The honeymoon period is well and truly over for Premiership new boys QPR and Swansea City. The ecstasy of promotion to the top flight has been cast out and replaced by the harsh reality of playing in the unforgiving terrain of top flight football. Whilst fellow promotees Norwich City can be satisfied with their endeavours following a 1-1 draw at Wigan, the picture in West London and South Wales tells a very different story. The hope and confidence of cementing a long-term stay in the Premiership has already hit a massive stumbling block, as both sides kicked off their respective seasons with soul-destroying 4-0 defeats.
Both sides thoroughly earned their right to play in the Premiership and with both sides having put in so much hard work to get to where they are now, it was vital that they didn’t let the thrill of top-flight football get to their heads and ensure that they started the season as positively as possible. And yet, despite both sides putting in good 1st half performances, they completely capitulated against their respective opponents and, by the time 90 minutes was up, both teams had their tails firmly between their legs.
QPR were a class act last season as they ran away with the Championship title. A home game against Bolton Wanderers to kick off their first top-flight match in 15 years was never going to be easy, but it was certainly a match that they would hope to get a result from. And for almost 45 minutes, they were the better team. Yet one lapse in concentration just before half-time cost them dearly, and from then on, the team simply imploded against a well-organised and confident Bolton squad. Players like Jay Bothroyd, DJ Campbell and Adel Taarabt, who was so influential for QPR last season, were merely shadows of their usual selves and by the time Bolton scored their fourth, it was difficult to see how this club were going to survive the next 37 matches. With concerns off the pitch by a potential sale of the club, a lack of big-money signings and doubts over the future of manager Neil Warnock, this was not the start that the club needed or wanted.
Swansea’s determination and attacking style of football were significant factors as they achieved promotion via the play-offs to become the first Welsh team to play in the Premiership. Yet their opening game could not have been tougher. Whilst a result for QPR against Bolton was believable, a result for Swansea away at Manchester City would have been perceived as nothing short of a miracle. To put things in perspective, Manchester City’s new striker, Sergio Aguero, cost the club £13 million more than the entire Swansea squad put together. In the eyes of most football fans, a 2-0 defeat would have been a respectable scoreline for Swansea. But like QPR, they attributed themselves admirably against the giants of Manchester City and they managed to hold them for almost an hour, with new goalkeeper Michel Vorm in inspired form. Yet once they conceded the first goal, it was simply a matter of time before the Eastlands club would prove their dominance. In fact it was Aguero who was the biggest tormentor to the Swans as he put in an outstanding debut performance for his new club. It was a commendable performance by Swansea, but good performances count for nothing if you back it up with a good result. Let’s not make excuses, this was a heavy defeat.
If ever there was proof of the gulf in class between the Premiership and the Championship, these were results were surely it. Of course it is way too early to condemn either club to an immediate return to the Championship, a league they worked so hard to get out of, and both clubs did show glimpses of why they now find themselves playing in the Premiership. Yet it’s so often said that a good start to the season is the benchmark to a successful campaign. The road that lies ahead for these two clubs will now seem considerably longer following the weekend’s results and a lot of work needs to be done in order for a successful campaign to be achieved.
It’s a joy to have these two proud, well-established football clubs in the Premiership. But they have a lot of work to do to make sure that they stay there.
Read more of Sam’s articles at http://diamondformation.wordpress.com/. Also follow him on Twitter: @DiamondFormat.