Promoted clubs braced for survival
LONDON: Most of the pre-season attention is focused upon potential champions yet recent history suggests the most tense — and financially damaging — competition will be at the other end of the Premier League table.
Around £40 million is the estimated cost of relegation for the three clubs who finish at the foot of the standings and this season, as in most, the three promoted sides are also hotly-tipped to return directly to The Championship. Wolves, Birmingham City and Burnley are the clubs who graduated to top-flight and all face a monumental task in consolidating their new found status.
A key factor in being able to stave off a swift relegation is the calibre of players recruited by a newly-promoted club and, consequently, Wolves and Birmingham will perhaps
feel more confident than Burnley, even though all three have broken their transfer records this close season.
Wolves have brought in players such as the experienced forward Kevin Doyle as well as midfielder Nenad Milijas from Red Star Belgrade and goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, also from Reading.
It is the combination of experience and new-found enthusiasm that is so often the key factor in a side managing to stay up, as Hull City proved with their impressive opening to the campaign 12 months ago.
Birmingham have so far recruited eight players, which is a tacit admission that their Championship squad was not big or talented enough to survive the rigours of the Premier League and also suggests they believe their stay in the top flight is a long-term venture.
Burnley have spent significantly less than their promotion partners, primarily because more money simply does not exist. Manager Owen Coyle has admitted he has just £16 million to spend on both transfers and wages, with the three million invested in winger Steven Fletcher. As a result, the Lancashire club has a mountain to climb, not that Coyle himself is too concerned.
However, it is not all gloom for the new sides. All three will take huge spirit from the fact that last season, two of the promoted teams — Stoke City and Hull — both managed to keep a foothold in the Premier League while two supposedly more established clubs did not, in the forms of Newcastle United and Middlesbrough. Very few people backed Newcastle for relegation 12 months ago, nor were their near neighbours Middlesbrough favourites for the drop.
This year, Bolton Wanderers could be a strong candidate. Portsmouth are racked by financial troubles and an unhappy squad which could also be an issue and both Stoke and, especially given their second half to last season, Hull will again face challenging seasons as they look to survive.
Wigan Athletic could be an outside choice to struggle as they head into the season
with a new manager, Roberto Martinez, while West Ham
and Fulham will only feel comfortable once safety is a mathematical certainty.