A while ago, a friend asked me several questions on the Championship and my experience of it with Brighton. I think there were some very interesting things that came out of it, and I wanted to summarise them below.
Question: The financial power of the Championship clubs is superior to that of any other second division in the world. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage at the time of signing a contract? Perhaps they have to pay more for players who see playing in the second division as taking a backwards step…
Gus: I think the more financial power the better for the manager, as the teams relegated from the Premier League receive a massive pay out. Without money, you wouldn’t have a chance against these teams. At the same time, I think the teams with a clear style of play, whatever it is, always come closer to getting promoted.
Q: Generally speaking, what is the style of football like in the Championship?
G: In the Championship you’ll find all styles of play possible. One day you’ll meet a team that plays a typical English style of play, the next game you’ll come up against a more continental, possession-based game, you may play against a powerful team, or one that loves to counter-attack, etc. You must learn to adapt your game off the ball.
Q: What was your style of play at Brighton when you were in the Championship? Did it change compared to when you were in League One?
G: We were sort of pioneers when it came to possession, many people told us that it wouldn’t be possible in League One and we got promoted playing a largely possession-based game. To maintain this style in the Championship we had to bring in players of a better quality with these characteristics. We used the Spanish market a lot (Orlandi, Bruno, David López, etc.).
Q: Do you like the way that promotion to the Premier League is gained?
G: Yes, it is the classic way of getting promoted, allowing for two situations; those who finish first and second get promoted and then, with the play off, an incredible air of expectation is created, and there is suddenly a lot of football to watch on TV.
Q: What were the playoffs like and how did you treat them as a manager? I suppose there is no need to motivate players for these games.
G: They are finals, the players treat them like finals, and this means you don’t know how they are going to react until the game itself. The most important thing is knowing that the differences between teams are tiny, as after 46 league games, the difference between finishing third or sixth can be winning just one or two more games, that’s it.
The most important thing about the Championship is the number of fans in the stadiums, as you are guaranteed to have teams with a proud history in the league. Leeds at home for example attract more than 30,000 fans, and at Brighton we went from having 7 or 8,000 in League One to 23,000 in the first year and nearly 30,000 the second year. The support is astonishing, it takes the atmosphere to the next level.
It’s also worth noting that you will find players with Premier League experience playing in the second division as they still get paid a lot and it’s sometimes difficult for them to find new teams. This makes the competition even harder.