EPL: Top 10 Relegated Players Set to Stay in the League with Other Clubs
The fat lady has sung. The fickle beast known as the 2010-11 EPL season is dead in its grave.
The earth still fresh around the season’s rotting corpse, the vultures circle, looking for the best carrion to nurture their fetid…
West Ham, Blackpool and Birmingham couldn’t hoof it. In the case of the latter two, they tried their best, and their best wasn’t good enough. In the case of West Ham…who knows.
These relegated sides didn’t have the minerals to stay up, but each had a few players with the skill, salt and passion to hack it in the top flight another season. Here are the top 10 players likely to stay up from this season’s relegated triumvirate.
The Skinny: Ben Foster guarded his cave like a rabid beast during the 2010-11 season.
His passionate, somewhat enervated play helped Birmingham maintain a respectable home record and nine clean sheets. In fact, despite Birmingham’s unfortunate fate, seven teams conceded more goals than the Blues this campaign.
If Birmingham hadn’t been so painfully bad on the offensive, the side may well have maintained its position in the league another season. As it is, there’s always space in the EPL for a great keeper, and Foster fits the bill.
According to Mirror Football, Aston Villa may take Foster and center half Scott Dann of Birmingham’s hands for £15 million.
The Skinny: Blackpool striker DJ Campbell racked up 13 league goals in the EPL this season. All told he scored nearly a quarter of the team’s goal total in 2010-11—23.6 percent, to be precise.
Campbell benefitted from two key factors: the play of Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam and his position as the team’s primary scoring threat. At any other club, he may have fared quite differently.
Yet a number of clubs in the EPL, from Wolves to Blackburn and even Everton have strong, creative midfields but a definitive lack of decisive strikers. Campbell could fill any one of these voids well.
According to Goal.com, Ian Holloway is keen to keep Campbell at Blackpool—imagine that—but Campbell himself is itching to stay in the Prem.
Club: West Ham
The Skinny: Like Ben Foster, Robert Green suffered the fate of being a world-class keeper stuck in a struggling club. Despite his best efforts, there was only so much Green could do to make up for West Ham’s abject defense.
Green plays with a manic passion that borders on psychotic. He inspires the backline, makes madcap (and sometimes daft) decisions and was one of three or four players on West Ham this season who actually wanted to win.
Any club would be lucky to have a keeper like Green, and plenty of EPL teams are in need of top class talent between the posts.
Last week, the Guardian reported that Green is close to signing a deal with Aston Villa to replace aging American Brad Friedel.
Villa can’t have Foster and Green, and we’ll hedge our bets with Rob, since he’s used to being surrounded by claret and blue.
Position: Central Midfield
The Skinny: Craig Gardner is a talented footballer and a lucky man. A versatile player, Gardner prefers playing central midfield but can play a number of positions, including right back. This makes him an enticing prospect.
Gardner was one of the few offensive lights at Birmingham during the 2010-11 season. He quite nearly saved the team’s season by scoring against Tottenham on the last day of the season, but Roman Pavlyuchenko ruined that dream by netting in the last minute of stoppage time.
All told, Gardner scored 10 goals in all competitions, not too shabby for a midfielder on a middling side. He brings a workman like passion and tirelessness to each game, and displays bursts of surprising technical skill.
The Guardian reports that Wolverhampton is attempting to lure Gardner from St. Andrews.
Diehard Birmingham fans may not want to believe Gardner will leave, pointing to the midfielder’s lifelong patronage of the team as proof of his dedication, but keep in mind that Gardner claimed to be a lifelong Villa fan while playing for the Villains.
Club: West Ham
The Skinny: Senegalese striker Demba Ba came to Upton Park amidst fanfare during the January 2011 transfer window.
He didn’t disappoint. Ba scored seven goals between February 12 and May 15, including a pair of braces. In the few instances that West Ham showed genuine offensive spark this season, Demba Ba was leading the charge.
The young striker is a quick, smart and aggressive player with good instincts and a strong tendency to link with attacking midfielders to create space and chances. With the right development, he could be a top striker for any number of teams.
Ba quite nearly signed to Stoke City before ending up with West Ham, but failed a physical with the team. Tony Pulis called Ba’s knee a “massive risk.”
Despite this, a number of other clubs have rumored interest in the striker, including Everton, Newcastle and Sunderland.
Position: Center Half
The Skinny: At only 24 years old, Dan represents a future of terrific defending for a number of clubs looking to rebuild their back line.
Though the young Briton missed the second half of the season due to a hamstring injury, he showed enough promise during the first half of the campaign to garner interest from a number of big clubs.
According to the transfer rumor mill, some top clubs want in on the Dann action. Metro.co.uk reports that Kenny Dalglish is looking to add Dann to his stable, alongside Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher, though Spurs and Arsenal are also interested.
A Liverpool native, Dann is a lifelong Reds fan. Of course, you never known which way a man will sway when there’s big money on the line, but with Dalglish at the helm it’s hard to believe Dann would say no if Liverpool made an offer.
Club: West Ham
The Skinny: Carlton Cole had a lamentable season, and he isn’t getting any younger.
Still, the 27-year-old Hammer scored five league goals and had four assists for a pitiable side. All told, Cole found the back of the net 11 times in 36 matches across all competitions, including an impressive record of four goals in six League Cup appearances.
Cole didn’t light the league on fire in 2010-11, but he showed flashes of brilliance. At the right club, with the right mentality and the right manager, he’d be a dependable second option capable of netting 10 or 12 goals in a season while contributing a fair number of assists.
According to The Guardian, Newcastle is ready to offer £7 million for Cole and bring him in as Andy Carroll’s replacement for next season. With Kevin Nolan’s preternatural ability to assist goals, Cole would make a good addition at St. James' Park.
The Skinny: Serbian giant Nikola Zigic suffered various injuries in 2010-11 that saw him miss 12 matches during the second half of the season.
Despite this, Zigic scored five goals and had four assists on the season. He finished the 2010-11 campaign with eight goals in all competitions.
Though some defensive players have no problem dealing with Zigic’s height—he’s 2.02 meters, or about 6'8"—the enormous forward brutalized other backlines, such as West Ham’s, through sheer force.
In an ideal season free of injury, with strong support from the wings and midfield, Zigic could conceivably rack up a double-digit goal total.
The Sun recently reported that Spanish side Malaga is interested in Zigic, as are Bundesliga squads Nurnberg and Hannover.
The Skinny: Like Scott Dann, Charlie Adam is a man with two first names.
The talismanic Blackpool midfielder scored 13 goals across all competitions, including 12 league goals. Despite playing largely from central midfield, he scored only one fewer goal than lead Blackpool striker DJ Campbell.
Adam also contributed nine assists to the Blackpool cause.
Charlie has an indefatigable work ethic, expert instincts, an astute ability to read the game and his fair share of creativity and technical ability. He would be a great addition to any team’s central midfield.
Rumors have linked Adam to almost all the top clubs in the EPL, including Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as Aston Villa.
Club: West Ham
The Skinny: It seems pointless to write about Scott Parker’s track record and transfer rumors, given their ubiquity in the football press these days.
Parker won the Football Writers’ Association award for Footballer of the Year in the same year that West Ham found itself relegated.
The creative midfielder is playing the best football of his career, despite being 30. His technical ability, leadership skills, goal-scoring prowess and creativity are all in top form.
Among the clubs rumored to be vying for Parker’s exceptional talents are Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.
Parker would make a great addition to any of these institutions, though perhaps make the least amount of impact at Arsenal, a relatively young side with a midfield prodigy in Jack Wilshere that would soon eclipse Parker in importance.