Norwich City, who immediately bounced back to the English top-flight after a dismal relegation campaign in the 2019/20 season, will have to pull off the same feat once again after their return to the Championship confirmed following defeat against Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Norwich were heavily criticised when they climbed into the Premier League under then-manager Daniel Farke for not spending the money required to give them a fighting chance of avoiding the dreaded drop. And fans were promised it would be different this time around. However, after spending on players such as Christos Tzolis, Milot Rashica and Josh Sargent, the Canaries’ relegation has been confirmed with three games still to play. They ended the 19/20 season on twenty-one points, and they sit on the same tally after their 2-0 reverse at the hands of Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa.
And, to make matters worse, following his sacking at Villa Park, lifelong Villain Dean Smith replaced Daniel Farke as Norwich manager, meaning he’s been relegated on his old stomping ground in front of a fan base chanting his name after the final whistle blew. The silver lining is that Smith has promotion from the Championship on his CV, after steering Villa back into the big time, and the Norwich hierarchy will be hoping that his experience will see them bounce back immediately for a third time, which would be quite a remarkable achievement.
One of the main reasons why Norwich were able to respond immediately to reclaim their Premier League status at the first time of asking is that they managed to hang on to key players such as Teemu Pukki. For Smith and co to stand any chance this time around, he’s ideally going to keep hold of his key players, while being given license to mould the squad in his own image. He’s also likely to explore the loan market, which he’s utilised successfully while manager of Villa, Brentford and Walsall.
Elsewhere, the great escape could well have been on at Watford, with the hornets leading through a James Tarkowski own goal in the 8th minute until everything fell apart in a three-minute spell late on. Jack Cork equalised for Mike Jackson’s Burnley on 83 before Josh Brownhill scored the winner three minutes later. Watford are now on the brink of returning to the Championship, with five successive defeats not helping their cause.
It's likely that Watford, who rolled the dice in appointing Roy Hodgson as manager in a last-ditch attempt to secure safety, will opt against extending the former England chief’s deal at the end of the campaign. Like Norwich, they have form when it comes to bouncing back immediately, and they will be on the hunt for a head coach who they believe can make that happen once again. Although, it’s also likely quite a few players will be heading for the Vicarage Road exit door between now and July.