With Portsmouth, Hull and Burnley making up the bottom three of the Premiership this season the question will be asked as to who will go down next season, however that question will be very difficult to answer.
This year the teams that went down were quite predictable. Portsmouth before their 9 point penalty for going into administration were always looking to have a tough season when Paul Hart began the campaign in charge. He isn’t a great manager by any means and when he signed players like Danny Webber and Tommy Smith then you just knew that these Championship quality players would be leading the team down to that division. Results did pick up for the club when Hart left and Avram Grant came in but by then it was too late and with no funds to strengthen the squad in January the writing was already on the wall.
As for Hull, the team just about stayed up on the last day of last season. This pre-season they spent their time getting rejected by Premier League fringe players and didn’t make any signings of any real quality. Hull’s board showed desperation when in March they placed Phil Brown on ‘gardening leave’ and brought in Iain Dowie, a man who has now had a hand in relegating four teams from the Premiership – Crystal Palace, Charlton, Newcastle and now Hull in the last six years!
Burnley were the team that perhaps most people expected to go down, but credit to them they started the season well with a team of limited quality and by January found themselves in a decent position. However with the departure of Owen Coyle they consigned themselves to the Championship by appointing Brian Laws, who has now effectively relegated Burnley and the club he left Sheffield Wednesday in one season.
The teams that are coming up from the Championship have a lot more quality than in recent years. Firstly Newcastle, a massive club who walked the division will be back where they belong. Despite the Newcastle board announcing that there will be no transfer funds next season, they will still be able to make free signings and loans, and this coupled with the squad that they’ve already got, should ensure that they finish well clear of relegation, possibly in mid-table.
With West Brom a lot of people are expecting them to continue their ‘boing, boing’ tradition and go straight back down. However this won’t be the case as they managed to keep a lot of their squad together from the previous season in the Premiership and that campaign will have given them a lot of experience. Roberto Di Matteo could play a big part in their survival, he will do a better job than Tony Mowbray and as a young and dynamic manager he will have a lot of ideas he will be keen to implement. It might be a tough season but with a few good signings West Brom can beat the drop.
The last side that comes up is going to be the favourite to go down, as of writing, the play-off final will be contested between Blackpool and either Leicester City or Cardiff. If they win promotion then Blackpool can be compared to Stoke winning promotion. Stoke won promotion with a squad full of players that were seen as being Championship quality at best and were strong favourites to go down, but their own brand of football, playing a direct, physical game worked tremendously well in the Premiership and they’ve managed to stay up comfortably for two seasons running. Although it is a stark contrast Blackpool also have their own brand of football which is play an offensive game from the off and commit men forward, who’s to say that it too couldn’t take the Premiership by surprise?
If Cardiff or Leicester were to win promotion then they both have Premiership stadiums in place and a big fan base. Cardiff have more quality in the team that could possibly cut it in the Premiership and should from the promotion prize money be able to invest in the team. Leicester whilst they don’t have the same quality have quite a lot of financial backing, and this coupled with promotion prize money means that they will be able to invest better than the other two promotion candidates and would make themselves a difficult outfit to play against in the Premiership.
Finally as for the sides that could find themselves under threat in the Premiership next season you have to look at West Ham, Wigan, Wolves and Bolton.
West Ham had a very poor season and in previous years would have gone down had it not been for three worse teams in the division. But they have a squad which is at least mid-table quality already and with Gold and Sullivan keen to invest in the team they will be fine.
Wigan had an awful season getting humiliated by both Spurs and Chelsea conceding 17 goals over two games. However like West Ham, they possess some very good players like Charles N’Zogbia, Hugo Rodallega and James McCarthy. It might take a change of manager to get them going again but Wigan you would also expect to be fine.
Wolves will be battling the “second season syndrome” and will need a fair bit of investment. But they’ve proven this season that they can be a resilient outfit to play against and if they can make the right signings then they will have enough about them to beat the drop.
Bolton had a good end to the season given that they were battling relegation at the end of last year. Owen Coyle has come in and kept them quite clear of going down, he made some good signings in January window and was able to galvanise the team. Next year he will be looking to make more progress with Bolton and as an up and coming manager he will be hungry for success. Again they should be in no danger of going down.
It promises to be a very exciting season next year in terms of who will survive and don’t be surprised if there are very few points between who goes down.