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])

  • Geordiegiants

    I think your wrong that it isn’t harder for Rafa. Keegan had 100% full support from the fans and board.
    Rafa is dealing with snipers/snides in the board room and in the stands.

    • Desree

      Agree. The snides are out in full force now, even though we are 6 points clear with 3 games to go. And the snides are telling us the players are bottling it?

  • MadMag83

    Sorry but Newcastle were flirting with relegation for years before they were relegated, so if the likes of Wigan and Bolton were destined to “crash and burn” then so were we regardless of the size of the club. Those clubs had parachute payments and thus an advantage over their Championship rivals.

    I do think it’s harder this time around but only because our squad isn’t as good as it was in 09/10. Imagine the difference a Kevin Nolan would make to the current squad, or a Coloccini in defence, dare I say it even Shola as a plan B, something we are lacking. Seem to remember that squad went up and easily stayed up the next season, something the current crop might struggle to do without some serious investment from the pie man.

    • Jezza

      Agreed, we had much better players in 09/10. A £35 million striker in the form of his career and the best English midfielder in the country at the time for a kick off.

    • Geordiegiants

      Collocini was only good in the championship. Clarke is of a very similar mould, in comparison.

  • Polarboy

    On a positive note, how about a list of players we realistically, or at least semi-realistically, could sign to keep us up. I would go for Sigurosson, Austin, provided his shoulder isn’t completely knackered, Ben Davies Spurs’s second choice LB, Shawcross, Townsend and Fabian Delph. We’ll need a few others, and a couple are a tad ambitious admittedly. A team of Elliot, possibly Krul or someone new in goal, I’ve lost patience with Darlow, then Yedlin, Clark, Shawcross, Davies, Hayden, Shelvey, Delph, Sigurosson, Ritchie and Austin would be more than decent.

    • Jezza

      If we go up, the first realistic transfer target on my list would be Jon Walters from Stoke.

      • Polarboy

        We may as well hold onto Murphy, same age as Walters or there about and similar playing style.

        • Jezza

          Yes but Walters is in goal scoring form in the Premiership. Similar age and style to Murphy, no doubt but I just think Walters is a better player.

      • Toon Wolf

        I’d rather take Crouch! At least we might get to see Abbey Clancy popping into Greggs on Northumberland St for a steak bake.

    • Damon Horner

      Most vital missing piece for me is a leader and organiser. If Shawcross does that I’m all for us going for him but otherwise there could be signings who would be better for us if not as appealing by name, like a Damien Delaney type player.

      • Polarboy

        Shawcross, as far as I’m aware, has always been praised as a great leader and captain.

  • Damon Horner

    What’s ironic is “small clubs” destined for relegation actually smashed the points record in an apparently harder league.

    I don’t think there is a barometer for comparison in truth so comparisons whether stronger or weaker make no sense, even if one was proven, what difference does it make?

  • Damon Horner

    Money parity is also growing by the minute and when you buy a player who adds value when the selling club knows you have the finance they quote a price above the players value (obviously values have also grown).

    Tiote and Cisse being the example, sometimes getting a player out the club because of wages and/or influence means they are sold beneath value. Based on those above your transfer comparison is somewhat distorted. See what Villa spend in their third season not when they have been handed increased revenues.

  • 1957

    I’ve never gone along with the idea that this league is of a good standard, it wasn’t in Keegan or Hughton’s time either. To me it looked easier then because they just had better balanced squads with leaders in the dressing room and played attacking football.

  • nevfur

    Difficult to compare different seasons and eras and teams and why bother. The target is promotion and in Keegan playing days with Waddle Beardsley McDermott et al we went up in third, yes third place and we were ecstatic. If we can finally get over this line just enjoy it for what it is and look forward to next season.

  • SH.ER

    I laugh at the people who say this
    I thought that Newcastle fans should be more knowledgeable

    I bet & promise you that if we were walking the league people will say it’s “easy”
    but now that we are struggling people are saying it’s “harder” than ever
    let’s cut the bullsh*t yeah ….

  • Blackburn1066

    Thank you 1957 you hit the nail on the head, Look what we have running around on the grass I say.

  • Andy Mac

    What utter nonsense. In 2009 we had the players who were talented enough, hungry enough and who were, above all, bonded enough to want to do it !

    Can I say the same about this squad ?

    • Damon Horner

      For poor, lazy and disinterested players 2nd place is a hell of an achievement.

  • TheNutJob

    the leagues krap & so are the teams as we will find out next season, we`ve got 3 players who are good enough for the premiership the rest are dross

  • Lord

    I think Hughton had it much harder. A complete shambles of a relegation season that saw Mike shaft Keegan, then managed by Kinnear (the mind still boggles) then a month or so after relegation where everyone was wondering if Shearer would stay or not (himself included). Then zero players bought and a lot sold (good riddance to most of them).

    Sure, we were lucky to have some decent players left but the club was in more of a shambles than it was last summer with no continuity of manager or transfers coming in plus Mike disrespecting two club legends in the process. Hughton did brilliantly (with the help of a good dressing room) and congrats to him getting the plaudits for sending Brighton up.

    Still think Rafa has done well to get us where we are, mind.

  • Wor Lass

    I`m pretty confident we`ll go up and I don`t really care that we won`t be champions. Rafa will have done his job and – if he stays – will then be able to get on with doing a completely different job next season. There`ll be comings and goings and SJP will be sold out for the PL. Life goes on!

  • Steve Smith

    I’d say the top 6 of this league would comfortably survive in the Premier league. In that respect, I.e the positions a team would be competing for to gain promotion, the league is tougher. Could you really say Huddersfield or Brighton would do worse than Burnley or Watford.

    As we’ve seen though, the rest of the league is of poor quality.