Two weeks ago I was convinced the 3 clubs promoted to the Premier League in May would be going straight back down. Huddersfield falling like a stone, Brighton slipping, Newcastle limping on with – basically – the same team that brought them up.
You have to go back to the 1997/98 season to find the one, and only, time that the three clubs promoted to the Premier League went down. Bolton, Barnsley and Crystal Palace were the fall guys who set that precedent in the Premier League. And I thought we were heading for a similar situation.
But Rafa Benitez continues to work miracles with a “championship” side, and yesterday’s defeat of Manchester United was well earned and the product of brilliant organisation and a phenomenal work-rate.
Huddersfield under David Wagner have that knack of pulling out crucial wins. There is a total belief in the Wagner philosophy among the players and their record January signing Alex Pritchard starred in a 4-1 win over in-form Bournemouth that did for my accumulator on Saturday. I just didn’t see it coming.
Brighton, under Chris Hughton – one of the nicest guys in football who has been too negative in the past – is also squeezing every ounce out of his squad. I’ve rarely seen so many last ditch defensive tackles as at Stoke for their 1-1 draw and the previous home win over West Ham kept their heads above water.
Fans of those clubs will probably know the statistics but only twice have all three promoted clubs stayed up. In 2001/02 Blackburn, Bolton and Fulham did it. And in 2011/12 QPR, Norwich and Swansea repeated that feat.
But chances are that at least one of the current trio will go if you consider that, in the Premier League era, at least one of those promoted clubs has taken the drop in all but two seasons.
But I am loving the battle to stay up this season – I calculate there are 11 clubs still in the mix. It is certainly more absorbing than the title race.