Joe Strange - Relegation class of 2010 will be long gone
Published: 26 Apr 2010 - 09:03:32
Up until the last month or so, the battle for Premier League survival promised to be as enthralling as the race for the title, or the fight for fourth place.
But after another weekend of top-flight action, we now know the teams who will be plying their trade in the second tier of English football come August.
Crisis club Portsmouth were the first to go - a combination of awful performances on the pitch and some even worse ones off of it ultimately responsible for their demise. A nine-point deduction was always going to be too much to overcome, even for a club as unpredictable as the FA Cup finalists.
Despite a fantastic home record for the first half of the season, Burnley's away form was always going to make them vulnerable should Turf Moor's fortress status come to an end.
With the departure of talented manager Owen Coyle and the appointment of budget boss Brian Laws - a man clearly more suited to the Football League than the Premier League, some might say the Clarets committed survival suicide. A 4-0 home loss to Liverpool yesterday afternoon confirmed the inevitable, Robbie Blake and co are heading back down.
Joining Portsmouth and Burnley will be Hull City, a victim of that increasingly common footballing phrase "second season syndrome". Like their Championship-bound counterparts, Hull also decided on a managerial change this season, replacing the perma-tanned Phil Brown with rocket scientist Iain Dowie.
Unfortunately for Tigers' fans, Dowie's arrival failed to spark a squad affected by rumours of financial turmoil, fighting between players and a hefty injury list. Even talismanic midfielder Jimmy Bullard had an off-day in their 1-0 home defeat to Sunderland on Saturday afternoon - a result which leaves them needing an almost impossible set of circumstances to retain their top-flight status.
But with two of last seasons relegated clubs set to make an immediate return to the Premier League, surely it won't be long until Portsmouth, Burnley and Hull are swapping Scunthorpe United for Stamford Bridge once again?
While Newcastle United and West Brom have endured seasons of stability, the three demoted sides could conceivably all have new managers and backroom staff come kick-off in mid-August - hardly ideal preparation for a season in what is widely regarded as one of the most competitive leagues in the world.
And as well as the uncertainty over who'll be in charge, money worries look set to hinder at least two of the bottom three.
Burnley have budgeted for relegation, and with parachute payments forthcoming, they should be in a position to cover any inflated post-promotion contracts they may have handed out last May.
But with some of their star performers linked with moves away, and a manager who appears to have lost the dressing room, an automatic return to the top-flight seems unlikely.
Portsmouth are still in administration, and with debts of £119 million, will be forced to sell the majority of their squad for cut-price fees during the transfer window.
Without a permanent manager and with debts of £35m, Hull look set for a summer of turmoil. Apparently they already owe £10m of their first £12m parachute payment to the banks, and with many players on big wages, a fire sale similar to that of Portsmouth is definitely on the cards.
With a variety of problems already threatening to derail them next season, the three relegated clubs look set for a struggle when they drop down a division in just over three months time.
Fans of Portsmouth, Hull and Burnley might not want to hear it, but they should start to familiarise themselves with the Championship grounds.
They could well be visiting them for many years to come.
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- A product of Brighton University's prolific youth system, Joe Strange has boundless energy and the enviable ability to cover every blade of grass in his Monday blog. Joe has written for a variety of football websites and fanzines and is also a regular contributor to golf.co.uk. Despite being born and raised in Kent, 'Stranger' is a diehard Everton fan and counts his team's penalty shoot-out victory against Manchester United last season as his most memorable football moment. Follow Joe on Twitter @joe_strange.
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