New boys look likely to remain in the Premier League
Promoted sides now deal much better with top-flight pressure
IT ALWAYS used to be so easy to predict. The three clubs promoted to the Premier League would ruffle a few gilded feathers before returning from whence they came 10 months later, promising to be back soon.
Yet in the landscape of TV rights and parachute payments, those days now seem in the past. Not since the 2007-'08 season, when Birmingham and Derby - the latter with a record-breaking low of 11 points and a solitary victory - went straight back down, has more than one promoted club failed to survive in their debut season. Four of the last 15 teams to try their luck in the Premier League have ended up back in the Championship.
Those statistics should be music to the ears of Leicester, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers as they dip their toes in the water after emerging from the Championship. All three have experience of top-flight football, although Leicester's last Premier League campaign is more than a decade ago.With the Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha at the helm, Nigel Pearson's side have set their sights higher than survival.
Formally known as Vichai Raksriaksorn until being bestowed his new family name from the King of Thailand, the founder of the King Power International Group has set an ambitious target of finishing in the top five within five seasons and has already allowed Pearson to spend more than £8million on the striker Leonardo Ulloa from Brighton and a host of free transfers. More should follow before the end of the month, but much will rest on whether last season's key performers can adapt to life at a higher level.
Sean Dyche's hopes of building on his achievements with Burnley have led the former Watford manager to making more than 500 phone calls in an attempt to bolster his squad using the league's lowest budget. Having beaten Manchester United and Everton in their opening two matches at Turf Moor in 2009-'10, the Clarets were relegated by five points after Brian Laws replaced Owen Coyle for their first top-flight season since the early 1970s. This time, the addition of six summer signings - including the experienced trio Steven Reid, Matt Taylor and Michael Kightly - will be vital for a young squad. Danny Ings looks talented enough to make the same kind of impact as Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert in their first Premier League seasons, with Burnley having to fend off interest in the 22-year-old from Southampton and Newcastle.
QPR should be no strangers to the task facing them after sneaking past Derby in the play-off final. Two seasons ago, Harry Redknapp inherited a bloated squad of highly paid but poorly motivated players from Mark Hughes before failing to save them from the drop after they had to wait until their 17th game to pick up a victory. The acquisition of the ready made central-defensive partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker should be the platform that allows them to make a much better fist of it this time, while Jordon Mutch will be a welcome addition to central midfield as the owner, Tony Fernandes, strives to prove he has learned from his previous profligacy.
The three promoted sides are rated as slight favourites to go down by the bookmakers, but with up to another 10 clubs also realistic contenders to be sucked into a relegation dogfight, that is likely to change every week.
Like Palace, Sunderland found their form at exactly the right moment last season by stringing together a remarkable run of results when it really mattered, including an historic victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Gus Poyet's side look capable of building on that, while Newcastle are surely too strong to be looking over their shoulders for long despite the disastrous second half of last season.
That should leave Palace, Swansea, West Brom, Aston Villa, Hull, West Ham and perhaps even Southampton and Stoke as the teams likely to fight it out with the new boys. The margins, though, are fine and it will probably come down to which of their managers can hold their nerve as the pressure increases.
West Brom's Alan Irvine will know he has little time to get his feet under the table, having been allowed to break the club's transfer record this summer to sign the Nigerian striker Brown Ideye and Joleon Lescott on a free transfer from Manchester City. But with so many contenders in the mix, Baggies fans will be hoping the original yo-yo club are not about to revert to type after spending four seasons at the top table.