Since 1992, the Championship has been the main tournament of the English football league, being above League 1 and League 2. Above these competitions in England, only the elite Premier League, which is seen by many as a separate caste in football there, where there is its economy, its own rules of marketing and development. However, in recent years, more and more Premier League clubs have realized how important the Championship is for developing their young and talented players. In particular, in the 2021/22 season, we already see several examples of how once unknown teenagers who played in the Championship are starting to play at the heart of the top teams of the Premier League.
The 22 – year-old Chelsea central defender Trevo Chalobah played in France for Lorient last season, but before that, he gained experience on loan at Championship clubs Ipswich and Huddersfield. At the same time, in the 2018/19 season, Chalobah failed to help the tractor drivers stay in the division, and a year later, together with the Terriers, he was only three points from the relegation zone. However, despite the lack of experience of playing for an ambitious club, Chalobah took a different approach – he played a massive number of matches, and now, taking advantage of the absence of Thiago Silva, he has already played two matches for the first team of Chelsea at the Premier League level.
Moreover, in his debut game in the Premier League, Chalobah scored a goal against Crystal Palace (3: 0). Thomas Tuchel was not afraid to throw the defender into battle in the end against Liverpool (1:1) as part of the next round match. It seems that Trevo is quite capable of following at least in the footsteps of Mason Mount, who has played 73 games in the Premier League in the last two seasons, 64 of them in the starting line-up.
By the way, Mount himself knows perfectly well what a lease from Chelsea to one of the Championship clubs is. In the 2018/19 season, the young midfielder played in the “Derby” with Frank Lampard, and when he received an invitation to move to Chelsea, he returned to the club with pleasure and pulled Mount into the first team of the “blue” behind him. Now that Lampard is no longer at Stamford Bridge, Mason continues to be an essential player in the first team of the Blues and has a regular practice with Gareth Southgate in the England national team.
“Chelsea” generally manages to play well with intelligent young people in the Championship clubs. Another successful example that confirms this thesis is the English centre back of Ivorian origin, Mark Gehi. In January 2020, this pupil of the “blue” academy was sent on loan to Swansea, where the defender quickly became his own and spent 57 matches in the Championship in 18 months, of which 56 were in the starting line-up!
This helped Gehi attract the attention of scouts of other clubs, and this summer, Chelsea agreed to sell Mark to Crystal Palace. On the transfer of a 21-year – old guy, about whom few people had heard at a high level before the loan at Swansea, the Blues earned 21 million pounds-decent money even by the standards of an English grandee. Gehi himself is still unconditionally the main one in the camp of “glaziers”, where he enjoys complete trust from the new mentor of the London team, Patrick Vieira.
But Chelsea is not the only Premier League club that manages to give their talents to the Championship profitably. For example, Tottenham successfully did this with the supporting midfielder Oliver Skipp. He made his debut in the Premier League on December 5, 2018, at the age of 18, under Mauricio Pochettino. Still, in general, he failed to develop success and later appeared on the field for the first team of Spurs only occasionally. A loan to Norwich helped change this trend, where last season Skipp played 45 matches (44 on the basis) at the Championship level. Returning to Tottenham, Oliver earned the trust of the new head coach of Spurs, Nuno Espirito Santo, under whom he spent all three of the Londoners ’ opening matches in the Premier League from whistle to whistle.
But you can remember last year’s path to the first team, which Emil Smith-Rowe made at Arsenal. The young midfielder played the second part of the 2019/20 season on loan for Huddersfield, and after returning to the Gunners ’ camp, he began to win the competition for a place in the main squad much more often. In the 2021/22 season, Smith-Rowe and Oliver Skipp at Tottenham played all 270 minutes in the opening three Premier League matches.
Noticing this trend, the Chelsea management did not resist the departure of Billy Gilmore on loan for one season, who at Norwich will try to gain enough experience and confidence in a year to return to Stamford Bridge in a completely different status. And now it is Chelsea that is actively betting on cooperation with Championship clubs to develop their players who are not yet in the starting line-up. A total of five players currently on loan from Chelsea are playing in the Championship, and this is the maximum for all Premier League clubs. Next are Arsenal, Brighton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Wolverhampton, each of which released three of their players on loan to the second-highest division of English football. Finally, Norwich and Watford have two such players each.
There is no doubt that for most players. Such leases are significant and profitable from the point of view of career development. Even if young players, like Mark Gehi, will not immediately conquer the first team of their clubs in the Premier League after returning, then there may always be profitable transfer options on the horizon. The main thing is to get game practice, and it is much easier to do this in the workers ‘and peasants’ Championship than in the pretentious elite Premier League. In addition, many people call the second-strongest division of English football a beneficial school for young people from the point of view of physical aspects. Here, the endurance, strength and power of football players are perfectly trained.
No matter what anyone says now about the English Premier League’s excessive internationalization, they try to preserve traditions in the Foggy Albion. Just 23 of the 26 players in the England national team’s bid for Euro 2020 have experience in their career playing in the Championship or other lower divisions of local football. This path is very important for players’ careers and the Football League demonstrates that it is the basis of the English game, and its connection with the Premier League is, in fact, much more critical for the latter than it may seem at first glance.
There are no mighty trees without good roots. There are no high-quality football players without a good start to a professional career. It is this very correct and logical thesis that is now relevant in England, and largely thanks to it, young football players from this country are now so famous and in demand in the transfer market – remember at least Jude Bellingham, who moved to Borussia Dortmund from Birmingham, who lived in the same Championship.