Reaching the promised land of the top flight is always cause for celebration. Whether it’s a club making history and being promoted for the first time, or a sleeping giant ready to make their return after a lengthy absence, the feeling can’t be topped.
However getting to the top of the mountain isn’t the hardest part, unfortunately. The real test of the three clubs who go up to the Premier League next season is if they can keep their head afloat and stay in the top division.
Sheffield United and Wolves have proved that, with solid recruitment and planning, it’s more than possible to break the mould and become a surprise package in the Premier League’s top half. Norwich, however, have proved that without said planning, you can fall straight back down in embarrassing fashion.
Leeds won this season’s Championship and will head back into the Premier League following a 16 year absence. West Brom took second to secure automatic promotion, having been in the Championship ever since they were relegated in 2017/18. Fulham return to the top flight following a play-off final victory over Brentford, having been relegated back down to the second tier at the end of a dismal 2018/19 season.
With that in mind, here’s one key mistake each club cannot afford to make if they want to enjoy success next season…
It might have taken promotion to the Premier League for club officials to realise it, but Leeds have genuinely struck gold with Marcelo Bielsa.
The eccentric Argentine sparked controversy when he sent staff to ‘spy’ on Derby County’s training session in 2019, but his passionate press conference following the incident was more proof that the man has an incredible football brain.
Bielsa is obsessed with the sport and will do everything in his power to understand the Premier League better than anyone else can. Without a much strengthened squad, however, Leeds will struggle on the pitch no matter how much he drills his players on the training ground. The Whites need some extra firepower in attack, and could benefit from some high quality, experienced heads dotted about their squad.
Bielsa’s achievements should prove to the board that there is no better man for the job, and give him the finances he needs to make Leeds a consistent Premier League club again. Give him an inch, he’ll take a mile. And maybe spy on your board meetings…
This one might sound a bit harsh considering the Baggies scored the joint-second most goals in the Championship this season, but there’s no denying that they lack a star man up top.
Charlie Austin has only managed 11 goals in all competitions this season, while Hal Robson-Kanu has only managed 10. The pair are also both 31 years old, meaning they’re likely past their peaks. That leaves Danish forward Kenneth Zohore, who has only found the net three times and looks set to leave the club.
Slaven Bilic is a capable manager, and the fact that the team has been set up to score goals despite their strikers’ limitations is a testament to the Croatian. But heading into the Premier League without a talisman for the team to rely on when the chips are down would be incredibly naive.
If the side has a bad day or is tactically pinned down by a top six side, finding the man up front on the counter could prove life saving. On the contrary, trying to play without that striker will likely prove detrimental for West Brom.
When Fulham were promoted ahead of the 2018/19 Premier League season, they spent over £100m in the transfer market.
How did that work out for them? Well, they finished second bottom and were relegated.
While fans can’t fault the owners for their ambition, there were serious question marks around how they’d managed to go down after spending so much money. Poor recruitment saw the majority of their signings flop, particularly in defence were Fulham were absolutely atrocious.
They tried to play an exciting brand of football going forward, but conceded 81 league goals as a result. Managerial changes didn’t help, but all in all it was a shortsighted effort.
Two years on, however, the club looks more stable and sensible. Scott Parker is getting the best out of his players and their owners – the Khan family – are still interested in the club (which is saying something for football club owners). Sensible and modest signings must be the priority this summer, to compliment an already strong squad.
Co-owner Tony Khan must also call on talent from his other business venture, All Elite Wrestling, to make the season a success. If Chris Jericho and Cody Rhodes don’t end up at Craven Cottage at least once, the entire season should be scrapped.