This season, however, there was a new breed of promoted sides taking to the Premier League. Blackpool, Newcastle and West Brom decided against scrapping doggedly for each and every point, or relying on beating the teams around them, and instead played with a refreshing amount of belief and fearlessness which ultimately made for a brilliantly unpredictable and surprising relegation battle. Sunday afternoon has now confirmed the relegated trio for this season as Blackpool, West Ham and Birmingham, meaning two of the three promoted sides kept their place among the elite. Not only that, but West Brom and Newcastle impressively finished 11th and 12th respectively, while playing out an enthralling 3-3 draw that encapsulated both teams’ positive approach to the whole season. Blackpool too demonstrated their abrasive approach at Old Trafford, squandering a 2-1 lead to eventually lose 4-2 and finish 19th.
Indeed the three promoted sides each registered excellent goal tallies for the season. West Brom and Newcastle both scored 56 and Blackpool 55, the most a relegated team has ever scored in Premier League history, which perhaps typifies the promoted sides’ fearless attacking intent in one fine swoop. Compare those stats to last season where Birmingham (38), Wolves (32) and Burnley (42) showed a far more conservative approach to staying in the division; one as equally successful as this season it has to be said. The statistics are very similar for the year before with none of the promoted sides topping 40 goals for the season although, again, two stayed in the division.
Although the stats don’t necessarily suggest that being more positive leads to top-flight survival, it has certainly contributed to a more unpredictable league this term. Blackpool’s approach has been one of both purist’s delight and tactical and defensive naivety, leading to enthralling matches and a sense of never quite knowing which way the result will go. From a 2-1 win at Anfield, to a 3-1 reverse at home to bottom club West Ham, it was impossible to tell just what they would come up with. West Brom also showed some attractive football, sacrificing their defensive record – keeping just two clean sheets all season – to really open up and attack teams, resulting in some surprising results of their own.
Newcastle was perhaps the most efficient of the three promoted clubs and their return to the top-flight has seen them secure safety with relative ease. The club was never really in trouble and, the Chris Hughton debacle aside, it was relatively plain sailing for a team always known for its attacking style. Although, it has to be said, the Magpies were equally erratic as the other two in terms of results, with wins at Arsenal and Everton outweighed by losses at home to Blackpool and Blackburn.
The unpredictable nature of this season’s Premier League has been a delight for fans and it was the three promoted sides that set the tone. For Blackpool, it was fun while it lasted, while the other two will hope for more of the same. Te league should hope for three more promoted teams to follow in the footsteps of this season’s exciting trio.