One of the most exciting leagues in European football, the Championship is known for its high-octane matches and tension is at a premium, particularly during the playoffs.
However, the best Championship teams don’t need the playoffs to earn promotion to the Premier League. The greatest teams put on a show and win the Championship title.
Greatest Championship Teams:
Reading – 106 points in 2005/06
Sunderland – 105 points in 1998/99
Newcastle United – 102 points in 2009/10
Leicester City – 102 points in 2013/14
Fulham – 101 points in 2000/01
Manchester City – 99 points in 2002/03
Chelsea – 99 points in 1988/89
Wolverhampton Wanderers – 99 points in 2017/18
Portsmouth – 98 points in 2002/03
Bolton Wanderers – 98 points in 1996/97
Norwich City – 97 points in 2020/21
Burnley - TBC points in 2022/23
Newcastle United – 96 points in 1992/93
Sunderland – 94 points in 2004/05
Norwich City – 94 points in 2003/04
Nottingham Forest – 94 points in 1997/98
Norwich City – 94 points in 2018/19
Newcastle United – 94 points in 2016/17
Burnley – 93 points in 2015/16
Leeds United – 93 points in 2019/20
The drama of the playoffs is enough to get the attention of any football betting fan but it would be foolish to ignore the efforts of the club that wins the title.
Here, we look at the 20 best teams in Championship history based on points total. Some are recent, others were some time ago. All were fantastic football teams.
After missing out on the playoffs in 2018-19, Leeds made sure there was no such risk in 2019-20 by racking up 93 points under Marcelo Bielsa.
The football was breath-taking throughout, led by 16 goals from Patrick Bamford.
Over 15 years outside of Premier League betting was brought to an end. Bielsa will forever by adored at Elland Road, and any doubts about how his style of play would work in England were emphatically disproved.
Relegated from the Premier League in the prior season, Burnley broke from normal protocol and decided to not fire their manager.
The decision paid dividends, with Sean Dyche guiding the Clarets back to the topflight with a dominant 2015-16 campaign.
The pressure was on late into the season with Middlesbrough and Brighton both reaching the 89-point mark.
Burnley were clearly the best team in the Championship in 2015-16, though, and Dyche then kept the club in the Premier League until 2022, despite often being among the favourites in Premier League relegation odds.
Like Burnley, Newcastle stuck with Rafa Benitez despite suffering relegation.
Benitez waved goodbye to Georginio Wijnaldum, Moussa Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat and Andros Townsend, but was able to bolster his squad with several usual additions, including Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Ciaran Clark and DeAndre Yedlin.
After losing their first two matches of the season, the Magpies cruised through the season. From matchday 12 onwards, they never dropped out of the automatic promotion spots. They finished nine points clear of third.
Finishing 14th in 2017-18 and losing James Maddison to Leicester in the summer didn’t make it seem like Norwich were sure-fire promotion contenders. They made big moves themselves, however, signing Teemu Pukki, Emi Buendia and Tim Krul.
Pukki netted 29 times as the Canaries finished 11 points ahead of third-placed Leeds. Buendia finished with 20 goal involvements.
After a slow start, Norwich lost just once after New Year’s Day, including an eight-match winning streak.
Relegated after winning just six Premier League matches in 1996-97, Nottingham Forest wasted no time returning to the topflight, fired by the unstoppable striking duo of Pierre van Hooijdonk and Kevin Campbell.
Unfortunately, it was a short-lived stay in the Premier League. Forest again finished 20th in 1998-99, having spent 31 of 38 matchdays in the bottom three.
The club had to wait until 2022-23 to feature in Premier League predictions again.
Norwich were a force to be reckoned with in the 2003-04 season. They ended the campaign eight points ahead of second and 15 clear of third, and didn’t drop out of first place from matchday 23 onwards.
There were emphatic wins throughout the season, with a 5-0 over Walsall, 4-0 against Derby and a 4-1 at home to Cardiff. Such a successful Championship campaign didn’t prepare the Canaries for the Premier League, though.
Norwich were winless in their first 13 matches in 2004-05, and didn’t win their fourth league match of the season until April. By which time, their fate was all but sealed.
A heart-breaking penalty shootout loss to Crystal Palace in the playoffs seemed to lead to a hangover for Sunderland in 2004-05. Mick McCarthy’s side won just one of their first six, with pressure understandably mounting.
The Black Cats then lost only one of their next 11. Their form trended in the right direction all season, taking advantage of others dropping points above them. A return to the playoffs looked likely through the second half of the campaign.
Winning 11 of their last 13 saw Sunderland claim and retain top spot ahead of Wigan and Ipswich. Their eventual tally of 94 points was a remarkable achievement after such a poor start.
Kevin Keegan replaced Ossie Ardiles in February of 1992, reinvigorating Newcastle and keeping them in the Second Division on the final day of the season. Keegan remained at the club for 1992-93, carrying that momentum into a magnificent campaign.
Andy Cole and Rob Lee arrived, and Newcastle stormed to promotion. They moved to top of the table at matchday six and never relinquished first place.
The football was textbook Keegan with 92 goals scored – the St James’ Park faithful were treated to several heavy victories throughout the season.
Just 12 months later, the Magpies finished third in the Premier League, with Cole scoring 41 times across all competitions.
Burnley’s decision to hire Vincent Kompany following their relegation in 2022 raised some eyebrows.
Kompany’s approach was quite a change from the Sean Dyche era, but the Clarets were clearly going in a different direction after losing James Tarkowski, Nathan Collins, Nick Pope, Dwight McNeil and Maxwel Cornet.
Money was reinvested into the first-team squad. Kompany didn’t have the best start, winning just one of their first five league matches, but it soon became clear that this was a perfect match.
Either side of the World Cup break, Burnley won 14 of 15 to build an unassailable lead. Promotion was confirmed in early April with a massive advantage of a strong Sheffield United side.
As one of the perennial yo-yo clubs, it’s no surprise to see Norwich make multiple appearances on this list. The 2020-21 team was similar to the side which collected 94 points in 2018-19, with Pukki and Buendia again starring.
A run of four wins from their last nine games made this look like a less impressive season than it really was.
Daniel Farke kept his side top of the table from matchday 12, with a nine-match winning run through February and March giving the East Anglian club plenty of breathing space.
Unfortunately, 2021-22 was a familiar tale. Norwich lost their first six in the Premier League, Farke was replaced by Dean Smith in November and they finished bottom of the table with 22 points.
Bolton were one of the toughest teams around in 1996/97 and the Trotters gave Burnden Park a fantastic send off to win the second tier title.
The great John McGinlay scored an incredible 24 league goals while Nathan Blake added 20 of his own as Bolton topped the 100 goals mark.
Bolton were minutes away from hitting the 100 points mark but Tranmere Rovers scored a late equaliser to put a slight dampener on proceedings.
The Fratton Park faithful will remember the good old days when Portsmouth were in the Premier League though their 2002/03 season was one of the best in Championship history.
Harry Redknapp meant business and he acted effectively in the transfer window before the season, bringing Tim Sherwood and Yakubu to the south coast.
Meanwhile, Svetoslav Todorov just couldn’t stop scoring. He notched 26 league goals that campaign to fire Portsmouth to the Championship crown.
Wolves were outstanding in 2017/18, leading the way at the top of the Championship table for the majority of the season.
Nuno’s side fell short in their bid to top 100 points as they suffered an embarrassing defeat to already relegated Sunderland on the final day of the campaign.
The likes of Ruben Neves, the most expensive Championship player of all-time, Diogo Jota and Willy Bony were central to Wolves’ success and they are now an established Premier League outfit.
The only 1980s side on this list, Chelsea finished 17 points clear of the field. However, the Blues started slowly, failing to win any of their opening six games of the season.
For the rest of the campaign, Chelsea averaged an astonishing 2.4 points per game. That is the best ratio of any team in Championship history.
Chelsea were fancied for the title after dropping out of the Premier League but the Blues exceeded expectations. On paper, this side may rank as the best Championship team in terms of quality.
Man City yoyoed between the top flight and the second tier for five consecutive seasons but their 99 points haul in 2001/02 ranks as one of the top campaigns in the division.
The Citizens scored 108 league goals – just the 47 more than second-placed West Bromwich Albion. Kevin Keegan’s side were undoubtedly the Championship entertainers.
To sum up Keegan’s City in a set of results: the Blues won 6-2, 5-2, 4-2, 3-0 and 3-0 but lost 4-0, 4-0 and 4-3 during an eight game stretch early in the campaign.
Fulham were unstoppable in 2000/01 as the Cottagers booked their spot in the top flight of English football for the first time since the 1960s.
By Christmas, Fulham were 10 points clear of their nearest rivals and the west London side had a game in hand. Everybody knew that this Fulham team was special.
With five matches remaining, Fulham had secured promotion but they had the magic 100 points total in their sights. A 2-0 win in their 44th match of the season was enough to do just that.
Over a decade since their last promotion to the Premier League, Leicester defied the odds to run away with the Championship title in 2013/14.
While the Foxes were found guilt of breaking Financial Fair Play rules surrounding Championship wages four years later, it was the stuff of dreams for fans as Leicester produced one of the great Championship seasons.
Nigel Pearson’s men ran riot in the second half of the campaign, with Riyad Mahrez playing a key role for the Foxes. Leicester set a new club record for consecutive wins following the Algerian’s arrival.
Having suffered relegation in 2008/09, Newcastle were determined to clinch promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Magpies fans needn’t have worried.
Chris Hughton became the master of rotating the Newcastle squad – and he did it to great effect, using a total of 33 players in Championship fixtures alone.
The Magpies went unbeaten at home for the entire 2009/10 campaign as the likes of Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and Shola Ameobi showed their class to lead Newcastle to the title.
To be fair, Sunderland were very impressive in 1998/99. The Black Cats reached the League Cup semi-finals while also setting a new record points tally for the second tier.
Led by iconic manager Peter Reid, Sunderland lost just three matches all season and shipped 28 goals in their 46 Championship fixtures.
Going forward, Kevin Phillips was a real threat. The Sunderland star averaged close to a goal per game during the 1998/99 season and his exploits were key to the Black Cats notched 105 points.
Sunderland’s points record didn’t last long as Reading put together a season to remember in 2005/06. Reading weren’t quite invincible but they were some way clear of the chasing pack.
The Royals had a front four consisting of Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Stephen Hunt and Leroy Lita – undoubtedly the greatest attacking quartet in Championship history.
Reading lost just two games all season, with one of those coming on the opening day of the campaign. To this day, Reading’s exploits are yet to be matched.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Dave Thompson / AP Photo*