Not so much a lottery, as a riddle wrapped in a footballing enigma for Norwich City
- Credit: Tom Smith/Focus Images Limited
It's something of a footballing mystery, the most inexact of sciences: making a success of bouncing back to the 'thrills and spills'® of the Premier League in your first season following relegation from it.
The teams that come down are always favourites to go straight back up, no matter what. No shock there.
Even Norwich City manager Neil Adams admitted that the relegated trio tend to be overrated and the teams arriving off the back of League One promotion will be underrated as a season kicks off.
It presumably involves a formula using the millions of pounds those relegated clubs received the previous season, and ignores the million of pounds of losses in revenue they will have to deal with.
And while many will look at the comparisons between this City side and the one that last turned out in the Championship – and indeed, turned it over – there really is little point. The culture, landscape and context for City are poles apart.
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And yes, that does include talking about the East Anglian derby.
So what does recent history tell us about the 'bouncebackability', dealing with the despair of falling outside the doors to the Match of the Day cutting room floor?
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Well since Norwich were last promoted to the Premier League in 2011, nine teams had been relegated and completed at least one season trying to get back.
In 2011, there was a Birmingham side already on the brink of hideous financial problems that had to deal with a Europa League campaign as a Championship club, following their League Cup victory. There's not a lot about those words that sounds ideal. The Blues needed a 96th-minute equaliser in their final game to avoid League One last season.
Blackpool lost their good players and good will with relegation – although it was West Ham who pipped them in the 2012 play-off final. The Hammers have stayed in the Premier League since – Blackpool had just eight players on their books in the summer and had to cancel their pre-season tour.
Come the fallen of 2012, the financial basket cases of Blackburn and Bolton are yet to get noticeably close to a Premier League return, while Wolves disappeared into League One before returning in time to host Norwich on Sunday. And last season, Queens Park Rangers made it two successful returns from nine clubs in three years – via the play-offs and a lot of good faith and investment from the already deep pockets of Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes.
Even that took a professional foul and late, late play-off final winner.
Wigan went close – and that despite an FA Cup run, Europa League duties and making up for Owen Coyle's initial managerial appointment. For me, they look very good for a title push this term.
And Reading could almost touch the play-offs in May, only to miss out on a place in the final moments of the final day.
Many call the Championship tough. In truth, it's often just cruel.
The fact is the yo-yo club hasn't existed for a while, even though the phenomenon featured in Norwich's original seven-year plan. Which means despite how Fulham, Cardiff and the Canaries appear, and how they rate in the title odds, there's an accompanying expectation that things in the Championship defy logic by the time hostilities stop.
Burnley's promotion last season remains the biggest and freshest case in point.
So of this season's trio, Fulham had enjoyed the longest previous spell in the Premier League and may find the loss of experienced players and their new surroundings hardest to deal with.
However, Cardiff and Norwich appear in better shape than any recently relegated sides. No particular financial worries, the majority of their squads intact. No Europa League campaign to deal with and, you'd imagine, a distinct priority put on league points over cup wins.
Add to that the fact this trio is the first to fall into the Championship off a £60m income the previous season plus ongoing, enhanced parachute payments – while the Championship still works around its strict financial fair play rules – and it's hard to ignore the logic: anything outside a top-six finish for Norwich is a failure; promotion is theirs for the taking.
But as we know, things don't work like that in this division. At least, they're not supposed to. Maybe this time City can upset history and help bring the yo-yo back into fashion.