Championship players dare not get promoted

What a shame it was to see Derby County concede six at home to Aston Villa over the weekend. I’m sure Villa fans and probably all of Derby’s local rivals will have enjoyed the humiliation but no neutral football fans can enjoy watching a team so desperately out of their depth.

I watched my beloved Watford battling away with West Brom to get a ‘well deserved?’ point that keeps both clubs in with a realistic chance of playing Premier League football next year.

The Championship really does seem to be the league that nobody wants to win. The only team in the top few producing anything like promotion form are Hull City, who after becoming firm favourites for promotion fell into the same trap that all of the others have done, and drew 1-1 at home to QPR.

It is a remarkable statistic indeed that Watford have won just eight of their last thirty-one league games but remain just three points behind the league leaders. It is a very strange league.

I have occasionally put forward the odd conspiracy theory about football, all of which have been total rubbish and couldn’t have been further from the truth. So it must be absolute rubbish to suggest that none of the teams at the top want to go up, mustn’t it?

The top four for most of the season and still all in the top five have been Bristol City, Stoke City, West Brom and Watford. A look at the form of these sides is very revealing. Bristol City have one win in their last eight games. Stoke City have just two wins in their last nine games. West Brom have two wins in their last eight and Watford have one win in eleven. Hull City gate crashed the party with four straight wins, but now they’ve got there, they can only manage a home draw with QPR.

The Premier League is the Promised Land. It is a place where money is plentiful and fame and fortune is assured with games being watched all over the world. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it? Well, I’d be prepared to suggest that Derby County wish they hadn’t been. The joy of promotion is soon forgotten when you are being beaten by six goals. The humiliation at the hands of Aston Villa was the tenth time this season they have conceded three or more goals.

Although there are examples of teams coming up from the Championship and succeeding in the Premier League, there are far more examples of teams struggling badly. In fact, the two teams usually held up of examples of how a promoted team can prosper are Reading and Wigan. A glance at the table will show that these two teams are sitting fifth and sixth from bottom. Is that how success is measured?

The players in the top teams in the Championship would be inhuman if they didn’t look at what has happened to Derby and fear for their own future if they made it to the top league. There are only two possibilities for the players in these teams that cannot win a game in the Championship at the moment, if their club manages to stumble into the Premier League by accident. They will either be discarded for better players who might avoid six nil defeats, or they will remain part of a side being destroyed week after week.

The only way any of these teams can succeed in the Premiership is by having a wonderful season winning seven or eight games and finishing fourth from bottom.

So, I would ask how many of the players in these four crack Championship sides actually want to get promotion? They all want to play with the best and test themselves at the very highest level, don’t they?

Derby’s back four and keeper must have loved every minute of conceding 74 goals, and I’m sure the front players are pleased to have managed to find the net 16 times already in their 34 games. The prospect of a similar season for the ‘big Championship four’ must be really appealing.

Having weighed up the evidence I can only conclude that none of the teams in the Championship want to get promoted. That is the only way I can reconcile what I have watched over the past few months. When I see Watford play and there seems to be a lack of passion and commitment you read fans on the forums saying things like, “It didn’t look as though they were even trying to win.”

Maybe it is possible that is because they actually aren’t trying to win. For the average Championship players in these top teams, promotion would be a way of putting yourself out of a job. Championship players getting promotion is very much like Turkeys voting for Christmas.

So now I am no longer furious with the Golden Boys and fans of the other teams at the top should not criticise their players. They should realise that these players are desperately trying to lose and drop out of promotion contention, but because everyone else is doing the same they are getting more and more desperate. That is why our teams are all performing so badly. They’re doing it on purpose.

Hull City are now in a bit of a transition period. Their points tally should see them in a comfortable mid-table position, but they have somehow managed to get in the top four. They are obviously a little confused because they did everything right in their game with QPR, losing 1-0 but then one of their players accidentally scored in the last minute to equalise. I haven’t seen the goal, but I bet the rest of the Hull players were absolutely furious.

Now that I have realised that Watford have been playing so poorly on purpose, I feel much more relaxed and happy. I shall never say a bad word about them again.

Graham Fisher writes at Views of a fan. Article originally written for Soccer News.

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