7 Best Premier League Debut Campaigns
Both Brighton and Huddersfield are making their debuts in the Premier League this season, both with the sole aim of avoiding relegation straight back to the Championship. Plenty have achieved that goal before them and some have gone on to bigger and better things in their first campaign in the Premier League. Here are the seven best debut seasons in the division – and for clarity, we are not including the inaugural Premier League season, in which it was every team’s first crack at it.
7. Middlesbrough 1995-96 – 12th
It was an exciting time for Middlesbrough as they embarked on their first season in the Premier League, which was also their first season at the Riverside Stadium. In came the likes of Nick Barmby and, most excitingly, Juninho who arrived from Sao Paulo for just under £5 million. These signings looked to have made a huge impact as Boro were fourth in the table after losing just once in their first 10 matches, winning six on the spin. Things tailed off after this superb start, but it was still a very solid finish of 12th for the newly-promoted side having never really have flirted with relegation at all.
6. Stoke City 2008-09 – 12th
Tony Pulis set the tone for Stoke City’s Premier League tenure in the club’s first season in the big time, securing a mid-table finish which they have continued to achieve every season since. It was a slow start for the Potters, winning just one of their first seven league matches, but huge wins over Spurs and Arsenal before Christmas got them going. They went on to have a cracking end to the season and end with 12 wins for the campaign. Stoke’s direct style, most notably Rory Delap’s long throws, caused havoc for some opponents, and it was more than enough to establish them as a Premier League force.
5. Swansea City 2011-12 – 11th
Not only had Swansea not been in the Premier League before, but they had spent much of the last 20 years languishing in the lower reaches of the Football League, flirting more with the Conference than the top flight. They had an attractive style, though, and a number of players and a manager that would go on to bigger and better things. Brendan Rodgers started slowly, the Swans not scoring in their first four league games, but they managed 12 wins and an 11th place finish. The likes of Ashley Williams, Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson have been plucked from that side and thrown into bigger clubs, largely because of that impressive first season in the Premier League.
4. Wigan 2005-06 – 10th
Similar to the Swans, Wigan had looked more likely to be a non-league outfit than a Premier League side in recent years, but they found themselves amongst the elite in 2005, and they were far from embarrassed. Paul Jewell’s men lost their first two games but then went on a stunning run of eight wins and a draw in their next nine, which made them more likely to challenge for Europe than battle relegation. They couldn’t quite keep up that pace but finished an extremely respectable 10th, winning 15 matches in their debut Premier League season. The Latics also managed a run to the League Cup final in what was a wonderful season for the club. They lost 4-0 to Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium, but nevertheless, it was a great achievement.
3. Reading 2006-07 – 8th
Steve Coppell led Reading into the Premier League in 2006 and his team looked completely comfortable amongst the big boys – winning their opening game against Middlesbrough and never looking back. 16 wins in a debut Premier League season is a fantastic return, as is 52 goals scored, which came thanks to the likes of Leroy Lita and Kevin Doyle, who both reached double figures. There were no star names in the team but they played an exciting brand of football and ended 8th in the table, just one point off a UEFA Cup spot.
2. Leicester 1996-97 – 9th + League Cup
Martin O’Neill was building an excellent reputation as a manager having taken Leicester City into the Premier League and his standing in the game was sky high by the end of that campaign. The Foxes consistently picked up points throughout the season to achieve a 9th-place finish, above the likes of Spurs, Everton and Blackburn Rovers – who had won the league in recent memory. Their league campaign was impressively solid but the season will be best remembered for their League Cup win, which was the icing on the cake. Steve Claridge scored the only goal of the final replay against Middlesbrough to delight the Leicester fans who had enjoyed a fabulous season.
1. Newcastle 1993-94 – 3rd
Easily the best debut season in the Premier League came from Newcastle United when they took the division by storm with hugely entertaining and successful displays. Kevin Keegan’s side were almost guaranteed to produce goals, thanks largely to Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley up top who scored 55 between them in the league. Newcastle finished as top scorers in the Premier League with 82 goals, it was only their lack of clean sheets at the other end that cost them the title. The Magpies finished third in the end, immediately establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the top flight. They ended 15 points behind champions Manchester United but their devastating ability to find the back of the net made them the team to watch, then and for the next few seasons to come.