BY: Scott McGlynn
With Norwich City’s comfortable victory over Middlesbrough in Monday’s Championship play-off final at Wembley, the final Championship promotion slot was filled. Norwich will join champions Bournemouth and runners-up Watford in next season’s Premier League as they prepare for the quest of gaining enough points to survive in the upper echelon of English football. As clubs before them have found, this is easier said than done.
Under manager Eddie Howe, Bournemouth played exciting and attacking football as they won the Championship by a solitary point. After being close to going out of business in 2008, the rise of the seaside club has been nothing short of extraordinary and they will now play in the top-tier of English football for the first time in their history. Although good enough to win the Championship, Howe will know that his squad will need to be supplemented if they are to have any hope of avoiding immediate relegation next season.
Aided by the scoring exploits of both Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, who scored 21 and 20 goals respectively, Watford make a return to the Premier League after an absence of eight years. Like Bournemouth, they will be looking to add to their squad which is lacking in players with any Premier League experience. Of more pressing urgency however, is finding a new manager. The reward for Slavisa Jovanovic guiding Watford to the Premier League was being relieved of his duties, with Watford now looking for their fifth manager in year – a staggering statistic. Whoever takes over at Vicarage Road will have the double pressure of trying to keep the club up and also having to deal with a trigger happy owner – a challenge for anyone.
Norwich make an immediate return to the Premier League having been relegated at the end of the 2013-14 season. Manager Alex Neil took charge in January with the club sat in seventh place and struggling for form. A fantastic latter half of the season culminated with play-off victory over rivals Ipswich, followed by the 2-0 defeat of Middlesbrough. With a number of players who tasted Premier League action still in the squad, Norwich are perhaps best placed to survive out of the three promoted clubs.
All three clubs will be looking to Leicester City, who managed to avoid relegation this season after being promoted last. In relegation trouble going into the final few games of the season, Nigel Pearson and his players managed to put together a winning run and drag themselves to safety. Helped in no small part by players signed in the January transfer window such as Leonardo Ullua. Pearson put together a squad of players with Premier League experience and continental experience as he looked for the key to success – something Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich will all be looking to emulate next season.
Not surprisingly, all three newly promoted clubs are favourites with the bookmakers to be relegated from the Premier League next season. Watford can be backed at 1.73 (8/11), Norwich are a best price 2.1 (11/10) and Bournemouth are available at 2.25 (5/4).