The long road to EPL
Wigan’s relegation was confirmed this week with a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal. The FA Cup winners will now join Reading and QPR in the second tier of English football next season. For these three clubs the hard work begins now, with a swift return to the top flight essential. Blackburn and Bolton both fell at the first hurdle by failing to gain promotion this term. For Wolves things couldn’t get any worse, as they became the first side in the Premier League era to suffer consecutive relegations. Their failings should serve a stark warning to this season’s relegation causalities. Life in the Championship is as tough as it gets.
Of the three, Queens Park Rangers seemingly have the most difficult job ahead. With an enormous wage bill and a squad filled with under-performing big names, massive changes are needed. Harry Redknapp looks set to stay on and spearhead the team’s push back to the Premier League. Player exits are inevitable in order for the club to stay afloat. The most important factor will be the speed of these exits. The quicker Redknapp can get players out the door, the better it will be for rebuilding the squad. The Championship is a fiercely competitive league which requires strong characters. Clint Hill and Shaun Derry are two players that have been there and done it in terms of promotion. While they may have been found wanting at the top level, their experience and desire to succeed may well help drag the club out of the mire and back to the promised land.
For Reading, relegation was always a possibility this season. The promoted sides are always favourites to go straight back down, and while West Ham and Southampton spent big, the Royals took a more conservative approach. Pavel Pogrebnyak was the only real signing of note, despite the club being fresh from a summer takeover by Anton Zingarevich. By playing it safe, Reading are in a strong position to challenge for promotion straight away. There ought to be minimal disruption to the playing staff as financially the club seems in good health. Another positive is the credentials of manager Nigel Adkins. At Southampton Adkins lead his team to back-to-back promotions, so he is a man of experience. They may have suffered in the Premier League this time, but we could see them back sooner than you think.
What a difference three days make. The town of Wigan was celebrating a first ever FA Cup triumph on Saturday night. Fast forward to Tuesday where the club’s eight year stay in the top flight came to a sad end. It’s fair to say Roberto Martinez has worked wonders at Wigan. His style and brand of football has won many admirers in the game. Most would agree he belongs at a higher level. No one could begrudge Martinez if he decided to leave for pastures new. Young talents like James McCarthy and Callum McManaman may also see their futures away from the club. Whoever is in charge come August will find themselves in a unique situation. For the first time, a Championship side will contest the Community Shield at Wembley. Add to that, an adventure into the Europa League; it becomes clear that there is a lot of football to be played for Wigan next term. Birmingham are proof that mixing European nights with Championship success is a huge ask, having attempted it two years ago. A big squad will be required to compete in Europe and a 46-game domestic league campaign (49 if the play-offs enter the fray).
Who will be forced out of the door at QPR? What changes, if any do Reading need to bounce straight back? Will European football be a help or hindrance for Wigan? Have your say in the comments section below: