No other country in the world can boast a second-tier league quite like the Championship.
England’s second division is among the most competitive leagues in the world and is not only home to former European Cup-winning clubs, but also sees an average attendance of over 20,000 fans per game, week-in, week-out.
With 15 games done we are a third of the way through the campaign and it’s still anyone’s guess who will be promoted and relegated, with so many sides potentially involved in both directions.
First and last are separated by 20 points, but in the middle of the table things are even tighter, with just seven points between second and 14th.
League positions are set on sand, constantly shifting, with clubs climbing from the bottom half to the play-offs or vice-versa within just a handful of games.
The ability to climb the table quickly by putting a run of wins together will be welcome news to clubs like Aston Villa, who started the season poorly and have already parted ways with manager Steve Bruce.
Now under the leadership of Dean Smith and John Terry, Villa, who currently sit in 17th place, are just seven points off of the play-offs and the lay of the land means the majority of the league still has a realistic chance of promotion.
Meanwhile, Sheffield Wednesday and Brentford are two such sides to have plummeted down the table on the back of a bad run. Wednesday and the Bees were sixth and seventh respectively, but each have lost their last three games and now sit 15th and 16th respectively.
Their recent plight is a true sign of a competitive and entertaining league, where there is little to pick between each team. It’s evenly-matched and results are unpredictable with coupon-busters around every corner.
For context, the Premier League already has a difference of 23 points between the top two and bottom two sides after just 10 games. The top five is compromised of the big-hitters, while there is a five-point gap between 12th and 13th – arguably separating the mid-table clubs with those who look likely be mixed up in a relegation scrap.
Similar trends can be seen in League One and League Two, with clubs at the top starting to pull away from those beneath them, and clubs at the bottom looking in perilous danger already.
Not in the Championship, though. Sheffield United currently sit top of the league by two points after they earned their ninth win of the season last weekend, but it was the surrounding teams all drawing that allowed them to create that small gap.
Last weekend’s matches epitomised how little there is between the sides. Leeds were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Nottingham Forest as they gave up top spot, while fellow promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough and Derby also played out a 1-1 draw.
West Brom slipped down to fifth after they too could only manage a 1-1 draw with Blackburn, while Norwich beat Brentford to move ahead of them.
The pick of the fixtures this weekend sees Forest welcome Sheffield United to the City Ground, with the two sides currently separated by six points.
Aitor Karanka’s Forest have become masters of the draw, earning their eighth of the season last time out, but it is once again testament to the competitive nature of the Championship that there is so little to choose between them.
The league has become a battleground for relegated Premier League sides and sleeping giants such as Leeds, Forest and Villa, but it is also becoming increasingly difficult to escape from.
The trickle-down wealth of England’s top-flight as acted as somewhat of a leveller, helping the league go from strength to strength with clubs now able to make more lucrative signings.
Over £150m was collectively spent during the summer transfer window, with Stoke City splashing out over £10m on Tom Ince, while Forest broke their transfer record with the £13.5m signing of Joao Carvalho.
And it’s not just the players on the pitch. Leeds were able to land a sensational coup as they brought in legendary boss Marcelo Bielsa to try and make their way back to the top-flight.
But if there’s one league where Bielsa’s background counts for little it’s the Championship, where the smallest of margins separate promotion-winning sides from those in mid-table obscurity or worse.
Enjoy it, but don’t try to predict it.