I have heard more and more as this season has gone on, that the Championship is so much harder than it was previously.
This is used increasingly when comparing this current Newcastle team’s attempts to get out of the second tier, with those of 1992/93 and especially 2009/10.
Of course it is difficult for Rafa Benitez to get Newcastle straight back up but only in the context that it is difficult for any team relegated, as the very fact they drop down points to there being serious problems that need sorting out.
What I am talking about is a myth that has built up in the past eight months (and longer), that the standard is supposedly so much higher in the Championship now, than it was previously.
When I have watched games this season, if anything I think the quality is worse now, not better!
That is with the naked eye but what about other evidence?
Well, I think there are two main strands to support my argument.
Firstly, much is made of not many Premier League clubs going back up once relegated, especially at the first attempt.
Well, to be honest, you do need to look at the nature of the clubs who have come down in recent years.
You have the likes of professional yoyo clubs such as Burnley, QPR and Norwich who have managed a couple of promotions/relegations in recent times.
Then you have the majority of relegated clubs who when you look at them, tend to be small clubs that were always going to struggle (crash and burn) when relegated, unless run along the lines of Norwich/Burnley, with one eye on potential relegation even when promoted originally.
You have Blackpool, Reading, Wigan, Birmingham, Fulham, Cardiff, Blackburn, Bolton and so on.
It is a bogus argument to claim that the Championship must be stronger these days because these clubs have struggled to make it back. They have come down in disarray with massive wage bills that need to be slashed and poor average crowds that give little in the way of financial/physical support.
Secondly, the fact Newcastle and especially Aston Villa have spent big, seems to have then been portrayed as loads of Championship clubs spend loads of money. Well maybe they spend more, but not that much when you take into account rising prices of players, so at best, generally the clubs in the second tier are spending more money on the same average players.
To prove that big transfer spending has limited impact on the top of the Championship, just look at the two clubs still threatening Newcastle.
Third place Reading made the following summer 2016 signings for this season (all transfer fees via specialist website Transfermarkt):
£3.6m Tiago Ilori (has only managed one start all season)
£1.53m Tylet Blackett
£0.9m Liam Moore
£0.8m Roy Beerens
£0.5m Adrian Popa
£72,000 Danzell Gravenberch
Fourth placed Huddersfield’s summer 2016 signings:
£1.87m Christopher Schindler
£0.7m Van La Parra
£0.5m Jon Gorenc-Stankovic
£0.2m Collin Quaner
Basically, Newcastle United and Aston Villa are very much the big exceptions, not the rule, when it comes to transfer spending. Reading and Huddersfield are typical of the second tier clubs, Newcastle aren’t competing against a whole host of other clubs spending big.
When Rafa takes Newcastle up, it will be a brilliant achievement, but let’s not try to dress it up as something far more difficult than what Kevin Keegan or Chris Hughton did in 1993 and 2010 respectively.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])