Players who were too good for the Championship but struggled in the Premier League

Dwight Gayle definitely falls into this category
Dwight Gayle definitely falls into this category / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images
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When a player tears up the Championship year after year, it seems only logical that they'll be able to recreate that form when they make the step up to the Premier League.

While a fair few are able to adjust, some simply cannot. When out of their depth, they look a shadow of their former self, and suddenly it seems the Championship was as it good as it was supposed to get.

If they're unable to make the cut in the top division, they typically return to the Championship to resurrect their career before absolutely tearing it up again and making everyone believe that maybe, just maybe, they could cut it in the Premier League.

So, let's guide you through some of the most famous yo-yo footballers...


1. Anthony Knockaert

Tricky winger Knockaert struggles outside the Championship
Tricky winger Knockaert struggles outside the Championship / Naomi Baker/Getty Images

The Frenchman was devastating in the campaign that saw Brighton gain promotion. Scoring 15 goals and providing a further nine, the winger was expected to easily make the step up.

Just five goals across the next two seasons with the Seagulls sees Knockaert firmly cemented as a player too good for the Championship but who can't cut it a league above.


2. Dwight Gayle

Gayle is fantastic...in the Championship
Gayle is fantastic...in the Championship / Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Gayle has a devastating record in the Championship, yet barely gets a look in at Premier League level.

After scoring 23 goals out on loan at West Brom in 2018/19, Newcastle fans would have expected Gayle to finally come good in the top flight.

However, in the last two seasons back at the Toon, he has just five goals in 38 outings, while he is rarely a starter.


3. Matej Vydra

The Czech may suit a move back to the lower league
The Czech may suit a move back to the lower league / CLIVE BRUNSKILL/Getty Images

With 21 goals for Derby in 2017/18 and the forward entering his prime years, you can understand why Burnley snapped up Czech Republic international Vydra.

He had previously drummed up a lot of hype with some terrific spells at Watford, but ever since he moved to Turf Moor his career has been on a downward trajectory.

Three years and six goals later, it's looking like a mistake. Time for a move back down to the Championship.


4. Danny Graham

Graham failed miserably at Sunderland and Hull
Graham failed miserably at Sunderland and Hull / Stu Forster/Getty Images

After netting 12 times for newly-promoted Swansea, Graham tricked us all into thinking he could hack it in the Premier League.

It turned out, as it so often does, to be a purple patch - he would score just once in 37 appearances for Sunderland and once in 18 for Hull.

He would later return to lower leagues, eventually reclaiming his goalscoring touch at Blackburn.


5. Jordan Rhodes

A very forgettable Premier League appearance
A very forgettable Premier League appearance / Stephen Pond/Getty Images

With 108 Championship goals, it seemed amazing that no Premier League team was prepared to take a chance on Rhodes.

Eventually, Middlesbrough took a punt on former Huddersfield star Rhodes, but his foray into the top flight would be a brief one.

He featured in just six games, scoring zero goals, and nowadays can be found at Sheffield Wednesday.


6. Alex Pritchard

Pritchard's yet to impress in the Premier League
Pritchard's yet to impress in the Premier League / John Early/Getty Images

Pritchard looked like a genuine star in the making during his loan spell with Brentford in the 2014/15 season, helping the Bees qualify for the playoffs.

He made just two appearances for West Brom on loan the following season, and he later failed to impress at Huddersfield after being purchased for roughly £11m following some strong showings for Norwich.

The move to the top flight seemed to genuinely derail Pritchard, who goes into the 2021/22 season having signed for Sunderland in League One.


7. Tom Ince

Tom Ince was never able to recreate father Paul's success
Tom Ince was never able to recreate father Paul's success / Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Always impressive in the Championship, especially in his early years, Ince was continually linked to a host of top Premier League sides - there was even interest from Serie A giants Inter at one time.

After 48 appearances across three clubs in the top flight, in which he contributed to just four goals, it's clear Ince isn't cut out for the top level.


8. Tommy Elphick

Injuries hampered Elphick's Premier League campaign
Injuries hampered Elphick's Premier League campaign / John Early/Getty Images

Captaining a Bournemouth side as they won the Championship and securing Premier League football for the first time, big things were expected from centre back Elphick.

It wasn't to be. The former Brighton defender fell down the pecking order at the Vitality Stadium and made just 12 appearances during his only Premier League season to date.

He soon returned to the Championship with Aston Villa, and last plied his trade with Huddersfield.


9. Lewis Grabban

Grabban's finding the net again in the Championship
Grabban's finding the net again in the Championship / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Despite having a brilliant goalscoring record in other divisions, Grabban flopped in the Premier League.

He scored just once in 24 appearances before returning to the Championship, reestablishing himself as a threat up front with Nottingham Forest.



10. Tom Cairney

Cairney's enjoyed a brilliant season.
Cairney's enjoyed a brilliant season. / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The Championship veteran has always looked a cut above the division but unfortunately for Cairney, when given the opportunity he's failed to really grasp it

The Scotland international has twice suffered relegation with Fulham and struggled to make Scott Parker's lineup in 2020/21, playing just 10 times in the Premier League.


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