SCRAMBLE FOR PREMIER MONEY
Second-tier teams eyeing share of league riches
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