For any promoted club, survival is the only target. The Premier League is the holy grail in terms of financial reward, global exposure and competing against the very best.
Once a promoted club achieves survival in their first season, everyone associated with said club draws a collective sigh of relief. They could be forgiven for thinking the hard work is over. In the Premier League, you can never take your foot off the gas. Many teams have celebrated survival in May, to suffer the fate of relegation just twelve months later. This is known as the Second Season Syndrome. Queens Park Rangers and Hull City are two of the most recent examples of this.
This coming season Southampton and West Ham could be in danger of following this pattern.
The past couple of years have been incredible for Southampton. At the beginning of the 2009/10 season they were starting life in League 1 on minus 10 points after a spell in administration. Fast forward four years later and they are preparing for a second season in the top flight. It’s a first foray into the transfer market for manager Mauricio Pochettino, and a first pre-season under his regime. Already the Saints have shored up a leaky defence with the capture of Lyon defender Dejan Lovren. The highly-rated Croat comes with Champions League experience, and at 23 his best years are ahead of him. Young players like Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne will benefit from a year in the Premier League. A new goalkeeper would improve their defence even more so, and another striker to lift the burden off Rickie Lambert would make a big difference. With these few tweaks Southampton should stave off a relegation battle.
Things are looking up for West Ham United. In their first season back in the Premier League they achieved a top half finish. The Hammers also secured a move to the Olympic Stadium, which should be ready in time for the 2016/17 campaign. To top it off, striker Andy Carroll completed his £15 million move to the club this month. The signing of the strong centre forward is a real sign of intent. Carroll’s performances last season were impressive. His powerful ability in the air fits right into the Sam Allardyce playing style. With the creativity of Kevin Nolan, Joe Cole and Matt Jarvis behind him, goals shouldn’t be a problem. Keeping them out at the other end will determine how successful a season West Ham will have next year. The full-back positions look vulnerable, and goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen isn’t getting younger. A bit of strengthening in defence should see West Ham continuing where they left off last season.
Both Southampton and West Ham look strong enough to ensure survival. They seem to have solid financial backing, and their signings so far have been full of quality. However money doesn’t guarantee success, as Queens Park Rangers found out last season when they suffered relegation after two years in the Premier League. Hull City will be playing both Southampton and West Ham in their return to the top flight this year.
Their presence will serve as a reminder to the possibility of the Second Season Syndrome, having been relegated in 2010 after surviving the year before. If one of Southampton or West Ham were to go down this season it wouldn’t be the most extreme case of this syndrome. Ipswich Town surprised everyone by finishing in fifth place in 2001. They surprised everyone yet again when they fell through the relegation trap door twelve months later. If Southampton and West Ham learn from these past cases, they should avoid the fate of the Second Season Syndrome.