AS parachute payments continue to move ever upwards, the common consensus among long-standing members of the Championship is that the division is becoming increasingly skewered in favour of the newly-relegated clubs.
This may be the case in terms of financial muscle, last season’s relegated trio being guaranteed £24m this term with another £38m then being due over the following three years.
But making the leap – as many second tier chairmen have done – from that to the former Premier League clubs being as good as handed an instant return is not backed up by recent history.
In the past five years, only three clubs have returned to the top flight 12 months after relegation – all three did so via the lottery of the play-offs.
Norwich City became the most recent to do so in May by beating Middlesbrough at Wembley, while QPR in 2013-14 and West Ham United two years earlier were the others to squeeze over the line to underline just how difficult a task Hull City will face in the coming season.
Tigers vice-chairman Ehab Allam understands that as much as anyone, after undertaking an in-depth analysis of how clubs fresh from the Premier League fare once back in the Championship.
“We looked at all manner of things, not just on-field performance by those relegated clubs but off-field as well,” he said. “I felt it could only be helpful to see if there was something that they all did and if a broader picture emerged. Did they have more new players? Did they freshen up the system? And if they did, did it work or hinder them?”
The last time all three relegated clubs finished in the top six was 2011-12 but only West Ham went up.
Five years earlier, Sunderland and Steve Bruce’s Birmingham City clinched an instant return but, before that, we have to go back to the Nineties for more than one to bounce straight back with no less than six seasons since the turn of the Millennium having seen none make an instant return.
“The key for me this season is we need a 60-65 per cent win ratio,” said Ehab Allam. “When we went up, it was 60 per cent but we may need more this time. And that is the biggest difficulty, in that we have to go from 20 per cent win ratio to 60-plus. The mindset of the team has to change dramatically.”
As happens with most clubs relegated from the Premier League, several of last season’s squad have already moved on.
Losing quality players such as James Chester and Robbie Brady has been a blow but the flipside surrounding that double-figure tally of departures is that things have had to be freshened up.
Ehab Allam said: “Sometimes, you have to be careful what you wish for. If you keep exactly the same squad, you might end up finding you are not very successful for a second year.
“Sometimes, if you retain too many players, you carry that psychological baggage through to the next season. It may help us to make a few changes, rather than hinder us.
“Last season showed it is not all about the skill in the squad. We had individually talented players but still got relegated.
“I don’t just want to rely on fantastically skilled players because we had that last time. We need more than that. We have seen many teams relegated from the Premier League then struggle in the Championship, with some even going into free-fall and being relegated again like Wolves (in 2013).”