Not that most of us need many reasons to keep watching for the remainder of this season, but the closing of this season gives us quite a few to keep our DVRs busy. We have, obviously, the race for the title starting to get really interesting with Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal all warranting reasons to be at the top by the season’s end. Also, the fourth Champion’s League place is incredibly exciting with Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Aston Villa, and even Everton making a charge. It’s still too early on for anything to be definitive but we’re starting to see the true contenders emerge. Related, this season could be historic in that I believe it could very well be the start of the decline of the big four.
However, there is another race that I would argue is much more important to the majority of English teams than who wins the title or who qualifies for the Champion’s League. Staying in the top-flight or being promoted to the top-flight is the central goal for many clubs in English football. With some clubs the goal of “staying up” could be considered near vital. Most of us here will agree that this system of promotion and relegation is great for many reasons. The fight in the Championship for this promotion into the Premier League is like nothing else and getting new clubs into the league keep it relatively fresh each season. I’m a huge fan of the idea and will often use it to pique interest in my non-football-watching Americans. It seems to be an aspect of English football that Americans find really interesting.
There are a few points of contention, however. To begin, the play-off system doesn’t seem fair to some supporters. It’s possible that a team that ended the season in sixth place would be promoted to the top-flight, while third through fifth spot are left behind wondering how this could happen. It’s certainly exciting but has to be frustrating when your team could have more points than the team able to reap the benefits of the Premiership. Wouldn’t just promoting the top three teams make it much fairer?
Also, there is the whole problem of competiveness. The argument is that certain teams have no realistic chance that they will be able to complete on the same level as a Chelsea or Manchester City and will not spend big or at all for fear of taking that debt into relegation. These teams are happy to just make 17th and, therefore, ensure the status-quo is kept. Why not just always have 20 teams that can build over the years without fear of relegation – thus making the Premiership more competitive over time?
As far as the current relegation battle is concerned, we’re definitely seeing it start to get more and more of a concern for clubs. Portsmouth look like they’ve secured last place but Hull City, Burnley, West Ham, Wigan Athletic, Wolves, or Bolton could find their club in the Championship next year.
Newcastle and West Bromwich have all but secured a spot in the Premier League with Nottingham Forest, Leicester City, Swansea City, Cardiff City looking to be the teams that will be entered into the playoff system. Blackpool, Sheffield United, and Middlesbrough may have an outside chance of making it into those playoff spots too.
As for my thoughts, I love the idea of promotion and relegation and feel that a play-off to determine that last Premiership team provides a great end to the season. Also, even newly promoted teams are getting more and more competitive with the so-called top clubs.
As for my picks, I’m going with Newcastle, West Bromwich, and Cardiff City to come up with Portsmouth, Burnley, and West Ham going down.
Who do you think will be promoted and relegated this season? Also, what are your thoughts on the current promotion and relegation system and do you think the play-off system is fair?