Thomas Sorensen or Jurgen Macho in goal. A back four permed from Glen Johnson, Jody Craddock, Gary Breen, Emerson Thome, Michael Gray and Nigel Winterburn. A midfield drawn from Trevor Sinclair, Paolo Di Canio, Joe Cole, Gavin McCann, Stefan Schwarz and Lee Bowyer. A forward pairing taken from Frederic Kanoute, Kevin Phillips, Les Ferdinand, David Bellion and Tore Andre Flo.
It is not a bad squad, given that they all suffered relegation with either West Ham or Sunderland last season. Assuming Phillips, Gray and Schwarz complete their moves from the Stadium of Light they will not, though, be around to help remedy that failure this time out. This is not, apart from some obvious exceptions, because the West Ham manager, Glenn Roeder, and his Sunderland counterpart, Mick McCarthy, did not want them. It is because the clubs cannot afford them.
Relegation has never been pleasant but since the introduction of the Premiership it has become catastrophic. Excluding the trio demoted last season, 21 clubs have been relegated from the league. Of these 15 remain outside it and all have suffered financial crises, with the majority going into administration. Barnsley, Oldham, Queen's Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday and Swindon were affected so badly that they now languish in the lower divisions. Even of the six who are now back in the Premiership, Bolton, Leicester and Manchester City flirted with bankruptcy first.
This is the spectre facing three-quarters of the Premiership clubs kicking off this weekend. After West Ham and Leeds plummeted from seventh and fifth to, respectively, relegation and a close escape last season, only Liverpool and the Champions' League quartet can regard themselves as safe.
Yet the majority of the chairmen who collectively run the Premier League are in denial. How else to explain the continued myopia when it comes to distributing television and other income?
Relegation prompts meltdown because of the financial chasm between the Premiership and the First Division. Relegated clubs lose up to three-quarters of their income, a shortfall which can only be made up by selling players - as much to slash the wage bill as to bring in fees. This despite going from a 38-match league programme to a 46-match one.
These figures take into account the parachute payment [an estimated pounds 5m this season] relegated clubs receive for two seasons to soften the blow. This entails half the basic pay-out received by Premiership clubs from Sky - but it is not as valuable as it sounds. Television income is split three ways: a basic pay- out, TV appearance money and a merit payment based on finishing positions.
Thus, last season, newly relegated Ipswich received pounds 4.7m, but the lowest pay-out to a Premiership club was pounds 13.4m and the average …