Is chasing the Premier dream worth it?

MANAGER Jim Magilton is desperate for it. The players would fulfil a dream if they reached it. Fans drool over the prospect of it.

Elvin King

MANAGER Jim Magilton is desperate for it. The players would fulfil a dream if they reached it. Fans drool over the prospect of it.

And perhaps more importantly Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans craves it.

But is going up into the Premier League all that its cracked up to be? Particularly for the fans. ELVIN KING reports.

FLEET Street journalist Martin Booth, deputy sports editor of the Sunday Mirror, has his doubts over whether the Premier League really is the promised land.

And many of his reasons to bang the drum about life in the Championship ring true.

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Yes, Portman Road would be awash with money - £60million just for one season's stay in the top flight.

Mr Evans would cash in big time and Town's debt that bugged them so much in the mid-noughties would in effect be erased.

And yes, the best players in the world would grace Portman Road and their skills would no doubt help fill the stands and bring pleasure to the Town faithful.

But as Booth says in an article on www.football-league.co.uk, the length of a minute depends which side of the toilet door you are on.

Stoke City's marvellous 2007/08 season earned them a fully-deserved place in the elite.

After the first weekend of 2008/09, bookmakers paid out to punters who had backed them to lose that place next May.

As Booth says, it's never been easy to bridge the gap between the second tier and first. But it's never been as hard as it is now.

The debate hinges around whether it is more enjoyable for fans to watch their heroes riding high in the Championship - or playing against some of the giants of the game and taking a pummelling each week?

Supporters of traditionally powerful clubs such as Wolves, Sheffield United and Ipswich will insist their sides deserve to be on nodding terms with Manchester United.

But brief and painful experiences in the top flight strongly suggest otherwise.

Just as it is hard for a youth-team player to establish himself in a top-four side, so there is no breathing space for gaining experience afforded to clubs who get promotion to the top of the pyramid.

Even sides who get a sudden injection of big money - like Sunderland - struggle to keep their heads above water in the Premier League. Ipswich would be the same if they did go up next spring despite the Evans cash.

Immediate relegation to the Championship does not have to be the end of the world, as West Brom showed by returning two summers after their latest drop.

But clubs like Coventry and Southampton, who enjoyed long spells at the top, have hardly threatened to get back to where they once were.

The experiences of Barnsley and Bradford have been even worse in the wake of their flirtation with the big boys.

And of course Ipswich were left with the horrors of administration when they dropped down after spending 2000/01 and 2001/02 amongst the elite.

And as the race for promotion from the Championship hots up, fans will hope against hope that the combination of a good young team, an astute manager and a supportive board will be enough to sustain them if they do go up.

But there must always be the fear that the joy of going up will soon fade during nine months spent as cannon fodder.

Just ask Derby.

Better perhaps to be in a division where you can win something than one where your sole aim is to finish fourth from bottom and exit both cup competitions as quickly as possible.

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