While it’s sad to see three clubs cast into the darkness of the second tier, each season brings us three newly promoted squads to root for. There is a whole lot of English Football History coming back to our Saturday morning TV screens for the 2019/20 season. Three storied franchises, each a member of the Premier League’s inaugural 1992/93 season, will compete in the top flight this year.
Norwich City: The Championship Champs
In its infancy, the Premier League was bit less predictable than the current era. Nothing exemplifies that more than the upstart Canaries of Norwich City FC finishing third in that first season, behind Man United and another of our promoted teams Aston Villa. Founded in 1902 and playing their home games at Carrow Road, this East Anglian club has bounced up and down since, their most recent experience being a four out of five years span in the top flight from 2011/12 to 2015/16.
Their first place finish in the Championship last year surprised some, having finished 8th and 14th over that previous seasons. But the groundwork for the promotion season was laid with the hiring of former Dortmund reserves skipper Daniel Farke, who installed a more modern, fast paced and possession oriented attack. The Canaries led the Championship in scoring with 93 goals, 29 from Finnish international Teemu Pukki. All that aggressiveness did leave them open to counterattacks and they did concede 57 themselves. It will be interesting to see if Farke continues his aggressive tactics in the top flight.
Fun Fact: The Norwich City fan song “On the Ball, City,” is the oldest football fan song still in use today.
Sheffield United: Taking the Long Road Home
Sheffield United have taken a more scenic route back too the Premier League, having been stuck in League 1, the third tier of English Football for much of the last decade. All that changed when Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud bought 50% the team with the promise of an infusion of cash and a quick return to the Premier League. The Blades developed a reputation as giant-killers, reaching the FA Cup semi-final in 2014 and the semi’s of the Football Laegue Cup in 2015. They secured automatic promotion to the top flight with a second place finish in 2018/19.
United played miserly defense, surrendering only 41 goals with a stout back line led by potential England star Jack O’Connell. But they don’t play boring football, with manager Chris Wilder playing a 3-4-2-1 formation that often sees fullbacks overlapping in attack. They focus on winning matchups out wide and contesting for the ball with center backs high up the field. It’s a big difference from the kind of old school long ball soccer we saw from the Cardiff City team the Blades are replacing.
Aston Villa: Scourge of the Midlands
It may be hard to believe if you’ve only followed the game in recent years, but Aston Villa are one of the most decorated sides in European Football history. Founding members of the Football League in 1888 and the Premier League in 1992. One of only five clips crowned champions of Europe (in 1982.) They have also won the Football League First Divisionseven times, the FA Cup seven times, the League Cup five times, and the UEFA Super Cup once. Until their disastrous relegation season of 2015/16, the Villians had not played below the top flight since nineteen eighty eight.
That 2015/16 season was a low point for the team, with only three wins and 17 points to show for a summer spending spree. Two housecleanings later the Claret and Blue Army march back into the top flight last year behind manager Dean Smith, securing promotion via the end of season tournament after a fifth place finish, dispatching my adopted West Bromwich Albion and Derby County along the way.
Villa splashed a lot of cash around this summer and there are some wary of the fate that befell big spending Fulham last year. Local hero Jack Grealish will be the lynchpin of the attack even with the expensive signing of the Brazilian speedster Wesley.
Who Might Be Next?
The other three teams in last years promotion tournament are obviously favored in 2019/20, with Leeds United, West Brom, along with Fulham and Cardiff City leading the early betting odds. But Derby County put an early marker down by cajoling Wayne Rooney away from DC United back to Blighty as a player manager in January. You can follow the Championship, as well as a bonanza of other international soccer options on the ESPN+ streaming service.
“From our Haus to Yours”