x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Birmingham face a fight to stay in the Premier League

Birmingham City will join Wigan Athletic and West Ham United in being relegated from the Premier League

Just 10 points separate the bottom 13 clubs in the Premier League. I don't think Bolton Wanderers, in seventh place, would appreciate being described as a bottom team, but they head a sizeable group who will not have written off the prospect of relegation.

Bolton have done well, but yesterday I spoke to a friend who plays there and he was well aware they have not won for four league games and need a victory to avoid slipping down into a relegation battle.

Credit to Owen Coyle, their manager, that they got enough points on the board early on to still be in seventh after a poor run.

Bolton will not go down, nor will Stoke City who also have 30 points.

Stoke still play long-ball football, but Tony Pulis has established them as a Premier League side and now they enjoy the stability of television revenues to be able to buy players.

Kenwyne Jones was a top signing for them and with sell-out crowds of 27,000 most weeks, Stoke look settled in the top flight.

Newcastle United are in ninth because Chris Hughton won so many points early on, before he was sacked as manager.

Alan Pardew has had a good start and keeping Newcastle up will do for now. The key will be building on it next season.

A team with 50,000-plus crowds should not view staying up as enough. I know how high expectations are up there from when I played at St James' Park.

Blackpool, in 10th, have been the success story of the season. Not only have they shocked everyone by winning so many games on a tiny budget, but they play attractive football too, their great attitude personified by Ian Holloway, their manager.

Charlie Adam has been a revelation in midfield and I can see why other teams are chasing him. I think they can kick on from this, plus they still have two games in hand on most other teams.

My old club Blackburn Rovers are in 11th. Steve Kean has begun well as I said he would in this column a few weeks ago: he's a good coach and no fool.

They will stay up - as will Everton and Liverpool below them.

It is bizarre to be talking about the Merseyside giants as relegation candidates, but they are only four points above the drop zone.

I would expect both to move up the table, though Liverpool need to improve their dreadful away form of a single win.

Only Wolverhampton Wanderers have picked up fewer points on the road.

Everton will miss the creative Steven Pienaar, who joined Tottenham Hotspur this week, but they usually start the season poorly and finish strongly.

Promoted West Bromwich Albion are in 14th. I think they will stay up, deservedly so given their entertaining football under Roberto Di Matteo.

They gave Manchester United, the league leaders, a real scare at Old Trafford earlier this season and were unlucky to lose to them at The Hawthorns.

Fulham, another of my old clubs, are nervous in 15th, just a point above the drop. My old teammate Mark Hughes is a good manager who will keep them up. They will strengthen as his influence takes hold.

The club I fear for is Birmingham City in 16th. They're struggling for goals - just 10 at home in 11 games.

It is a bit of a shock to see their neighbours Aston Villa in 17th, especially because their young side can play so well.

Without a win in six games, they have spent heavily in the transfer window in desperation - £24 million (Dh140m) on Darren Bent from Sunderland - but their problems started when Martin O'Neill left as manager in August.

Word was that the club's owners would not back him in the transfer market. They have no choice but to back Gerrard Houllier now.

Villa will survive, but I can see two of the teams below them in the relegation zone going down.

Wigan Athletic have flirted with the drop too many times. Roberto Martinez, their manager, is a good man and says the right things. He knows football and his sides play well, but two wins from 12 home games is relegation form - if you can't pick up wins at home then you're gone.

Wolves are in 19th and have the worst away record in the league, but I think that a team good enough to go and win at Anfield is good enough to stay up.

Mick McCarthy, the manager, just needs to get a run together which his team are capable of.

West Ham United are bottom and have been for most of the season. People are blaming Avram Grant, just as they blamed Gianfranco Zola, their last manager. They are accusing the wrong people.

West Ham spent very badly when their new owners came in and players on huge contracts, like South Africa striker Benni McCarthy, have hardly played.

Those who have started have not come close to playing as well as they can. The players have got West Ham into the mess they are in. Can they get out of it? I doubt it and think they will go down with Wigan and Birmingham.

 

Andrew Cole is the second-leading goal-scorer in Premier League history. His column is written with the assistance of correspondent Andy Mitten