The fight for survival is anyone’s guess after last season’s shock

All three promoted teams survived last campaign with Leicester a surprise victim but will this happen again?

Dwight McNeil (B) at the EPL match West Ham United v Burnley, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th January, 2021. English Premier League matches are still being played behind closed doors because of the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and government social distancing/lockdown restrictions.

I am not a betting man. I’m probably one of those rare people who has been to the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas, but never gambled. No, not a penny. The 16th century proverb regarding a fool and his money being easily parted comes to mind.

But there is one bet a year I allow myself and that is regarding who will win each English league. I always do this each way, extending my chance of winning and in the 10 years I have done this, I have won just once.

So I guess I’m still a winner having won more money than I’ve lost. One bet I wouldn’t touch is who will get relegated from the Premier League each year. This season the bookies are pretty uniformed in who they think will go down. Most are predicting that recently promoted Luton Town and Sheffield United are certainties. 

With Bournemouth the other favourite meaning that of all the promoted sides only Burnley are predicted to stay up. Why are the bookies backing Burnley? History says that financial disparity is one of the reasons why newly promoted teams find it hard to establish themselves in the Premier League, thus worrying more about avoiding relegation than even establishing mid table mediocrity. 

History also shows that in all but four of the 31 seasons since its introduction, at least one newly promoted club had been relegated the following season. There was even one season in 1997-98 when all three were relegated, those being Bolton, Barnsley and Crystal Palace. 

Since the Premier Leagues inception, and before last season, there have only been three seasons when all three promoted teams have stayed up. Those seasons were 2001-02; 2012-12 and 2017-18. Invariably though all were relegated a season or two later. 

However last season the three promoted teams really bucked the trend and Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest all stayed up. It’s true that two of those teams were in a relegation battle for most of the season but nevertheless they stayed up. 

And so keeping in mind that the history books suggest that those that stay up then have difficult second seasons, you can see why Bournemouth are one of the favorites to go down. The question therefore remains: have the bookies got it right and two newly promoted sides will stay up or maybe even three? Who has the wherewithal to stay up. Let’s take a closer look.

Firstly Luton Town who came up through the play offs. Luton had been a bit of a surprise package. They ended the season way behind the top two. Burnley had a 21 point gap and Sheffield United an 11 point gap over Luton, but the Hatters did finish five points above fourth place Middlesbrough.

As I write Luton’s biggest signings have been a defender Ryan Giles from Wolves for around £5 million, and a right winger Tahith Chong from Birmingham City for £4.7 million. Overall spend has been around £12 million so not great. 

Central Defender Tom Lockyer was their star player last season but there may be concerns regarding his health. Lockyer collapsed on the pitch during the play off final having suffered an atrial fibrillation of the heart. He has, however, been declared fit to continue his career. 

Luton’s other star was Carlton Morris who scored 20 goals last season. Morris has only really come alive in the last two years, the previous year having scored 14 goals for Barnsley. Prior to that, as a Norwich player, he spent over seven years on loan to various clubs, never making his mark.

The Premier League will be a huge step up for both players. The whole squad has little or no Premier League experience. Home advantage may also be an issue as Luton have already had to delay their home debut in the Premier League due to delays in the stadium renovations. Not a good start. 

Luton look a fair bet for relegation. As for our games against Luton, the Hatters certainly have a great record against us and will be up for our games. But I can’t see Luton repeating a 2-0 win against us Hammers like the last time we met thirty years ago.

So what of the Tevez-loving Yorkshire team from Sheffield? Well their star player is attacking midfielder, Senegalese international, Iliman Ndiaye, who averages around seven goals per season. Billy Sharp, their top striker for a few years, was released at the end of last season, so us Hammers won’t have to worry about him.

As I write the Blades, like West Ham, have been linked with numerous players but have bought no-one. Also like West Ham the squad looks definitely weaker than last season. They are leaving it late.

They may do a Nottingham Forest and limp to safety but I have a feeling that the bookies have it right. As for our chances against Sheffield United, history shows the Blades have been a tricky opponent. 

I have a feeling that despite the lack of transfer activity, they could be again this coming season but not enough to cause us huge problems. That just leaves Burnley, the champions and the club that provide the best away day experience in the league, ask anyone who had spent the afternoon at the cricket ground next door to Turf Moor and they will agree.

Burnley will stay up, that’s my opinion. They also have ex Hammer Josh Cullen showing just what we could have had if he had been allowed more first team chances. He was outstanding for the clarets last year and will have a point to prove. They also have money to spend. 

They will be tough opponents and I have a feeling we will split those games with Burnley this coming season. It’s too early to really say who will get relegated. I bet no-one predicted Leicester to go down.

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