With the season starting this coming weekend there are three clubs whose fans will be particularly excited. Those clubs of course are Hull City, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion. The big question is can any of these clubs avoid relegation?
The last time that none of the three promoted clubs avoided relegation was in the 2001/02 season, when Fulham, Bolton and Blackburn all successfully stayed in the division. In the 6 following seasons two of the promoted teams were relegated straight away on 4 occasions with Derby and Birmingham doing so last season.
If we look at the positives then, usually at least one of the promoted clubs staves off relegation. However, Sunderland last season stayed up only due to the sheer willpower of Roy Keane and the financial backing he received from his board enabling him to make several key signings. Most of the new clubs will not have the same financial muscle as Sunderland though, so may find staying up to be a Herculean task.
Here’s my quick assessment of each clubs chances:
Attack: Dave Kitson should prove to be a good signing but needs help around him. Mamady Sidebe is a good supporting player but won’t score many, Vincent Pericard and Ricardo Fuller both struggled in their previous Premier League spells. If Stoke, as rumoured, sign either Claudio Pizarro or Nikola Zigic it may make all the difference to their season.
Midfield: Not bad, Glenn Whelan and Seyi Olifinjana are good players, while Rory Delap and Liam Lawrence have impressed in previous top-flight spells.
Defence: A real concern. Stoke will rely on some young players that will quickly need to get up to speed. Andy Griffin had a torrid time with Derby last season. Leon Cort is untested at the top level and will surely lose his streak of not being booked or sent off this season (150 games!)
Goalkeeper: Thomas Sorenson is an excellent keeper and will certainly be kept busy this season. Steve Simonsen is a good goalie to have around too.
Attack: Hard to see where the goals are coming from. They have not been able to keep Frazier Campbell from Man Utd and Dean Windass is surely too old to have an impact at the top level. This means players like Caleb Folan, and Giovanni will carry the load up front.
Midfield: George Boateng will do a good job and Peter Halmosi should give them a creative edge. Nick Barmby and Bryan Hughes add experience and Ian Ashbee is the captain. Not sure if they have many goals in this midfield however.
Defence: Bernard Mendy is a good full-back and Anthony Gardner is a good signing. However, there will be a lot of untested player who will need to quickly adjust.
Goalkeeper: Boaz Myhill has been one of the best goalies outside of the top-flight for the last few seasons and will do well.
West Bromwich Albion
Attack: A bit short on goals now Kevin Phillips has left. Roman Bednar and Ishmael Miller won’t find things easy. Luke Moore had moderate success with Aston Villa but will need to really step his game up to keep the Baggies in the Premier League.
Midfield: Quite Good: Despite losing Zoltan Gera to Fulham, there is a lot of talent in the midfield. Robert Koren and Jonathan Greening are good players and Chris Brunt and James Morrison are a threat fro the wings.
Defence. Improved on last season. Marek Cech is a good defender and Abdoulaye Meite is a good signing. WBA have paid a lot of money for Gianni Zuiverloon so it will be interesting how he fairs. Paul Robinson has always been highly regarded and Neil Clement is vastly experienced.
Goalkeeper: Scott Carson is an excellent keeper and Dean Keily is a more than capable backup.
I believe Stoke and Hull will struggle this season and that although West Brom have the best chance of avoiding the drop even they will struggle. With last years strugglers, Fulham, Bolton and Sunderland all having improved their squads it may be the first season where all 3 clubs sadly go straight back down.