Championship play-off teams ranked on how much we’d like them in the Premier League

Lewis Oldham
Championship play-off promotion
Leeds United, Southampton, West Brom and Norwich City target a return to the Premier League.

This season’s Championship play-offs kick off this weekend, with the first legs taking place as part of a jam-packed day of football on Sunday, which also includes a game of less glamour (in my opinion, of course) between Manchester United and Arsenal.

Over 46 games, Leicester City and Ipswich Town were proven to be the best of the bunch in the Championship as they went down the boring route of sealing promotion to the Premier League by finishing in the two automatic places. It should have been four up, four down but there you go.

Every football fan knows the play-off route is the finest way to get promoted, while it is also the most heartbreaking way to miss out.

Supporters of the four remaining clubs fighting for promotion will each feel their club is deserving of another crack at the big time. But we do not have a horse in the race and have impartially reached the verdict that the Championship has served up a pretty underwhelming set of play-off contenders this season.

In 2022/23, neutrals were spoiled by the Wembley final being between Luton Town and Coventry City: two clubs who have overcome immense financial turmoil to rise from near bankruptcy to being on the brink of unexpectedly reaching the Premier League.

Yet the four clubs in contention this time around have all spent a fair amount of time in the top flight over the past ten years and there would be no resemblance of freshness (as there was with Luton and Coventry) if they get promoted via the win at Wembley in the play-off final.

Saying that, Leeds, Southampton, West Brom and Norwich do have some redeeming qualities (to varying levels) so we have ranked them based on how much we’d like them to get promoted to the Premier League.


4th) Norwich City
Norwich’s promotion/relegation yo-yo broke last season but after a nondescript year in the Championship bottom-half, the biennial top-six merchants have reverted to type this term.

With Jurgen Klopp leaving Liverpool in the summer, David Wagner could fill the void of cheeky German manager next season.

Another plus for Norwich getting promoted is that they already have several ready-made Premier League talents in Jonathan Rowe, Gabriel Sara and Marcelino Nunez. Josh Sargent would also be better prepared for the top flight this time around as he would attempt to ensure he does not end up in the same striker category as Cameron Jerome and Dwight Gayle.

But Norwich City’s last two seasons in the Premier League resulted in them going down with a whimper and given that the gulf between the two divisions is greater than in 2022, they would likely suffer a similar fate next season. We’ve had enough of that this year with Sheffield United, so no thanks.


3rd) West Brom
The Baggies’ prolonged eight-year stint in the Premier League ended in 2017. Recently, they have plateaued as a top-half Championship outfit as their only other season in the top flight in recent times was their miserable 26-point campaign in 2020/21.

West Brom have changed a fair bit since Sam Allardyce could not save them from relegation three years ago. They have recently been taken over by an American-based consortium and they have a progressive head coach in the dugout with Marcelo Bielsa’s disciple, Carlos Corberan.

Shilen Patel wisely opted against following in Birmingham City’s footsteps as West Brom’s new chairman has swerved a needless Wayne Rooney-esque appointment to stick with Corberan.

The ex-Leeds United assistant’s stellar work at Huddersfield Town and West Brom makes him deserving of a crack in the Premier League and the potential increased investment brought about by their takeover makes the prospect of their promotion slightly more exciting than Norwich City going up.

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2nd) Southampton
Saints have the unfortunate tag of being the ‘worst’ of last season’s relegated Premier League sides. They have their faults, but they have still been bloody good for most of this season.

Going forward, Southampton are as good as – if not better than – the rest of the top six as Adam Armstrong, Che Adams and co. have been breathtaking at times.

Russell Martin’s previous teams have lacked substance in attack but with the abundance of quality at his disposal at St Mary’s, this has been no such problem this season.

Yet in defence, it’s been a completely different story. The narrow-minded Martin-ball (which does not quite equate to McKenna-ball) has been exposed by opponents who successfully adopt a high-press. This would occur at increased regularity in the Premier League so their return year in the top flight could get pretty ugly.


1st) Leeds United
The winner (by default, really) is Leeds United.

An unlucky victim of Ipswich Town’s brilliant rise, Daniel Farke’s Leeds missed out on automatic promotion despite reaching the 90-point mark. Though their dismal end to the season hardly made them deserving of finishing in the top two.

Leeds United’s confidence evaporated in the run-in as each of their attackers hit a sticky patch at the same time. So Farke (in his first experience of the Championship play-offs) has the incredibly difficult task of picking his players up from the floor for three remaining cup finals.

The West Yorkshire side have not been their usual selves in recent weeks but when they are at their peak, they are certainly the best of the four teams in the play-off picture.

Leeds United have their fair share of enemies but for a club of their stature, their long-awaited return to the Premier League ended too soon and this is largely down to the mistakes made by previous owner Andrea Radrizzani.

Now owned by 49ers Enterprises, Leeds would return to the Premier League as a club better equipped to stick around.

Like any side coming up from the Championship, they would still find it hard to cope with what is an almighty step up, but the majority of last season’s dead wood are long gone so a fresh-faced Leeds would come back having learned from their past failings with a more complete squad.

More: Leeds United | Southampton | West Brom | Norwich City | Championship