Hi everyone. This is part one of my series of blogs about the status of the Premiership Clubs of the 2014-2015 Season following the conclusion of the League season. In this first part of the series, I’ll be focusing on the three clubs which were relegated from the Premier League, namely Queens Park Rangers F.C., Burnley F.C. and Hull City F.C. and what I think they need to do to plan for the new season in the Championship. Of course, all of this is my own opinion, so feel free to disagree and debate!
Queens Park Rangers F.C.
Q.P.R is really in some big trouble following their relegation after finishing stone last in the Premier League (not for the first time recently either). They face the possibility of a huge fine following their relegation and there is not much that can be determined about their immediate future until the issue of whether or not they will be fined by the Football League is finalised. Either way, there will be a number of their higher profile players who have already or will soon be exiting the club both following their relegation and enforced sales to trim their extremely high wage bill. Rio Ferdinand and Joey Barton have already left the club, with other high earners like Leroy Fer, Junior Hoilett, Sandro, Charlie Austin, Nedum Onuoha and Adel Taarabt all likely to leave – I can’t imagine many of those big egos will be happy to ply their trade in the Championship. Q.P.R. would need to collect decent fees from the sales of these players to try to deal with their financial loans and to sign new talent.
Another looming problem for Q.P.R. is their aging stadium. Loftus Road has a capacity of 18,000 and was the smallest ground in terms of capacity in the Premier League this past season. I do not think there is any possibility of expansion, as Loftus Road is an old stadium and the area around it is quite well built-up. For there to be long-term stability, a financial plan for a new stadium will have to be put into action soon, as well as finding and purchasing a site for this new stadium – I imagine at least some of the money needed will come from player sales.
Chris Ramsey’s imminent challenges, as I see it, will be attracting new talent to the club that the club can afford while simultaneously moving on the most high-profile, costly players, should he choose to stay on as manager, while managing to get the squad to gel quickly and play as a unit as well as attempt to put some money aside for that new stadium that the club needs. Phew. This task seemed too much for Ramsey and Harry Redknapp this past season, with some big egos like Rio Ferdinand, Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt in place, so a clear-out of players may well help Q.P.R to bounce back quickly. I feel that Matt Phillips, who looked quite impressive in the tail-end of the season, should be kept, as well as Alejandro Faurlin to anchor the midfield (he missed most of the season due to injury) and the young goalkeeper Alex McCarthy.
Q.P.R. being relegated was pretty inevitable based on their awful away record and fairly ropey home record. Their main problem was a lack of cohesion in their play and a strong over-reliance on Charlie Austin, who will probably be their most sellable asset in this off-season after an impressive debut season in the Premier League. I think they may well cash in on Austin and there will be a few clubs who may look to purchase, such as Aston Villa, Newcastle and Everton.
Probably the club most tipped for relegation at the start of the season, most were not surprised that the inevitable happened after the Burnley Board chose not to strengthen their squad for the season, due to the huge increase in player wage demands and high transfer fees associated with the top flight, instead using the money received from the Premier League and TV rights to sustain their football club, a brave move. What was surprising was how well Burnley played against many opponents, particularly at Turf Moor, although there were some unfortunate closely contested matches that did not go their way, which ensured their relegation before the final month.
However, due to their prudent financial management, they will not have to offload players following their relegation. I can see Burnley getting offers for their right-back Kieran Trippier, their goalkeeper Tom Heaton (10 Premier League clean sheets is an impressive feat in his first season of the Premier League) and possibly the winger Scott Arfield, as those listed all impressed this past season. What will be key for them is the acquisition of at least one new centre-back to replace the aging Michael Duff, as well as a central midfielder to augment Matthew Taylor (the former West Ham and Portsmouth player missed most of the season due to injury) and Dean Marney, who was impressive up until his injury, as well as hanging on to all of their key players. Their other key move will be hanging on to their Manager, Sean Dyche, who had Burnley playing in a disciplined style for the season, with a calming and authoritative presense in the dug-out.
I can see Burnley getting into the playoffs at the end of next season comfortably with the right acquisitions, providing Lukasz Jutkiewicz can finally find some form – he was comfortably Burnley’s worst player this past season – scoring no goals as a forward is always a poor state of affairs and he really needs to start contributing or else mid-table in the Championship looms, especially with the imminent departure of Danny Ings, Burnley’s top Premier League scorer this season. Where will he go? Perhaps Liverpool or even down the Seven Sisters Rd!
Hopefully, with Hull City being relegated, this line of thinking put forward by many pundits that Steve Bruce is a good manager will come to an end. He is not young and inexperienced any more – he’s been in and around the Premier League as a manager for over a decade with various clubs including Birmingham, Sunderland, Wigan and now Hull. The common theme with these clubs? All have suffered relegation back to the Championship within three years of Bruce’s departure. I think that is partially down to Steve Bruce not being a very good manager, partially down to some poor ownership decisions or changes of ownership of clubs he’s managed at and partially down to poor transfer acquisitions. He has managed to successfully avoid being relegated up to this point, but now the trap door has opened for him. His job is secure for now, though, as he signed a new three-year deal in March 2015.
Hull have a relatively small playing squad, so I can’t see them selling on too many players, aside from those that performed poorly in the past season, such as Abel Hernandez and possibly Andrew Robertson, both of whom were were acquisitions. Quite a few players from this past season have already left the club, including Paul McShane, Maynor Figueroa, Steve Harper and Yannick Sagbo, the latter being a peripheral performer in the last 2 years at Hull. They will need to strenghten quickly, as the Championship is a difficult league to get through. Hull were occasionally poor defensively, but their biggest issue was not scoring enough goals, hitting the net just 33 times this pasts season – lack of midfield creativity and poor form and injuries to their forwards hampered efforts to progress. As a result, I think Hull need to strengthen all over the pitch to be able to get into the coveted automatic promotion places and avoid the play-offs.
Right, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading!
The first time I saw Dennis Bergkamp play was in 1996 – I started following Arsenal properly in 1998 after the World Cup. When Arsenal then signed Thierry Henry – a player I had seen in that World Cup win by France – as well as already having Vieira and Petit there, plus several English stars like Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman just cemented Arsenal as the club for me. There was very little football coverage in South Africa during the 1990s as rugby was (and still is) the dominant sport here.
I was not really ushered in any specific direction in terms of which club to support – I chose Arsenal myself. It’s only over the last 3 years that I have been able to watch matches regularly – we get excellent TV coverage of European football now and I try to watch all Arsenal matches live.