The close season has flown by for everyone but it will have felt particularly short for Alex McLeish and Mick McCarthy. Their clubs, Birmingham and Wolves, finished ninth and 15th respectively last season, an admirable overachievement. Their reward? A date with the Grim Reaper of the Premier League: second season syndrome.
|No. of teams promoted||51||50|
|No. with more points in second season||17 (33%)||9 (18%)|
|No. with higher place in second season||16 (31%)||5 (10%)|
|No. with more points and higher place||14 (27%)||5 (10%)|
|No. relegated in first season||9 (18%)||24 (48%)|
The figures exclude Birmingham, Wolves and Burnley, who were promoted in 2009 and have not yet had a second season. Sunderland and Birmingham, who were promoted in 1980, achieved higher points totals in their second season, but only because of the switch to three points for a win. In real terms both sides' totals were lower and have been recorded as such for this purpose. The fact that more teams are relegated straight away obviously means that fewer get a second season in the top flight; yet even among those that do, second season syndrome has increased significantly. Of sides who were not relegated first time round in the Premier League era, only 19% (five out of 26) have improved both their position and points total, as against 33% (14 out of 42) from 1975 to 1992.
|No of teams who had second season||42||26|
|No with more points||17 (40%)||9 (35%)|
|No with higher place||16 (38%)||5 (19%)|
|No with more points and higher place||14 (33%)||5 (19%)|
It's not just that fewer sides have improved in their second season; those improvements, when they have occurred, have also been smaller. In the Premier League era, the biggest jump in terms of points and position was Blackburn's relatively modest leap from 10th (with 46 points) to sixth in 2001-02 (with 60 points) a year later.
In the pre-Premier League era, the leaps were often much greater. The most notable example is Aston Villa, who moved from 16th to fourth in 1976-77 and 17th to second in 1989-90. The following season, Manchester City went from 14th to fourth and Crystal Palace from 15th to third.
Fifteenth is where Wolves finished last season, but surely not even their most optimistic fan will have an eye on third place. In the current climate, with second season syndrome rife, finishing 14th would do them just nicely.