With pre-season just around the corner, all teams will be looking to make the most of their carefully planned preparations with a view to making a statement at the start of the new Premier League season. Newcastle United have seen it all before, but for Brighton and Hove Albion and Huddersfield town, this is their first appearance in the Premier League. All three will all be looking to make their mark right from the start as they will all be fighting to survive in an increasingly competitive league. How will they fair? Where will they finish at the end of the season?
How high should these teams be aiming? Are their expectations justified? There is no doubt that these teams will all bring something different to the Premier League if only a different ground to visit for opposing fans.
Newcastle are back in the big time, much to the delight of their passionate fans, the toon army after a season in the Championship. Under the guidance of Rafa Benitez, they managed to steal the Championship title from Brighton who appeared to have given up after having secured promotion. Winning their last 3 games to win the title by a point. Newcastle belong in the Premier League and have some pedigree, unlike the other two. History tells us of a proud North Eastern giant who should be at the fore front of English football. The squad boast players of proven quality with the likes of Dwight Gayle, Jonjo Sheley and Matt Ritchie, but they will need more to put up a good showing in the Premier League this time round. After having a 20million bid for Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney rejected, Rafa will have to look for alternative targets that can still boost his squad.
Expectations and history are such that, Newcastle should be aiming higher than simply avoiding the drop. There is no doubt with the players and money Newcastle possess under the tutelage and guidance of Benitez, a finish of 14th is a minimum, though no doubt they will be aiming higher.
Brighton and Hove Albion
At long last the city of Brighton and Hove finally have a team in the Premier League, after many “almost” seasons, developing a reputation for failure when it really counted, in the playoffs. Yes, just like the last few seasons they finished poorly, losing to the likes of Bristol City and Norwich City during 2 of their last 3 games, ultimately relinquishing the title to Newcastle on the last day. Yet the Seagulls can be proud of their accomplishments last season. Chris Hughton will no doubt be highly motivated to do well at the highest level after a harsh dismissal by Newcastle, and losing his job at Norwich. He believes he can lead Brighton to safety this season and his team showed they can play.
The Championships player of the season; Anthony Knockhaert will have to be at his best if Brighton are to have any sort of chance of staying up this season, but only time will tell if he can carry on his form from last season onto the bigger stage. Glenn Murray will look to add much needed quality upfront with an eye for a goal, but Brighton will need to be active in the transfer market if they want to stay up, Pocognoli has left after his terrific loan spell at the Amex. Stockdale has opted to go to Birmingham to link up with Redknapp, and Brighton have signed former Valencia stopper Matthew Ryan. Looking from the outside in it seems unclear how Brighton can stay up with a rather shallow squad and a real lack of fire power. At this point in June an 17th/18th place finish is where I see the Seagulls at the end of the season.
After the most dramatic of play off finals Huddersfield clinched promotion, winning a penalty shootout in the most valuable game in world football. David Wagers side have finally reached the promised land, and now become Yorkshires sole representative of the Premier League.
The bookies will have Huddersfield as favourites to go down, due to a lack of any depth in a squad that found it difficult to secure promotion. Wagner won’t care, nor will his players who will be living the dream. He’ll have his players primed and ready for the fight. Having recently acquired Aaron Mooy from Manchester City, a key player for them last season. Wagner will hope that he can sign a few more players to support Huddersfield’s fight to stay up.
Two key players could prove to be Nachki Wells and Tommy Smith, two individuals who have become invaluable to The Terriers. If Wells can find a scoring touch in the premier league, and Smith keep his cool at the back, then, with a few key additions why can’t Wagners side dare to dream of staying up? It’s hard to predict anything other than a 19/20th Premier League finish for Huddersfield. Both of the other promoted sides have better sides, better individuals and superior strength in depth so unfortunately I can’t see Huddersfield staying up, but this is the Premier League and we have seen shocks before, so why not here, after all we have all learned that in the premiership dreams do come true.