The Daily Telegraph - Business
Blades must buck history
Sheffield United should beware a history of recently promoted clubs suffering second-season syndrome in the Premier League.
Much like Chris Wilder’s side in the last campaign, Wigan Athletic looked perfectly at home in the top flight in 2005-06, ending up 10th a year after promotion and being runners-up in the League Cup.
A year later, however, still under Paul Jewell, they avoided relegation only on goal difference, escaping the drop and sending down Sheffield United with a 2-1 win at Bramall Lane on the final day.
Three years later, Alex McLeish’s newly-promoted Birmingham City finished an impressive ninth in the top flight. But they too could not maintain that form and went down in the 2010-11 campaign after losing five of their final six matches.
With Bryan Robson at the helm, Middlesbrough finished a credible 12th in the 1995-96 Premier League after winning the previous season’s First Division, only to be relegated a year later.
‘A bit of complacency creeps in and other clubs know what to expect. They must deal with that’
maintain the momentum of their first campaign. Nottingham Forest also suffered a dramatic fall after getting promoted and finishing third in 1994-95. They had another decent season, but were relegated the following campaign.
Frank Clark, who got Forest promoted and into the Uefa Cup, believes they never effectively replaced Stan Collymore. Wilder keeping his key players will help them in their second season, which starts today against Wolves.
Clark said: “If you stand still and don’t improve your squad, you go backwards because everyone else is going forward. To maintain it you have to somehow improve your team. Sheffield United cannot spend fortunes, but he’s made three or four acquisitions that look solid.
“It was a big blow to us to lose Stan, and we never really replaced him. We did OK the next season and got to the quarter-final of the Uefa Cup, but never really replaced him. Sheffield United have kept their team together and have increased their competition. A bit of complacency creeps in sometimes and the fact the other clubs know what to expect. They were an unknown quantity and played with a system that not many played with.
“But this year everyone will be ready for them, so they have to deal with that, which I’m sure they will. I’m sure Chris will make sure there is no complacency there.”
The manager insists that his team now know just how difficult the Premier League can be and are prepared for it.
“Last season counts for nothing. You get all sorts of stats and people talking about second-season syndrome, about being found out, then other stats saying struggling in the second season is not as much as people think,” Wilder said. “All of those things are irrelevant – we have to start with the same manner, same attitude. The group is better for a season in the Premier League, and we are stronger. These are only opinions, and we now have to walk the walk.”