Football Features

Seven Championship goal machines who have struggled in the Premier League (so far)

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:45, 3 May 2022

The Championship is one of the most challenging leagues in world football given its melting pot of teams, but for players like Aleksandar Mitrovic it can be a walk in the park.

The Serbian has once again been an absolute monster in the Championship this season, netting his 42nd and 43rd goals in what was his 43rd appearance of the season. No player has ever hit that amount of goals in the second tier of English football since the 1992/93 season when the leagues underwent a restructuring.

It was almost inevitable that Mitrovic would break the record even when he went two separate two-game droughts in March and April, his worst runs of the campaign. Mitrovic has turned up when Fulham needed him too, scoring five goals in his past four games to help the Cottagers not only gain promotion but win the Championship with a match to spare.

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A lot people have already started speculating how well Mitrovic will do in the Premier League last season, having struggled to make his mark in the past. But Fulham boss Marco Silva has faith.

“He will be more confident next season – we need to be that as a club as well,” he said of Mitrovic after Fulham’s 7-0 win over Luton Town.

“All of us have to improve every single year. We cannot judge him just by the goals he scores next season – we have to analyse many other things from him.”

If Mitrovic is full of confidence there will be little doubt that he can be a threat in the Premier League, in a campaign that should come in the prime of his career, turning 28 in September. And should that happen, Mitrovic will have scored his way off this list of players who have (so far) struggled to replicate their Championship scoring form in the top flight.

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Championship goals: 85 (125 games)
Premier League goals: 24 (104 games)

Let’s start with Mitrovic.

There won’t be many fantasy football managers who haven’t been left cursing the Serbian a few weeks into a new Premier League campaign. The Serbian has killed it in the Championship in the past only to fail to inspire in the top flight, though his teammates will have to shoulder some of the blame for that.

After scoring 26 goals to help Fulham get promoted in 2019/20, Mitrovic managed just three goals in 27 Premier League appearances across 2020/21 as the Cottagers went straight back down. There is also his underwhelming form at Newcastle United, though that did come at the start of his Premier League career when he was still getting used to English football.

Teemu Pukki

Championship goals: 55 (84 games)
Premier League goals: 21 (69 games)

Teemu Pukki was on fire as he led Norwich to the Premier League in his first season in England, scoring 29 goals in 43 Championship matches during the 2018/19 campaign. He started life in the Premier League pretty well too, with six goals in his first five matches. But then he faltered, with just five goals in his next 31 Premier League matches as Norwich were relegated.

Once again, he thrived in the Championship and aided Norwich’s promotion last season with 26 goals in 41 matches and although he has 10 Premier League goals in 2021/22, three have come from the penalty spot and it has been too little with the Canaries on their way back to the second tier.

Dwight Gayle

Championship goals: 60 (101 games)
Premier League goals: 26 (144 games)

For some fans Dwight Gayle was scorer of some of the biggest goals in Premier League history, but that 3-3 draw with Liverpool in which he scored twice for Crystal Palace was unfortunately the peak of his top-flight career. After scoring 15 goals in three seasons for Crystal Palace, Gayle dropped down to the Championship with Newcastle and netted 23 times to send them back to the Premier League.

But there’s a reason he’s on this list and it’s because he managed just six goals in the Premier League before joining West Brom in the Championship on loan. Twenty-four goals were scored to help West Brom gain promotion via the play-offs, but since returning to Newcastle in 2019 Gayle has five goals in 41 Premier League appearances. This season, he has played 30 minutes. Not great but he will always have ‘Crystanbul’.

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Dominic Solanke

Championship goals: 44 (86 games)
Premier League goals: 4 (63 games)

Like Mitrovic, Dominic Solanke has been killing it in the Championship this season and he could definitely prove us wrong in the future, especially if Bournemouth get promoted. But for now, the former Chelsea and Liverpool striker must be placed in this unfortunate group. Solanke came through the Chelsea academy at the wrong time, when almost no one was making it, and took a risk to move to Liverpool that just didn’t pay off.

Things didn’t work out for him at Bournemouth in the Premier League either but after allowing himself to mature on the pitch, Solanke is thriving. Last season he scored 15 goals in 40 Championship appearances but he has absolutely smashed that record, currently on 29 in 44.

Matej Vydra

Championship goals: 67 (192 games)
Premier League goals: 11 (106 games)

Matej Vydra hasn’t been consistently prolific in the Championship, and there were some poor spells during his stint in the second tier, but he finished as the top scorer in the 2017/18 campaign with 21 goals for Derby County which earned him a move to Burnley.

In the four seasons since, Vydra has managed just eight goals across 82 Premier League appearances for Burnley – with two so far in 2021/22. And if you include his previous spells in the league with West Brom and Watford, he takes it up to 11, never scoring more than three in a campaign.

Andre Gray

Championship goals: 56 (147 games)
Premier League goals: 23 (115 games)

Like Vydra, Andre Gray’s prolific goalscoring in the Championship was primarily restricted to one season (scoring 25 goals in 42 appearances for Burnley and Brentford to win the Golden Boot), but earlier this season he hit 50 goals in the competition including play-offs.

After aiding Burnley’s promotion in 2015/16, Gray struggled to truly replicate his goalscoring exploits in the Premier League, netting 23 goals in his next four campaigns for the Clarets and Watford. Gray is now back in the Championship with Queens Park Rangers and has nine goals in 27 appearances.

Oliver McBurnie

Championship goals: 31 (87 games)
Premier League goals: 7 (75 games)

Oliver McBurnie scored 22 goals in 42 games for Swansea City in the 2018/19 Championship campaign. Although it was not enough to send the Swans up, as they were defensively weak, it did earn McBurnie a £20m move to Sheffield United – a record signing for the Blades.

Unfortunately that worked out to around £2.8m per Premier League goal scored, as McBurnie managed just seven goals in 59 appearances for the Blades including just one as they were relegated from the top flight last season. McBurnie had also had a period in the Premier League with Swansea but failed to find the net in 16 appearances in 2016/17 and 2017/18 before being sent on loan to Barnsley for half of the latter season, scoring nine goals in 17 Championship appearances.