Who is the biggest club in the Championship?
This season the Championship will boast two former England managers in Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren and a much-touted future England boss in Sam Allardyce, not to mention four former kings of Europe. The Championship is traditionally a nightmare league to escape, but this year looks to be the most competitive yet. But what I want to know is; who do you think is the biggest club in the Championship?
We’ve got two-time European Cup winners Nottingham Forest desperate to return to the top flight. With Steve McClaren in charge following his mixed time in Holland and Germany, the men from the City Ground are well equipped to end their hiatus from the Premier League. But are they the biggest club in the division? Those two European trophies under the legend that was Brian Clough would certainly suggest yes in some quarters, not to mention their two FA Cups, four League Cups, one league title and European Super Cup. However, apart from promotion to the Premier League in 1998, they haven’t won anything for more than 20 years, and their average gate last season was just 23,274 – just slightly fewer than at Midlands rivals Leicester City and almost 3,000 fewer than at Derby.
The team with the biggest attendances in the Championship last season was Leeds United. The Elland Road outfit played in front of an average crowd of 27,299 as Simon Grayson’s men tried to gain promotion. Their largest gate was 33,622 – the most in the Championship. But it’s not just a huge fan base that Leeds have in their favour, they also have a raft of honours in the trophy cabinet. They’ve won the top division three times, the FA Cup and League Cup once and the Inter-Cities Fair Cup twice. They’ve also featured in the final of the European Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup.
Under Don Revie, Leeds United enjoyed their most successful period in their history. However, their style of play led to them being known as Dirty Leeds, as they did whatever it took to win. (I’m sure a few Arsenal fans would welcome someone like Revie at the Emirates as they bid to end their trophy drought.)
Leeds have the fans, the ground and the trophies – although they haven’t won a major honour since 1992. Do you think Leeds deserve to be crowned the biggest team in the Championship?
One team that does have the European Cup Winners’ Cup in its trophy room is West Ham United. The Hammers enter the Championship this season following a dismal season under the guidance of former Portsmouth and Chelsea boss Avram Grant. West Ham fans have seen World Cup winners like Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters pull on the famous claret and blue. Unfortunately last season, apart from Scott Parker, they played like a bunch of Jack and Dannys!
Still, West Ham have a formidable fan base. Their lowest crowd last season in the league was 31,194 and when you consider the dross being served up to them most weeks that is pretty hardcore. However, The Hammers let themselves down when it comes to trophies. They’ve never won the league in the top flight, nor have they won the League Cup – coming runners-up in 1966 and 1981. But they have won the FA Cup three times, the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965, the Intertoto Cup in 1999 and of course they won the bloody World Cup in 1966! If that doesn’t make them contenders for the crown then I don’t know what will.
You’ve also got Paul Jewell’s Ipswich Town. Under Sir Bobby Robson, the Tractor Boys were a team to be reckoned with at home and abroad. They finished second in the league under Wor Bobby twice, won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup. Although Robson couldn’t deliver the league title, they already had one under their belts thanks to World Cup winning manager Sir Alf Ramsey in 1962. For a team to have had two future England managers at the helm is an achievement in itself.
While Portman Road may not be a sell-out every match, their biggest crowd last season (29,258) was larger than eight of the clubs in the Premier League. I’m pretty sure that if Jewell can get the team winning this season the fans will come flocking back on a regular basis.
And when you are talking about big teams you can’t forget Derby County and Leicester City. The Rams have two league titles to their name, along with an FA Cup, and Pride Park boasts an average crowd of 26,022. Meanwhile, the Foxes have won the League Cup three times, been FA Cup finalists four times and runners-up in the top flight once. They have also been promoted to the top flight as champions on six occasions.
But what about Coventry City, who won the FA Cup in 1987? What about Middlesbrough, who won the League Cup in 2004 and reached the UEFA Cup final in 2006? What about Cardiff City, who won the FA Cup in 1927 and featured in the 2008 final? And what about Burnley, one of just three teams that have won the league in all four major divisions in England? Not forgetting of course the two south-coast giants who will be renewing acquaintances this season, two-time FA Cup and league winners Portsmouth and FA Cup winners in 1976 Southampton, and the current Carling Cup holders Birmingham City.
What constitutes a big club of course varies from person to person. Some class Newcastle as a massive club even though the majority of their fans have never seen them win a major trophy. But the figures show that they are the third largest supported team in the Premier League. Others will solely point to silverware. But what stance do you take?
Calling all football fans. Who do you think is the biggest club in the Championship this season? Whatever your view, I’d love to hear from you.