So the English Premier League season has closed and I guess we are now all looking forward to next season when the mad stampede for points for either success at the top or to avoid relegation at the bottom resumes with its inevitable shocks and arguments.
A couple of weeks ago I said I would be looking at the Premier League prospects of the three newly promoted clubs and also to think about how the three clubs they have replaced are likely to find how life is in the Championship.
Well, for a start we have a look at the record books to help us assess how the three newly arrived clubs are likely to do and I’m afraid they don’t make very positive reading since it is very rare for newly arrived teams to achieve much more than survival.
On average it appears that two of the three go back down and the third just about manages to reach the 40 point survival mark. What makes things particularly interesting this time is the very different background, history and status of the three clubs.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN Probably the most surprising club to make the Premier League is Huddersfield Town. This time last year the prospect of them making it into the Premier League would have been considered pretty unlikely but Huddersfield is, historically one of England’s great clubs. Way back in 1926 they were the first English club to win three League titles in succession!. They can also boast of having two of the greatest managers of all time….Herbert Chapman, who won the FA Cup and two First Division titles in the space of four years and went on to achieve even greater things as manager of Arsenal, and the legendary Bill Shankley.
On the playing front the Club has produced many great players including two of the greatest of all-time, namely Scotland’s incomparable Denis Law and Ray Wilson, England’s World Cup winning full back – certainly one of the very best full backs I have ever played with.
Huddersfield had a couple of seasons in the top flight back in the 1970’s but have spent the last 45 years moving around the second, third and fourth tier of the League. Then in November 2015 former United States international David Wagner was appointed manager, the first non-British one in the Club’s 107 year history, and the Club went on to Beat Reading 4-3 on penalties last season after drawing 0-0 at full time.
However, I fear the fairy tale road of success may hit a few pot holes and hold ups along the way in the Premier League unless they can make several shrewd buys during this current transfer window. They have some very good players and a very strong team ethic but I have to question whether their squad of good enough quality players is big enough and I also question whether they have any game-changing, match winning players.
In conclusion I fear next season is likely to be one a struggle for survival unless, as a I say, they successfully invest some of the massive new money coming into the Club as a result of their Premier League status.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION. Next on my list for a sadly but likely relegation fight is Brighton & Hove Albion. Of course, they have been knocking on the door of the Premier League since the 2012-13 season when they finished 4th in the Championship only to be beaten by Crystal Palace. Then in the 2013-14 a remarkable late run of good results saw them squeeze into the Play Offs once again only to be beaten one more, this time by Derby County.
I suppose the real serious run in to the Premier League began in December 2015 when Chris Hughton was appointed manager with the Club a serious relegation trouble. He stopped the rot and saved them from demotion, ending in 20th position.
The next season (2015–16) saw a revived Brighton side go on a 22-game unbeaten run from the opening day to 19 December when Middlesbrough beat them to inflict their first defeat. During the run, Brighton topped the Championship for most of the time. On the final day of the season they travelled to Middlesbrough needing to win to secure promotion. However, Middlesbrough took the lead and even though Brighton equalised in the 2nd half Middlesbrough won promotion to the Premier League with Brighton having to settle for 3rd and a play-off place where they were beaten in the Club’s third playoff semi-final defeat in four seasons!
Brighton started last season with an 18-match unbeaten run, taking them to the top of the league for much of the time until the end of January eventually finishing second behind Newcastle United, earning promotion to the Premier League.
I feel their latest promotion is another block in the building of the club into a genuine contender at the highest level. They now have a superb 30,750 capacity stadium and a new £32 million training centre at nearby Lancing which has been described as one of the best in the World.
So, I feel they are doing things correctly by establishing the infrastructure necessary for a club to be a stable, consistently successful operation. What is key for them is to ensure they can stay in the Premier League for a few years in order to create a reputation which makes them a vibrant commercial enterprise and also one which enables them to attract the quality of new players they are going to need if they are to become a seasoned, regular member of England’s footballing elite.
Of course they have a good team….they proved that through their steady success last season….but we all know how much greater is the challenge to win regularly in the Premier League. So, once again much depends on how well, and how much, they buy during the current transfer window. As with most promoted clubs, the squad needs to be bigger and better if they are to thrive.
My gut feeling is that they will possibly just stay up this time next year but it’ll be a roller coaster ride!
NEWCASTLE UNITED. The least surprising of the three promoted sides was surely Newcastle United. As one of England’s biggest and over many years, most successful clubs, it was a big surprise when they were relegated. Whilst once again I feel they need to be busy in the transfer market in order to increase the size and quality of their squad, I feel they most certainly have the resources and management to do just that.
In Rafa Benitez they have a manager who is well experienced in managing in the Premier League with the added bonus of having a reputation in football around the world to make it easier to attract potential signings to the Club.
On the financial front they are also the best placed of all the promoted sides and also the majority of those already in the Premier League. Last season Newcastle banked almost £41million in parachute payments. In addition they also received £7.1million for winning the Championship, where the money is distributed equally among all clubs – regardless of where they finish. In the Championship there is also a £100,000 bonus for every home game screened on TV and £70,000 for every away game that’s on TV.
The Club’s total prize money for their Championship campaign was £48million, a clear indication of why promotion back to the Premier League was so crucial.
But, perhaps most important indication of their financial situation as opposed to the other newly promoted teams and a clear demonstration of the Club’s wealth is the size of their average home attendance at 51,108. This is right up there with the best supported teams in the land and is even more remarkable when you consider that near-capacity for every game was achieved in the Championship.
Allied to the massive commercial income such a massive club is able to generate through arena and programme advertising, sponsorship and the sale of replica shirts it means Newcastle should be able to compete financially with almost every club in the League, including the so-called “big six”.
As yet there are no signs of Benitez consulting his much-travelled little black book of football contacts around the globe to begin re-energising and enlarging his squad for the fierce challenge of the Premier League which lays ahead but I fully expect him to make three or four big signings of key match changing players, assuming he has a guarantee from owner Mike Ashley that he will support him in such moves.
On a positive note, I expect Newcastle to buy additional players and with Benitez’s experienced hand at the helm, for them to make it reasonably comfortably to a mid- table finish.
Remember that during the off season, WSB is offering bets on a host of smaller leagues. Check them out HERE