It may seem like a nonsensical thing to say. How can promotion be a bad thing? The teams sitting at the top the Championship, winning every week, all want to test themselves at the top level, despite the fact that it could well mean a season of struggle in the Premier League. Even if your team has a lousy time, Premier League clubs earn a shed load more in TV money and now there is the added bonus of the parachute payments to soften the blow of relegation.
Blackpool earned many plaudits last season for their enthusiastic, attack-minded approach and willingness to take teams on, whether they were playing at Ewood Park or Eastlands. Unfortunately for the Tangerines, their free flowing approach was not enough to save them from the drop and while the pundits repeatedly dubbed Ian Holloway’s side a “breath of fresh air”, the records will always state: Blackpool relegated. I was among their admirers and it makes me sad to see the likes of Stoke City succeeding in the Prem with their Total Thuggery approach to the Beautiful Game. But teams will do whatever they have to in order to maintain their Premiership status and, unfortunately, history is unlikely to remember the exciting football played by Blackpool since it ultimately counted for nothing.
The added TV exposure has also come at a cost for the Seasiders. They’ll have loved the money the job paid, but being in the Premier League put the spotlight firmly on their star players and, being footballers, they believe in the hype and will insist on playing Premiership football elsewhere now that Blackpool have fallen through the trap door. Their skipper and talisman Charlie Adam has signed for Liverpool and player of the season David Vaughan has moved to the Stadium of Light to join Sunderland. Meanwhile, Blackpool also look set to lose last season’s leading goalscorer DJ Campbell, with newly promoted QPR reportedly interested in signing the striker.
So, for all the respect they earned last season, the upshot of 2010/11 for Blackpool was relegation and the loss of their most important players. An immediate return to the Premier League will be a tough ask for the Seasiders, with West Ham, Birmingham, Leicester City, Reading, Middlesbrough, Southampton and others all likely to be vying for promotion next season. And failure to return to the top flight can have dire financial implications, as Nottingham Forest and Leeds United will testify.
As much as everyone wants to experience life in the Premier League, they should be warned, it’s not all fun and games. It is a big step up and it’s hard to imagine Derby County fans looking back fondly on their humiliating 2007/08 season, in which they amassed a laughable, record-breaking 11 points for the entire campaign. Getting hammered 5-0 every week and having to endure chants like “Worst team in history”, was surely not as good as being one of the better sides in the Championship? Or even mid-table sides for that matter! Of course, you want to see you team promoted and when you’re at the top of the Championship, you have to remember that you might not ever get a better chance of reaching the Promised Land. But since being laughed out of the Premier League, the Rams have been much closer to League One than a return to the top flight.
Whether this will happen to Blackpool remains to be seen. But while their Premier League experience may have been the best trip they’ve ever been on, that day at Wembley in May 2010 will probably seem a distant memory now.