Nottingham Forest’s fairytale fight for Premier League survival, a battle won with Saturday’s victory over Arsenal, brought with it a significant footnote in the competition’s history. With Forest joining Fulham and Bournemouth on the startline for the 2023-24 season, it means that, for just the fourth time in the Premier League’s 31-year history, all three promoted clubs have avoided going straight back down. It is a great story for the league, for neutrals, and obviously fans of the three clubs. But not so good news if you have anything to do with Leeds, Leicester or Everton. With Southampton already banished to the Championship – ending an 11-year stay in the top flight – the Premier League is guaranteed to lose at least one other established name this Sunday, while relegation for Leeds would represent a dismal demise for a once-great club who appeared to be finding their way back. In reality, their resurgence has proven to be an illusion built on the mercurial, ever-fleeting brilliance of former manager Marcelo Bielsa, with Leeds unable to establish foundations strong enough to maintain their place once the Argentine’s magic touch wore off. Second-bottom going into the final Sunday, the fate of Sam Allardyce’s men will be decided elsewhere even if they manage to beat Tottenham at Elland Road. Leicester, in 18th after Monday’s draw at Newcastle, are also relying on favours from others but – whereas Leeds survived on the final day last season – for the Foxes, this is new and not at all welcome. Relegation would see the club emulate Blackburn as just the second Premier League champions to crash out of the league. There are similarities in their stories with the ascent of both clubs turbo-charged by a wealthy benefactor before a failure to maintain the investment saw things go south.
But this is a different game to the one Blackburn superfan Jack Walker conquered in 1995 and, despite Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s tragic death, the legacy of the league title he brought to Leicester in 2016 was supposed to insure them against playing second-tier football just seven years later. Everton haven’t won the title since 1987 but are a top-flight institution – ever-present since 1954. Only Arsenal have been in the elite division for longer. This is far from their first brush with danger though; Everton may be a grand old club but even the stickiest of Toffees couldn’t complain if their luck finally ran out after a decade of mismanagement, their side burning through disastrous signings and managers like a poundshop Spurs. But under the guidance of experienced firefighter Sean Dyche, they will decide their own fate and it would surprise no one if they survived again. With Forest and the arrivistes of Brentford and Brighton signed up and the hugely unexpected promotion of either Luton or Coventry to be decided on Saturday, the Premier League is guaranteed to have a fresher, younger feel next season. A couple of bluechip brands will no longer be there to welcome them but in the Premier League a name will only get you so far and, for the competition at least, that can only be a good thing.