There is a distinctive line between Premier League and Championship football. Many players have crossed this line and never looked back—establishing themselves as a true Premier League player—others have found out the hard way that being a Championship hero does not necessarily mean you’ll be a good Premier League footballer. So, who are the top five players that couldn’t quite hack the top division?
Outstanding in the Championship, Ince, on his day, had the ability to change the game with a single left-footed strike. Most noted for his performances at Blackpool and Derby County, Ince became one of the most influential attacking players on the pitch. Before his most recent move to the Premier League with Huddersfield, Ince managed to score over 10 goals per season in three consecutive seasons. His most impressive goal scoring return came from his time at Derby in the Championship in the 2012-13 season; he netted a grand total of 18 goals.
Now though, you only have to look at his numbers in the formidable Premier League to see just how much of an effect the step up has had on the newly announced Stoke City man. Ince has recorded appearances in three Premier League seasons: 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2017-18. His first two seasons at Crystal Palace and Hull City respectively saw Ince mainly feature on the substitutes bench. In those two seasons combined, Ince managed just one goal.
Doubling that return in his most recent season, Ince ended the Premier League campaign with just two goals. He did, though, feature in almost double the amount of games: 33 in fact. Ince will be hoping he can find his form in the League he knows best with Stoke.
Many will see this inclusion as quite harsh on a player such as Gayle who undoubtedly has good potential. Whilst Gayle has performed a lot better than some in the Premier League, there is no doubt that the Newcastle striker hit his best form in the English second division.
In the last seven years, Gayle has played in the Championship for two seasons. It is no coincidence that in those two seasons, Gayle recorded more goals than any of the other five campaigns which were spent in the Premier League.
He was influential in Newcastle’s bounce back to the Premier League in the 2016-17 season where he managed 23 goals in 32 games and was their Mr. Reliable in a title winning season. This success earned him a regular spot in the Premier League this last campaign.
However, he failed to replicate the same success and managed just six goals in 35 League matches. Gayle is not an awful Premier League player by any stretch of the imagination, but he is average at best in comparison to the Championship superstar he had been.
Clearly teams just don’t believe in the Vydra once they make it to the dizzy heights of the Premier League. The Czech international made a name for himself in his first visit to English football. On loan from Udinese at Watford, Vydra wasted no time and fired 20 goals in 41 League games and demonstrated clearly that he could adapt to the English game. Vydra earned a move to the Premier League on another loan deal to West Bromwich Albion. This one proved to be a much more unsuccessful spell. In 2013-14 Vydra managed just three goals in 23 games and was subsequently demoted back to the Championship.
The centre forward did not let this phase him as he returned to Watford and the Championship only to find his shooting boots once again—scoring 16 goals and forming a formidable partnership with Troy Deeney which saw Watford sail into the Premier League. His form earned him a contract at Watford but didn’t stop him from being loaned back out to the Championship for yet another season—this time with Reading. In his two-season spell in the Premier League with Watford, Vydra actually managed to play just one game.
This was before he moved to Derby who were, of course, still in the Championship. In his most recent season, Vydra became the Championship top scorer with 21.
Another player plagued by loan deals to the Championship is Benik Afobe. In fact, Afobe has endured eight different loan deals throughout his career. His most recent comes this season with Stoke City. Afobe is a strong, quick and powerful striker that will always cause trouble for defences whether that be in the Championship or Premier League. But, like many, it’s the chances he takes and the goals he scored that distinguishes him between being a great Championship player and an average Premier League striker.
Afobe was put on the map after he signed from Arsenal to Wolverhampton Wanderers. He played just half a season with Wolves and managed 13 goals. He started off his second season in the Championship as he ended the first: scoring goals. In the first half of the season, Afobe had scored nine goals and had become a crucial member of the team. That was until Premier League side Bournemouth came around and signed him for the second half of the 2015-16 season.
However, his Premier League stay was not a successful one, in his first half season and second full season combined, the striker managed just 10 goals. Just one more than he managed in half a season with Wolves in the Championship. His last season in the Premier League ended with yet another loan move to the Championship. After failing to score in 17 appearances for Bournemouth, Afobe found himself back at Wolves where he managed an admirable return of six goals in 16 games. There is no doubt that Afobe is much the more prolific scorer in the English second tier.
Just the third ex/current Derby County player here…David Nugent has always been that player to help a team to the Premier League and then get left behind to appear only as a substitute. You only have to look at his one and only goal for England to know what type of striker Nugent is; he is a natural poacher and a strong finisher.
He regularly scored 15 goals or more a season and was quickly renowned as being one of the most prolific strikers in the Championship during his time at Leicester City. That was until he earned them promotion to the top division after scoring 20 goals in 2014. Nugent’s demise in the Premier League occurred after he managed just five goals in just under 30 apps.
Since that season, a combination of age and confidence has struck Nugent. At both Middlesbrough and now Derby County he has failed to score more than 10 goals in the four seasons he has spent in the Championship. Nugent has recorded 113 goals across 10 Championship seasons. In six Premier League seasons…just 14. Granted, he played a lot less games in the Premier League but these statistics simply highlight the fact that he was never really good enough to play in the Premier League.