24 May 2014

Can QPR and co end the curse of the Premier League yo-yo?

QPR’s Championship play-off victory settles the last big issue of the domestic football season. Channel 4 News returns to its study of the “yo-yo clubs” who move between the two top divisions.

The first thing to say – as observed last year and as is immediately apparent from a study of Ciaran Hughes’s excellent infographic above – is that the very phrase “yo-yo clubs” is misleading, writes Malcolm Boughen.

The term cloaks the many different experiences of the 39 clubs who’ve been involved in promotion and relegation in the 22 seasons since the formation of the Premier League.

So – with congratulations to Leicester City, Burnley and QPR and commiserations to Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff – let’s have a look first of all at what’s changed over the past season.

Mixed year

It’s clearly been a very mixed year for the clubs promoted at the end of the 2012-13 season.

Cardiff City – promoted as champions, 11 points clear of their nearest rivals – had a tumultuous season. After a big-spending summer, their first home game in the Premier League ended in a 3-2 win over Manchester City, of all people.

After a big-spending summer, Cardiff city’s first game in the Premier League ended in a 3-2 win over Manchester City.

By Christmas the club had slipped to 14th, but were still keeping their heads above water, four points clear of the relegation zone, having managed 17 points from 17 games. But there were rumblings behind the scenes of trouble between the club’s mercurial owner, Vincent Tan, and manager Malky Mackay.

Then came Mackay’s sacking. From the remaining 21 games, they managed just 13 points and return to the Championship after just one season – the ninth of 21 Championship champions to do so since the formation of the Premier League.

Michael Jackson ‘curse’

But the other two promoted clubs can be much more satisfied.

Play-off winners Crystal Palace not only survived their first season back in the Premier League – for the first time ever – but rallied so well towards the end that they finished in mid-table.

And Hull City may not have pulled up many trees in the league, but rarely looked in danger and their run in the FA Cup took them all the way to the final – and qualification for Europe next season.

The two teams to go down with Cardiff do not really fulfil the template of “yo-yo teams” either. Fulham, indeed, were one of our “Settlers” from last year – having spent 13 seasons in the top division.

Their two changes of manager – in December and February – clearly didn’t help, but they never really got going this season and could find it hard to bounce straight back – especially if reports of the “curse” of the removed Michael Jackson statue are to be believed.

They now find themselves among our “Absent Friends” category, as do Norwich. The Canaries never quite managed to become one of the Settlers, but they were one of the inaugural members of the Premier League and have spent the last three years there.So what are the prospects for this season’s promoted teams?

Top table regulars

Leicester City eventually won the Championship at a canter, chalking up a massive 102 points into the bargain. They’ve been away from the Premier League for the past 10 years, but before that were regular faces at football’s top table.

Unlike Cardiff, they can boast harmonious relations between manager Nigel Pearson and the boardroom – and there is money to strengthen the team. Their Thai owners have talked of being ready to spend £180m to try to take Leicester to the heady heights of the top five in three years’ time.

But such ambitions aside, the first task is to keep themselves in the Premier League next season.

Unlike Cardiff, Leicester City can boast harmonious relations between manager Nigel Pearson and the boardroom.

Like Leicester, QPR have plenty of money to spend, with the Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes and the billionaire Mittal family sharing ownership. Their promotion will also see the return to the Premier League of Harry Redknapp, so prepare for more interesting comings and goings at Loftus Road – and it’s anyone’s guess how they’ll do next season.

Burnley were the surprise package in the Championship this season. Having sold their top scorer, Charlie Austin, to QPR at the start of the season, little was expected of them. But manager Sean Dyche put together an efficient and often attractive set-up, with a dynamic new striking partnership in Sam Vokes and Championship player of the year Danny Ings.

Despite their history, it’ll be only Burnley’s second season in the Premier League – last time they were relegated again at the first time of asking – and the question will be whether they have the resources to build a squad strong enough to compete.

End of the ‘yo-yo’?

So now the stats – and it’s quite good news for the promoted teams.

There was a period in the 1990s when the concept of “yo-yo teams” began to gain credence. In the three of the four seasons from 1994/5, all the teams promoted in the previous season were immediately sent down again.

But it hasn’t happened since then. In just five of the 22 seasons since the formation of the Premier League, two of the three promoted teams have been relegated, while in 12 just one of the three promoted sides has failed to survive.

And most hopeful of all for fans of Leicester, Burnley and QPR, in two seasons (2001/2 and 2011/12) none of the promoted sides were relegated.