It certainly doesn’t feel like every season we see six different teams in the Championship, and depending what way you enter the league can often dictate expectations for a club. After the weekend’s League One Playoff final, we now know the three teams that will be playing the Championship via relegation from the Premiership and the three that will be entering the fray from League One promotion. It’s farewell to Newcastle, West Brom, Blackpool, Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth and Peterborough and a fond welcome to Hull, Burnley, Portsmouth, Norwich, Leeds and Millwall. Something quite odd about this round of promotions and relegations is how next season might play out for each of these teams, as many have other things on their mind apart from the usual chance to show bouncebackabillity or fight for their life. Instead, these six new contenders offer something quite different to next season and will be fighting much different battles to what would usually be expected:
Hull’s demise really started half way through their second season in the Premiership. They took the league by storm but then suddenly faltered and spent big in order to try and maintain their top flight status. The club is in heavy debt after a number of flops at the club, and failure to offload a number of players could see the club be threatened with relegation. It’s almost certain now that Phil Brown will not be returning from gardening leave, yet the settlement of his contract only chalks up another financial loss for the club. Despite his brilliance, Jimmy Bullard needs to leave the club, as his high wages and lack of playing time have really hindered the Tigers, and despite his commitment to the Yorkshire outfit, Hull will be desperate to let the player move on this summer. Whether anyone will meet his high wage demands is another problem however, as I can’t see many sides wanting to pay that much for a player who has consistently struggled with injuries for the past several seasons. A lot of free transfers can be expected from the club, and there should be a number of youngsters getting a chance to perform. The most important thing for the Tigers is to appoint the correct manager at this point, as I can’t really see them gaining promotion next season.
Many criticised manager Brian Laws last season, and his performance in the first ten or so games at the start of the 2010/11 season will decide his future. Surprising news comes in the form of a massive sale for Steven Fletcher, who impressed quite a few last season (although £7.5m may still need to be justified). Burnley may also gain goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and striker Chris Iwelumo from the deal, both of which would be welcome signings, particularly Hennessey as (I’m sorry Burnley fans!) Brian Jensen certainly has a few ‘rush of blood to the head’ moments. The Clarets have also capitalised on Hull’s financial position, by nabbing Dean Marney for half a million, and relegation to the Championship appears to have just made them more determined to return at the first time of asking. I’d like to see more on Burnley over this summer, but their season appears to be shaping up well, whether the unfavoured Brian Laws will hinder this remains to be seen.
When will it end? They’ve been the love of Sky Sports this season, and provided them with plenty viewing figures and stories; the problems of Portsmouth football club have not been kept quiet. Avram Grant has left the club to no one’s surprise, and now there a number of potential managers who have the opportunity to take on what will no doubt be a massive task. You may have heard the goalkeeper David James wants the job, which has come as a shock to many, yet Steve Cotterill would no doubt be a great acquisition for the club, although he probably has a good chance at getting a number of vacant jobs after his spell with Notts County. No matter who the manager is, Portsmouth are in real trouble of getting relegated to League One next season and that is the truth. The whole team is up for sale and there are still quite a few top earners at the club, as the club goes into even more debt. Fair play if they can manage to have a good season, but it could really be back-to-back relegations for Pompey.
The Canaries came straight back from the drop, and did it in some style as despite an early thumping from Colchester that signalled doom for the side, they hired Lambert from Colchester and have never looked back, Players like Wes Hoolahan, Gary Holt and Chris Martin will most likely again lead the line for City, although Paul Lambert’s recent revelation regarding less loan signings could signal the side’s determination to make clever permanent signings, which would suggest more depth in the squad. The managers and fans are hopeful that they can agree another season long loan of Newcastle youngster Fraser Forster after the ‘keeper made a number of impressive displays between the sticks in League One and the club will probably look to get some experienced heads in to accompany some of the younger players. I think Norwich can beat the drop, they won’t be world beaters but I’m sure they can give it a go, and a good following could help them make their home stadium, Carrow Road, a fortress.
It was a long time coming, but one of England’s most famous clubs has finally found something to cheer about after well detailed troubles. They were beaten in the playoffs last season, and luck just didn’t seem to be on their side. Even this season just gone, they were made to sweat on their promotion hopes after a dismal run which saw them just clinch automatic promotion to the Championship. Kasper Schmeichel, who bossed League 2, has become the clubs first signing, and many will be expecting more recruits over the coming weeks. Star striker Jermaine Beckford has finally departed however, signing for Everton on a free transfer, a deal which was rumoured as agreed in January after the players heroics against rivals Manchester United; this leaves Leeds looking for a player to fill the void. I know due to the clubs stature many will be expecting the club to challenge for promotion once again, but despite what you may hear I know many of the Leeds fans are realistic about their chances, and they would happily take a chance to just re-establish themselves in the Championship so they can progress to the next level.
“No one likes us, no one likes us, no one likes us – we don’t care!”. The cry of the self proclaimed most hated team in English football. Millwall clinched promotion to the Championship after last seasons heartache via the League One Playoff, and many clubs will be dreading the extra cost of security next season. A few problems arise with Millwall’s promotion, most notably their recent problems with Hull City who they will once again be squaring off with and of course we can continue with the hostile Leeds Millwall rivalry which has seen a number of problems when the sides met in League One. They’ve just gained promotion, but the club will probably be set for a relegation battle next season, although a number of good and experienced signings could see a change to that. They’ve got a great manager in Kenny Jackett, and The Den is not the nicest place for an away team to visit.
So what we have here are different situations, I actually believe that there is a strong chance that the promoted teams could do better than the relegated ones, most notably Hull and Portsmouth who may face a massive struggle this season as their debts could prevent them from really challenging. Overall, these teams provide an open season and it’s hard to say who will get promotion and who will get relegated considering the positions of a number of other teams in the league.