The Premier League is the biggest and the most popular domestic league in the world, but in terms of competitiveness, the Championship is better. The races for the title and the playoffs are fierce, and so is the battle to avoid relegation to League One. The quality of players in the Championship may not be as high as those in the Premier League, but in terms of sheer competitiveness and spirit, the second tier of English football is better.
The Championship is a joy to watch, and one of the reasons are the grounds. The second division in England has some of the biggest clubs in England, and their stadiums are stunning. Below we look at the five best stadiums in the Championship at the moment.
Craven Cottage (Fulham)
Craven Cottage has been the home of Fulham since 1896 and is an old-fashioned football ground. The atmosphere inside the stadium is great, and the seats are quite close to the pitch. With the capacity just over 25,000 at the moment, there is a sense of compactness as well. While one can argue that for Fulham to become a bigger club they need to move to a bigger ground, as it stands, Craven Cottage provides a very familial and fun atmosphere, both for the home fans and for the away supporters.
Elland Road (Leeds United)
Leeds United are one of the biggest clubs in England and Elland Road is one of the best grounds in the country. Even in the Championship this season, there have been occasions when there have been over 30,000 fans at the stadium. Leeds have some of the best fans in the country, and the atmosphere can be intimidating for the visiting team. While the stadium itself is very modern and has good catering service, the problem is that it is over half an hour on foot from the train station.
St. James' Park (Newcastle United)
St. James' Park is one of the best stadiums in England and is of a Champions League level; the ground has actually hosted top European games before. With Championship betting odds making Newcastle one of the favourites to get promoted to the Premier League, this could be the final season in a long, long time that St. James' Park is used for matches in this division. Rated five star by UEFA, St. James' Park has a capacity of over 52,000 and has arguably the best atmosphere in the Championship.
Villa Park (Aston Villa)
Villa Park has been the home of Aston Villa since 1897 and until recently was hosting the FA Cup semi-finals. Over the past few seasons, there has been a lack of atmosphere at the ground, but when the Villans are flying and the 42,000-capacity stadium is packed, then there is nothing else like it. While the stadium is within walking distance of Aston and Witton railway stations, there is limited car parking space.
Pride Park Stadium (Derby County)
Having recently reverted to being called the Pride Park Stadium, Derby County's home ground is one of the most modern and finest in the Championship. The view of the action from all sections of the ground is stunning and second to note. Pride Park can host just over 33,000 spectators, who do make a lot of noise when the team score or win.