Wolverhampton Wanderers were officially relegated from the Premier League Sunday as they lost 2-0, putting them out of reach of suddenly in-form Wigan Athletic and Queens Park Rangers.
Wolves were tipped from the beginning to be part of the relegation battle all season, but many (including myself) thought they would survive, thanks to a weak crop of newly promoted teams. Those first year teams turned out to be much saltier they were perceived to be, with only the aforementioned QPR in any danger. Indeed, after gaining 7 points in their first 3 matches, Wolves spent a majority of the season in and around the drop zone. It's hard to label the sacking of noted muppet Mick McCarthy in February as a turning point, since they were already in 18th when it happened, but the move certainly didn't have its intended effect. Terry Connor still hasn't recorded a Premier League victory, with draws against Newcastle and Sunderland his only points earned.
Wolverhampton were poor in almost every facet of the game, averaging under a goal per game (34 goals vs. 35 games played so far) and conceding a whopping 75 goals, which is just 3 less than the notoriously porous Blackpool defense let in last year (don't forget - there's still 3 games left). Wolves conceded 5 goals in a game as often as they achieved a clean sheet (3 times each), and they never outscored their opponent by more than 2 goals. They went on a stretch of 11 games without recording a win and a full 30 games (!) without recording a clean sheet.
This season marks the end of a 3 year stretch in the Premier League for Wolves, who also spent 2003-04 in the top flight after winning the playoff the previous season. Their high-water mark in terms of points is 40, achieved last season when they avoided the drop on the last day of the season. For that reason, Wolverhampton has always struck me as a team more comfortable in the Championship, but that doesn't mean that they won't be able to rebound from this setback. They'll have to deal with the usual exodus of players, and it would be a shock if they didn't go after a new manager this summer as well. Rumors about departures are already flying around, with leading scorer Steven Fletcher (10 goals) and midfielder Jamie O'Hara mentioned the most often. Selfishly, I'd prefer that the contentious Karl Henry remain with the club, as he has a history of making bone-crunching tackles on Newcastle players.
The Toon were relegated just 3 years ago, of course, so I find it hard to revel in another team's misfortune (your mileage may vary). If I'm being completely honest, though, there are worse teams to wave goodbye to. That doesn't mean that I'm not wishing Wolves success next year in the Championship - it's just that I'm not particularly sad about their departure.
With Wolves gone, next year's Premier League picture becomes a little clearer. There are still 2 teams left on each side of the equation. Who will they be? We may find out about 1 more club as soon as this afternoon, as a West Ham loss or draw against Leicester City will mean automatic promotion for Southampton.