Selasa, 27 Ogos 2013

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Top ten new boys

A look back at some memorable campaigns for newly promoted top-flight clubs, both good and bad

On the back Cardiff City's memorable victory over Manchester City on Super Sunday, we take a stroll down memory lane to remember ten memorable campaigns enjoyed and endured by promoted clubs down the years.


1992/93 - Blackburn Rovers

Future Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers introduced themselves to the inaugural season in some style. After finishing sixth the previous season and gaining promotion through the playoffs, Rovers could have been forgiven for struggling in their first top flight season since 1966. However, an outstanding start to the season proved many people wrong, and the club even challenged for the title until poor January form robbed them of the chance.

Blackburn won 5 of their first seven games to stun fans and critics alike, then continued similar form for the remainder of the calendar year. On New Year's Day, Rovers were sitting comfortably in fourth position, just four points behind Norwich City in what was a truly tense title race. Then the Lancashire club hit a slump, not winning a game from until mid-February to all-but end their title challenge. Things picked up from then on, with the club only losing three more games in the season to finish fourth and miss out on UEFA Cup qualification by just a single point.

1993/94 - Newcastle United


After romping to First Division glory in spectacular style, recording 96 points and being top from virtually the first kick of the ball to the last, Newcastle United entered their maiden Premier League season full of hope. New signings, especially Peter Beardsley for £1.5 million, fuelled Newcastle's pre-season success, and the club had every chance of translating this across to the regular campaign.
Unfortunately for the Toon Army, things didn't start all-too well. Defeats in their first two games left fans wondering whether they would be dropping straight back down and whether star striker Andy Cole was Premier League standard. 

Those doubts were soon cast aside when Cole started to link up well with Beardsley, and the north-east outfit were quickly climbing the league. By New Year, the club had reached an impressive fifth in the table after having won ten of their last twenty games. A hat-trick of defeats spanning January and February ended any faint hopes of a title challenge, but the St. James' Park side regained their form to win six in a row, and ultimately qualify for the UEFA Cup in third place. Cole was the league's top scorer with a stunning 34 goals.

1994/95 - Nottingham Forest


Two-time European champions Nottingham Forest had dropped out of top flight in the 1992/93 season after 17 years there, but gained promotion straightaway after finishing second in Division One the season after. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Forest adapted to Premier League life well under the guidance of manager Frank Clark, who had taken over from Brian Clough when the club went down. Stan Collymore scored 19 goals in his first Forest campaign the year before, meaning a repeat performance was expected from the £2 million man.

Forest started the 1994/95 season like they were never gone, going unbeaten for the first 11 games of the season. By the time they lost, to eventual champions Blackburn, they were flying in second place. A six game winless streak, which included four defeats, followed though, and soon they found themselves in fifth and on the decline. A poor first three months of 1995 saw the Nottinghamshire club lose touch with the top four, however a brilliant run of nine wins and two draws to close the season out meant Forest finished in third and claimed a UEFA Cup sport. Collymore scored ten times in that eleven game unbeaten run, giving him 22 goals for the season.

1997/98 - Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley and Crystal Palace


For the first and only time since the inception of the Premier League, the 1997/98 season saw the three promoted clubs go straight back down. They were all stuck in and around the relegation zone all season, with only Bolton putting up any kind of fight. For the relegated clubs, that season only served to highlight the massive difference that can exist between the top two tiers of the Football League.

None of the teams started well, with the teams mustering a combined 16 points in 13 games by the end of August. Things picked up for Palace, who even got as high as 10th in November, but it quickly went downhill for the London-based side, who went winless from December to mid-March. Barnsley, who were bottom by New Year and didn't offer much resistance after that, had their season summed up by thumping 7-0 and 6-0 losses to Manchester United and West Ham, respectively. Bolton were only relegated on the final day, albeit by goal difference, and argued that a shot crossed the line in a 0-0 draw against Everton earlier in the season. If it had counted and Bolton had won the game, they would have stayed up at Everton's expense.

1999/00 - Sunderland


A new league and a new sponsor awaited Sunderland after amassing a then record 105 points during a hugely successful Division One season. Kevin Phillips was the star of their season, with the England international scoring 23 league goals. Questions were asked about whether the forward could translate his game to the Premier League and play at the highest level. He responded in incredible style.

A 4-0 drubbing by Chelsea was not the way Sunderland wanted to start their season off, but they dusted themselves down and got going by beating Watford a week later. A ten game unbeaten streak followed, and the Black Cats were storming up the table by Christmas, having won 11 of their first 18 games. However a 5-0 away defeat to Everton on Boxing Day kicked off an eleven game winless streak, finally ending in March in the return fixture. The north-east club ended the season well to finish in seventh place, with Phillips scoring 30 goals to be the league's top scorer.

2000/01 - Ipswich Town


Finishing third and winning the playoffs the season before, Ipswich Town were expected to just go back down without doing much harm. However manager George Burley had other ideas. The Scotsman signalled his intent by bringing in Icelandic international Hermann Hreidarsson for a then-club record £4.5 million, and keeping hold of star midfielder Matt Holland. It was expected that if Town were going to stay up, it would come down to those two and striker Marcus Stewart.

Claiming just four points in their opening five games was not a good start for the Tractor Boys, and it seemed like pundits were right about the Suffolk club. However an impressive run of form followed, with Town winning 10 of their next 16 matches to propel the club to third at New Year. Talk of a Champions League place was rife, but five defeats in their next eight games gave other clubs a chance to catch up. Despite dropping only seven points in their final nine games, Ipswich slipped down the table to fifth and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Stewart was the league's second top scorer with 19 goals, with Holland and Hreidarsson missing just a combined three games in all competitions.

2004/05 - West Bromwich Albion


2005 may have been the year Liverpool won a historic Champions League final, and the year Chelsea dazzled the Premier League with brilliant performances week in, week out, but West Brom fans remember the 2004/05 campaign for a whole different reason. After comfortably finishing second in the First Division, Baggies manager Gary Megson looked to bolster their attacking options by adding Zoltan Gera and Robert Earnshaw to the squad.

West Brom started the season with three 1-1 draws, but it took them until October to claim three points in a match. A 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace marked the end of Megson's reign two weeks later, with Bryan Robson taking the job a week later. Things didn't improve however, and the Baggies could only muster a solitary point by Christmas Day. They were five points from safety by then, and relegation was looking all-but confirmed for the Midlands side. Things turned around in January when they claimed five points from a possible 12. They continued to grind out results, and they knew a win on the last day, combined with other results going their way, would make them safe. The Baggies recorded their seventh clean sheet of the season to beat Portsmouth 2-0, whilst their close rivals all failed to win, making West Brom safe by one point. They are still the only team in the Premier League era to have been bottom on Christmas Day and avoid relegation.

2005/06 - West Ham United


West Ham gained promotion to the Premier League by finishing sixth and beating the odds to win the play-off final. This meant the Hammers were the sixth-best side in the Championship in 2004/05, and now they were going to be playing the big boys in the Premiership every week. It was almost a given that they would go down, but Alan Pardew was determined to keep them up. He made this very clear when he splashed out £2.5 million on Yossi Benayoun and £1.5 million on Paul Konchesky.

The Irons opened the season in style, winning 3-1 to start top of the table. They continued this up, winning half their games by October. Inconsistent form followed though, and from the start of December to the start of January, they lost five games out of seven. That patch had pushed the London club way down the table into 10th, but not to be written off, they won their next five, including a 3-2 victory at Arsenal. However yet another bout of poor results, in which they won just two of 10 games, meant that faint hopes of a European place had gone. They did manage to qualify for the UEFA Cup in the end though, after losing to Liverpool in the FA Cup final on penalties.

2006/07 - Reading


After marching through The Championship, losing just twice on their way to a record 106 points, Reading had ended their long wait for top flight football. Dave Kitson and Kevin Doyle had shared 36 goals in their record-breaking season, and manager Steve Coppell will have been hoping their form would continue into their maiden Premier League season. Coppell also signed Ulises de la Cruz, who played Premier League football the previous season, and Andre Bikey to add extra defensive options.

The Royals' season consisted mostly of erratic form, often going on a long winning streak before entering a losing one equally as long. They won four of their first seven games, including the first one in which Dave Kitson sustained a long-term injury, but then lost four in a row in a tough run of fixtures that included Chelsea and Arsenal. Patchy December form appears to have plagued newly-promoted sides, and Reading were no different, losing four games in the month. However, that kick-started a six game unbeaten run, which suddenly turned into a six game winless streak in March. A strong end to the season meant the Berkshire club finished in 8th position, just a single point from a UEFA Cup place.

2007/08 - Derby County


In the 2006/07 season, Derby County had finished just two points off an automatic promotion place, but ended up winning the play-offs anyway, ensuring the top three were promoted. To try and keep Premier League status as long as possible, manager Billy Davies brought in established goalscorer Robert Earnshaw and experienced centre back Claude Davis, both for in excess of £3 million. Even with those signings, Derby were always expected to struggle. But no one expected them to be this bad.
An opening day draw was a positive sign for the club, but things went downhill from there on out. 

Four games and four losses later, and Irish bookmaker Paddy Power were paying out on their relegation. Ironically, things could have started to look up in their next game when they registered their only win of the season, at home to Newcastle. Of course, that didn't continue and on the 28th October, Derby fell to the foot of the table. They didn't move for the rest of the season, recording just five more points to finish on a Premier League-worst 11.





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