Promoted trio’s early season starts offer hope for those who follow

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/22 23:28:40

What a weekend for the promoted clubs of the English Premier League. The so-called whipping boys all won - no mean feat - but some of those results will live much longer in the memories than ­others, whether they stay up or not come the end of the season.

It started on Friday night with Brighton & Hove Albion visiting the London Stadium and putting three goals past West Ham United. Chris Hughton's Brighton side have started somewhat slowly but the trip north showed that they might have enough to stay in the top flight. That's the dream for ­promoted sides: hit the 40-point mark as soon as the fixture list will let you and live to fight another day.

Brighton are 12th and they are the lowest of the three sides who were playing Championship soccer last season. If their victory at West Ham was unpredicted then what happened on Saturday might have upset a few more bookmakers. Huddersfield Town hosted Manchester United and beat their visitors 2-1 in a game that could prove vital to the title race - the loss meant United trail City by five points at the top of the table.

Those three points for the Terriers put them in 11th spot, a point above fellow newcomers Brighton, and at least a win above the relegation zone. If you had asked anyone involved in either club before the season kicked off whether they would be happy with mid-table after a quarter of the season, then they would have been delighted. They're there and they are not even the best of the ­promoted clubs.

Newcastle United, the team ­promoted from the Championship as champions last season, sit even prettier in sixth position (as of Sunday evening, at least). The Magpies snuck a late win over Crystal Palace thanks to an 86th-minute Mikel Merino goal and soared up the table. Given the tumult that has enveloped St James Park, or the Sports Direct Stadium as it should be known, over the last few years, that's a startling situation.

The Toon Army have become something of a yo-yo club over the last few years under the stewardship of Chairman Mike Ashley, the owner of the aforementioned Sports Direct. The loyal Geordies have had to put up with a lot as they have bounced between the top two tiers but this season looks, so far, as if they might be OK.

The win and their league position are good news for fans of Rafa Benitez's side, but better news might come in the form of the potential takeover by Amanda Staveley's PCP Partners group, which might be an even more solid financial footing for one of the best supported teams in the country.

Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle are welcome additions to the Premier League - proper soccer teams that are strong hubs for their community in what are one-club cities. They've all spent their time outside of the top flight - and even further down the pyramid than that, in recent memory - and seeing them all win on the same weekend is heartening for fans of other fallen ­giants.

Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and both Sheffield sides should take note. The promised land is within their grasp, and if they make the leap up there's no reason to let go.

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer.


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