Mind the gap! First day results can tell a lot
Posted on August 13, 2015
The opening day of the season was a case of déjà vu for the teams promoted from the Championship. For the third consecutive year, a Premier new boy failed to win their first game: Bournemouth went down at home to Villa; Watford drew at Everton; and Norwich were beaten at home by Palace. Ominous signs for a trio of teams that will undoubtedly struggle to keep their heads above the relegation trapdoor.
Over the past five years, only one team, West Ham in 2012, has come up from the second tier and won their opener. That was a 1-0 victory against Aston Villa at Upton Park, by the way.
What’s almost certain is that at least one promoted team will go down at the end of 2015-16. Last season, Burnley and QPR both took the direct train back to the Championship and only once in the past decade has a season gone by without a promoted side finding it too tough at the top – 2011-12 when Norwich, QPR and Swansea all survived.
Over the past decade, the survival rate for promoted clubs averages out at 2.5 years. Of the 27 promotion places between 2006-07 and 2014-15, 11 teams have been relegated at the first time of asking. And only 15% have lasted for than five years. Sunderland (9 years), Stoke (8) and Swansea (5) lead the way.
Does this paint a grim picture for Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford? I’m afraid it does a little, because the gap between the Premier and its less endowed younger brothers shows no sign of getting smaller.
The media love the Bournemouth story, and rightly so. There is scarcely a newspaper that has not had a feature on Eddie Howe and the remarkable rise of this one-time backwater club. But as autumn approaches, it is almost guaranteed that the Cherries will be languishing in the lower reaches. And this year, Norwich and Watford could do likewise.
Bournemouth’s defeat at home to Villa should tell them something. Villa are no heavyweights and you can imagine that Howe’s side will be one of those promoted sides that win friends for their passing style but will lack the cutting edge to terrorise Premier defences.
Norwich will also be popular because of their dynamic manager, Alex Neil, but the Canaries could also be looking at another East Anglian derby next season, and not because Ipswich will come up. As for Watford, it might be a case of “guess the manager” judging by their recent employment record. But again, Hertfordshire’s top club are always welcome, largely because they punch above their weight and they were among the first to adopt a community approach to football.
All three clubs will win their share of the “neutral vote”, but by the end of September, we’ll have a better idea of the type of season they will have to endure. Enjoy the ride, though, lads, and use the Premier money wisely. And remember that the man who got you up doesn’t need to be sacked if you do go down. Keep calm and you will be able to mount another challenge…