The Premier League can be an unforgiving league, but last season all three promoted clubs bucked the trend and secured their top flight status for the coming campaign. What should also stand them in good stead this summer, though, is the fact that not one of them has recruited any players from last season’s relegated trio – a truly bizarre fad that’s been noticeable these past few years, but only for its lack of success.
Quite where the logic comes in that in order to beat the drop that you need to recruit the best players from the teams who have just failed to avoid relegation, God only knows, but there have been quite a few clubs to have fallen into this trap of late.
Wolves serve as a prime example of this hugely flawed transfer policy. In 2009-10 after getting promoted the season before, they finished a fairly comfortable 15th in the league, eight points above the relegation zone. That summer, manager Mick McCarthy pushed the boat out for Steven Hunt and defender Steven Mouyokolo from relegated Hull City.
Stephen Hunt had already been relegated twice before with Reading and then Hull, but he was thought to be a decent, hard-working if unspectacular winger and he helped to play a part in keeping the club up a season later as they avoided the drop by just a solitary point in 2010-11.
It seems as if big Mick didn’t learn his lesson, though, as the following summer he recruited Roger Johnson for £7m from relegated Birmingham City and immediately set about making him skipper. Birmingham completely fell apart in the league the previous season after winning the Carling Cup, much in the same way that Liverpool did last year, but Johnson had a torrid time at the Molineux.
Firstly, he was dropped by McCarthy for his poor performances, then being stripped of the captaincy before allegedly turning up to training under the influence of alcohol as he slumped to his second successive relegation from the top flight as a player. There has to be a link between buying players that have been relegated and then their under-performance the season after – they surely must lack confidence.
To a lesser extent, the same applies to Steven Fletcher, who has now been relegated twice with Burnley and Wolves, despite having a reasonable goalscoring record with both clubs considering the service he had, while some-time strike partner Kevin Doyle has also suffered two relegations with Reading and now Wolves.
These players are bought because of their fighting qualities and their ability to scrap at the bottom of the league, but you’re also compromising on quality and underestimating your chances of getting sucked into a dogfight and it just all smacks of a lack of ambition – filling your squad to the brim with players that have past experiences of failure as opposed to success and it’s no wonder the results are often the same. What’s the definition of stupidity again?
Swansea, Norwich and QPR all strengthened by buying from either mid-table Premier League sides or the best of the Championship, the league which they had just come from. The result was that they didn’t compromise on quality and they had players hungry to prove themselves with either the guarantee of more regular first-team football or the chance to test themselves in a higher division.
At Blackburn, Scott Dann came in from relegated Birmingham City, while at Bolton, Owen Coyle signed Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears from his former club Burnley after they failed to avoid the drop in 2009-10, while Nigel Quashie deals in relegations like they’re going out of fashion having gone down with West Brom, Portsmouth and Southampton during a pretty rotten career.
Here’s what Bryan Robson had to say upon bringing him to the Hawthorns back in the summer of 2006: “I always liked Nigel when he played for QPR, Portsmouth and Southampton. He is intelligent, has good stamina and is a very good passer of the ball. He has got the experience now of relegation fights and playing in the Premiership. I just feel he will improve our squad.” It will come as no surprise to learn that they went down at the end of that season.
It’s not even that these clubs have stagnated, an accusation that could certainly be levelled at Stoke these days, it’s that they’ve gone backwards by recruiting players that only deal in defeat. Is it honestly any surprise then that squads packed full of players who have been relegated before and have shown themselves not up to the required top flight standard over the course of a full season then struggle in the years after?
So far, Southampton and Reading have done the majority of their transfer deals early, following the trend of the previous promoted trio, buying players from the league below which are on the up, such as Nathaniel Clyne, Jay Rodriguez and Adrian Mariappa, while West Ham are still chasing their marquee signing.
QPR, Swansea and Norwich, as they look to battle against most-dreaded of beasts, second-season syndrome this season, look to be taking the right approach, and not making the same mistakes of the past. The make-up of the top flight is changing and more promoted teams are finding it easier to beat the drop at the first time of asking. The gap in quality between the Premier League and the Championship has reduced the last few years and it simply makes no sense to sign players without the requisite experience of success and the performances to match, otherwise clubs will continue to gamble with their financial futures.
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