By Lee Dover
How are last season’s relegated Premier League teams faring now?
As we enter the midway point of the 2012/13 football season, passionate fans of Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves will surely be nodding their heads in agreement at the above statement.
It was only a few months ago that the trio of clubs were enjoying the life of Riley as they travelled to the likes of Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates to play their part in the Premier League pecking order.
Now though, all three teams have been plucked from their heavenly haven and forced to battle for their lives against the likes of Peterborough United, Barnsley and Charlton Athletic.
So can any of last season’s relegated Premier League clubs bounce right back and return to their comfortable refuge in the top flight?
Fans of former Lancashire football giants Blackburn Rovers finally got their wish when Steve Kean declared he had heard enough abuse and was taking the first bus out of Ewood Park.
However, what appears to have been a Christmas present delivered early at first has quickly turned into an unloved piece of coal.
Since the beginning of November, Blackburn have had to swallow humbling defeats against Millwall and strong promotion candidates Crystal Palace, while being held by Huddersfield Town and Birmingham City.
Only a 4-1 thrashing away to Peterborough has given supporters something to cheer about, but star striker Leon Best knows by experience that fan support could be the critical factor that either makes or breaks the club’s hopes this season.
“I understand why some fans get upset and want to show their anger. Everyone just wants us to go up; we all want the same thing,” Best declared to the Lancashire Telegraph.
“The season I went up with Newcastle, when we played at home the fans were the 12th man. Sometimes that is what you need. We have been up and down. I have very high expectations of the team and I expect the highest.”
While the odds of 11/1 for Blackburn to win the Championship this season seem a bit too optimistic – Best was talking about hope not a miracle – the 11/4 price with Paddy Power for the Lancashire club to earn promotion sounds a very decent bet.
Bolton Wanderers were only a point away from enjoying yet another season in the Premier League back in May, but just a few months later they find themselves sitting in 18th position in the Championship after 18 games.
The situation was starting to look so bleak for the club a couple of weeks ago that they may have been planning more for another relegation scrap than a promotion push.
Well, that was until Bolton boss Dougie Freedman suddenly grabbed the bull by the horns and started to steer his club towards much smoother waters.
Looking forward, Freedman has roared: “We have a good group who want to do well for each other and the club. We will stick together and keep on going. Sure, there will be a few knocks along the way, ups and downs, but I am here to make them play better. We know what we want to achieve.”
We haven’t heard a more rousing speech as that since Braveheart hit cinema screens in the 90s. It could well be enough to convince fans to have a punt of the 7/1 for Bolton to clinch promotion – even if it is by the skin of their teeth.
It’s very hard to assess the situation at Wolves at the moment. They left the Premier League without as much as a whimper and then had a fine start to their first season back in the Championship to put them as top contenders to bounce straight back into the top flight.
But then the wheels came out from under them and fans have watched as the team failed to pick up a win for eight agonising games. Most disappointing will be their draws at home against the likes of Charlton Athletic and Brighton and Hove Albion.
So now punters are left in the precarious situation where they can either opt towards the slump continuing and Wolves being relegated for the second consecutive season – the odds are huge at 25/1 on this scenario occurring – or the club shaking off their woes and clinching an unlikely promotion straight back to the Premier League. Paddy Power has a price of 11/1 available on that particular case of events.