Two of the three promotion spots to next season’s Premier League have now been filled, with Newcastle joining Brighton in sealing an automatic place on Monday night.
Rafa Benitez and Chris Hughton’s respective sides have been the two standout performers in the Championship this season, and it always seemed a case of when, rather than if, they would be the ones confirmed as going up.
Despite their strength in England’s second tier, the Premier League requires the squads to be strengthened if they are to ensure that their returns to the top divisions are not brief ones. A number of players from both sides will, therefore, find that their services are no longer required this summer.
With that in mind, and with each side having a relatively healthy Irish contingent in their ranks, who among them will still be at the respective Premier League newcomers next season?
Brighton & Hove Albion
Chris Hughton (Manager)
Even in a business as cruel as English football, sacking a manager that has just delivered promotion to the Premier League would be extremely harsh. It is not entirely unprecedented, of course, it happened to Slavisa Jokanovic at Watford just two years ago, but the Seagulls’ faith in Chris Hughton is unwavering. Certain to stay at the AMEX.
Shane Duffy (Defender)
Brighton’s record signing at £4m (though expect that to change this summer), Duffy has become an important part of Hughton’s defence at the south coast club.
The manager has been discussing Duffy regularly since the 25-year-old picked up a season-ending injury at the end of last month, and although there may be an opportunity to break up the partnership that the Irish international has built up with Lewis Dunk at the back, Hughton seems happy with his options for now.
Richie Towell (Midfielder)
While Duffy looks like being used as an important part of the side next season, the same cannot be said of compatriot Richie Towell. There was plenty of excitement when the former Dundalk star made the move across the water in late 2015, but it just hasn’t happened for him over in the Championship.
Hughton rarely speaks about Towell in anything other than glowing terms, but aside from a few FA Cup matches, he hasn’t really been near the first team setup. Whether it is on loan or permanently, Towell is likely to be at another club in August.
Ciaran Clark (Defender)
Clark left one relegated Premier League side for another last summer in swapping Aston Villa for Newcastle. Often a scapegoat at Villa Park, the move to the north east has been hugely beneficial for both his club and international career.
Rafa Benitez has credited the 23-year-old with bringing balance to the Newcastle back four, and short of Chancel Mbemba or Grant Hanley usurping him in pre-season training, Clark and Jamal Lascelles look set to be the Magpies’ first-choice pairing next season.
Rob Elliot (Goalkeeper)
If there’s one area of the pitch where Newcastle are not lacking, it is the goalkeeping department. Matz Sels, Karl Darlow and Elliot will all have designs on the number one shirt next season (Tim Krul is not expected to be offered a new contract when he returns from loan).
Interestingly, Elliot was thrown in for his first appearance of the season in the game that sealed Newcastle’s promotion on Monday night, 13 months after suffering a serious cruciate ligament injury and almost three months after he returned to the bench. What this means for the 30-year-old’s place in the Magpies’ first team is unclear but his restoration to the first team at the business end of the campaign could be telling.
Daryl Murphy (Striker)
Eyebrows were raised when Newcastle signed the 34-year-old veteran on a two-year deal last summer, but Murphy has been a dependable option when called upon. The international forward has been in and out of the team this season, with just six Championship starts, but his experience in a relatively young Magpies side cannot be overstated.
He has since got his chance to impress in the last few weeks of the season, and with a return of seven goals in 22 appearances, he has definitely played his part in Newcastle’s promotion.
Murphy still has another year to run on his current deal, and Benítez may yet decide that the former Ipswich and Celtic striker’s experience is worth retaining in the top tier.
Joining us on the Mixer football podcast this week is Shamrock Rovers defender Roberto Lopes, in addition to our usual review of the latest round of League of Ireland action.