It can safely be said that none of the three relegated clubs were too good to go down this season. Despite brave posturing from their managers, the fate of Reading and QPR was pretty much sealed by Christmas, while Wigan flew too close to the sun just once too often to seal their fall to earth.
But despite their demise, within each club is a plethora of individual talent that could, and perhaps should, still grace the Premier League. Some will be offloaded to cut the wage bill (QPR’s big names in particular proving that sometimes the whole falls well short of the sum of its parts), while each club will also be tempted to consolidate their squads by cashing in on the money made available from a quick sale of a so-called star back to a top club.
So, of each of the three squads, which names can we expect , or at least hope, to make an immediate return to the top tier?
Let’s look at each position in turn.
The busiest players on the park for much of their troubled seasons, every goalkeeper had plenty of chance to shine (when they weren’t bending down to big the ball out of the old onion bag, that is).
No-one could really imagine Julio Cesar playing in the Championship – in fact, no-one could really have imagined Julio Cesar signing for QPR in the first place, and in truth at times he looked pretty surprised to be there himself, and he will undoubtedly be somewhere more worthy of his presence come August.
Ali Al Habsi has graced the Premier League consistently with his ability and agility, a proven talent whose experience might well prove appealing to one of the newly promoted clubs, if not one of the more established ones.
One swallow does not a summer make, and one outstanding game does not a goalkeeper make, but Alex McCarthy’s performance in Reading’s 0-0 drubbing by Liverpool was as good a goalkeeping performance as any seen in the Premier League, and went a long way towards cementing his place and to his surprise call-up to the full England squad recently. He might see out one season in the Championship to learn his trade, but definitely one for the future, possibly as cover for a bigger name to start with, a la Jack Butland.
After leaking over 200 goals between them, there will not be a long line of Premier clubs lining up to sign many relegated defenders any time soon, but a few might still prove appealing at the right price.
From Reading’s leaking ageing defence , only Alex Pearce catches the eye, as indicated by Liverpool’s hot and cold interest in re-uniting him with Brendan Rodgers – and is now a free agent.
Arguably Wigan’s most attractive defender. Ivan Ramis had a promising first season cut short by injury in January, but he might have done enough in his 16 appearances to produce a bargain basement offer from a Premier club.
QPR were full of under-achievers, but Jose Bosingwa has a proven pedigree when he’s not throwing his dummy in the dirt, while Christopher Samba’s wage bill far outweighed his contribution on the field and he will surely be offloaded.
Pick of all the relegated midfielders in my eyes was Wigan’s Shaun Maloney, an unsung hero who remained a constant performer full of busy tenaciousness all season, scoring important goals and exuding Premier League class with his touch on the ball and excellent distribution.
Only time will tell if Callum McManaman follows in the path of his Liverpool legend namesake, whether he will the next Ryan Giggs or the next Marc Albrighton, but his England under-21 call-up was well-merited and should ensure he graces Premier league turf in years to come.
Adel Taarabt remains an enigma, alternating flashes of brilliance with frustrating disinterest, but with his outstanding performances having been largely responsible for QPR’s promotion two seasons ago, his ability is unquestioned and the majority of Premier clubs’ squads would be strengthened by his mercurial talents.
Strikers in struggling clubs tend to live off slim pickings, so perhaps the fact that Adam Le Fondre matched both Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero with 12 goals, and that he broke the record for Premier League goals scored by a substitute along the way, proves that with he is a striker of proven quality given the opportunity, a natural predator with an natural eye for goal. Certainly he outshone the disappointing Pavel Pogrebnyak, whose six goals in twelve games for Fulham the previous season flattered to deceive, and if no Premier club comes in for him, then you cannot imagine him preferring Championship football to a return to eastern Europe next year.
Wigan and QPR paraded African talent up front, with Arouna Kone’s 11 goals a shining light that almost helped rescue Wigan’s ailing season. For QPR, Loic Remy’s much heralded arrival at Loftus Road showed he has what it takes, but methinks it will be his 8million get-out clause and his prohibitive 70-grand-a-week wages that will see him leave rather than his undoubtedly classy finishing. He might have to bide his time till his rape case is resolved, however, before any big club will want to take a chance on coming in for him.
Only time will tell as the transfer merry-go-round gathers momentum, but you can be sure there will be many players looking anxiously towards their phones, hoping for the call that will re-ignite their Premier League careers.
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