This time last year, Crystal Palace FC, Hull City and Cardiff City were all expected to struggle in the Championship. Yet in 2013-14, all three teams will compete in the English Premier League with varying levels of expectation.
The highly rated Malky MacKay will lead the cash-rich red jersey-wearing Bluebirds with high hopes of staying in the division.
The ultra-experienced Steve Bruce, beginning his 16th season as a manager with his eighth club, following his third promotion to the Premiership, will take charge of Hull City, which captured everyone's imagination during their last foray in the top flight.
That leaves the ever popular Ian Holloway with Crystal Palace making up the trio of promoted teams. Palace head into the big-time for the first time in eight years with an absolute mountain to climb if they are to stay up.
According to most bookmakers, all three are near certainties to be relegated back down to the Championship in 2014.
Here, Bleacher Report takes a look at the promoted sides chances and provides a rough guide to the Premier League's new boys—Hull City, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City.
Team: Cardiff City FC Year Formed: 1899 Nickname: The Bluebirds
Official Website: http://www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk/
Stadium: Cardiff City Stadium Capacity: 26,828
Manager: Malky MacKay
The fantastically named Malky MacKay is one of the highest-rated young managers in the game today. The Championship's Manager of the Year last season was something of a journeyman as a player and played for Norwich City for most of his career.
He enjoyed the highs of promotion and suffered the lows of relegation across a number of clubs, so when he moved into management with Watford in 2009, he had endured an apprenticeship at the thin end of the footballing wedge. That has served him more than well, first at Watford and now at Cardiff.
He is backed by Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, and if he can use the businessman's money wisely Cardiff could easily stay up.
- Andreas Cornelius: £7.5 million, FC Copenhagen
- John Brayford: £1.5 million, Derby
- Simon Moore: undisclosed, Brentford
- Steven Caulker: £8 million, Tottenham Hotspur
New Player to Watch: Steven Caulker
Steven Caulker's £8 million capture from Tottenham Hotspur surprised many. The England international is a young and classy defender who has been nothing but impressive over the last two seasons. He was outstanding in Swansea City's debut season, when on loan, and seemed to settle well last term when back with his parent club.
MacKay has signed a highly rated and highly motivated 21-year-old England international and has made him the club's record signing.
If Spurs and Daniel Levy are as clever at transfers as most people think, they will have inserted a buy-back clause in Caulker's sale contract as he has great potential.
Young Player to Look Out For: Joe Mason
Joe Mason, a Republic of Ireland youth-international, was a £250,000 capture from Plymouth Argyle two years ago. Now he is on the verge of playing in the Premier League. Having scored six goals in 13 starts last season and 10 in 31 overall, the 22-year-old is on the verge of a breakthrough season.
His manager has already hailed him as a great talent with a massive future to Wales Online and next season could turn out to be pivotal in his development.
Cult Hero: Craig Bellamy
In the world of cult heroes, Craig Bellamy is a cult hero supreme. Having played for nine clubs since 1996, he has endured almost everything the game can offer.
He has been wooed by the likes of Celtic, Manchester City and Liverpool and then suffered their rejection. He has been involved in his fair share of off-field incidents, his transfers have totalled almost £50 million, and, today, he is one of the most succinct and intelligent voices in the game.
Bellamy has done it all, and in what might amount to his final season in the game, he deserves to do it again.
Matches to Watch Out For:
- August 17: West Ham (a)
- August 24: Manchester City (h)
- November 2: Swansea City (h)
Hardest Run of Fixtures:
Cardiff are one of the bookmakers' favorites to be relegated next summer and face a very difficult opening 13 fixtures.
There they will face, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Swansea.
- To Win the EPL: 5000-1
- To be Relegated: 7-4
Team: Hull City Year Formed: 1904 Nickname: The Tigers
Official Website: http://www.hullcityafc.net
Stadium: KC Stadium Capacity: 25,586
Manager: Steve Bruce
When Steve Bruce was appointed as Hull's manager last summer, following Nick Barmby's surprise sacking, few would have predicted automatic promotion. The former Hull player was removed from his duties after six impressive months in charge, after he made comments to the media about the Tigers' finances.
Bruce, in charge of his fourth Premier League team, heads back into the EPL facing his biggest challenge ever.
Last season surpassed all expectations as Hull secured automatic promotion. They did so with great thanks to intelligent signings like Robbie Brady and David Meyler and to old hands like Paul McShane and Matty Fryatt who weighed in with 16 goals during the 2011-12 campaign. The striker missed almost the entire season last year and will be hoping a good preseason will signal a return to form.
- Maynor Figueroa: free transfer, Wigan Athletic
- Curtis Davies: £2.25 million, Birmingham City
- Ahmed Elmohamady: £2 million, Sunderland
- Allan McGregor: £1.5 million, Besiktas
- Steve Harper: free transfer, Newcastle United
- Yannick Sagbo: Agreed Sale, Evian
- Danny Graham: loan, Sunderland
New Player to Watch: Allan McGregor
The former Rangers goalkeeper was an absolute bargain at just £1.5 million from Besiktas. He may even prove to be one of the signings-of-the-season across the entire Premier League.
McGregor played over 200 games for the Gers over a 12-year period before the club hit financial difficulties. The goalkeeper objected to his contract being transferred to Rangers "Newco" and eventually signed for Besiktas in Turkey.
The 31-year-old Scottish international conceded 39 goals in 26 games for the Black Eagles last season and is now primed for the biggest challenge of his career. At his very best, McGregor was rated as one of Britain's best 'keepers, so Bruce might have pulled a masterstroke to sign him for so little.
Young Player to Look Out For: Robbie Brady
Much was hoped and expected of Robbie Brady when he signed for Manchester United. The winger seemed to be on the verge of superstardom before he was transferred to Hull City for just £2 million.
He had enjoyed an indifferent loan season at the KC in 2011-12, and after promising so much, some were left to wonder if he was yet another young player who would fail to reach his potential.
That all changed when Steve Bruce made his second loan move permanent in January 2013. Since then, the Irish international has matured superbly and has even featured as a marauding left-wing back. He finished atop the Tigers' assist charts last term and will be expected to provide much of their creativity this term.
At 21 and beginning to fulfill his potential, 2013-14 could be a huge season for Brady. He even has an outside chance of making it to Brazil 2014 with the Republic of Ireland.
Cult Hero: Paul McShane
There is little doubt that Paul McShane is the biggest hero on the Tigers' terraces.
The much-maligned Irish international has endured his fair share of slings and arrows over the course of his career. However, one thing that was never questioned by anyone was his super-human levels of commitment.
McShane plays every second like it is his last on the planet, and it is fitting that he scored the all-crucial goal against Cardiff that secured Hull's promotion.
Matches to Watch Out For:
- August 17: Chelsea (a)
- September 14: Cardiff City (h)
- November 2: Sunderland (h)
Hardest Run of Fixtures:
Hull will do well to avoid the relegation battle, but their fixture list may provide an escape route.
Unlike other teams expected to struggle, Hull's fixture list provides periods of respite against lower-ranked teams rather than tough periods with intermittent easier games.
They need to get to the magical 40-point margin before April as their run-in is extremely difficult.
- April 5: Swansea (h)
- April 12: Manchester United (a)
- April 19: Arsenal (h)
- April 26: Fulham (a)
- May 3: Aston Villa (a)
- May 11: Everton (h) [final match of the season]
- To Win the EPL: 7500-1
- To be Relegated: 4-6
Team: Crystal Palace FC Year Formed: 1905 Nickname: The Eagles
Official Website: http://www.cpfc.co.uk
Stadium: Selhurst Park Capacity: 26,309
Manager: Ian Holloway
If Ian Holloway worked a miracle to get Blackpool promoted to the Premiership in 2010, Ollie positively walked on water to get Palace promoted last season.
He picked up the pieces with incredible ease, cunning and with no shortage of memorable quotes, which BBC Sport shared, following his appointment last November. Dougie Freedman had Palace playing superbly and had guided them into fourth before he resigned to take over at Bolton Wanderers.
Palace's fans were obviously worried that their high-flying team would plummet without the highly rated young manager. However, Holloway's capture from Blackpool, just two months after his 100th game with the club, proved a masterstroke.
Holloway is an incredibly attack-minded manager and does not believe in the philosophy of playing defensively and still losing. This outlook comes from his time in charge of Leicester City which he led to relegation from the Championship in 2008 with the league's second-best defensive record.
- Jerome Thomas: free transfer, West Brom
- Stephen Dobie: undisclosed, Brighton
- Dwight Gayle: Peterborough, £6 million
- Jose Gomez Campana: Sevilla, £1.7 million
- Kevin Phillips: free transfer, Blackpool
New Player to Watch: Dwight Gayle
It would be fair to say that Palace have pinned much of their hopes of Premiership survival on the 23-year-old shoulders of Dwight Gayle. The London-born striker was playing non-league football for Stansted in 2010, so his rise to the Premier League is meteoric to say the least.
Last season, he scored an impressive 13 goals in 29 games for Peterborough who were eventually relegated from the Championship.
Gayle is extremely raw, but possesses great pace and is deceivably strong. He will cause problems for some teams, but could suffer from a lack of service against settled Premiership sides.
Young Player to Look Out For: Jonny Williams
With over 40 appearances already under his belt and been capped by Wales at every level, 19-year-old Jonny Williams is just about ready to make his mark on the Palace team.
Williams is a classy midfielder and is most often compared to a young David Silva. According to the Daily Mirror, he is currently being tracked by a number of Premier League teams including Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City and Cardiff City.
He has also been tipped for a huge future in the game by current Welsh manager Chris Coleman who told BBC Sport he was exciting, a pleasure to work with and able to handle big occasions.
Cult Hero: Peter Ramage
Althought 39-year-old Kevin Phillips may have scored the all-important promotion-clinching goal, Peter Ramage is many fans' favorite at Palace. The ex-QPR right back was converted to center-back for much of last season and performed brilliantly.
He ended up playing 40 matches and scored four goals as Palace won promotion. Next season, he will be more than eager to line up against Newcastle United. The Magpies released him in 2008.
Matches to Watch Out For:
- August 17: Tottenham Hotspur (h)
- November 23: Hull (a)
- November 30: Norwich City (h)
Hardest Run of Fixtures:
The whole season...
To say that Palace have an extremely difficult campaign ahead would be to put it mildly.
Starting with Spurs on August 17, there is no letup in the difficulty of Palace's fixtures all season. If anything, their easiest run comes between November 2 and December 7 where they play West Bromwich Albion, Hull, Norwich, West Ham United and Cardiff.
- To Win the EPL: 10000-1
- To be Relegated: 4-9
Statistics provided by Soccerbase.
Fixtures provided by the Premier League.
Betting Odds provided by OddsChecker.
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