Mini League could be vital for Norwich City
Recent Premier League history suggests Norwich City's bid to become an established top-flight outfit will be defined by results against the sides they were promoted with – starting Saturday.
The Canaries, automatic promotion winners behind Queens Park Rangers last season, welcome Championship play-off victors Swansea City to Carrow Road this weekend in their first Premier League meeting with a second-tier rival from 2010-11.
It is a decade since all three promoted sides managed to secure survival in their first season – the 2001-02 campaign that saw Fulham, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers stay the top-flight course.
In seven of the last nine seasons since, the side with the best record against their fellow new boys has gone on to clinch safety – and time suggests the rule is hardening: five of those occasions have come in the last five seasons.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Last term Blackpool matched West Brom in their promotion mini-league that also included Newcastle – who did not manage to beat either side – but in the end the Tangerines' relegation was confirmed on the final day of the season.
However, since 2006-07 beating the teams you left the Championship with has gone a long way to achieving another season with the Premier League's big boys.
Picking up at least seven points from the four games significantly helped Reading (2007), Sunderland (2008), Stoke (2009), Birmingham (2010) and West Brom (2011) – collectively, the quintet only lost three of the respective games over those five seasons. The mini-league's influence is also helped by the fact at least one promoted team has survived every season over the last decade.
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But before the nerves take over too much ahead of City's encounter with Swansea on Saturday (3pm), it is worth bearing in mind the usual exceptions to any rule – one being the Canaries themselves.
Both City and Crystal Palace outdid West Brom's record in the promoted trio of 2004-05 – yet it was the Baggies who secured final day salvation at the duo's expense.
The season before, Leicester City could also count themselves unlucky as doing the double over Portsmouth was still not enough to see them finish outside the bottom three come the end of the season.
Moving forward to the here and now City, Swansea and QPR currently occupy ninth, 10th and 11th respectively in a still-fledgling Premier League table. The early signs have been encouraging from all three sides so far – but for some, that is no surprise.
'QPR have made a few big signings so it's different to us and Swansea, but you've seen from the quality of the games involving us and Swansea last season they were not normal Championship games,' said Canaries defender, Russell Martin.
'The football that was played, there were a lot of passes made in both games. We looked at the stats afterwards and you looked back and knew you had been in a game, that's for sure. And we expect that again on Saturday. They are a great footballing team, they pass the ball really well and hopefully both teams can keep doing what they're doing and prove they deserve to be there and stay up.'