Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Feeding Ground for Stars

I’ve lost count of the times, after watching Rangers struggle through another game; my English housemate’s have taken great delight in putting it down in comparison with even the Championship. Of course pride takes over, with the Scottish league defended to the hilt but it has come a point that I may have to admit defeat.
The Championship has become one of the most competitive and unpredictable leagues in the world. The attendance figures are staggering for being a second tier league. In the 2008-2009 season it came only behind the top leagues in England, Germany and Spain, beating Serie A and League 1 from France. While the quality may be higher in the Premiership, La Liga, Italy and the like, they are increasingly having only two or three teams fighting it out for the title. Compare this to the Championship where there is only 7 points between 2nd and 8th, chasing a QPR side who are quite rightly surging ahead.

Didn't quite work for Strachan
As a betting man, the Championship is a proverbial minefield when it comes to the weekly coupon. On any given day one team can beat another, a fact proved by pre-season promotion favourites Middlesbrough currently scrapping it out in the bottom half. The team of proven SPL ‘stars’ has failed miserably; meaning my argument for the SPL is getting even thinner on the ground.
One area in which the Championship holds power over the Scotland’s top league is the standard of player it manages to produce. With talents such as Conner Wickham, Jonny Howson, Shane Long and Scott Sinclair lighting up the division along with a great selection of others; it puts the relative standard of player in Scotland into perspective, for instance I doubt any player from outside the top 2 could hold down a place in a Championship play-off side. One man however has shown how good a breeding ground the division can be.
Adel Taarabt has been an inspiration to his QPR side, who sit with their feet resting on the others at the top of the table. His gaffer, Neil Warnock, described him as ‘talented, exciting and frustrating’ and they are probably the 3 best words to sum him up. With the attitude of a sulking child at times, he looks like he wants to pick up the ball and go home if things aren’t going his way.

Breath of Fresh Air

However the first two are the most important. His movement, skills, assists and goals have been the difference between a playoff place and almost certain title glory. A man who would be chased out of Scotland for his lack of effort at times in a league which prides itself on its work ethic, has been a shining example of confidence producing success. A certain Charlie Adam might just agree with me.
The play-off system in England’s second tier is another reason which further puts down my bias towards the SPL. The top and bottom half split in Scotland has gone drastically wrong and has left the embarrassing situation of 7th place finishing with more points than those in 6th. Change is needed and has begun to be addressed recently by the SFA which may help the league in the long-run.

Brilliant spectacle for fans and neutrals

In the present however the Championship has a clear edge. The 2nd to 6th play-off structure gives a great end to the season. Last season’s final between Cardiff and Blackpool was a fantastic game of football and a great advert for the league; whereas an end of season game between St Mirren and Hamilton on television doesn’t exactly promote the Scottish game. With Cardiff, Swansea, Forest, Norwich and Leeds all fighting it out at the top at the minute, it leaves a mouth watering line up for the end of the season.
The performance of the promoted 3 from last season is also an encouraging factor in showing the quality of the league. Newcastle, West Brom and Blackpool have made a tremendous fight of avoiding relegation this season, leading to 10 points separating 7th to 20th place. This shows the gap between the two is smaller than would be imagined. Even for an Old Firm supporter it is hard to think that we would break into the top half of the Premiership within 5 years of joining.
So as I sit here scratching my head for reasons the SPL is better my mind’s a blank. This may be my own fault but I think I may have to admit defeat to those gloating Englishmen. Apart from the sheer passion, and occasional exciting game, which arrives on Old Firm day, Scotland’s ‘finest’ league doesn’t have all that much to offer.
From now I’ll be keeping quiet when the next piece of bait is cast towards me, resisting the temptation to bite and hoping with everything I’ve got England somehow fail to qualify for Euro 2012 so I have something to fight back with.

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