35, 33 and 30. That is the respective points tally for Hull City, Burnley and QPR in the 2014/15 Premier League season.
QPR went down with little more than a whimper. Burnley fared slightly bettered although their fate wasn’t exactly a shock. Hull City took it to the final day of the season, but Newcastle’s win over West Ham meant that the Tigers were relegated regardless of their result against Manchester United (which incidentally they drew).
This time last year it was Norwich City licking their wounds after falling through the trap door, but fast-forward to the present day and they are back in the big time via the play-offs. All three of these teams have bounced back from the Championship before, but who will be the first this time around, and will it be an instantaneous return a la the Canaries?
The Achilles heel of Hull City and Burnley was goal scoring. Simply put, they did not score enough, and were over reliant on either Nickia Jelavic or Danny Ings. Hull hit the back of their opponents net a meagre 33 times whilst Burnley an even weaker 28.
Despite that poor return Hull actually scored more goals than both Sunderland and Aston Villa (31) who somehow avoided the drop in a fortuitous manner. Jelavic top scored for the Tigers with 8 and Ings took that honour for the Clarets with 11.
Rock bottom side Rangers actually scored relatively freely. They notched 43 goals, but considering they conceded a whopping 73 times it isn’t hard to see why Loftus Road will now host Championship fixtures.
Unfortunately for supporters of these three sides, all look set to lose their top goal scorers. Danny Ings has signed for Liverpool with only a pending medical possibly vetoing the move. Charlie Austin also looks destined to leave QPR, as does Jelavic at Hull. Therefore to state the obvious, just as the Pope is partial to Catholicism, these teams need a striker apiece.
But it is not as clear cut as that. Yes, there needs to be an injection of goals but this must be spread amongst the team, to alleviate pressure from the strikers. The likes of Leroy Fer, George Boyd and Mohammed Diame did pop up with some goals from midfield, but for each of the three teams under scrutiny here, not enough defenders got on the score sheet.
For Hull, James Chester scored twice, with Paul McShane and Michael Dawson netting once each. Burnley’s Ben Mee bagged two and no other Claret defender scored all season. In west London, Clint Hill and Steven Caulker shared two goals and again, no other Hoops defender scored. Therefore the problem runs deeper than just strikers.
New players are required at each of the aforementioned clubs. These new signings should be able to contribute goals no matter their position, but also fresh faces may go some way to breaking the losing habit and negative mentality evident at these three sides.
In the case of QPR, as well as the above, signings are needed to bolster defence considering it was breached over 70 times. I urge the Rangers board to put their money where their faith is. Chris Ramsey has been given the job on a permanent basis, so he should be financially supported to bring in the players he desires.
The same applies to Sean Dyche and Steve Bruce, but their previous experience means that they are not under the same pressure as Ramsey to prove their worth.
Assuming Hull, Burnley and QPR take heed and strengthen – what is the standard of the opposition they’ll be facing week in week out? The Championship is always a strong league, and in the age of parachute payments it arguably gets stronger year on year. Out of the 24 teams competing in the 2015/16 Championship only 7 have no Premier League experience.
A prominent betting company has named Hull City as outright favourites at 13/2, whilst Burnley are ranked at 9/1 alongside Middlesbrough and Derby County. QPR are offered at 12/1 the same as Wolves and Brentford. However, given the infamous nature of the Championship as an unpredictable league, these odds should be taken with a pinch of salt – even reigning League One champions Bristol City are placed at reasonably favourable odds of 20/1.
Fans of Hull, Burnley and QPR must remain realistic, and not apply undue pressure on staff and players by naming positional targets. In a league such as the Championship fans of recently relegated teams are well within their rights to demand a “good” showing, but explicit positional aims (publicly at least) are unhelpful I feel – the league is simply too tight.
All things considered it may well be too early to make a prediction as to who of these teams is most likely to get promoted next season. It is after all the Championship, as volatile a league as is imaginable. However, as a neutral, I find it hard to make a convincing case for Burnley or QPR to mount a serious and credible promotion campaign.
The loss of Ings and Trippier (amongst others) will hurt Burnley and recruitment is critical at Turf Moor. As for QPR, I feel it may be too much too soon for Chris Ramsey (although by all means prove me wrong). Hull are in the best position, with a man that has been there and done it before in Steve Bruce. That said I see little more than a play-off place for the Tigers as a losing habit is difficult to shed once ingrained.
There is a long summer ahead that much is true, and the nature of football is ever changing – fluid and turbulent in equal measure. As of now, though, I don’t think any of these teams will be gracing the Premier League in the immediate future. Apologies to fans of the Tigers, Clarets and Rs, but I feel that this is more of a semi-permanent goodbye than an au revoir.[separator type=”thin”]