With the end of the current Premier league season looming, and the bottom seven clubs staring at the very real possibility that their time in the top flight of English football could be limited, it seems appropriate to have a look at the varying fortunes of the relegated teams over the last few years.
Last year’s trio of teams to take a step down a division were the North-East duo of Newcastle and Middlesbrough along with perennial yo-yo club West Brom. There won’t be too many surprised by the relatively good fortunes of West Brom who are well practiced at bouncing back after relegation.
They have performed admirably this season and look set to return to the top flight at the first time of asking once more. They owe much of this to their shrewd financial management, when they get promoted they are not a team to spend wildly and risk financial oblivion on keeping the TV money coming from top flight games.
And when their modest outlaying does not keep them in amongst the elite they are well positions to have another go a little over a year later. A yoyo club they may be, it doesn’t look as if that will change in the near future, they are also not a club who’s future lies in peril.
Newcastle are a team who many found it hard to predict their fortune at the start of the year. Some thought they would run away with the league whilst others had them down for a Leeds-style meltdown. They have come much closer the former and appear to have overcome many of their previous year’s turmoil.
They have kept hold of some key experienced players in Smith, Butt and Harper, whilst shedding the larger wage earners like Martins, Bassong and Duff. With their army of loyal fans that keep the turnstiles moving and the cash register’s busy, they have rarely looked like anyone in the league can trouble them.
Once the ownership saga settled down with owner Ashley deciding to take the club’s for sale sign down in October the club have got down to business and have marched their way, grinding out results when necessary to a comfortable position where their promotion is only to be rubber stamped.
Whether Ashley decides to try and sell up once they are back in the Premiership and more profitable remains to be seen, but if he keeps investing then they will likely have the resources to remain a top flight fixture without too much trouble.
Most people predicted Middlesbrough to be challenging at the top with a playoff place almost guaranteed at the start of the year, but their turmoil was still to come. Many of the Boro faithful expected manager Southgate to depart on their relegation but as chairman Gibson has done so many times his stuck with a manager in tough times and backed him to be the man to take them up again.
This backing did not last long, and although still within reach of the top two after, three home defeats in a row Southgate got a win and the sack all on the same day. This was possibly one of the more confusing decisions of the season and has proved to be one of the worst, too.
Since new manager Strachan has taken over Boro have dropped like a stone to mid-table mediocrity and even the playoffs are now far off dream. The influx of players from the Scottish leagues has done little to inspire either the fans or the performances of the team, who look set for a long stint in the second tier.
The one saving grace could be their youth system which has produced players like Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson who are still plying their trade in the top flight, a few more players of that ilk could still fire Boro back to the big time, but it could be a while before that happens.
Many of the other previously relegated teams have failed to bounce back and some found themselves further down the footballing pyramid. A quick glance at the third tier will show you Southampton, Charlton, Norwich and Leeds, who have all been in the top flight in recent memory. Others like Crystal Palace and Watford are now fighting to stay in the Championship whilst some like Reading and Sheff Utd have been there to welcome Middlesbrough to the mid-table.
So what does the future hold for Portsmouth and the two to join them? Whether it be bouncing straight back up, holding firm in the Championship or sinking further through the division, only time will tell. But fans of Pompey and West ham must surely worry that relegation along with financial insecurity could see hard times ahead.
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