It’s a telling fact that the last (and only) time the Premiership’s three newest additions have all lived to see another year in England’s top flight was the 2001/02 season; this fact helps show us the gulf in class between the Championship and the Premiership which has seen promoted sides struggle to stay in the division year after year. Indeed, many seasons all three promoted sides fight relegation throughout the season with at least one doomed to go down. This year things seem different though, it’s not just that some of the established Premiership teams are in terrible form and more than capable of taking themselves down – the new boys are an improvement on those who usually come up and we could yet see all three promoted sides stay in the Premiership, a rare feat.
We’ve seen how badly newly promoted teams can do in the competitive Premiership – Sunderland managed just 15 points when they came up in 2005 whilst Derby somehow managed to do even worse by getting just 11 points, and one league win, in the 2007/08 season. There’s usually at least one team who gets promoted who looks likely to be relegated straight back down from day one, last season there was West Bromwich Albion but this year? The teams look capable of doing far better than anyone would have anticipated.
The best performers of the three sides so far are Championship runners-up Birmingham City. Birmingham had an advantage over their rivals in that they have more financial might behind them which gives them the chance to make more (or better) signings. But many clubs have come up before and thrown away lots of money on players who haven’t made it – Birmingham have spent wisely and it’s showing. The likes of Joe Hart, Scott Dann and Roger Johnson have all come in and impressed whilst the core of their Championship squad have all adapted to the Premiership well. Birmingham are solid defensively although a bit suspect going forward but with plenty of money to spend there’s no reason they could be the surprise package of this season, even managing a top half finish!
The Championship winners Wolves have fared a lot worse than Birmingham, but that doesn’t mean they’re in big danger. Wolves have not managed to gain any sort of consistency but they have the ability to pick up results here and there, including shock ones like victory at Tottenham, which suggests that they could yet get enough points to keep themselves in the top flight. Signings like Kevin Doyle have done great for them and they look a hard-working unit who don’t give up easily. They’ll probably face a relegation battle but there are far worse teams than Wolves in the league and there’s no reason they cannot stay up.
And then there’s the play-off winners Burnley, the enigma of the three. Burnley caused plenty of shocks when they were still in the Championship with cup shocks over Premiership giants such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham but most expected them to go straight back down when they reached the top flight. If points were only won in away games then yes, Burnley would finish rock bottom as they cannot win away – 10 away games so far this season has heralded no wins and just one draw which is absolutely terrible. But Burnley’s strength is at home and the new boys have lost just once in the league all season at Turf Moor to Wigan whilst they’ve managed to beat champions Manchester United and draw with title chasing Arsenal. A home fortress is always a massive boost and it could be enough to keep Burnley up as long as other teams continue to struggle to get points anywhere.
And that’s another helping hand for the promoted sides, Premiership teams often drop form and get involved in the relegation fight but rarely do they look worse than all the promoted teams like a number of the clubs do – Portsmouth have been unlucky with their results but their financial problems will surely doom them to relegation; Hull look hapless most of the team and seem certain to go down whilst Bolton, though they have games in hand, rarely get results. Added to that the fact that Wigan and West Ham can get no consistency and the promoted sides should have lots of hope, they’re good enough to beat these sides to staying up.
It’s always a refreshing change to see promoted sides doing well; Stoke may have been vilified for their tactics last season but they were admired for how they’d done. Now the current crop should be for they’re better than many of their predecessors and all have the capabilities to fight for their place in England’s top flight – seeing them all survive would be a welcome change to many, myself included. Their fighting spirit has helped to make the Premiership more competitive and unpredictable than usual and it’s nothing but good for the league. Well done promoted sides, keep up the good work!
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