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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Three Up and Three Back Down Again? Not So Quick

Written by on November 25, 2011 | 6 Comments »
Posted in Norwich City, QPR, Swansea City

It is understandable that teams promoted to the Barclays Premier League are picked by many to return quickly from whence they came. It is rare to find anyone brave enough to forecast survival for all and even forecasting two to endure to a second season can seem optimistic.

However, there is little to support that view when you look at the history of promoted sides in the English top flight particularly since the turn of the century.

Since then we have never had all three promoted teams headed straight back down (the last time that happened was Bolton, Barnsley and Crystal Palace in 1998) and over the last few seasons we have seen multiple sides survive their first year.

Newcastle and West Brom stayed up last season while Blackpool succumbed after a brave showing in the early going.

Burnley was the only reverse bungee team the season before that (Stoke and Hull survived) and twelve months before it was West Brom (Wolves and Birmingham).

In fact “only” 14 of the last 33 clubs have gone straight back down – that is 42%.

So this weekend as the schedule clicks to over a third gone for most teams, it might be a good time to take stock. 

Based on what we have seen so far I think most fans are surprised at how well the promoted sides have done although that is not to say it has been plain sailing for all.

Currently their league positions mirror their promoted season. Last season’s champions QPR are 9th with 15 points, Norwich are 11th on 13 points and Swansea are 13th with 13.

There has only been one head-to-head clash to date with Norwich beating Swansea 3-1 at Carrow Road. The second will involve QPR traveling to East Anglia on Saturday.

There have been a few promoted clubs that have shown brightly for a short intense period only to flame out or just squeak by.

In 2008/09 Hull City generated headlines that asked the question “Are Hull City the best promoted side ever in Premier League history?”

The headlines appeared just as Hull stalled out and only avoided relegation on the last day by the inadequacy of others.

A year later Burnley managed to beat Manchester United and Everton and draw with Arsenal and had us all marvelling at their precociousness. But in mid-season Owen Coyle left and a downward spiral set in.

Last season it was the cavalier football of Blackpool that had us in raptures – until the grind of the Premier League began to have an impact. First half of the season 25 points, second half 14 points – total 39 points but relegation anyway.

So what of the survival prospects of QPR, Norwich and Swansea?

In a very strange way QPRs inconsistency might turn out to be a blessing. We are never quite sure what we are going to get and that could be enough to give them wins and losses where others might find draws.

Norwich has yet to lose to a team currently in the bottom half of the table and if they can stay on the plus side of that statistic then  it could prove to be a massive advantage.

As the side that arrived via the play offs Swansea would have attracted most of the relegation betting interest.

However, the side from Wales has proven to be the most attractive of the three although we should remember that beauty in the Premier League can often be viewed as something akin to blood in the water of a shark tank.

Nonetheless Swansea strike me as better positioned than the likes of Blackpool and Burnley (and Hull) on account of a very well-organized defence.

Mikael Vorm has been sensational in goal while Ashley Williams is on current form one of the top centre backs in the league.

Further forward Britton and Gower are excellent passers and rarely give the ball away while Sinclair and Dyer are as quick as any two wide players in the Premier and offer a counter-attacking option.

But perhaps more importantly there is a sense when watching Swansea that they are playing within their capabilities rather than beyond them as some comet-like promoted sides have done.

If there is a worry for fans of Swansea it is that their away form has been dreadful so far. Two points from six matches is not good enough although this Sunday shot-shy Aston Villa must travel to Wales.

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6 responses to “Three Up and Three Back Down Again? Not So Quick”

  1. J Rob says:

    Great article Bobby. Swansea are a credit to their manager Brendan Rodgers. They are tight at the back and play some lovely possession football in midfield. They took 1 point from their games against Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal when their overall play merited a lot more.

    One individual stands out for me: Nathan Dyer. He roasted Patrice Evra last weekend and Jose Enrique had his most uncomfortable game personally all season trying to handle Dyer at Anfield earlier this month.

    Brendan Rodgers is reportedly looking to strengthen his squad by six players in January. Wouldn’t be surprised if the sale of Dyer is used to accomplish this.

  2. Soccerlogical says:

    I think Swansea also have an advantage being further away from the English media. Located in Wales and coupled with their manager’s low key profile may be the difference between a side like Swansea and a side like Blackpool whose manager enjoyed the media spotlight and always added his 2 cents on every issue of the day.

    In other words, Swansea’s seclusion and Rodgers’ low key profile will surprise a good number of teams (i.e. tactics, players and formation) in the sides battle to stay up.

  3. John Bladen says:

    I’ve picked Wigan for the drop in each of the last two years (along w Bolton last year)…

    At the start of every season it’s hard to see how any of the promoted sides will survive (with the exception of horrendously underperforming sides like Newcastle that, with even half decent play, shouldn’t have fallen from the top flight at all).

    While Norwich & Swansea are in good “places” in the EPL, a look at their points total shows they aren’t far from the drop zone… nor are half the table.

    It’s part and parcel of the new financial models EPL clubs work to (or should we say “La Liga North?”). There are essentially three categories… the top 3 (in some years, 4), the next 4 (occasionally 5) and The Rest. Once you get beyond the top 7, it’s a very, very tight race. Can anyone honestly say that the three relegated sides in any of the last three or four seasons were materially worse than those who just scraped through?

    Blackpool were reasonably shrewd with their spending during their one season in the EPL. And yet their wage bill was almost 50% higher than their turnover in their one PL season.

  4. John Bladen says:

    ….”their manager’s low key profile may be the difference between a side like Swansea and a side like Blackpool whose manager enjoyed the media spotlight and always added his 2 cents on every issue of the day…”

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  5. Soccerlogical says:

    JB – I can’t decide whether you are infatuated with me or simply have nothing better to do or more interesting to contribute….

    Either way, your “type” always make me sad.

  6. John Bladen says:

    Again, since you so clearly misunderstood it the first time:

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    If you really have nothing to say, just say nothing. Make it a rule.

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