Who Do You Want To Be Promoted?

The Championship promotion race is pretty entertaining, but who would contribute most to the Premier League? Nick Miller wasn't allowed to pick Forest...

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The Championship is mental. But in a good, entertaining way. It's a little bit like that guy you know who's hugely unreliable but has a ready supply of stories about his hi-jinx to keep everyone amused. The kind of person it's good to see every now and then for the fun value, but it would be a nightmare if you had to deal with them on a regular basis.

There are probably only three teams that really don't have anything to play for left the Championship - those below are in relegation trouble of varying degrees, while those above have a chance of promotion. And it's the latter eight that this piece will concentrate on - of those top eight, who would a neutral most want in the Premier League next season?

Cardiff are the runaway leaders, and with a nine-point gap between them and third place, it's tricky to see even them, with their legendary capacity for choking, mucking things up from here. So how would they be received in the Premier League? While they are clearly the best team in the division, they aren't the best side to watch, effective rather than pretty, which is grand for them obviously, but not so great for the rest of us.

The other issue is that of Vincent Tan, the owner who changed the colour of their kit from blue to red last summer. While that in itself might not be the biggest of deals, it was the start of Tan's big plan to make Cardiff a marketable force in lands far away, something that could continue with the renaming of the club. The owners has denied talk of the 'Cardiff Dragons' playing in the Premier League, but then again they denied they would change shirt colours too. Would promotion, which would 'justify' his methods and policies, be good for Cardiff and their fans? While it might seem backwards for them to hope not to get promoted, we know that as long as a team is successful on the pitch, less attention is paid to unsavoury aspects off the pitch. Are they willing to 'sell their soul' for some time in the Premier League? Does it matter what the club is called or what colour shirts they wear, as long as the team is winning?

The other sides jostling for the automatic places are Hull and Watford. All one would need to dismiss the former's candidature for the entertainers' job is look at their manager. They say teams are often built in their manager's image, so it's perhaps hardly surprising that Steve Bruce's are the football equivalent of having a nose plastered halfway across a face. A good example was when Hull travelled to Huddersfield a few weeks ago, they played five at the back, and Alex Bruce was one of their midfielders. They set up for a draw, against a team two points above the bottom three, and bagged a 1-0 win thanks to a goal on the break. Oh, and they have the same number of goals as bottom side Bristol City. Negative doesn't cover it.

Watford on the other hand are a joy to watch. Their form in recent weeks is patchy, but in the likes of Matej Vydra, Nathaniel Chalobah and Troy Deeney they are a quick, young and attacking side who are comfortably the division's top scorers. With 76 goals, they have 19 more than Hull. This is perhaps not surprising given the identity of their manager, everyone's favourite miniature Italian Gianfranco Zola, who only the coldest of heart could not love.

Obviously, the question of loans must arise when discussing Watford. They have taken advantage of a curious loophole in the Football League rules (which will be closed next season) that doesn't restrict the number of international loans a club can have, and thus their owners, the Pozzo family, have shipped in a number of players from their other clubs - Udinese and Granada - to lend a hand. One might argue that it's difficult to criticise a club for simply adhering to the rules, but a more tangible moral issue may come during the summer. If Watford want to make the loans of Vydra et al permanent...well, let's just say negotiations between the Pozzos and the Pozzos shouldn't take too long.

If Watford are the most entertaining side in the top eight, Crystal Palace probably aren't far behind. In Wilfried Zaha and the underrated Yanick Bolasie, they have the two best wingers outside the Premier League, providing lots of lovely service to Glenn Murray who, with their help, has gobbled up 29 goals so far. As well as having arguably the best goalkeeper in the Championship in Julian Speroni, their youth system is obviously strong - while Zaha won't be there next season, Jonny Williams will be, while other kids such as Reese Allassani and Hiram Boateng probably won't be far behind him. Indeed, perhaps the only argument against having Palace back in the top flight is that we'll have to deal with Ian Holloway's pre-prepared wackiness, enough to make anyone drive a biro through their eye.

Nottingham Forest will probably never lose again. Sort of. They have gone ten games unbeaten since the return of Billy Davies, who in the eyes of some fans is a messianic figure who must not be questioned. While the sight of Davies on your telly every week might not be particularly appealing (he has a 'particular' speech pattern, to say the least), the possibility of a hilarious meltdown/clusterf*ck from Fawaz Al-Hasawi - Forest's Kuwaiti chairman who sacked half the backroom staff and refused to sign George Boyd on the basis of an iffy eye test - could be entertaining for those of you who enjoy schadenfreude.

However, Forest in the Premier League might not be that great for the competition. The current first-choice back five features a promising but hugely inexperienced goalkeeper, two loanees and a midfielder. An entirely new back four would have to be recruited in the summer, along with a winger or two and probably at least one striker. While their squad probably has more talent than Reading's last year, the results of another team promoted via a remarkable and unexpected late-season run when the squad has such obvious deficiencies could be similar.

Another team that could fall into that category is Bolton. Dougie Freedman's men are the form side in the division, having won seven of their last nine games, a remarkable run that has taken them from a precarious 20th place at the start of February (three points above the relegation zone) to the brink of the play-offs. However, Bolton are not long out of the top flight, so do we neutrals really want them back so soon? Variety is the spice of life, friends - let someone else have a go.

If Bolton are to make it, the side that they will probably usurp is Brighton. When he isn't shrugging off racism as not that big a deal, Gus Poyet is a likeable guy, and one that encourages fine football. In terms of entertainment value, Poyet's capacity to attract players a little above Brighton's station (Vicente, David Lopez, even Craig Mackail-Smith, who was attracting Premier League interest when they signed him) might provide us with some fine talent to watch next season. However, the issue of competitiveness applies here as well - Brighton are a rather brittle side, so the pressure of playing the big boys every week could be too much for them. That only two sides have collected fewer points after going behind this season suggests that Poyet's boys could be on the ugly end of a few undignified hidings, should they win promotion.

Finally, we have Leicester. Now, if you want schadenfreude, then keeping Leicester in the Championship might be the best thing those of us who enjoy a chuckle could hope for. While them getting spanked in the top flight every week might be pretty funny, watching their expensively assembled side fail to get out of the Championship once again is arguably even funnier. Plus, Nigel Pearson reminds me of an school friend's dad who regularly belittled his lad and brazenly preferred his older son. That, believe it or not, is quite enough for me to take a dislike to someone.

And so, the verdict. No team is perfect, but if you can get past the loan/transfer jiggery-pokery, Watford should provide the most fun for this widest of Premier League audiences next season, and if you could cope with Holloway last time, then Palace are your team. Just hope Hull don't make it.

Nick Miller - disagree with him on Twitter

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