Whether it’s the joy of winning the Championship, the jubilation of achieving automatic promotion or the drama of play-off final day, the journey to the Premier League is one that can transform the modern day football club.
However, as previous campaigns have shown us, the true test begins with trying to cement your place in the Promised Land for the long term and avoid the dreaded relegation zone at the end of the season.
Therefore, as deadline day of the summer transfer window approaches faster than Theo Walcott with a strong tailwind, it seems a good time to review the early displays of the three newly promoted Premier League sides: Cardiff City, Hull City Tigers and Crystal Palace.
Firstly, 2012/13 Championship winners Cardiff City have clearly been the biggest spenders of the three promoted sides, with high profile summer signing such as Steven Caulker, Gary Medel and Andreas Cornelius contributing to a total spend of over £28million thus far.
Cardiff have taken three points from their opening two league games, with the disappointment of a 2-0 away defeat at West Ham remedied by the extraordinary scenes in the 3-2 home victory against Pellegrini’s Manchester City that ended with Cardiff rewarded with the LMA Performance of the Week award.
Overall, Cardiff have made a good start to their first Premier League campaign, with the new signings seemingly bedding in well with arguably the strongest promoted squad from last season; the likes of Kim Bo-Kyung, Fraizer Campbell, Peter Whittingham and Craig Bellamy all performed well last season and look to be continuing in the same vain at the start of this campaign.
Cardiff City have probably the best credentials to suggest that they will avoid relegation this season, although in such a competitive league, their safety is one that could go down to the wire. For the reds (or blues for the anti-Tan purists), therefore, avoiding major injuries to crucial players and the integration of the new signings may hold the key for Cardiff’s season.
Hull City Tigers
The wholesale changes at Hull City Tigers this summer have been well documented, but with summer signings such as the Tottenham duo of Tom Huddlestone and loanee Jake Livermore attracted to the club, maybe the frustration of some fans to the rebranding of the club could be quelled slightly.
Far from saying that certain fans will forgive the chairman for the identity crisis that has marred Hull’s promotion, it is likely to be a long season for both the club and its supporters. However, the two afore mentioned signings, when added to the likes of Alan McGregor and Danny Graham, represent good business from the Tigers, giving them a fighting chance of survival this season.
In their first two league games, Hull have equalled the tally of rivals Cardiff, achieving three points against Chris Hughton’s Norwich City after a defeat by a Chelsea side welcoming back ‘The Special One’ on the opening day (not an enviable task I’m sure).
After a solid start, Hull City Tigers look well placed to make a really hard fought effort of securing their Premier League status this season, with some of their summer signings not yet having significant time to develop within the philosophy of Bruce’s squad. However, one area that could potentially limit Hull’s survival chances is their ability to score goals on a regular basis; Danny Graham seems their most likely source of goals but still has question marks hanging over him after an uninspiring spell at Sunderland.
With this in mind, I believe that despite their efforts, Hull City Tigers will fail in their brave fight and ultimately face Premier League extinction, for this season at least.
The enigmatic Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway has been open throughout the summer of the club’s misfortune of missing out on potential transfer targets and the intention to work right up until the close of the window, hardly the ideal way to start your return to the top flight. However, as we have seen at the likes of Arsenal this season, bringing in transfer targets is often far from straight-forward.
Much like their manager, many of the new signings at Selhurst Park are players with a point to prove at the top level; players such as Maroaune Chamakh, arriving from Arsenal and a selection of Holloway’s former Blackpool squad, including Elliot Grandin and Jason Puncheon all have critics they look to dispel.
The attention has principally stayed away from those players, however, with the Cinderella story of young Dwight Gayle grabbing many of the headlines. The 22 year-old moved from Peterborough in the summer, having played non-league football for Bishop's Stortford as recently as 2012 and stepped out to lead the line for a full 90 minutes against Tottenham in Palace’s opening fixture.
The Eagles have made the worst possible start to the new campaign, with back-to-back defeats against Tottenham and Stoke signalling their return with a whimper. However, welcoming Spurs on the opening day of the season and a trip to the Brittania is hardly the most comfortable welcome back to the top flight for Crystal Palace, and after showing signs of improvement throughout the two games, fans can sleep a little easier than the table may lead them to at this early stage.
On paper, Crystal Palace seems to have the weakest squad in terms of both quality and depth out of the three promoted sides, with more signings likely before the close of the transfer window.
There is no surprise that Palace are bookies favourites for relegation and unfortunately, I struggle to see any alternative for Holloway’s men. However, a Cinderella story for the club to match the personal rise of Dwight Gayle and survival this season is not beyond the realms of possibility, potentially leaving bookmakers, pundits and myself with faces redder than Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the season.
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