With the decline in quality has the Premier League become an easier gig?

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The Premier League has long been dogged by claims that it’s an elitist league almost impossible to stay in for promoted clubs – the disparity between quality out on the pitch and reddies in the coffers apparently too large to breach. However, season by season now, promoted clubs have more than often fared well in their maiden voyage into the top flight. With the Premier League now beginning to shape up in three distinct groups. Now, more than ever before, the gap appears to be shortening.

For instance, in 2008/9, perennial yo-yo club West Brom were promoted alongside Hull City and Stoke City. They went onto finish 20th, 17th and 12th respectively in a season that appeared to mark a watershed for promoted clubs, with two of them beating the drop.

In 2009/10, Wolves, Birmingham and Burnley all came up, with only the Clarets dropping down again. Last season Newcastle, West Brom and Blackpool all came up, with only the Seasiders missing out due to some final day heartache.

This term, QPR, Norwich and Swansea have all adjusted to the demands and step up in quality with apparent ease, with all three sides claiming scalps along so far. They occupy 12th, 8th and 10th positions so far respectively.

To put it into context, when you tally up the final league positions of the past 12 promoted teams, prior to this season’s exciting triumvirate, then you are left with an overall final league position of 16th. Of the same 12 promoted sides, only 5 have been relegated in their first season.

Of course, you are dealt with such anomalies such as yo-yo clubs like West Brom and the fact that Birmingham have been the unfortunate recipients of two relegations inside three seasons, but by and large, promoted side are certainly more competitive than in season’s past. The likelihood of encountering another unprepared Derby side, which finished the 2007/8 season with just one victory to their name for the entire campaign and a pitiful tally of just 11 points, a whole 24 points adrift of 19th place, has diminished.

The Championship is famed for being one of the most competitive leagues in the world. Getting out of that league is often seen as more difficult and more of an achievement than staying in the top flight. Of the three relegated sides from the  2009/10 season (Portsmouth, Burnley and Hull), it’s worth noting that none of them bounced back immediately and the highest league finish among them was Burnley in 8th, just outside the playoffs.

Spending your way out of the Championship is no guarantee of success either. Middlesborough went into the 2009/10 league campaign as the hot favourites for promotion, after Gordon Strachan saw his mini Old Firm revolution backed to the tune of £6m – they went onto finish a lowly 11th, with Strachan departing the season after with the club stranded in 20th place.

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