Football Football

EPL: Club by club guide ahead of kick-off


LONDON, England, August 17 – Club by club guide to the new Premier League season, which kicks off on Saturday (all transfer fees are listed in pounds):


Manager: Roberto Mancini

Last season: Premier League winners, FA Cup 3rd round, League Cup semi-finals, Champions League group stage, Europa League last 16

In: Jack Rodwell (Everton) £12m

Out: Vladimir Weiss (Pescara) undisclosed fee, Greg Cunningham (Bristol City) undisclosed, Joan Angel Roman (Barcelona) undisclosed, Ahmed Benali (Brescia) free transfer, Gai Assulin (Racing Santander) free, Andrea Mancini (Real Valladolid) free, Wayne Bridge (Brighton) loan, Omar Elabdellaoui (Feyenoord) loan, Abdisalam Ibrahim (Stromsgodset) loan, Owen Hargreaves (released), Stuart Taylor (released), Gunnar Nielsen (released)

Outlook: How do you top winning the greatest title race in Premier League history? That is the question Roberto Mancini must answer as Manchester City prepare to defend the English crown for the first time in 44 years.

The outpouring of joy that engulfed Eastlands after Sergio Aguero’s stoppage-time winner snatched the title from Manchester United on the last day of the season will never be forgotten. But City’s status as top dogs will bring greater scrutiny and higher expectations than ever.

Only a repeat of their title victory and a prolonged challenge in the Champions League will be seen as an improvement on last season’s heroics.

City are sure to be a major force again this term, but boss Roberto Mancini, knowing marquee signings are required to convert temporary success into sustained dominance, was frustrated at the club’s failure to land Arsenal forward Robin van Persie and has signed only young midfielder Jack Rodwell from Everton.


Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson

Last season: Premier League runners-up, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup quarter-finals, Champions League group stage, Europa League last 16

In: Robin van Persie (Arsenal) £22m, Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) £12m, Nick Powell (Crewe) £4m,

Out: Matty James (Leicester) undisclosed, Ritchie De Laet (Leicester) undisclosed, Park Ji-Sung (QPR) £2m, Liam Jacobs (Oldham) undisclosed, Tomasz Kuszczak (Brighton) free, Oliver Norwood (Huddersfield) free, Paul Pogba (Juventus) free, Fabio da Silva (QPR) loan, Ben Amos (Hull) loan, Reece Brown (Coventry) loan, John Cofie (Sheffield Utd) loan, Sean McGinty (Oxford) loan, Michael Owen (released)

Outlook: “It will take City a century to get our history, but they have given us a challenge and we will kick on.” Sir Alex Ferguson’s response to the bitter blow of losing the Premier League to Manchester City with virtually the last kick of the season was typically fiesty and it is safe to assume his team’s response to the threat from across Manchester will be equally vigorous.

United’s first season without a trophy since 2005 should bring out the street fighter in Ferguson, who is well aware that City’s wealth poses a significant but not insurmountable challenge.

Ferguson has seen off the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea when they have threatened United at various stages of his 26-year reign and even City will be wary of the 70-year-old’s response.

So far Ferguson has reacted to his side’s clear weakness in midfield by signing Japanese star Shinji Kagawa and promising teenager Nick Powell from Crewe. But he made a far more significant statement of intent by persuading Arsenal forward Robin van Persie to snub City in favour of a move to Old Trafford.


Manager: Arsene Wenger

Last season: 3rd in Premier League, FA Cup 5th round, League Cup quarter-finals, Champions League last 16

In: Santi Cazorla (Malaga) £14m, Olivier Giroud (Montpellier) £13m, Lukas Podolski (Cologne) £11m,

Out: Robin van Persie (Man Utd) £22m, Carlos Vela, Pedro Botelho, Oguzhan Ozyakup, Gavin Hoyte (Dagenham and Redbridge) free, Manuel Almunia (Watford) free, Denilson (Sao Paulo) loan, Benik Afobe (Bolton) loan, Joel Campbell (Real Betis) loan, Ryo Miyaichi (Wigan) loan, Rhys Murphy (released), Tom Cruise (released)

Outlook: Not for the first time, Arsene Wenger spent the summer engaged in a fruitless attempt to persuade a star player to remain at the Emirates Stadium.

From the frustrating sagas of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri’s moves to Barcelona and Manchester City 12 months ago to Robin van Persie’s switch to Manchester United this week, Wenger is learning the hard way that Arsenal’s lack of success quickly leads to disenchantment with even his enlightened ways.

With no new silverware in the Arsenal trophy cabinet for seven years now, it was hardly surprising van Persie’s head would be turned by United’s offer.

Wenger’s problem was that van Persie’s contract would have expired at the end of this season and the potential loss of a transfer fee in the region of £22 million meant the Dutch striker, who scored 37 goals in all competitions last season, got his wish to leave a club who, with key midfielder Alex Song a target for Barcelona, look destined to remain entertaining underachievers for the foreseeable future.


Manager: Andre Villas-Boas

Last season: 4th in Premier League, FA Cup semi-finals, League Cup 3rd round, Europa League group stage

In: Jan Vertonghen (Ajax) £9m, Gylfi Sigurdsson (Hoffenheim) £8m,

Out: Niko Kranjcar (Dynamo Kiev) £5.5m, Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow) £5m, Steven Pienaar (Everton) £4m, Louis Saha (Sunderland) free, Ryan Nelsen (QPR) free, Massimo Luongo (Ipswich) loan, Bongani Khumalo (PAOK Thessaloniki) loan, Ryan Fredericks (Brentford) loan, Ben Alnwick (Barnsley) free, Ledley King (retired)

Outlook: With his miserable reign at Chelsea still fresh in the memory, Andre Villas-Boas has plenty of questions to answer after his surprise appointment as Harry Redknapp’s successor at White Hart Lane.

When Redknapp fell out with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy in the aftermath of his flirtation with the England job, most pundits felt the north Londoners would choose an experienced candidate to carry on his good work.

But instead Levy picked Villas-Boas, the 34-year-old Portuguese coach whose power struggle with Chelsea’s senior stars cost him the support of owner Roman Abramovich and left the club in turmoil at the end of his eight-month reign.

Villas-Boas claims the atmosphere at Spurs is far less politicised, but he has already had to deal with Luka Modric’s protests over the club’s failure to sign off on his move to Real Madrid, and only a repeat of Redknapp’s top-four finishes will avoid another painful exit from one of London’s major clubs.


Manager: Alan Pardew

Last season: 5th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 4th round

In: Vurnon Anita (Ajax) £6m, Gael Bigirimana (Coventry) £1m, Curtis Good (Melbourne Heart) undisclosed, Romain Amalfitano (Stade de Reims) free,

Out: Leon Best (Blackburn) £3m, Fraser Forster (Celtic) £2.5m, Fraser Forster (Celtic) undisclosed, Danny Guthrie (Reading) free, Peter Lovenkrands (Birmingham) free, Alan Smith, (Milton Keynes Dons) free, Michael Hoganson (Derby) free

Outlook: Nothing summed up Newcastle’s unlikely success last season better than the look of incredulity on Alan Pardew’s face when Papiss Demba Cisse scored a goal of the season contender to kill off Chelsea in a crucial clash at Stamford Bridge.

As the mastermind of Newcastle’s best finish in eight years, Pardew had become accustomed to breaking the mould, but even he was stunned by Cisse’s astonishing strike. It was that kind of season on Tyneside.

Widely regarded as pre-season relegation candidates, Newcastle ended up narrowly missing out on a Champions League spot. Now they have to maintain that progress and with key players like Cisse, Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote so far persuaded to stay, the Magpies believe they could even steal some silverware.


Manager: Roberto Di Matteo

Last season: 6th in Premier League, FA Cup winners, League Cup quarter-finals, Champions League winners

In: Eden Hazard (Lille) £32m, Oscar (Internacional) £25m, Marko Marin (Werder Bremen) £7m, Thorgan Hazard (Lens) undisclosed,

Out: Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua) free, Salomon Kalou (Lille) free, Jacob Mellis (Barnsley) free, Romelu Lukaku (West Brom) loan, Kevin De Bruyne (Werder Bremen) loan, Tomas Kalas (Vitesse Arnhem) loan, Partrick Van Aanholt (Vitesse Arnhem) loan, Rohan Ince (Yeovil) loan, Sam Hutchinson (Nottingham Forest) loan, Ben Gordon (Birmingham) loan, Sam Walker (Bristol Rovers) loan, Jose Bosingwa (released)

Outlook: The champagne corks had barely stopped popping in celebration of Chelsea’s Champions League and FA Cup double when the Stamford Bridge revolution got underway on the top deck of a London bus.

As Chelsea’s players, on a double-decker bus to carry them on a victory parade through west London, waved to thousands of jubilant fans lining the streets, a tearful Didier Drogba called his team-mates together to inform them that he would be leaving in the summer.

Parting company with Drogba — the hero of Chelsea’s Champions League final over Bayern Munich and for so long the symbol of the team’s physical style — was a statement of intent from Blues owner Roman Abramovich, who is determined to continue winning trophies while also emulating Barcelona’s fantasy football with his own collection of dimunitive playmakers in the mold of Lionel Messi.

With that in mind, Roberto di Matteo, finally handed a two-year contract after his success as interim coach, needs to quickly get the best out of new signings Eden Hazard and Oscar if he is to bring Catalan style to a team respected but rarely admired.


Manager: David Moyes

Last season: 7th in Premier League, FA Cup semi-finals, League Cup 4th round

In: Steven Pienaar (Tottenham) £4.5m, Steven Naismith (Rangers) free

Out: Jack Rodwell (Man City) £12m, Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls) free, Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce) free, James Wallace (Tranmere) free, Connor Roberts (Cheltenham) free, Marcus Hahnemann (released), James McFadden (released)

Outlook: As Andy Carroll’s header rippled the Wembley net to give Liverpool a barely-deserved FA Cup semi-final victory, Everton manager David Moyes must have felt his head smashing into that glass ceiling yet again.

For Moyes, life with Everton has been both fulfilling and frustrating in equal measure and nothing seems to change in that equation this season.

Despite being linked with the Tottenham job, Moyes remain in charge at Goodison Park, where he will continue to balance his and the fans’ desire for silverware with the harsh realties of Everton’s perilous financial situation.

In the circumstances, Moyes deserves great credit for keeping Everton in the top 10, but he will have shake off his innate conservatism before the Toffees can start looking any higher up the table.


Manager: Brendan Rodgers

Last season: 8th in Premier League, FA Cup runners-up, League Cup winners

In: Joe Allen (Swansea) £15m, Fabio Borini (Roma) £10.5m, Oussama Assaidi (Heerenveen) undisclosed, subject to medical

Out: Dirk Kuyt (Fenerbahce) £1m, Maxi Rodriguez (Newell’s Old Boys) undisclosed, Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina) undisclosed, Craig Bellamy (Cardiff) free, David Amoo (Preston) free, Fabio Aurelio (Gremio) free, Stephen Darby (Bradford) free, Toni Silva (Barnsley) free

Outlook: When news of Kenny Dalglish’s sacking finally emerged from Anfield after days of speculation, the silence that greeted the decision spoke volumes for how far Liverpool had fallen.

Dalglish’s second spell as Reds boss brought the club’s first trophy for six years in the League Cup and included an FA Cup final appearance, but those achievements couldn’t disguise the sense of a club in decline and the fans who had demanded the return of “King Kenny” mounted little protest when their idol was dethroned.

Brendan Rodgers, Dalglish’s replacement, has been charged with the rebuilding job after Liverpool’s lowest league finish for 18 years. His belief in an eye-catching possession game will go down well with the Anfield purists, but the former Swansea boss knows faces a tough task to restore the 18-time English champions to their former glory.


Manager: Martin Jol

Last season: 9th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 3rd round, Europa League group stage

In: George Williams (Milton Keynes Dons) undisclosed, Mladen Petric (Hamburg) free, Hugo Rodallega (Wigan) free, Sascha Riether (Cologne) loan

Out: Dickson Etuhu (Blackburn) undisclosed, Carlos Salcido (UANL) undisclosed, Andrew Johnson (QPR) free, Danny Murphy (Blackburn) free, Marcel Gecov (Gent) free, Bjorn Helge Riise (Lillestrom) free, Orlando Sa (released)

Outlook: While Fulham will never match the star power of their more glamourous neighbours down the King’s Road, the Cottagers’ continued presence in the top-flight deserves just as much respect as Chelsea’s Champions League and FA Cup double last season.

Under the no-nonsense leadership of boss Martin Jol, the west Londoners remain one of the Premier League’s solid citizens — unlikely to need the silverware polishers but more than capable of troubling even the division’s big guns on their day.

In a bid to stop the club stagnating, Jol has opted to sell Danny Murphy, Andrew Johnson and Dickson Ethuhu — all long-serving members of the Fulham squad — and bring in several new faces including Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega and Croatian forward Mladen Petric from Hamburg.


Manager: Steve Clarke

Last season: 10th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 3rd round

In: Ben Foster (Birmingham) undisclosed, Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea) loan, Yassine El Ghanassy (Gent) loan

Out: Simon Cox (Nottingham Forest) undisclosed, Nicky Shorey (Reading) free, Keith Andrews (Bolton) free, Joe Mattock (Sheffield Wednesday) free, Marton Fulop (Asteras Tripoli) free, Lateef Elford-Alliyu (Bury) free, Paul Scharner (released), Somen Tchoyi (released)

Outlook: With seasoned campaigner Roy Hodgson lured away by England, Albion have taken a major gamble by giving Steve Clarke his first crack at management.

Clarke, a former Chelsea and Scotland defender, has earned his stripes after spending several years as an assistant as Newcastle, Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool.

Now the 48-year-old Clarke, a highly-respected coach, has to prove he can cope with the pressure of being the main man at a club where standards have been raised by Hodgson’s impressive reign.


Manager: Michael Laudrup

Last season: 11th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 2nd round

In: Chico (Genoa) £2m, Michu (Rayo Vellecano) £2m, Scott Tancock (Cardiff) undisclosed, Jonathan de Guzman (Villareal) loan,

Out: Joe Allen (Liverpool) £15m, Joe Walsh (released), Ferrie Bodde (released), Casey Thomas (released)

Outlook: While the rest of the football world was entranced by Euro 2012, Swansea quietly made one of the most unlikely appointments in Premier League history as the south-wales club hired Danish legend Michael Laudrup as their new manager.

With Brendan Rodgers departing for Anfield, the Swans needed a manager capable of continuing the club’s renaissance while sticking to the smooth passing style that won so many plaudits last season.

Former Barcelona and Real Madrid foward Laudrup, one of the most gifted talents of his generation, certainly has the credentials to keep Swansea playing the beautiful game. After underwhelming spells in charge at Spartak Moscow and Real Mallorca, whether Laudrup can live up to Rodgers’ success remains to be seen. The experiment will make for fascinating viewing.


Manager: Chris Hughton

Last season: 12th in Premier League, FA Cup 5th round, League Cup 2nd round

In: Robert Snodgrass (Leeds) £3m, Michael Turner (Sunderland) undisclosed, Jacob Butterfield (Barnsley) undisclosed, Steven Whittaker (Rangers) free,

Out: Andrew Crofts (Brighton) undisclosed, Adam Drury (Leeds) free, Aaron Wilbraham (Crystal Palace) free, Zak Whitbread (Leicester) free,

Outlook: Paul Lambert’s departure has left Norwich at a cross-roads after last season’s impressive mid-table finish and it would be easy to fear the worst for one of the league’s most welcoming clubs.

Lambert’s defection to Aston Villa threatens to disrupt three years of tremendous success for the Canaries, who were playing in League One in 2010, but in new boss Chris Hughton, hired from Championship club Birmingham, they have a man determined to seize his chance for Premier League redemption.

Hughton, sacked by Newcastle in 2010 without being given a proper chance to prove he could compete as a top-flight boss, will have a far more stable environment to work in at Carrow Road, but it might still be a battle to keep Norwich away from the bottom three.


Manager: Martin O’Neill

Last season: 13th in Premier League, FA Cup quarter-finals, League Cup 2nd round

In: Carlos Cuellar (Aston Villa) free, Louis Saha (Tottenham) free

Out: Asamoah Gyan (Al-Ain) £6m, Cristian Riveros (Kayserispor) £500,000, Michael Turner (Norwich) undisclosed, Marcos Angeleri (Estudiantes) undisclosed, George McCartney (West Ham) free, Jordan Cook (Charlton) free, Michael Liddle (Accrington) free, Trevor Carson (Bury) free, Craig Gordon (released)

Outlook: Steering Sunderland away from the relegation dogfight in his first season has earned Martin O’Neill plenty of respect at the Stadium of Light, but he won’t be satisfied until the Black Cats are more concerned with matters at the other end of the table.

O’Neill only has to look across the Tyne Bridge to see the example set by local rivals Newcastle, who secured a Europa League place on the back of some excellent scouting and clever management.

However, O’Neill has been quiet in the transfer market so far — Aston Villa centre-back Carlos Cuellar is the only arrival — and more improvements are needed before Sunderland are ready to emulate Newcastle’s success.


Manager: Tony Pulis

Last season: 14th in Premier League, FA Cup quarter-finals, League Cup 4th round, Europa League last 32

In: Michael Kightly (Wolves) undisclosed, Jamie Ness (Rangers) free

Out: Danny Collins (Nottingham Forest) undisclosed, Andrew Davies (Bradford) free, Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough) free, Matthew Lund (Bristol Rovers) loan, Florent Cuvelier (Walsall) loan, Ryan Brunt (Leyton Orient) loan, Ricardo Fuller (released), Salif Diao (released), Tom Soares (released)

Outlook: Now firmly established after four seasons in the top-flight, Stoke face a dilemma. Do they settle for being the Premier League’s perennial bully-boys or introduce a more sophisticated style of play.

In many ways Tony Pulis’s collection of rough and tumble journeymen are the role model for clubs aspiring to gatecrash the elite.

Stoke’s Britannia Stadium — previously a lower league backwater — is now a venue feared by even the league’s superpowers. But the feeling persists that Pulis needs to tweak their tactics to encourage for flair if they are to take the next step. Whether the route-one devotee is willing to sacrifice his principles is another matter.


Manager: Roberto Martinez

Last season: 15th in Premier League, FA Cup 3rd round, League Cup 2nd round

In: Ivan Ramis (Real Mallorca) undisclosed, Arouna Kone (Levante) undisclosed, Ryo Miyaichi (Arsenal) loan

Out: Hugo Rodallega (Fulham) free, Mohamed Diame (West Ham) free, Chris Kirkland (Sheffield Wednesday) free, Steve Gohouri (released), Hendry Thomas (released), Jordan Robinson (released)

Outlook: Once again the future of boss Roberto Martinez cast a long shadow over Wigan’s preparations for the new season.

The urbane Spaniard had flirted with a move to Aston Villa in 2011 and 12 months later, after inspiring the Latics to beat the drop with an impressive late run that included wins over Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle, he was approached by Liverpool.

Martinez flew to Miami to talk to Reds owner John Henry before deciding he couldn’t work under a proposed director of football at Anfield. Villa were also back in the hunt for Martinez, but his future, for the short term at least, remains at the DW Stadium, where he will once again he asked to work miracles on a limited budget.


Manger: Paul Lambert

Last season: 16th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 3rd round

In: Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord) £3.2m, Matthew Lowton (Sheffield Utd) £3m, Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord) £2m, Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar) free

Out: James Collins (West Ham) £2.5m, Carlos Cuellar (Sunderland) free, Connor Taylor (Walsall) free, Jean Makoun (released), Habib Beye (released), Emile Heskey (released)

Outlook: A miserable campaign still had a few minutes remaining when Aston Villa’s fans finished chanted for Alex McLeish to be sacked and turned their attention to serenading the manager in the other dug-out at Carrow Road.

With McLeish heading for the exit after just one season, Villa were going to need a new boss and Norwich boss Paul Lambert was the populist choice.

Villa owner Randy Lerner was clearly listening. Lambert was soon installed at Villa Park and, with the Scot already overhauling a pourous defence, mid-table security beckons.


Manager: Mark Hughes

Last season: 17th in Premier League, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 2nd round

In: Park Ji-Sung (Man Utd) £2m, David Hoilett (Blackburn) undisclosed, Samba Diakite (Nancy) undisclosed, Robert Green (West Ham) free, Ryan Nelsen (Tottenham) free, Fabio da Silva (Man Utd) loan

Out: Paddy Kenny (Leeds) £400,000, Heidar Helguson (Cardiff) undisclosed, Fitz Hall (Watford) free, Rowan Vine (St Johnstone) free, Peter Ramage (released), Patrick Agyemang (released), Gary Borrowdale (released), Danny Gabbidon (released), Lee Cook (released), Dan Shittu (released)

Outlook: Emerging with their Premier League status secured after an incredible day of drama at Manchester City in May has prompted QPR manager Mark Hughes and Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes to make wholesale changes.

At times on the final day of the season, QPR were staring relegation firmly in the face and that brush with mortality is driving a determined bid to ensure there is no repeat.

Hughes is trying to blend a new mix of experienced campaigners, Ryan Nelsen, Park Ji-Sung and Robert Green, and dynamic young tyros like David Hoilett and Fabio da Silva. QPR, without the suspended Joey Barton for the first 12 games of the season, will hope to ascend to the ranks of the Premier League’s middle-classes eventually, but for now survival would still do just fine.


Manager: Brian McDermott

Last season: Championship winners, FA Cup 3rd round, League Cup 2nd round

In: Chris Gunter (Nottingham Forest), £2.5m, Adrian Mariappa (Watford) £2.5m, Pierce Sweeney (Bray) undisclosed, Danny Guthrie (Newcastle) free, Pavel Pogrebnyak (Stuttgart) free, Nicky Shorey (West Brom) free, Garath McCleary (Nottingham Forest) free,

Out: Mathieu Manset (FC Sion) undisclosed, Michail Antonio (Sheffield Wednesday) undisclosed, Michael Hector (Shrewsbury) loan, Angus Macdonald (AFC Wimbledon), Jospeh Mills (Burnley), Brian Howard (released), Andy Griffin (released), Tomasz Cywka (released), Jack Mills (released)

Outlook: Like the unheralded club they represent, Brian McDermott and Mikele Leigertwood would hardly merit even a footnote in the Premier League’s star-studded history.

But McDermott, the canny Reading boss finally getting his first chance to manage in the big-time, and Leigertwood, the veteran midfielder whose late winner against Nottingham Forest clinched Reading’s promotion last season, are emblematic of a Royals’ resurgence that put their club back among the elite after a four-year absence.

Humble grafters like McDermott and Leigertwood helped Reading win the Championship with a spectacular run in the second half of the season and the club’s low-key but astute pre-season signings suggest they will be relying on perspiration rather than inspiration to stay in the top-flight.


Manager: Nigel Adkins

Last season: Championship runners-up, FA Cup 4th round, League Cup 4th round

In: Jay Rodriguez (Burnley) £7m, Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace) undisclosed, Paulo Gazzaniga (Gillingham) undisclosed, Steven Davis (Rangers) free

Out: Dan Harding (Nottingham Forest) undisclosed, Ryan Doble (Shrewsbury) free, Bartosz Bialkowski (Notts County) free, Lee Holmes (Preston) free, Harlee Dean (Brentford) free, Tommy Forecast (Gillingham) loan, Aaron Martin (Crystal Palace) loan, David Connolly (released), Radhi Jaidi (retired)

Outlook: Under Nigel Adkins’ progressive leadership, Southampton have enjoyed a remarkable rise that will reach its climax when Saints kick-off their first top-flight campaign for seven years at champions Manchester City.

It is hard to believe that only two years ago Southampton were enduring the darkest period in the club’s history — stuck in League One after a period of administration matches against City, Chelsea and Arsenal seemed a world away.

But Adkins, aided by the goals of Rickie Lambert and the guile of Adam Lallana, has inspired two successive promotions and breathed new life into the previously moribund club. Staying up will be tough, but Saints believe anything is possible these days.


Manager: Sam Allardyce

Last season: 3rd in Championship (promoted via play-offs), FA Cup 3rd round, League Cup 2nd round

In: Modibo Maiga (Sochaux) £4.7m, James Collins (Aston Villa) £2.5m, Alou Diarra (Marseille) £2m, Mohamed Diame (Wigan) free, Jussi Jaaskelainen (Bolton) free, Stephen Henderson (Portsmouth) free

Out: Robert Green (QPR) free, Frank Nouble (Wolves) free, Abdoulaye Faye (Hull) free, Julien Faubert (Elazigspor) free, Freddie Sears (Colchester) free, Oliver Lee (Barnet) free, Marek Stech (Yeovil) free, Ravel Morrison (Birmingham) loan, John Carew (released), Papa Bouba Diop (released),

Outlook: Just 18 months after crashing out of the Premier League in shambolic fashion, the east London club return to the top-flight determined to stick around this time.

Far too often in recent years, West Ham have constructed talented squads that lacked the stomach to grind out results at crucial moments. Under arch-pragmatist Sam Allardyce that is no longer a problem.

Allardyce’s side will never win plaudits from the purists, but they were able to grind their way out of the Championship under immense pressure. And with a big money offer for Liverpool’s Andy Carroll on the table, it will be more of the same in the top-flight as the Hammers fight to avoid the drop.