Sec­ond-tier teams eye­ing share of league riches

New Straits Times - - Sport -


THE an­nual scramble for pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League be­gins to­mor­row af­ter a sum­mer of fre­netic hir­ing and fir­ing by the 24 teams in Eng­land’s sec­ondtier Cham­pi­onship.

Each is in­tent on se­cur­ing the golden ticket of en­try into the world’s most lu­cra­tive league with al­most £100 mil­lion (RM567 mil­lion) on offer to even the team that fin­ish bot­tom.

Sun­der­land banked that check last sea­son when they lost their top-flight sta­tus af­ter 10 years. The Black Cats are one of seven Cham­pi­onship teams un­der new man­age­ment, with Si­mon Grayson handed the du­bi­ous task of seek­ing in­stant suc­cess in a job with an av­er­age life­span of less than a year.

For­mer Rus­sia na­tional man­ager Leonid Slut­sky is the most high­pro­file new man­ager at an­other rel­e­gated club, Hull City, while Por­tu­gal’s Nuno Espírito Santo has swapped Porto for one of Eng­land’s most fa­mous old names, Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers.

Both have shown the im­por­tance of foot­ball net­work­ing, with Slut­sky us­ing his friend­ship with Chelsea owner Ro­man Abramovich to ne­go­ti­ate the loan of two of the Blues’ most promis­ing young play­ers, Ola Aina and Michael Hec­tor, while Santo has brought in Ruben Neves for a club-record £15.8 mil­lion and loan sign­ing Willy Boly from his for­mer club.

Wolves were the only one of the di­vi­sion’s 24 teams to make a profit in 2015-16, the last sea­son when ac­counts are avail­able. But their sum­mer deal­ings sug­gest their Chi­nese own­ers Fo­sun In­ter­na­tional are pre­pared to plunge into the red to se­cure pro­mo­tion af­ter five years out of the top flight.

Rel­e­gated Mid­dles­brough have spent even more ag­gres­sively, with new man­ager Garry Monk lav­ish­ing £30 mil­lion on three new strik­ers — Britt As­som­ba­longa, Martin Braith­waite and Ash­ley Fletcher — plus £10 mil­lion more on sundry oth­ers.

Boro are favourites to make a quick re­turn to the Pre­mier League, along with for­mer Euro­pean Cup hold­ers As­ton Villa un­der new cap­tain John Terry.

“For­get Lukaku go­ing to Manch­ester United, Villa sign­ing John Terry on a free is the deal of the sum­mer,” said their for­mer striker Dean Saunders, now a TV pun­dit.

Villa are bank­ing on ex­pe­ri­ence with Terry, a five-time Pre­mier League win­ner with Chelsea who will part­ner the much trav­elled Chris Samba in de­fence.

“It’s an ex­cit­ing new chap­ter for me,” Terry told re­porters on Tues­day. “In front of 45,000 here every week is what I want to be do­ing and com­pet­ing at the very top. Our am­bi­tion is to get up.”

Two other sign­ings, Ahmed El­mo­hamady and Glenn Whe­lan, have both won pro­mo­tion to the top flight, as has man­ager Steve Bruce — a record four times. Reuters

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