LONDON (AP) — A look at Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield as the promoted teams prepare for the opening weekend of the English Premier League.
Armed with a squad capable of competing in the Premier League and a manager who has won the Champions League, Newcastle didn’t surprise when it topped the second-tier League Championship last season.
Rafa Benitez surprisingly stayed in the north-east despite failing to save Newcastle from relegation from the Premier League after taking over in March 2016 with the club perilously placed.
After years of instability under the ownership of Mike Ashley, the Spaniard’s decision to remain has given the club’s large fan base a figure to unite behind.
Smart signings were made following relegation, including Dwight Gayle from Crystal Palace, who produced 23 league goals. Newcastle will hope the 27-year-old striker can establish himself in the Premier League this time around.
Further reinforcements have been added during this offseason with winger Jacob Murphy arriving from Norwich. Benitez looked to his homeland to improve his defense, signing Florian Lejeune from Eibar and Javier Manquillo from Atletico Madrid.
German midfielder Mikel Merino joins on loan from Borussia Dortmund and former loanee Christian Atsu was signed on a permanent deal from Chelsea.
On the final day of the 1996-97 season, Brighton was just minutes away from being relegated from the fourth tier and losing its status as a member of the English Football League.
A late equalizer against Hereford turned out to be the starting point of a spectacular run that will climax with the south-coast club making its Premier League debut after finishing second to Newcastle in the Championship last season.
Brighton’s rise was aided by a move to a new ground in 2011. The 30,000-plus capacity stadium is one element of Brighton’s infrastructure that is certainly Premier League ready.
Manager Chris Hughton has Premier League experience from his time with Newcastle and Norwich, but it remains to be seen whether his players are up to the challenge.
Journeyman striker Glenn Murray was the leading scorer last season with 23 league goals, while former Leicester player Anthony Knockaert added 15 goals from midfield along with eight assists.
Possessed with the least financial clout of the promoted sides, Brighton’s most expensive signing of the summer so far was goalkeeper Mathew Ryan from Valencia, while defender Markus Suttner and midfielder Pascal Gross were both acquired from Ingolstadt.
Located just an hour south of London and known for its vibrant night life, Brighton will be a popular destination for supporters of visiting teams.
It’s no wonder David Wagner thought twice about becoming the second American to manage in the Premier League. The first, Bob Bradley, lasted just 85 days at Swansea last season.
Wagner, a German-born former U.S. international, acknowledged considering moving on from Huddersfield having taken the northern club from the brink of relegation from the Championship to England’s top tier in just over 18 months.
Much to the relief of Huddersfield, the 45-year-old Wagner has signed a contract through 2019.
Having arrived in 2015 from Borussia Dortmund, where he was reserve-team coach, Wagner guided Huddersfield to a 19th-place finish before working wonders on one of the smallest budgets in the division to secure promotion the following season.
Astute use of the loan system helped Huddersfield to a fifth-place finish, from which it went on to defeat Sheffield Wednesday and Reading in the playoffs to seal a return to the top flight for the first time since 1972.
Wagner hasn’t wasted any time in spending the money freed up by promotion. Benin striker Steve Mounie joined from Montpellier, and midfielder Aaron Mooy and striker Elias Kachunga were signed permanently after getting a taste of Huddersfield while on loan.
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