Ever since TV revenue came into play, relegation from the Premier League has had greater financial consequences than before. Parachute payments are in place to help relegated sides financially. However, the effect of these on ability to bounce back seems to have waned; this is the second successive season in which no relegated side has won promotion. The Championship is the world’s most competitive league; a gruelling 46-match slog that takes its toll undoubtedly. How do you bounce back from relegation?
How to Secure Promotion Following a Relegation Season
Now or Never? – The When
In the last ten years, only nine of the 30 teams relegated from the Premier League return at the first time of asking, and only four of those did so in the automatic promotion places. Of the 30 relegated teams, nine have not since returned to the Premier League. Portsmouth have been as far down as League Two, while Sunderland are scrapping in the League One play-offs. Since the Premier League began in 1992, 79 teams have been relegated and only 21 have come back up the next season (one in every three). Fourteen of these teams did so in the automatic promotion places.
It is very much a case of the sooner the better for relegated teams. Relegated teams are twice as likely to win promotion in their first season than the next two combined. This is why clubs throw caution to the wind financially to ensure a swift return. In fact, a relegated side’s average finish in a third season in the Championship is 13th. They are more likely to get relegated after this window than earn a return to the promised land. The likes of Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest exemplify the difficulty of escaping the Football League’s trap. In short, it will only get harder after that first season cushion.
Championship Nous – The How
Now, onto how to guarantee this return in the first season. Countless sides who suffer relegation can pin it down to poor transfer dealings. Big-money signings Giannelli Imbula and Saido Berahino underperformed in the Premier League for Stoke City. For that, they have paid with time in England’s second division. As much as poor recruitment can pull a team down from the Premier League, good signings can certainly push a team back up. The summer after their relegation in 2016, Newcastle United signed Matt Ritchie, Mohamed Diame and Daryl Murphy, three experienced players who knew the Championship inside-out.
However, Stoke City followed this path and have yet to reap the rewards. £50 million was spent on players including Championship mainstays Tom Ince, Benik Afobe and Danny Batth. Though, perhaps the turnover of so many players proved their downfall. An overhaul was necessary after a number of Stoke’s players jumped ship following relegation. Almost half their squad from the Premier League season left the club. For that reason, it seems established Premier League clubs struggle even more than clubs yo-yoing between the two leagues.
The most important is replacing the players who want out of the club with those who want up with it. The number of games makes for a long, gruelling campaign. Having players that want to be at the club will make it that much easier. Having a squad full to the brim will also help in inevitable injury crises. More importantly, still, is matching the manager’s philosophy. Norwich City and Huddersfield Town gained promotion with a gegenpress style that worked without Championship nous since they had the players for it. Similarly, Nottingham Forest mimicked Wolves’ Portuguese transfer strategy, but Martin O’Neill’s style was never going to get the most out of players like Joao Carvalho, which brings us to our final point.
Stick or Twist? – The Who
Many managers are seen as masters of this Championship escape-trick; Neil Warnock has earned promotion to the Premier League three times. Steve Bruce betters that with four. It is easy to think that appointing a manager who knows the league is essential. However, four of the last eight managers to win promotion from the league had no experience of it. David Wagner and Daniel Farke have proved going German as a successful tactic. Meanwhile, Steve Bruce could not win promotion with Aston Villa. Having a manager who knows the league seems a myth.
After such a difficult, disappointing season, it can be easy to blame the manager. Appointing a new manager can provide a much-needed impetus, but past results have shown it may not be the right choice. Of the nine teams (since 2009) that managed the elusive bounce back, five did so with the same manager who undersaw their relegation. Three of these five finished in the automatic promotion places. Perhaps, West Bromwich Albion would have fared better with Darren Moore in their play-off charge.
The reason for this is that having a manager already in place aids stability. A new manager would see a lot of pressure placed on their first summer window. One summer can be a short time for players, old and new, to buy into a new philosophy. And, if they stay around long enough, their relationship creates a mood conducive to success.
Cardiff City fans should take heart at the news that Neil Warnock will stay on as manager. With much of their squad from the previous promotion campaign still there, another push is not beyond them. Fulham will likely have players jumping ship and will need to change the mood at the club ASAP. Scott Parker will need players with the desire to avoid becoming a Championship mainstay.