Will they ever learn? Or do they just know more than we do?

Less than 24 hours after the full-time whistle blew on the domestic league season, Burnley were being written off.

Bookies widely had the Clarets down as third favourites in the relegation odds on the first day of trading after the Premier League line-up for 2019-20 was completed.

For once, the play-off winners did not figure in the top three.

Championship champions Norwich and their runners-up Sheffield United are widely odds-on to go straight back down.

Then come the Clarets – always written off but rarely in trouble.

And then, quoted at the same 9/4 as Burnley by bookies such as SkyBet and BetVictor but a bit longer by others, are Albion.

Forget about the play-off winners tending to struggle – or at least being that automatic choice as favourites for the drop.

The stature of Aston Villa means they are widely seen as longer odds than any of the aforementioned quartet to go down.

That is not a unanimous picture, by the way. William Hill and Boyle Sports have Albion shorter than Villa for relegation but it is very close.

What those early numbers underline are two things.

Firstly, the bookies can’t help writing off Burnley – or suspect punters will under-rate Sean Dyche’s men.

Secondly, the fact a club of Villa’s size have come up might just change the game.

Let's not get too carried away. Villa are no world-beaters and have a lot of work to do this summer.

But the potential Prem landscape for the new season looks different to how it would had Derby won at Wembley on Monday afternoon.

Albion’s poor final third of last season and the fact they have a manager untried in this league will explain why they are so high in the relegation betting. And, of course, it means little right now.

What it does underline is something Chris Hughton suggested towards the end of his tenure.

That is that the division could be even tougher next season.

Last time Albion were at Villa Park, it ended in heartbreak as they missed out on the Championship title.

Albeit heartbreak which was eased by a trip to Vegas and a once-in-a-lifetime parade along the seafronts of Brighton and Hove.

So what issues face Villa now if they are to keep clear of the dogfight and leave three places up for grabs?

Their bright young English boss Dean Smith, a man who has fared well against Albion with Walsall and Brentford, will now be confident of keeping captain, talisman and hometown hero Jack Grealish, who was on the verge of joining Tottenham last year.

Villa’s new owners have the money and, now, the top-flight status to potentially make star loanees Tammy Abraham and Tyrone Mings permanent additions.

Striker Abraham might be needed at Chelsea but Bournemouth centre-half Mings, who put in a superb performance against Derby, is surely one to keep.

Axel Tuanzebe and Wembley goalscorer Anwar El Ghazi will also be hopeful of permanent deals with the Villains.

Smith has managed to reunite a club which was on its knees as it slid towards the drop three years ago.

The previously fragmented fanbase who jeered their team towards relegation were out in force and firmly behind their side in jubilant scenes at Wembley.

A pumped-up Villa faithful is a fearsome sight and should be worth an extra point or two next season.

Since the Premier League was formed in 1992, just 11 of the previous 27 play-off winners have stayed up the following season.

In the last ten seasons only Swansea, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Huddersfield beat the drop, and two of those have since been relegated.

By contrast, Blackburn, Ipswich, Leicester and West Ham (twice) have been promoted via the play-offs and then finished in the top ten.


The eve-of-season Racing Post special last summer gave the relegation odds and, looking back now, they were hauntingly accurate. Cardiff, Huddersfield and Fulham were generally favourites to go down.

There were exceptions. Coral and Ladbrokes had Watford at shorter odds than Fulham for the drop. But, by and large, the bookies got it right.