Football Features

Seven Championship goal machines who struggle in the Premier League

By Harry Edwards

Published: 16:59, 10 November 2021

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

An incredible nine of the past 10 Championship Golden Boot winners have snagged the trophy by scoring at least 25 goals, with Ivan Toney’s 31 last season the most in a single campaign since the second tier was rebranded in 2004/05.

However, not everyone has been able to translate their goalscoring form to the Premier League, either when moving up through promotion or earning a big transfer for their Championship exploits. Some find themselves in a purgatory of being too good for the Championship but not quite good enough to worry defences in the Premier League. We’ve picked out seven such players, though there is still time for them to prove us wrong.


Championship Golden Boot odds with Sky Bet

  • Aleksandar Mitrovic (1/9)
  • Dominic Solanke (8/1)
  • Ben Brereton (10/1)
  • Karlan Grant (33/1)
  • Joel Piroe (50/1)
  • Lewis Grabban (50/1)
  • Viktor Gyokeres (50/1)

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Aleksandar Mitrovic

Championship goals: 62 (103 games)
Premier League goals: 24 (104 games)

There won’t be many fantasy football managers who haven’t been left cursing Aleksandar Mitrovic a few weeks into the new Premier League campaign. The Serbian is an absolute monster in the Championship and has scored 58 goals in 78 second-tier appearances for Fulham since joining them from Newcastle United in January 2018 (including play-offs). This season alone he has already hit 20 goals in 17 appearances and looks on course to break all kinds of records to get Fulham back into the Premier League.

But the problem for Fulham and Mitrovic is that the 27-year-old unfortunately hasn’t worked out how to modify his game to the Premier League. In 104 appearances for Newcastle and Fulham, Mitrovic has scored just 24 Premier League goals, nine of which came in his first campaign in England after joining Newcastle from Anderlecht. Last season the Serb scored just three goals as Fulham suffered an immediate return to the Championship – having scored 26 goals in 2019/20 to get them up.

Teemu Pukki

Championship goals: 55 (84 games)
Premier League goals: 14 (47 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 but two of his three Premier League strikes in 2021/22 have been from the penalty spot. Norwich once again look to be fighting relegation and Pukki may not have the goals to save them.

Dwight Gayle

Championship goals: 60 (101 games)
Premier League goals: 26 (140 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. Not great but he will always have ‘Crystanbul.

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Dominic Solanke

Championship goals: 28 (59 games)
Premier League goals: 4 (63 games)

Dominic Solanke is one of those players who could definitely prove us wrong in the future, 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 in the Championship with the Cherries. Last season he scored 15 goals in 40 Championship appearances but he has almost equalled that this campaign after just 17 games, netting 13 times so far.

Matej Vydra

Championship goals: 67 (192 games)
Premier League goals: 10 (93 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 seven goals across 69 Premier League appearances for Burnley. And if you include his previous spells in the league with West Brom and Watford, he takes it up to 10, never scoring more than three in a season.

Andre Gray

Championship goals: 50 (129 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 he has recently 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 three goals in nine appearances.

Oliver McBurnie

Championship goals: 31 (70 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.

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