Paul Newman: Why relegation from the top flight is no longer the curse it once was
The Football League Column: In the last 10 years, eight of the 30 clubs relegated from the Premier League have bounced back at the first attempt
There was a time when relegation from the Premier League was considered little short of a death sentence as clubs fought to deal with the dire financial consequences of losing their place among the elite. The experience can still be traumatic – witness Portsmouth's woes following their relegation last summer – but parachute money has cushioned the blow. Indeed, most other clubs in the Championship look with envy at the £48m package over four years that comes as a consolation prize for losing your place at the top table.
In the last 10 years, eight of the 30 clubs relegated from the Premier League have bounced back at the first attempt. Another six have reached the play-offs, although none of those went on to secure promotion.
Only twice during that period – the 2004-05 and 2010-11 seasons – have all three relegated clubs failed to make even the play-offs. In contrast, on two occasions all three relegated clubs have been in the subsequent promotion shake-up: in 2003-04, when West Bromwich Albion won promotion and West Ham United and Sunderland made the play-offs, and in 2006-7, when Albion reached the play-offs and Sunderland and Birmingham City filled the automatic promotion places.
What of the clubs relegated from the Premier League this summer? West Ham, who lie second in the Championship, and Birmingham, who are one point off a play-off place, were always likely to be competitive this season, but how many people would have expected Blackpool to mount another challenge? For all their attacking enterprise in their one season back in the top flight, Ian Holloway's team might have been given a rude awakening back in the hurly-burly of the Championship, particularly after the departure of three of their biggest names, Charlie Adam to Liverpool, David Vaughan to Sunderland, and DJ Campbell to Queen's Park Rangers.
Today, nevertheless, Blackpool sit handily in sixth place in the Championship. Crucially, Holloway has held on to many of his regulars who performed so impressively last season. Six of the men who started the final Premier League match against Manchester United in May were also in the starting line-up for Saturday's 2-2 draw at home to Birmingham, while a seventh, Keith Southern, was unavailable through illness.
Holloway has also strengthened the squad with some astute signings. The manager has been more than pleased with their progress and believes there is major scope for improvement as the team become more accustomed to playing alongside one another.
"This is a new team and there is different personnel here now," Holloway told the club's website last week. "We had a few people who left last season and we're all still getting to know each other and gelling. I can't even watch Match of the Day or the Championship since we got relegated. I think you're forgotten about as a side when you drop into the Championship because in everybody else's eyes it's all about the Premier League." Since relegation, the number of Holloway's new signings has stretched into double figures. At the last count he had 11 forwards to choose from. One of them, Daniel Bogdanovic, who joined from Sheffield United on deadline day, has started only one match, such has been the competition for places.
Arguably the most influential signing has been Barry Ferguson, who was recruited from Birmingham for a reported fee of £750,000 and handed the captain's armband. The evergreen Kevin Phillips followed the same path from St Andrews and is the leading scorer with seven goals, one more than Jonjo Shelvey, who is on loan from Liverpool, having moved from Charlton for an initial fee of £1.7m last year.
Tom Ince, the son of Paul, and Gerardo Bruna were also recruited from Anfield in the summer, while Callum McManaman, a distant relative of Steve, extended the Liverpool connection by joining on a three-month loan deal from Wigan Athletic.
Believing his team had become predictable, Holloway has been encouraging his players to become more versatile this season and ready to interchange positions. He was particularly pleased that the goals against Birmingham were scored by Neal Eardley and Stephen Crainey. "It says a lot about us that both our goals came from our full-backs," Holloway said.
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