 8pm BST for hot Championship minute-by-minute coverage of QPR 0-0 Leeds United.


“If I counted correctly, we have 18 elite clubs and two districts that have said they do not want to introduce VAR. We respect that. That’s why we didn’t bring forward any proposal to the previous board of representatives meeting and I don’t foresee it in the future either. I stand by respecting the democratic rules of the game” – Swedish FA suit Fredrik Reinfeldt explains why Sweden’s top leagues will not implement VAR due to opposition from clubs and fans.


Surely man-of-the-people Sean Dyche won’t be including Adidas Sambas among his Glasto-wear (yesterday’s Football Daily) now that they’ve had their cool-factor so devastatingly removed by being revealed as the top Tory’s trainer of choice. If he’s looking for a modish alternative, Esquire suggests one from Fenty x Puma, whose ‘Phatty Creeper goes completely monochromatic for ‘24 as Riri colour matches the upper to the brown gum sole’. Just right for a wet Saturday evening in Pilton, I reckon” – Steve Allen.

Your missive (yesterday’s Football Daily) reminded us of Arsenal confirming their league title at Tottenham in 2004. On behalf of older readers that have not abandoned you, can I remind you that in 1971 the Arsenal double winners confirmed the league title with a 1-0 win (obviously) at a full White Hart Lane, with allegedly 50,000 people locked out. That’s right, I am also old enough to remember when you didn’t have to buy a ticket but could turn up on the day. Happy days (unless you were locked out)” – Steve Beaton (and others).

Send letters to Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Steve Allen.