The 2016/17 season may not yet be over, but for three Premier League clubs it was certainly one to forget.
Football fans of Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull are still nursing their heartbreak after seeing their clubs relegated, but attentions must now turn to next season as the trio look to bounce back immediately with promotion from the Championship at the first attempt.
Just which of the three are best equipped to achieve this goal however? If you’re a Sunderland supporter we have good news for you. Or, rather, 90min readers have good news for you.
In a closely contested poll, it would seem that the Black Cats’ fans are the side most likely to see those frowns turned upside down with promotion back to the Premier League in 12 months’ time.
Seeing Sunderland pick up over a third of the votes may be a tad surprising, though, given how much the club is currently in disarray.
Former boss David Moyes has already resigned from his position at the helm, first-team stars such as Jermain Defoe and Jordan Pickford are certainly on their way out and a lack of top flight football – and the vast sums of money that come with it – with surely dent the club’s coffers.
Sunderland, though, are arguably the best placed of the three relegated clubs to complete a remarkable return at the first time of asking. They have, some would say, the best reputation to draft in a Championship-experienced boss to help lead them out of the division, can call upon 40,000+ supporters due to the size of the Stadium of Light and will certainly have a greater pulling power than the other two to attract new signings to the North East.
Providing the right manager is installed – a romantic Big Sam return, anyone? – the correct players attained, and the club gets the fans back onside, there’s nothing that can stop Sunderland from successfully navigating their way back to the Premier League.
They bottled survival in the crucial final few weeks of the campaign, but Hull fans can be fairly optimistic over their own chances of achieving promotion back up a division this time next year.
Unlike Sunderland, the Tigers may be able to hold on to some of their better talent such as Tom Huddlestone and Abel Hernandez – players who already know what it takes to get out of England’s second tier.
Managerial fan-favourite Marco Silva may have departed but, like the Black Cats, if the right gaffer is installed to replace the 39-year-old then the Humberside outfit will give themselves a great chance of making it out of the Championship – whether that be via automatic promotion or the dreaded play-offs.
Spare a thought for Middlesbrough, however. The Teessiders weren’t even the worst Premier League side in 2016/17 – we’re looking at you, Sunderland – and yet they received less votes than the option of expecting none of the relegated sides to make an immediate top flight return.
Boro, like their North East rivals Sunderland, will likely see a couple of big-name players – notably captain Ben Gibson – sold to free up funds to rebuild their squad, but the foundations are also in place for someone to come in and put their own mark on the club.
If a manager of the ilk of Nigel Pearson is appointed – a boss who knows how to get out of England’s second division – then Boro could end up surprising us all and beating the fellow relegated clubs to a place at England’s top table for the 2018/19 campaign. Watch this space.