Early Doors

Lift us up where we belong

The mini-splurge of sackings this week provoked a lot of squealing about the state of the game.

The dismissals at Nottingham Forest and Blackburn - each after just a few months in the job - met with much high-minded carping about clubs being run 'the right way' and foreigners not understanding our game.

But most of it came from neutrals who claimed to have the best interests of two grand old clubs at heart, but were mainly clinging vainly to an outmoded conception of how football ought to work.

ED knows a few Forest fans, and none were particularly bothered by Sean O'Driscoll's defenestration.

Of course it's slightly embarrassing to go from a bastion of stability to a club that changes its manager every few weeks, but few shed tears for O'Driscoll whose installation in the summer caused some bafflement.

The only thing ED's tree-hugger friends really cared about was the identity of the new guy (SPOILER ALERT: Big Eck has gone down like a fart in a lift. McLeish out!).

Likewise at Blackburn - few would deny that removing Henning Berg is probably in the club's best interests. The real crime was appointing him in the first place.

That it only took Shebby Singh and friends 57 days to realise the error of their ways is probably a mercy. Not that it excuses the club's shambolic ownership (it's not that Venky's are foreign - it's that they're useless).

The Championship is an angsty place. Most of the 24 clubs therein have some sort of top-flight pedigree, some vestige of a glorious past to hang their hat on.

And most of them feel that a place in the top division is somehow their birthright - they belong in the Premier League.

Of course, only three teams out of 24 go up, which means a lot of miserable fans every May.

Let's have a quick romp through each club's reasons for believing it belongs in the Premier League (in league position order).

Cardiff City
Belong in the top flight because: Wales's largest city shouldn't be upstaged by Swansea, and deserves fame for more than its hen parties.

Hull City
Belong in the top flight because: A Premier League side at recently as 2010. Biggest team in a 60-mile radius.

Middlesbrough
Belong in the top flight because: Signing Juninho and Fabrizio Ravanelli has to count for something, right? Also, there's not much else to do on Teesside.

Crystal Palace
Belong in the top flight because: No team has been relegated from the Premier League more often than Palace (four times). But you've got to be there to go down, haven't you?

Leicester City
Belong in the top flight because: This fine city gave the world The Powerhouse. And Mark Morrison.

Watford
Belong in the top flight because: Come on! Elton John, John Barnes, Luther Blissett - plus they've got a famous manager (for now).

Millwall
Belong in the top flight because: They would bring some retro tatty chic to the Premier League. Hipsters would love them.

Nottingham Forest
Belong in the top flight because: Double European Champions - and the hosts of the first-ever Super Sunday game (ED and colleagues love this clip).

Leeds United
Belong in the top flight because: League champions in three decades (60s, 70s, 90s). Dirty, but fun to have around.

Brighton and Hove Albion
Belong in the top flight because: Fancy themselves as some kind of south coast Barcelona, and have a shiny new ground.

Blackpool
Belong in the top flight because: There's something intrinsically unfair about giving a club just one season in the Premier League then snatching it away from them.

Derby County
Belong in the top flight because: It would be great to have Cloughie back in the Premier League, even if it's his son.

Burnley
Belong in the top flight because: Two league titles, one FA Cup and a quarter-final appearance in the 1960/61 European Cup.

Wolverhampton Wanderers
Belong in the top flight because: They were the inspiration for the creation of the European Cup after they beat Hungarian side Honved in 1954.

Huddersfield
Belong in the top flight because: Back-to-back-to-back champions in the 20s. And if Wigan can play in the Premier League, why not Huddersfield?

Bolton Wanderers
Belong in the top flight because: They were there for 11 seasons in a row, and nobody minded very much.

Blackburn Rovers
Belong in the top flight because: They are one of five teams to have won the Premier League, and their fans have probably suffered enough.

Charlton Athletic
Belong in the top flight because: It's not the same without their perennial relegation battles. Incidentally, poor Alan Curbishley has slipped from de facto favourite for every vacant job to fourth-favourite to 33/1 outsider.

Birmingham City
Belong in the top flight because: Like Wolves, they were European trailblazers - Birmingham reached consecutive Fairs Cup finals in 1960 and 1961.

Ipswich Town
Belong in the top flight because: Bobby Robson, 1962 League champions 1978 FA Cup, 1981 UEFA Cup - but most importantly Escape to Victory.

Sheffield Wednesday
Belong in the top flight because: The have won the First Division title four times, the last coming as recently as 1930.

Peterborough United
Belong in the top flight because: As far as ED can tell, Cambridgeshire has never had a top-flight football football club. It's time to end this madness.

Barnsley
Belong in the top flight because: Their celebrity fans include 'loveable' trio Michael Parkinson, Darren Gough and Dickie Bird.

Bristol City
Belong in the top flight because: The West Country is terrible at football. Let's throw them a bone, eh?

NOTABLE OTHERS
Sheffield United (old), Notts County (really old), Coventry City (persistent), Portsmouth (very good when allowed to spend money they don't have), Preston NE (invincible)

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Obviously something went wrong in the last phase of my career." Bebe proves himself a master of understatement after securing a loan from Manchester United to Rio Ave.

FOREIGN VIEW: An unnamed Russian club triggered Lionel Messi's automatic release clause with a staggering €250m (£205m) bid for the Barcelona star.

Spanish sports daily El Mundo Deportivo reports that the club agreed to pay more than double the world record transfer fee, and offered the Argentine a €30m (£24.6m) annual pay packet after tax.

Once that sum was offered Barcelona were contractually obliged to accept it - but from that point it was up to the player whether he was interested in leaving the club.

The bid came during Messi's recent contract negotiations with Barcelona.

However, the 25-year-old rejected the move and signed a two-year extension with Barça that ties him to the Camp Nou until 2018.

Although the club was not named it is likely to have been Anzhi Makachkala, who are owned by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov.