Championship much more enjoyable and unpredictable than Premier League and it doesn’t have s*** VAR either

C

HERE we go then, another marathon Championship season in the most unpredictable league on Earth.

And while I’m not going to pretend to you that I wouldn’t rather be playing in the Premier League – there’s all that money for starters – England’s second tier is a unique and thrilling competition.

There are plenty of reasons why the Championship is more enjoyable than the top flight.

Everyone says a 46-match league campaign is a slog – and if things are going badly, that’s true.

But if you’re in form, you just want the next game to come around, then it’s, ‘Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, bring it on!’

With a mid-season break for the World Cup, it will stretch from July into next May, making it longer than ever.

And then there’s that unpredictability.

Let’s be honest, when I was with Watford in the Premier League and we were playing Manchester City or Liverpool, I can’t honestly tell you that I’d expect to win.

In the Championship, you go into every single match knowing you can win or lose.

You have to respect every team but also you are never overawed.

This season looks more open than ever.

And while I keep hearing that my Birmingham team are going to win about three matches all season and get relegated, that is definitely not how we see it internally.

On Saturday afternoon we kick off our campaign at Luton, where I’m sure I will get a lovely, warm reception!

But Luton are a prime example of how a team can take everyone by surprise in the Championship.

Nathan Jones’ side stormed into the play-offs last season despite having one of the smallest budgets in the league.

They are proof of what can be achieved.

Our new boss, John Eustace, was my captain at Watford a few years ago and I believe he is going to be an excellent manager.

And I’m going into this campaign feeling positive both personally and collectively.

Another thing I prefer about the Championship is that we don’t have VAR. I hate it. It’s s***.

It was supposed to stop arguments and give us justice but it’s done nothing of the sort.

At least in the Championship you can celebrate a goal without fearing a killjoy in Stockley Park might rule it out because of a toenail offside decision.

I also think that referees in the Championship let the game flow more, they allow a bit more physicality and, unlike some refs in the Premier League, they are not looking out for their two minutes of fame on Match of the Day.

As a result the relationship between players and match officials is more relaxed.

Matches in the Championship do tend to be more honest and physical, which I also appreciate.

Having said how unpredictable the Championship is, I’d make Norwich favourites for the title.

They have won the league on the last two occasions they’ve played at this level, they’ve had minimal disruption to their playing staff and they have a management team of Dean Smith and Craig Shakespeare who know their way back into the Premier League.

Burnley did plenty of early business and it will be interesting to see how they fare under Vinny Kompany — and it really does make me feel old when players I used to play against turn up in management!

My old club Watford are difficult to evaluate.

It feels like they are yet to make the signing that makes you sit up and say ‘wow’ and they may still sell Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis.

But they will still have a squad depth which should see them competing for promotion.

Stoke are my dark horses to go up.

They impressed me last term and have signed guaranteed goals by recruiting Dwight Gayle from Newcastle, as well as a top Championship centre-half in Aden Flint from Cardiff.

Then there are some impressive youngsters, including D’Margio Wright-Phillips — the grandson of Ian Wright, which makes me feel even older…

West Brom should be up there, too. They’ve signed the excellent Jon Swift from Reading and Jed Wallace from Millwall.

The Baggies were disappointing last year and you expect more from them this season.

Middlesbrough, under Chris Wilder, finished last season well and I’d expect them to be in the play-off places.

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