Leeds United: Show me a more competitive division than the Championship – Ritchie

Steve Morison and Brentford's Moses Odubajo.
Steve Morison and Brentford's Moses Odubajo.
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Some people call the Premier League the best league in the world but that statement is always open to debate.

At the moment, could you even call it the best league in England? I’m looking at the top eight in the Championship and wondering if there’s a more competitive division anywhere.

One good season in the Championship can change a club forever. The sooner Leeds get involved in these battles the better.

It’s an established fact that 70 points is often enough to get you into the play-offs. Sometimes sixth place falls a touch below that mark and sometimes you need a bit more but 70 points is always the next target after 50 (safety first etc).

This season has been a freak. Seventy points won’t be anywhere near enough for the play-offs. Seventy points isn’t enough for the play-offs now. We’ve got five games to go and 71 is the cut off for teams below the bottom six. It’s shaping up to be the best finish to a Championship year we’ve ever seen.

There are two ways of analysing the table. On the one hand you could draw the conclusion that there are no outstanding teams this season. Or you could say that there are lots of them. I have to say that I’ve been impressed by a lot of the sides I’ve watched. There’s an attack-minded philosophy running right through the Championship and it’s lent itself to some terrific matches.

Leeds United’s game at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday was another one. Credit to both teams. Wolves looked really dangerous, full of pace going forward, but Leeds fought back brilliantly in the second half and should have seen out a 3-3 draw.

Bournemouth are another outfit who attack at will and I was really impressed with the way they recovered from 2-0 down against Birmingham City. It was basically a case of throw caution to the wind and take every possible risk. They’re top of the league at the moment and I think they’ll finish in the top two. I also reckon Norwich City have the players and the momentum to see them over the line to automatic promotion.

In three weeks’ time, it’ll probably turn out that I’m completely wrong. The way the league’s going, the last day of the season is going to be a day of total drama at the top of the table. It’s highly likely that someone is going to leap up at the death and someone is going to drop out. In many ways it’s the division to watch this month.

At times like this you wish that the Championship got a bit more exposure than it does. Fair enough, it’s fairly well covered and BT Sport’s deal to broadcast Premier League games seems to have tempted Sky to show far more Championship matches. But when you think about the whole package – the competitive nature of the division, the prize at the end of it – it really is a great draw.

Year after year the significance of the promotion race is increased by the thought of what you get at the end of it. The money earned by reaching the Premier League these days is nothing short of mind-boggling – and even more so when you think about the clubs who are potentially about to cash in.

Brentford are in the running this season, which surprises me greatly. I’ve played at Brentford and I’ve managed at Brentford. Griffin Park is one of those fantastic old stadiums – miniscule dressing rooms, a tight pitch, people right on top of you. If you’re used to playing at the plushest grounds in the world then Griffin Park is a culture shock. You could never have imagined Premier League football there.

More to the point, their revenue won’t be anything like what Leeds pull in from their crowds, their merchandise and so on. But win promotion to the Premier League and a side like Brentford will instantly pick up more money than Leeds can dream about. The same goes for Bournemouth and others. Even if any of these sides come straight back down, the parachute payments are massive.

One good season in the Championship can change a club forever. The sooner Leeds get involved in these battles the better.

It’s pretty frustrating to be sitting at this time of year watching as everyone else is scrapping it out.

Okay, we’d have settled for this. A few months ago mid-table security was all anyone cared about.

But when you see a league so tight and competitive, it tells you that everyone should be in with a shout. Fingers crossed for Leeds next season.