MANAGERIAL experience in the Premier League can be the difference between a club staying up or going down, and I fancy it to decide which of a clutch of relegation candidates survive the drop this season.
Aston Villa, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Hull, Leicester, QPR, Southampton and West Brom look in most danger to me.
QPR made a pig’s ear of their first term back in the top flight two years ago, and you wonder how much has changed, with the same manager in charge and some of the same players in the squad.
I can’t help feeling that they’ll be safe this time, however. There is money to spend if need be, and I don’t see Harry Redknapp or chairman Tony Fernandes allowing things to get as bad as they did last time.
Staying in London, the question at Crystal Palace is whether they can find somebody to conjure what Tony Pulis did from a flagging team during the last campaign. Losing their manager on the eve of the season is a massive blow, and it’s vital they appoint someone who is familiar with the division.
Like Redknapp, Steve Bruce has been around the block too many times to let Hull slip into grave trouble, while Nigel Pearson’s know-how could equally be key in extending Leicester’s stay beyond a single season.
They’re my old team but I fear for Burnley, who simply do not have as good a group of players as the rest of the division – not even those around them.
West Brom dodged the drop last time but are on a slippery slope. Manager Alan Irvine is a novice at this level, and their summer dealings don’t look like making them stronger.
Finally, Southampton must have a good chance of going down. Selling all of their best players means they have zero momentum, and the man charged with plotting their survival, Ronald Koeman, accomplished though he may be, does not know the league.
Trevor Steven is a former England international footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.