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Are Wolves too good to go down

For my sins, I’m a Wolves fan. During Tuesday’s defeat to Liverpool, I was discussing with a friend the amount of players in our team who had been relegated. This got me thinking, who are the best players to have been relegated from the Premier League.

I was tempted to include players from West Ham’s 2002/03 season, but this would have made it far too easy. That West Ham team are surely the clearest example of a team who should have been too good to go down, but weren’t. That West Ham team had players such as Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Lee Bowyer, Jermain Defoe, David James, Paulo Di Canio, Freddie Kanoute, Nigel Winterburn, Glen Johnson and Trevor Sinclair. If ever there was a team too good to go down it was them. So, onto the rest of team…

Goalkeeper: I personally think this player is overrated, but Shay Given is a Premier League goalkeeper in anybody’s’ eyes. Admittedly, he’d left Newcastle United by the time the relegation was confirmed, but he still played 22 games in 2008/09. Indeed, many Newcastle fans felt that Given’s departure was a large factor in the relegation, earning him his place in this team. Other noticeable mentions are Paul Robinson and Rob Green – is it any wonder that England hasn’t won a trophy when so many first choice goalkeepers are playing at the wrong end of the table?

Centre-back: The original ‘too good to go down’ team was Blackburn Rovers, relegated just four years after becoming Champions of England, thanks in part to a number of big money, poor signings (yes Kevin Davies I’m looking at you). But one player who came out of the relegation with his head held high was Swiss defender Stéphane Henchoz. Upon relegation, he was picked up by Liverpool, where he went on to form a solid and effective defensive pairing with Sami Hyypiä, even contributing as a second goalkeeper in the 2001 FA Cup Final.

Centre-back: In the centre of the back-3 is a man who holds the honour of being relegated as both a player and a pundit. It seems strange that it is 17 years ago that Gareth Southgate was being relegated with his first club, Crystal Palace. Admittedly, during his time at Palace he was played mostly as a central midfielder, but it is as a defender that he is best remembered. He reprised his midfield playing days to excellent effect in Kevin Keegan’s final game as manager of England, in the 1-0 defeat to Germany. That wasn’t even his worst German memory, famously missing the decisive penalty in the semi final of Euro ’96 just a year after his playing relegation.

Centre-back: The final defender is another of England’s Euro ’96 team, although this man actually scored his penalties during the tournament, mentally scarring a number of small children along the way. Yet, despite being one of England’s finest defenders of recent years, earning 78 international caps, Stuart Pearce suffered the ignominy of being relegated twice with Nottingham Forest, the team he played over 400 appearances for. During his second relegation, he actually managed the club along the way, even winning Manager of the Month. Alas, it wasn’t enough and Forest were banished to the Football League and have spent just one year in the Premier League since.

Right-wing: Craig Bellamy is like marmite – you either hate him or you’re wrong. While he appears to have mellowed with age, he is still Craig Bellamy. He was signed along with David Thompson for Coventry City to replace the outgoing Robbie Keane and Gary McAllister. Coventry had finished 14th the previous season, but lost its two best players to Internazionale and Liverpool respectively, failing to replace them adequately. Bellamy scored just six goals for the Sky Blues, before going on a meandering career, taking the delights of Newcastle, Liverpool, Celtic, West Ham, Blackburn and Celtic, before finally appearing to have found a home back on Merseyside.

Left-wing: I was tempted by Damien Duff in this position, partly due to the fact he’s been relegated twice. But, it would have been harsh on Newcastle fans to have two players in this team and none from their rivals who relegated the same season. It’s for that reason that I picked Stewart Downing, a local Middlesbrough lad who achieved the dream of playing for his local side, getting relegated with them before jumping ship to the first team that came calling. Downing failed to score a league goal that season, exactly the same amount he has scored for Liverpool since a big money move last summer.

Central-midfield: When a player is so inextricably linked to a single club, it can be easy to forget that they didn’t play there their entire career. Roy Keane was brought over to England by Nottingham Forest’s Brian Clough, but couldn’t keep them in the Premier League. At the time, he was a hot headed young midfielder, and it wasn’t until he joined Manchester United that he became the hot-headed old midfielder that we all remember. His performance in the 1999 Champions League semi final is as good as I’ve ever seen, and it’s a travesty that David May and Jonathan Greening finished that season as Champions League winners but Keane didn’t.

Central-midfield: Joining Keane in the midfield engine room, and what an engine room it would be, is current Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, Scott Parker. After a promising start to his career, he stalled following a big money move to Chelsea, and failed to recapture his early form at Newcastle. It was at West Ham that he truly shone, easily being the best of a bad bunch, and firmly becoming the most overrated underrated player in the country. He has since joined Tottenham Hotspur, and has been instrumental in their surprise title challenge.

Free-role: How many players relegated from the Premier League have gone on to win the World Cup? I have no idea, but there is at least one. Juninho was one of the first successful Brazilian imports to the Premier League, and he was a revelation. Despite being just 5’5”, he rose to the challenge of Premier League football, inspiring Middlesbrough to both Cup finals in 1997. However, he is one of those players who were hampered by playing for a crap manager, and Bryan Robson’s inexplicable decision not to bother entering a team in a match against Blackburn Rovers saw the Teessiders relegated. Juninho would twice return to Middlesbrough, but never quite reached the heights of his first spell. Then again, seeing as he won the 2002 World Cup, I don’t think he really cares.

Forward: Only one player in this team actually played in the second tier following their relegation (well, Scott Parker played four matches for West Ham at the start of the season. But that ruins the narrative, so let’s ignore it). Every other player jumped ship, but jinking genius Georgi Kinkladze didn’t. He scored the greatest ever goal scored by a Georgian playing for Manchester City against Southampton, but that didn’t stop him being relegated from both the Premier League and Division One with City. Kinkladze left for Ajax, deciding Division Two was a fall too far, before returning to England to be relegated again with Derby County.

Forward: There were a number of names I considered for this position – Steven Fletcher has gone on to prove himself a Premier League player, while there was no doubt as to Fabrizio Ravenelli’s quality. But, in the end it was a toss up between Andy Johnson and Darren Bent. Neither are the most technical of players, but both were hampered by one thing in particular – Iain Dowie. Quite how Dowie has managed to get two clubs relegated despite having strikers who scored 21 and 13 goals respectively I have no idea. Given that Darren Bent has just become the ninth quickest player to 100 Premier League goals, it is he who is the final player to have the dubious honour of making this team.

Tom Bason @toomb306

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