Relegation is the bane of any football club. To be demoted to a lower division because you simply were not good enough throughout the whole season is a feeling no footballer ever wants to experience, writes Gavin Nolan.
However, relegation has to happen and with thirteen games left in the current Premier League season the relegation contenders are starting to take shape. Here are our three predictions on who will ply their trade in the English Championship next season.
Cardiff – 20th place:
Cardiff made history as being only the second ever Welsh club to play in the Premier League. They won the Championship last year and a lot of people were quietly confident they could do what Swansea did and cement themselves in the Premier League. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Whether they go down or not, the Bluebird’s debut season in the league will always be remembered for the ridiculous ultimatum owner Vincent Tan gave to then manager Malky Mackay: resign or be sacked.
Now he didn’t sack him then, but Mackay did lose his job a few weeks later after more poor results. His successor was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a legend in England from his days with Manchester United but very unproven as a manager. Thus Cardiff’s poor run of form has continued with them currently sitting 19th in the table after losing the South-Wales derby on the weekend to Swansea. The change of manager has done very little to help the results – out of his five league matches in charge Cardiff have won just once and lost four.
The biggest problem that Cardiff have is that they do not have enough proven Premier League talent in their squad. They brought in some foreign players for a lot of money, e.g. Gary Medel and Andreas Cornelius, but the only player acquired with Premier League experience was Steven Caulker. That leaves a serious lack of top flight experience in the team with Caulker, Bellamy and Frazier Campbell being the only ones to have played there before. The south-Wales club overestimated the quality of the squad that they won the England’s second-tier with last season and that error will more than likely cost them their status as a Premier League club.
Fulham – 19th place:
If you had said Fulham would be in deep relegation trouble at the start of the season, not many would have believed you. They have been an established Premier League team for over a decade now. The Cottagers always comfortably finish in mid table and take one or two big scalps a season. Their woeful away form is common knowledge but their home from always saves them in the end. Plus they have some quality players in the team like Dimitar Berbatov (who has since moved to Monaco), Brede Hangeland, Damien Duff, Sascha Riether and so on.
The likes of Scott Parker, an England international, and Darren Bent, a proven top flight goalscorer, were also brought in this season, further adding to the quality of the squad. But one common aspect of all of Fulham’s ‘good’ players was that they were all in their early thirties. The lack of youth in the team is a serious issue and is hampering Fulham’s season.
With the change in manager there has come a slight change in their philosophy. Rene Meulensteen has made a definite effort to play younger players in his team and in the transfer window he made some good deals. Lewis Holtby is a good buy, as is Kostas Mitroglou. The ageing Berbatov was shipped off to France, but Southampton still lost embarrassingly to Southampton at home last week. While they did get a draw at Old Trafford, they were playing against a wounded Manchester United side and were still lucky to get a draw.
They have lost seventeen games this season and currently sit bottom of the table. They will win a few more games this season, but this writer can;t see them finishing any higher than 19th.
West Brom – 18th place:
Known as the yo-yo team for a while, West Brom are very used to promotions and relegations. This is their fourth successive season back in the Premier League but I believe it will be their last for a while. It does not make sense, however. They have a better squad than half the league and their attacking options are astounding. Stephane Sessegnon, Morgan Amalfitano, James Morrison, Nicolas Anelka, Scott Sinclair, Saido Berahino; just some of the options the Baggies have in attacking positions. They also have great goalkeeper in Ben Fostr and solid protection in front of the back four with Youssouf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob.
Firstly, sacking Steve Clarke was a stupid decision. He got the club a top half finish last season while this season the club won at Old Trafford and were robbed at Stamford Bridge. They went through a bad run and Clarke was suddenly out of a job.
They have replaced Clarke with Pepe Mel, an average coach from La Liga who hasn’t been that impressive in his first few weeks managing in the Premiership. I thought they might be safe until they lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Palace have had a mini-revival under Tony Pulis but still, West Brom should not be losing to a newly promoted team.
Pundit Arena, Gavin Nolan.
Featured Image By Nick (Flickr: Fulham v WBA) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.