It is a commonly shared belief that the vast sums of money available for competing in the English Premier League compares very unfavourably with the amounts earned by those teams participating in the lower tiers of the league hierarchy. The opportunity to earn such revenues is the prize awaiting those football clubs occupying the second tier Championship and the incentive is all too apparent this season as with ten games remaining this season, it promises to be one the most exciting finishes to any of the European leagues.
Just one point separates the top five Championship teams and seventh placed Ipswich are just five points adrift of current leaders Bournemouth with the first two teams in the league guaranteed promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season in early May, with the next four clubs vying for a third slot via a playoff system.
Bournemouth claimed first position on Friday evening by earning a 5-1 victory at Fulham and their free-scoring exploits have been a feature of their campaign during which 74 goals have been netted in 36 games. For much of the current season, they have shared the leadership with Derby and Middlesbrough as the competitive nature of the Championship ensures that no team is able to produce a consistent series of winning results.
Derby were hoping to end a sequence of two successive 2-0 defeats at the weekend when hosting mid-table Birmingham but conceded two goals in second half added time to be denied victory in a 2-2 draw while Middlesbrough opened the scoring at improving Nottingham Forest only for the home team to net two goals without reply to condemn ‘Boro to a second successive away defeat.
Middlesbrough now occupy fourth position with 66 points, the same number as Bournemouth, but with Watford overtaking them into third position. Boro tend to score few goals and have based their success on a sound defence unlike the more attack-minded approach adopted by Watford with a prolific attacking pairing of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney ably supported by their fellow strikers.
However, Norwich City cannot be discounted from the automatic promotion equation as their 4-1 weekend victory at lowly Millwall ensured that they have now amassed 65 points with eight league victories secured since Alex Neil was appointed as manager in early January.
Brentford and Ipswich, at just four and five points respectively behind the four leaders, will also hope to close that gap by the end of the season but both teams need to show that added extra consistency to be able to achieve that ultimate target.
Between now and early May, the majority of teams at the top of the Championship will experience their spells of good and indifferent form but the task of actually nominating the first two teams after 46 matches is set to test the most experienced of football experts.