A billionaire owner who swatted aside century long identity of the club for the sake of commercialism? Check. A much derided manager who was possibly one failure away from a premature retirement? Check. A team which languished at the very bottom of the Championship table without a solitary point as September began? Check. The three promoted teams to the Premier League class of 2013/14 encompass all the above riveting stories and more.

Cardiff City

How they got promoted?

After two successive years of playoffs heartbreak, Cardiff City, bankrolled by the Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, were a club on a mission this past season as they led the Championship all the way from November till the end and clinched promotion with 3 games to go. Their position at the top were never really threatened as the Bluebirds – rebranded to red last season – maintained a healthy lead over the chasing pack all throughout and unlike previous seasons, did not capitulate in closing stages.

The manager

It was no surprise to see Malky Mackay’s name being linked to the managerial post at Everton in the days following David Moyes’ exit. The 41 year old Scot has been immensely impressive since taking over at the beginning of 2011-12 season, when many predicted doom and gloom for the Welsh club. Mackay though guided the team, against all odds, to the playoffs where the limitations in the squad was eventually exposed by the much stronger West Ham. With owner Tan making funds available at start of the last season, Mackay, who turned down an approach from Norwich City during the same period, made a number of shrewd acquisitions to put the club firmly on the path to promotion.

The present squad

Cardiff City, under Mackay, have wholeheartedly embraced the philosophy of the team being greater than the sum of its components. Apart from an ageing Craig Bellamy, there may not be too many big names but on the pitch they have functioned exceedingly well as an efficient and cohesive unit.  It is at the back where the Bluebirds have been most impressive as goalkeeper David Marshall kept 18 clean sheets in the league. Mark Hudson, the skipper, had marshaled the defense excellently and was ably supported by his fellow centre-half Ben Turner. Heidar Helguson topped the scoring chart but only with 8 league goals whereas his strike partner Frazier Campbell has bagged 7 goals since his transfer in January. Paucity of goals from strikers – record signing Nicky Maynard sidelined for almost entire season due to  ruptured cruciate ligament did not help matters – have been compensated by the goal-scoring exploits of Peter Whittingham and Aron Gunnarsson ,7 goals each, from the midfield.

What they need?

Mackay has been assured of a £25 million transfer budget as he starts life as a Premier League manager. A substantial chunk of it would be needed to address the most glaring deficiency in the squad – the lack of a prolific goal-scorer. Lyon’s Bafetimbi Gomis may be the solution but Cardiff face competition from local rivals Swansea City for the French international. Darren Bent and Peter Odemwingie, both strikers with proven Premier League pedigree but presently out-of-favour at their respective clubs, are other viable alternatives. Elsewhere, the squad could do with some steel in the middle of the park in the form of a quality defensive midfielder and an improvement in the full back areas.

Hull City

How they got promoted?

In recent history, few teams have secured promotion as dramatically as Hull City did in a thrilling dénouement to the Championship season. Needing to match Watford’s result, Hull seemed well on their way to the Premier League when they were awarded a penalty in stoppage time against 10-men Cardiff while leading 2-1. What followed though was absolute madness as Nick Proschwitz had his spotkick saved and Cardiff promptly went up the other end to win a penalty of their own which was duly converted by Nicky Maynard. With the match finished all square, the Hull City players and fans had to endure 20 minutes of torturous tension as they waited for the conclusion of Watford’s delayed game against Leeds United. Only when the final whistle blew at Vicarage Road with the visitors winning 2-1, the celebrations at Humberside could begin in earnest.

The manager

Tigers’ promotion was redemption of sorts for manager Steve Bruce whose career had been written off by many after his dismissal at Sunderland. Eyebrows were raised in some quarters when Hull offered the former Manchester United defender a route back into the game but Bruce has vindicated the faith shown in him by Egyptian owner Assem Allam by becoming the first manager in the club’s 109 year history to win automatic promotion to the top flight. The 52 year old Englishman demonstrated his tactical acumen in deploying a 3-5-2 formation designed to get the best of new signings Ahmed Elmohamady and Stephen Quinn. Bruce also seems to have been able to get the best out of winger Robbie Brady – Hull’s best player since the turn of the year – whose form came under fierce criticism in the previous season.

The present squad

Even though he has operated on a shoestring budget, Bruce has been canny enough to assemble a squad good enough to finish near the top of the Championship table through some astute loan deals. Among the permanent members of the squad though there is a real dearth of Premier League quality talent. A case can be made for the likes of Brady, David Meyler and Liam Rosenior but beyond that the squad looks distinctly threadbare.

What they need?

Allan McGregor: Incoming?

A lot to be honest, but with not much funds expected to be available, Bruce will have to yet again scour the loan market to address all the requirements. With David Stockdale returning to parent club Fulham, a goalkeeper is the most pressing requirement at KC Stadium. The names of Kasper Schemeichel and Costel Pantilimon have been whispered but it seems that Allan McGregor is the preferred choice as talks have been progressing well with Besiktas. The Tigers are also reportedly close to signing Maynor Figueroa from angry who would add much needed top flight nous to the squad. After the success enjoyed by Elmohamady last season, it is perhaps no wonder that both the club and the interested in making the deal permanent. The club’s search for a quality striker suffered a setback with Celtic rejecting a £4.5 million offer for Gary Hooper and Anderlecht’s Dieumerci Mbokani preferring a move to Dynamo Kiev instead. Whatever happens, it goes without saying that a lot of hard work needs to be done behind the scenes at KC Stadium to give Hull City a fighting chance to survive in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace

How they got promoted?

Among the three promoted teams, Crystal Palace had the most eventful season in which they started the campaign with 3 straight defeats, then went on a 14 match undefeated streak to propel themselves to the top of the table in November, lost their manager in between, suffered couple of wobbles over the festive period and in early March and finally gained promotion via the playoff route. They might have been frustratingly inconsistent over the course of the season, but when it mattered most they came up with the trumps as they emerged worthy winners against first Brighton & Hove Albion in the semifinals and then against favourites Watford in the final at Wembley.

 The manager

Palace started the season under Dougie Freedman but were left in the lurch when Freedman agreed to take over Bolton in November. In walked the charismatic Ian Holloway, the man who had guided Blackpool to the playoffs final the previous season. Even though Palace’s form floundered initially under the new manager, the appointment turned out to be a sound one as Holloway’s previous experience of Championship playoffs – he had had success with Blackpool in 2009-10 – proved ultimately crucial.

The present squad

Wilfried Zaha, the star of the playoffs, was the one who grabbed the most headlines with his pace and trickery in the wings tormenting many a defenders and securing him a dream move to Manchester United. Mile Jedinak, the Australian midfielder, was immense all throughout the season whereas Glenn Murray became the first Palace player to score 30 goals in a season in half a century before his season was cut short by a knee injury. Elsewhere, Julian Speroni – the lone survivor from the club’s last spell in top flight – was impressive in goal and Yannick Bolasie complemented Zaha well on the opposite flank.

What they need?

Manager Holloway’s comments the current squad were on ‘hiding to nothing’ in the Premier League notwithstanding, the bulk of the financial windfall achieved through promotion is likely to be diverted towards redevelopment of Selhurst Park instead of strengthening the squad. With whatever little that will be left in the transfer kitty, Holloway will have to look towards the best that Championship has to offer in trying to find a replacement for Zaha, a strike partner for Murray (who may miss a fair chunk of the season with the injury suffered) and to add some quality in the midfield and defense. Talks of signing Nicklas Bendtner sound fanciful; whereas Holloway raiding his former club Blackpool for the likes of Tom Ince, Matt Phillips and Ludovic Sylvestre seems more plausible.