|Watford||To Be Relegated||8/11||Bet365, Paddy Power, Coral|
|Norwich||To Be Relegated||6/5||Coral|
|Bournemouth||To Be Relegated||5/4||Paddy Power, Coral, Ladbrokes|
Last season was a thrilling year in the Championship, with Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich all promoted to play in the Premier League. The Canaries finished third but beat Middlesbrough in the play-offs to secure a place in the top flight, yet it is runners-up Watford who are rated as the weakest of the three sides by the bookies.
Watford are odds-on favourites to be relegated, at a best price of 8/11 with Bet365, Paddy Power and Coral, with the other two promoted clubs both available at odds against. The three promoted sides are the shortest prices to go down – to put things into greater perspective, Sunderland are the shortest price of the sides to finish the 2014/15 season in the Premier League, at a general best price of 9/4. They were 5/2 with William Hill earlier in the summer but have proved a popular selection.
Nevertheless, if you think the three promoted teams will all be relegated, then the place to back that as a treble is Bet365 who are offering 16/1.
It is an instinctive reaction to think that the gulf between the Championship and the Premier League is a difficult one to bridge, especially with the increasing wealth gap in recent years, but since the inaugural year of the competition in 1992/93, more promoted teams have survived the first season than have gone straight back down.
Of 68 promoted clubs in that time (only two teams, the champions and the play-off winners, went up in 1994/95 as the top flight was reduced from 22 to 20 teams) 38 (56%) have survived their first season, with 30 being relegated straight back down.
Championship Automatic Promotion
|CHAMPIONSHIP||STAYED UP||RELEGATED||AVERAGE PL FINISH||AVERAGE PL POINTS|
|1st Place||14 (61%)||9 (39%)||14.6||42.21|
|2nd Place||14 (64%)||8 (36%)||14.3||42.63|
|1st & 2nd Combined||28 (62%)||17 (38%)||14.5||42.42|
As champions, Bournemouth can rightly be considered to be the best team in last season’s Championship. They scored the most goals by far (98) and finished with a positive goal difference of 53, comfortably the division’s best record, which we will discuss at greater length later. However, the evidence does not support the theory that the winners of the Championship find the going any easier in the Premier League than the teams who go up automatically with them.
Of the 23 teams promoted to the top flight as champions in the Premier League era, 14 have stayed up (61%), compared to 14 of 22 runners-up (64%). The champions have recorded an average finishing position in their first top flight season of 14.6, with the second-placed sides posting an average of 14.3. The runners-up also garner more top flight points on average – 42.63 compared to 42.21 for the champions.
Championship Play-off Winners
|CHAMPIONSHIP||STAYED UP||RELEGATED||AVERAGE PL FINISH||AVERAGE PL POINTS|
|3rd Place||5 (63%)||3 (36%)||14.9||37.75|
|4th Place||0 (0%)||3 (100%)||19.7||31.66|
|5th Place||3 (43%)||4 (57%)||16.1||36.71|
|6th Place||2 (40%)||3 (60%)||14.0||46.20|
|3rd-6th Combined||10 (43%)||13 (57%)||15.7||38.47|
|4th-6th Combined||5 (33%)||10 (66%)||16.1||38.86|
As you may expect, the teams promoted via the play-offs do fare a little worse than those who achieve automatic promotion. Of the 45 teams promoted automatically, 28 have stayed up (62%) against 10 of the 23 play-off winners (43%). The play-off winners have achieved an average Premier League position of 15.7 with an average points tally of 38.47.
However, those statistics are greatly affected by the poor survival rates of play-off winners who finish between fourth and sixth in the Championship – just five of 15 teams. Five of the eight sides who have finished in third place and gone on to win the play-offs have survived their first Premier League campaign. At 63%, that is a marginally better survival rate than the automatically promoted sides, albeit from a small sample. On a similar note, three of the four play-off winners to have gained 86 points or more have stayed up the next year, compared to just six of 15 play-off winners who finished with fewer than 80 Championship points. Those are statistics to offer encouragement to Norwich supporters.
|Bournemouth||To Stay Up||4/6||Bet365, Sky Bet, Paddy Power, Betfred|
|Norwich||To Stay Up||4/5||Sky Bet|
|Watford||To Stay Up||6/5||Sky Bet, BetVictor, William Hill|
Bournemouth, Watford & Norwich
Bournemouth achieved a total points haul of 90 in the Championship season, the equal-third highest winning total in the last nine years, and you might think that gives them a greater chance of surviving in the top flight, but the evidence suggests a high points tally makes little difference to a team’s chances of avoiding an instant return to the Championship, unless that total is exceptionally high.
Watford fans should take note too, as they finished on 89 points, that of the 23 teams promoted with 89 or more points, only 11 (48%) have survived that treacherous first season. That figure is put into even greater perspective when you take into account that it includes the five teams promoted with 99 or more points who have all prospered in the top flight. Indeed, the survival rate for teams achieving high points totals is exactly the same as that for teams who go up with between 70 and 85 points – 15 of 31 clubs who fall into that bracket have avoided the drop. There is a strange anomaly in the statistics too – eight of the 10 teams to have gone up with 87 or 88 points have survived, but none of the three with 89. Watford will be hoping not to make it four from four.
For the record, teams promoted from the Championship with 99 or more points have gone on to finish 7th, 9th, 8th, 12th and 14th in the Premier League – their dominance clearly indicating their readiness to compete in the top flight.
|TOP PROMOTED SIDE||ODDS||BOOKMAKER|
There are more ways to judge a team’s suitability for the top flight than just their points total, however, and there are plenty of reasons why Bournemouth should feel confident about their chances, not least of which is the fact that they are well-resourced, which is at odds with the narrative of the small-town club on a romantic journey from football’s darkest depths. In Eddie Howe, they also have the LMA’s Manager of the Year.
This will be the first time the Cherries have played in the Premier League and that surprise factor has served other clubs in the same position fairly well. The last three teams to be promoted to the top flight for the first time in their history (Hull, Reading and Wigan) have all survived their first season, with Reading and Wigan both finishing in the top 10, while Hull escaped the drop in 17th place. Prior to that, Barnsley and Swindon both went down. Bet365, Sky Bet and Paddy Power, all offer odds of 9/1 that Bournemouth will finish in the Top 10. Sky Bet also offer the best odds of Norwich and Watford finishing in the top half, at 12/1 and 16/1 respectively.
Incidentally, finishing in the top 10 is some achievement for Reading and Wigan. Of the 68 promoted teams under scrutiny here, only 15 have gone on to finish in the top half of the table. Nine of those 15 did so in the first 10 years of the Premier League, with only six in the subsequent 13 seasons. Only two have managed it in the last eight years, supporting the theory that it is getting harder year-on-year to compete higher up the league, if not to survive.
So if finishing top has little bearing on a team’s survival chances and a high points tally is also of no great significance, which statistics give cause for great optimism on behalf of the Cherries? Their huge goals total and their fantastic goal difference both point to them having a good chance of holding their own amongst the elite.
Top Championship Goalscorers
Bournemouth, who play a brand of football which will not be out of place in the top flight, scored a mammoth 98 goals in their 46 league games to be the top scorers by a distance. Over the last 23 seasons, the top scorers in the Championship have been promoted 15 times – only two of those 15 have been relegated twelve months later. At 86%, it’s a survival rate much greater than for any of the more obvious categories discussed above. Those 15 teams have finished, on average, 11th in the Premier League. Bet365 are offering 6/5 that the Cherries will accumulate Over 39.5 points or you can get 8/13 with BetVictor that they will get beyond 33.5 points, which looks a solid bet.
Top Championship Goal Difference
Howe’s side managed to ally their prolific goalscoring to a solid defence, conceding just short of one goal per game, to finish the season with a goal difference of +53. All seven of the teams who have previously been promoted to the Premier League with a goal difference of +50 or better have survived their first season. Of those seven teams, only Reading have been relegated at the end of their second season.
Over the last 23 seasons, the teams who have recorded the best goal difference in the Championship and have been promoted have achieved an average position of 14th in the top flight the following year, slightly better than the teams going up as champions or runners-up, with the teams going up with a positive goal difference of 50 or more gaining an average finishing position of 9.3.
The statistic extends much further, to the teams who have been promoted with a goal difference of 41 or more. There are 11 teams in that bracket with only one, Bolton in 1998, going straight back down. The Trotters were relegated with a tally of 40 points, which would have kept them up in all but one of the 17 subsequent seasons. Bet365 are offering Bournemouth a 45-point start in their season handicap betting, paying 15/1, with Chelsea going off scratch. So if this year’s champions match Chelsea’s tally of 87 from last year, the Cherries will need at least 43 points to win the handicap.
Of course it’s not just Bournemouth who have gone up with a strong goal difference. Watford’s final tally was +41, with Norwich’s goal spree in the second half of the campaign taking theirs to +40. The three clubs went up with a combined goal difference of +134, comfortably the best aggregate in the Premier League era. It suggests they attained a greater superiority over their Championship rivals than other promoted clubs have managed in previous seasons.
Sky Bet are offering 20/1 that all three promoted sides survive their first season.
Regular Championship Promotions
Watford and Norwich have joined a now 10-strong group of clubs who have been promoted to the Premier League on at least three occasions. Watford’s two previous promotions were via the play-offs and they were relegated immediately both times, with 24 and 28 points. Norwich have been promoted automatically twice, finishing 19th and 12th in their first seasons with respective totals of 33 and 47 points.
There is an argument that the more often a club gets promoted to the top flight, the greater its chances become of staying there as they grow in terms of experience and finance, and to an extent the statistics do back that up, albeit not necessarily for clubs coming up a third time. Of the eight other clubs to have been promoted a third time, four have stayed up and four have gone straight back down (again the small sample size must be acknowledged). However, four clubs have gone on to be promoted a fourth time and on those occasions they have all survived their first season back, including Leicester in May.
Sunderland have been bumping along near the bottom of the Premier League for several seasons and relegation looks like an accident waiting to happen for the Wearsiders. With that in mind, you might consider taking that 9/4 – they will surely trade much shorter at some point. Or you could consider Sky Bet’s price of 13/8 for Norwich to finish higher than Sunderland which looks likely to give you a good run for you money.