While the phrase “since the advent of the Premier League” is enough to make me come out in hives, the monetary advantages associated with appearing in said competition are such these days that it has become the consensus that 1992 is now some kind of Pol Pot-style Year Zero, although, unlike the people of Cambodia, we are yet to be liberated.
Since the first strains of Alive and Kicking
blared out of our TV sets, 43 clubs have appeared in the EPL, enough for two whole divisions (although I wouldn’t mention that in front of Phil Gartside
). Of those yet to come to the attention of Richard Keys
and Andy Gray, I thought I would identify 5 as being the next in the queue, although Devon Loch
scenarios should be warned against. The 2018 bid has provided some with an artificial advantage in this respect, although there’ll be many a slip between cup and lip and those who may benefit from this (Plymouth, McFranchise
) will likely have to wait until the opening ceremony is close to turn credits into cash.
So, for the Seven Year Itch between now and then – 2011 to 2018, which are the quintet most well placed to bring the ranks of Scudamore alumni
up to a round 48?
Signing Craig Bellamy certainly sends out a statement and Cardiff have been the dauphin long enough now to make their country’s Prince feel easier in his similar role. The addition of a club from west of the Severn would add kudos to the league and City, with their new stadium and players of the quality of Peter Whittingham and Jay Bothroyd
, cannot have too much longer to wait. At the time of writing, this could well be as soon as next year. The Bluebirds finished runners up to Huddersfield Town back in 1923-4 but you won’t find the Terriers in my picks this time.
One might suspect that it’s an either/or as far as Welsh sides are concerned and the Swans’ last top flight appearance is much more recent than that of their neighbours; Bob Latchford, Alan Curtis and their team mates thumping Leeds on their inaugural day in Division 1 in 1981-2. Decline was vertiginous though and it’s only in recent years that the first principles instigated by Roberto Martinez have signalled a revival. That managers who have been unimpressive elsewhere
have thrived at the Liberty is telling.
This strategy of adopting a template and sticking to it has been followed also at Doncaster, albeit under just the one gamekeeper in Sean O’Driscoll: players may come and go, but newcomers know exactly where they need to fit in. Just as Ajax built their success on a blueprint that saw all the club’s teams at all ages play in a certain way and a certain formation, Donny have stuck to their guns
. True, Rovers’ gates may be dwarfed by their York-sure neighbours, but the Keepmoat holds over 15,000 – respectably close to Pompey or Fulham levels. If Blackpool can do it…
Mentally, I earmarked the Posh to be the next club to do a Reading or a Watford a couple of years ago now, so the horrific mismanagement that accompanied their fall from grace last year
was surprising. This season’s start, and the interlinked appointment of Gary Johnson, have confirmed that the underlying trend is upward. Peterborough lies in a region distant enough in terms of miles from competing attractions to forge a club well capable of a Premier League challenge.
One of league history’s more illustrious names, County ducked out of the First Division under Neil Warnock immediately before the candies started being distributed, with the likes of Mark Draper
and Tommy Johnson their stars back then. After the construction of a cut price bargain of a stadium, funded by the sale of the latter and Paul Rideout, one might have expected Notts to bounce back a little earlier, but instead they have wallowed – their least dignified hour not preventing a first hesitating step back upwards in May.