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Mike Ashley reassured by Norwich and Watford guidance

10 months ago

Mike Ashley has yet again put together another ‘exciting’ season for Newcastle United fans.

Supporters not likely to know the fate of their club until the very final stages of the campaign.

The last game of the season, Fulham v Newcastle at Craven Cottage, potentially set to be the ultimate relegation six-pointer and deciding who goes down.

It would be the fifth time in the last eleven Premier League seasons, where Mike Ashley has taken it right down to the wire.

Relegation in 2009, reaching safety when winning the final away match in 2013, safety when winning the final match of the season in 2015, relegation in 2016…who knows on 23 May 2021?

If the worst happens and Mike Ashley takes Newcastle United down for a third time, what can we expect?

Well, interesting to look at the fate of what has happened to relegated Premier League clubs in recent years.

Here below are the three PL relegated clubs each season, then in brackets the two clubs that gained automatic promotion from the Championship the following season:

2015/16 – Newcastle United, Norwich, Villa (Newcastle United, Brighton)

2016/17 – Hull, Middlesbrough, Sunderland (Wolves, Cardiff)

2017/18 – Swansea, Stoke, West Brom (Norwich, Sheffield United)

2018/19 – Cardiff, Fulham, Huddersfield (Leeds, West Brom)

2019/20 – Bournemouth, Watford, Norwich (???)

Quite remarkable that out of 12 Premier League clubs to be relegated before last season, only Newcastle United came straight back up in an automatic promotion spot.

This should be the prime / easiest time for a relegated club to bounce back, still having a large part of their Premier League team / squad AND having the massive advantage of the parachute cash, which is seriously front loaded now, to give relegated clubs the best chance of bouncing straight back at the first attempt.

However…it looks like things are most definitely changing.

This is how the top end of the Championship table currently looks:

Norwich finished rock bottom of the Premier League last season with only 21 points and yet they could get automatic promotion as early as this coming weekend, fully a month before the end of the season.

Watford were second bottom with only 34 points (Steve Bruce still dreaming of so many points with only 29 from 30 so far…) last season, yet they also look set to cruise to automatic promotion, fully nine points clear with six games to go, Brentford remote challengers but with a game in hand.

Even Bournemouth who finished third bottom last season in the Premier League, look set for the play-offs, they will be fifth if winning their game in hand.

I can only think that Mike Ashley will be looking at this and be quite possibly thinking, if the worst happens, at least we are absolutely sure to come straight back up, especially with his blinkered view further skewed by the fact Hughton and Benitez did such brilliant jobs to bring Newcastle straight back up as champions.

A word of warning though.

In both summer 2009 and summer 2016, Mike Ashley had the luxury of making tens of millions of profit on transfers in both those transfer windows AND yet still winning promotion as champions.

There is absolutely no guarantee of that happening this time though.

Norwich are the 2019/20 relegated club who have kept the most of their team / squad intact, the only major departures being Ben Godfrey to Everton and Jamal Lewis to Newcastle.

Watford allowed slightly more outgoing business in summer 2020 but kept the vast majority of that relegated team / squad.

Bournemouth finished higher than the other two last season BUT sold over £90m worth of players, including Ake, Wilson, Ramsdale, Arter, as well as a number of high profile free transfers leaving – Ibe, Fraser and Defoe. Bournemouth also selling Josh King and Dan Gosling in January.

For Mike Ashley, he will no doubt take great comfort in seeing both Norwich and Watford strolling to instant automatic promotion and potentially Bournemouth making it three out of three in terms of coming straight back up.

As for the reasons for this abrupt change in fortune for relegated clubs, maybe it is just a freak year. Alternatively, maybe the virus situation has made it even more difficult (impossible?) for other Championship clubs to compete with relegated clubs, if those relegated clubs keep most of their best players together.

Also, we could be seeing a relative end, partly due to the virus impact, to new ambitious owners taking over Championship clubs and putting big money behind a promotion drive, as was the case at the likes of Villa, Leeds and Wolves.


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