Premier League history may be about to repeat itself much to Everton’s relief
The giddy thrill of promotion to the Premier League has already worn off as the land of milk and honey threatens to turn into a bare cupboard of despair for the new boys. Ten matches in, the three clubs who came up last season – Luton, Burnley and Sheffield United – are in the ejector seats, monopolising the relegation spots between them.
Luton and Burnley have won once in the league and Sheffield United haven’t won at all. The Blades’ total of one point is the joint lowest at this stage of any Premier League campaign. If they carry on at this rate they will eclipse Derby County’s low of 11 points in a season from 2007/8.
The Premier League can be an unforgiving environment for promoted clubs, much more so than the old First Division that preceded it. In the period from 1973/4 – when the current three-up, three-down system of promotion and relegation was brought in – up to the formation of the Premier League, 87 per cent of promoted teams stayed up in their first season in the top flight.
Since the introduction of the Premier League in 1992/3 and its rich grow richer mantra, that figure has tumbled to 57 per cent. The disparities in income are tough to overcome.
Manchester United predict their revenues for 2023/4 to be between £650m and £680m. In contrast Luton’s will be somewhere between £135m and £150m. However incoherent United might be, that is nobody’s idea of a fair fight. But it would be good to see the lightweights at least throw some punches.
The Hatters were always destined to be in the relegation frame given the size of their operation. It is remarkable that they are in the Premier League at all given they are playing at an 11,500-capacity stadium with a record signing – Ryan Giles – who cost just £5m.
Sheffield United were also long shots to survive given the lack of ambition which saw them sell Sander Berge and Iliman Ndiaye in the summer. The big disappointment has been Burnley who took the Championship by storm last season playing some terrific football under Vincent Kompany.
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The step up though has exposed their naivety, particularly in the number of goals they have gifted away. At what point does sticking to principles become basic bone-headedness? It would be healthy for the league if at least one of three could make their promotion stick. New blood refreshes the environment.
The odds may be stacked against promoted clubs but last season all three managed to stay up. That may have been an anomaly but a club like Brentford, clever with their recruitment and well-managed, continue to show what is possible for upwardly-mobile clubs cut from relatively modest cloth.
However, this season’s picture is looking bleak for Luton, Burnley and Sheffield United. At the moment the promoted trio’s main hope for survival would appear to be an assist from the independent commission looking into Everton’s financial fair play situation.
Only once before in the Premier League’s history have all three promoted sides gone straight back down the following season. That was 26 years ago when Bolton, Barnsley and Crystal Palace had a collective attack of vertigo. Sadly, it feels like history is about to repeat itself.
No debate to be had
The horrific death of Nottingham Panther Adam Johnson on the ice hockey rink has sparked a debate in the sport over making neck guards mandatory. Why should there even be a debate?
Players have complained the protectors do not look cool, they are uncomfortable and even that wearing them isn’t macho. Someone needs to be the grown-up in the room, follow the lead of the English Ice Hockey Association in the wake of the incident and make neckguards compulsory across the sport.
Last year an American schoolboy, Teddy Balkind, died in similarly grotesque circumstances. Ice hockey may be a daredevil pursuit but that does not mean it should be a dumb one.
Hamilton’s brilliance shows
If Lewis Hamilton could take second place in this season’s Formula One drivers’ championship it would be a bigger achievement than some of his titles.
Max Verstappen is a distant speck over the horizon and already champion but the runners-up race is on, heading into the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend after Hamilton cut the deficit to Carlos Sainz to 20 points in Mexico. Even if it is only a possibility because of Sainz’s under-performance in the all-conquering Red Bull, it is commendable at this stage of his racing career how Hamilton has stuck at his dogged pursuit. It shows, at 38, he still cares.
The reality that Hamilton has recognised is that for him – and every other driver – with Verstappen so dominant second is the new first.
Now Baz-ball has made it into the Collins dictionary, perhaps room can be found too for Mott-ball – ‘noun, a World Cup defence with all the substance of a string vest’.
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