Last year, for the second successive season, no side relegated from the Premier League was able to bounce back immediately. None of Sunderland, Middlesbrough or Hull City could win promotion at the first time of asking, and have not since. Could history repeat itself for Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City, or can one of last season’s relegated sides beat the curse?
How Will Last Season’s Relegated Sides Fare This Season?
West Bromwich Albion: Bilic To Bounce Back?
Of last season’s relegated sides, West Brom came closest to bouncing back to the Premier League. The Baggies came fourth in the league, losing to eventual play-off winners Aston Villa over two legs. However, with much change in their squad, and many influential players now gone, do West Brom have enough to mount another promotion charge?
Last season, West Brom had two strikers that were the envy of the league in Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez. The pair scored 45 of the side’s 87 Championship goals between them. However, both strikers have since left the club; Jay Rodriguez re-joined Burnley, while Gayle returned to parent club Newcastle. They have brought in Kenneth Zohore and Charlie Austin to replace the deadly duo. While Zohore was not prolific in Cardiff’s promotion side, Austin looks to be brilliant business for the Midlands club. He has scored 68 goals in 125 Championship appearances for Burnley and Queen’s Park Rangers. Austin is a proven goal-scorer at this level. With Romaine Sawyers also returning to the club, West Brom are armed with more creativity from midfield. It remains to be seen if they can replicate their goals tally from last year.
Without Craig Dawson in their back-line, West Brom’s defence will be weakened. The defender played 41 of their Championship games, a key cog at the back. Semi Ajayi comes in as his replacement, and while he has proven a stern operator at this level, filling Dawson’s boots may prove difficult. This could be another season of consolidation for West Brom, with many high-earners out and a weaker squad than last year’s. They still have enough quality to push for the play-offs, though competition will be fierce.
Stoke City: Nathan Jones To Revitalise The Potters?
Last season was a rude awakening for Stoke City. Tipped by many as promotion favourites, their campaign fizzled into ultimate mid-table mediocrity, ending in 16th place. While their defence was enviable compared to many rival sides, their attack was a significant weakness; they drew nine games with a 0-0 scoreline, failing to score in a further eight games. To rectify this, the Potters have brought in Lee Gregory, who struck 10 Championship goals each of the last two seasons. They have also recruited Nick Powell, who could be key for them to unlock their rivals’ defences. Benik Afobe and Sam Vokes have proven they can score goals at this level in the past. Nathan Jones has also enlisted Scott Hogan on loan to try and rediscover his Brentford form.
Keeping Jack Butland will be key to their promotion ambitions, he is a goalkeeper who could fit in many Premier League sides. However, losing Ryan Shawcross to a long-term injury will be a massive blow. Tommy Smith will have big boots to fill if Stoke are to maintain their strong defence of last season. After such a disappointing campaign last year, they should have enough to at least reach the play-offs. They look the best-equipped out of these three sides to do so, after achieving this last season too. A good run of form could even see them battling for the top two. However, Stoke’s form has not turned around since Jones’ arrival, and they will need a strong start to dispel any doubt from last year.
Swansea City: Play-Off Outsiders
This season was always going to be much more difficult, especially with the financial struggles they. Because of those troubles, many influential players have left the club this summer; Leroy Fer returned to Holland, while Daniel James earned a big-money move to Manchester United. New permanent recruits were few and far between, with Jake Bidwell the most notable new signing, so the Swans turned to the loan market. Freddie Woodman has been waiting for an opportunity at this level, and he could grab it between the sticks.
Swansea’s side is a perfect blend of youth with experience. Players like Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge have crucial Championship experience to impart to their youthful counterparts. As Norwich City proved last year, youthful fearlessness can take you far.
However, much of Swansea’s success last year depended on Oli McBurnie, who has left for Sheffield United. The club have failed to replace him and will need Borja Bastón to step up and score the goals. There is, however, a sense of quiet optimism at the club. If Steve Cooper can carry on Graham Potter’s revival of the ‘Swansea Way’, they could be set for a high finish. The Swans should have enough for a top-10 finish, with an outside chance of a play-off push.