Norwich City should not suffer Premier League second season syndrome, insists Matt Holland
Norwich City should have no cause to fear an outbreak of 'second season syndrome' – according to the former captain of their biggest rivals.
The Canaries will go into the 2012-13 campaign looking to build on the achievement of finishing 12th on their return to the Premier League, and to avoid the fate suffered by clubs such as Reading, Hull City and Birmingham City in recent seasons.
Matt Holland was captain of Ipswich Town 10 years ago when they were relegated from the top flight, just 12 months after finishing fifth under manager of the season George Burley and qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
But Holland, now TV presenter and studio expert, believes certain factors contributed to Ipswich's sudden fall from grace that should not apply in Norwich's case.
He said: 'What happened at Ipswich, we qualified for the UEFA Cup by finishing fifth and I believe that did have an effect on us.
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'Getting to the Premier League, a lot of players had not played at that level before, it was an exciting adventure and we had a great season.
'But the following year we had to play in Europe.
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'It was another new adventure but we had a smallish squad compared with most clubs and the extra games posed problems.
'We were travelling away to play on Thursday nights, travelling back on Friday and playing on Saturday or Sunday. We had a lot of Sunday games and I think it took its toll.'
Town's European ties took them to Moscow, to Helsingborg in Sweden and to Milan. When they were finally knocked out of the UEFA Cup, their league form picked up dramatically, though they were eventually relegated.
'It was no coincidence that we won seven games out of eight after being knocked out of Europe. I do think that was a factor,' said Holland.
'Norwich just have the league to concentrate on, plus the other domestic competitions.'
The former Republic of Ireland international also feels morale at Portman Road may have been affected by a new influx of players in the close season in 2001.
'A lot of people blamed the signings that summer,' he said. 'Players like Finidi George and Matteo Sereni came in and they were both good footballers, but I think maybe because they were on very good money, it had an effect in the dressing room, if only sub-consciously, though it's perhaps a bit harsh to blame them for that.
'But I don't think our success the first season unsettled the players. Most of us had been knocking on the door for a few years and we were a fairly tight-knit group. I don't think that was a particular issue.'
In 20 years since the Premier League was created, a string of clubs – including Middlesbrough, Bradford City, Reading, Hull and Birmingham – have been relegated after surviving their first seasons, while Manchester City and West Ham both had narrow escapes second time around.
But Holland, 38, said there was no particular reason why Norwich should experience a similar anti-climax.
'It's certainly not inevitable, though circumstances can play a part,' he said.
'They are hungry players playing at the top. Now they've had that first year and they have to maintain it.
'They are known to everyone, so people are aware of what to expect. They know what to expect from Grant Holt, if he's still there, and certain individuals so they won't be that unknown quantity.
• PREMIER LEAGUE 'SECOND SEASON SYNDROME'
Middlesbrough: 12th in 1995-96, relegated in 1996-97
Bradford City: 17th in 1999-2000, relegated in 2000-01
Ipswich: 5th in 2000-01, relegated in 2001-02
Manchester City: 9th in 2002-03, 16th in 2003-04
West Ham: 9th in 2005-06, 15th in 2006-07
Reading: 8th in 2006-07, relegated in 2007-08
Hull: 17th in 2008-09, relegated in 2009-10
Birmingham: 9th in 2010-11, relegated in 2011-12