Football: Point of no return? Lowdown on a team of teams who have dropped out of the Premiership

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RELEGATED to the First Division after a long, doughty struggle and late revival last season. Enthusiasm and great support proved no match for the class of expensive players they came up against in the Premiership. The subsequent loss of their manager, Danny Wilson, to Sheffield Wednesday has been hard to take. At the end of last season Alex Ferguson said he thought would come back because they had "togetherness". That was before Wilson and captain Neil Redfearn left. John Hendrie has taken over as player-manager.

Bolton Wanderers

WENT up to the Premiership at the start of last season full of goals and with an impressive new stadium to boot. But the goals then dried up against better quality defences, and the fact that their own defence conceded 56 goals was damning. Nevertheless, Colin Todd had carefully built a squad which was capable of staying up. That was still a possibility until mid-season but then a run of 12 games without a win cost them their place. Back this time? Their investment and ambition warrant the opportunity.

Crystal Palace

UNDER new ownership and management. Terry Venables certainly has the nous and probably also the contacts to put Palace back in the Premiership. The big question is whether the promise of further ample funds being made available comes to fruition. The team were never able to overcome a hopeless home record in the Premiership last season. Attilio Lombardo may not appreciate First Division tackling, but at worst he will be able to take back to Italy his own brief, bizarre management experience.

Ipswich Town

BLEW their chances of getting back into the top flight in last season's play-offs, as they did the year before, after a host of opposing managers had said throughout the season that George Burley's team were the best they had met. Then, mainly because of a sudden generosity in defence, they lost their promotion opportunity in the play-off semi-finals against Charlton Athletic. At the same time, David Johnson was unable to reproduce his fine scoring form. They should remain among the promotion challengers this time.

Manchester City

MANCHESTER CITY and Macclesfield in the same division. That says everything about recent ambitions at the two clubs. Joe Royle ended last season watching his City team beating Stoke 5-0 and still getting relegated to the Second Division. He could not resist saying: "We are going down not for what has happened in a month or a year but over a number of years." A turnover of 11 managers in 12 years is no way to run a great club, which is in danger of freefall in spite of Georgi Kinkladze's mercurial skills.

Norwich City

MANY of the club's problems were placed at the feet of the unpopular previous chairman, but the departure, return and departure again of the manager Mike Walker has obviously had a disruptive effect as well. The shadow of further relegation from the First Division hovered over Carrow Road and will have to be swept away by the new incumbent, Bruce Rioch. Last season, though, the prolonged absences of Darren Eadie and Keith O'Neill more damaging than anything going on off the pitch.

Oldham Athletic

THEIR visit to the Premiership in its earliest seasons after so much outstanding work by the then manager Joe Royle was such a dream come true that their subsequent struggles and the drop down to what used to be the Third Division have been a debilitating and massive disappointment. The club seems unlikely to get in any deeper trouble this season but they ended the last one with the manager, Neil Warnock, resigning. At least the fans had the fun of seeing Bruce Grobbelaar in goal, though.

Queen's Park Rangers

THE inspiration of player-coach Vinnie Jones could be just what Rangers need for the long battle back up to the bright lights. Towards the end of last season, when they were actually looking over the edge of the precipice at relegation from the First Division, there were times when the side really looked too good to be where they were. The main problem was that when they needed victories they kept on getting points in singles by drawing. Probably only mid-table candidates this time around, however.

Sheffield United

REACHING last season's FA Cup Cup semi- finals, in which they lost by only 1-0 to Newcastle United, should have given United the impetus to get through the First Division play-offs. But in spite of the fine work of their acting-manager, Steve Thompson, the Cup run must have sapped their energy. They have the support to succeed, though not quite the resources to match, but with Steve Bruce installed as the new player-manager they do have, if nothing else, a determined leader who will be up for a challenge.


THEY could hardly have got closer to promotion back to the Premiership last season. At the end of April Peter Reid said they were "in the box seat" for automatic promotion on the back of Kevin Phillips's prolific goalscoring throughout the season. But then they let things slip so that they found themselves needing to thumb a lift via the play-offs. The heartbreak of losing 7-6 on penalties to Charlton Athletic in the final at Wembley was a cruel way to end their season but they will be back.

Swindon Town

THE Premiership may not be very old, but outside Wiltshire the fact that Swindon Town were one of the big league's early members has been almost totally forgotten. They were there for just one term (1993- 94) and finished 22nd. Their main contribution to football at large in recent years has been to provide the early coaching and management experience for England's Glenn Hoddle and his deputy John Gorman, and more recently Steve McMahon. A mid-table First Division place is likely this time around.