Is the Championship the best league in football?

Derby County Huddle

After Derby's thriller in, erm, Rotherham, an ode to the Premier League's little brother.

With the Premier League a multi-billion pound institution – where relegated Cardiff made more last year than Porto, Valencia or Celtic – it is hard to imagine that any league can claim to be superior.

But, with the top tier bloated by all the excesses that extraordinary television contracts bring, there is an edge missing from the division, an absence of genuine romance and unpredictability.

Enter, The Championship.

Last night’s 3-3 thriller between promotion favourites Derby and struggling Rotherham surmised neatly the value of the second level of English football – just one good season away from the broken-promise land.

It is a division where Brentford, newly-promoted from League One, can more than hold their own, cutting a swathe through the division, until their chairman catches Premier League fever and offs the manager.

Mystically, it can serve as a rejuvenating ground for those in a bit of a rut. Derby boss Steve McClaren rebuilding his reputation with the Rams, while Eddie Howe’s return to Bournemouth after an ill-fated spell with Burnley has proved similarly beneficial.

Darren Bent, sidelined and outcast by Aston Villa, has got back to business – his point-snatching late equaliser last night his sixth goal in as many games for Derby.

Also on the score-sheet was Thomas Ince who, after briefly going AWOL with Hull – having made the inspired decision to turn down Inter – has returned to the exciting winger he once appeared to be, scoring five times in three run-outs for Derby.

But it’s not all soppiness and fairytales, the Championship is a hard league. What makes it so enjoyable is its challenge, which can be brutal – just ask Wigan, who are six points adrift of safety just 18 months on from lifting the FA Cup.

Like many once-big clubs before them, the Latics are finding out the hard way how the Championship can chew you up and spit you out when you’re on a downer.

What’s more, it has one of the lowest percentages of goalless draws in Europe, with only 7.4% of games ending 0-0, and there are almost no home-bankers – just 43% of home sides win.

No wonder it’s the fourth-best attended league on the continent, out-doing the likes of Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1.

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