Newcastle United begin their Championship campaign as favourites to clinch promotion, but as we saw on Friday night in the Football League opener, this division is a cut-throat place.
Rafa Benitez described their 1-0 defeat to Fulham as a “wake-up call” and ended his post game press conference explaining: “We have to realise there is work to be done.”
The Championship is known to be one of the toughest, most competitive leagues in the world. No game is easy and unlike the biggest leagues such as the Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga where the top few teams are rarely beaten, anyone could beat their opponent on the day. The table is always tight, and with just a few games to play half of the table can be in a promotion battle or relegation scrap.
There is also so much for Championship clubs to play for. It’s estimated that promotion to the Premier league is worth almost £200m, with the new TV deal, sponsorships and match day earnings. The money is crazy and allows clubs to invest not only in talent, but in the infrastructure and community of the club. That kind of money can transform a club and propel them on a journey to becoming one of the biggest and best in the world.
That incentive is one of the reasons why the league is built on hard-work, and the quality is also improving. As the Premier League attracts more of the world’s best talent there is drip down of talented players who have lost their place. Aston Villa also learnt that it takes a lot of fight and grit to win promotion. Villa won just three games last season and that feeling continued as they failed to score against Sheffield Wednesday and were punished by a late goal.
Many of the Premier League’s founding clubs, such as Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Oldham, and Swindon never returned after relegation. These clubs are evidence that bouncing back is no easy task.
It has been a frustrating start to the campaign for both Villa and Newcastle, and both clubs realise that they will have to dig deep in their fightback to the Premier League.