Top 10 Relegation Escapes
The Premier League title race will always grab the most headlines but there is no doubt the relegation battle can provide just as much drama. Near enough every season provides tension at the foot of the table and one side regularly rises from that relegation scrap with their heads held high having defied the odds. Here we look at the 10 most incredible survival stories in Premier League history.
The Swans were in deep trouble when Paul Clement took over on January 3 – bottom of the table and having lost their last four games. However, his arrival made a serious impact and they won three times before the month was over including a thrilling victory away at Liverpool who had been in great form. Then the bubble seemed to have burst and as crunch time came closer they went six games without a win, slipping back into the relegation zone with just three games to go. That is when they showed their nerve, though, they already seemed to have regained some form, picking up four points from their previous two games, then as Hull above them stumbled they won twice more to secure survival with a game to spare.
Paul Jewell’s men had never actually been bottom of the table but they had been in the relegation zone from January 3 all the way till April 21 when they drew with Derby to break a six-game losing run. At this point they were 19th and odds-on to go down but then came an incredible surge which included three stunning wins from their last four games. The Bantams hadn’t won for nearly three months when they travelled to Sunderland (who finished 7th that season) and the Yorkshiremen picked up a win. They then won a six-pointer against Wimbledon, lost to Leicester and survived on the final day by beating high-flying Liverpool. A classic final day relegation escape.
It is remarkable how many teams can muster a string of results at the business end of the season when they had seemed incapable of doing so all campaign before that. Having won three in 20 games, Southampton looked dead and buried, bottom of the table with seven matches left to play, but then came the bounce. Unbelievably they won four and drew two of their next six taking them to 41 points which proved to be enough, despite a final day loss to Aston Villa.
Things were not going well for Portsmouth in 2005-06. At Christmas they had won just three games and although Harry Redknapp had made a dramatic return to the dugout, things still looked very bad. From New Year’s Day to March 10 Pompey played eight games, losing seven, drawing one and scoring just three goals, relegation was a certainty with 10 games to go as they were adrift of safety by eight points. Then out of nowhere they found their scoring boots and results started to come. Having not won for two-and-a-half months they won three on the spin, scoring nine in the process. Redknapp led the side to six wins and two draws from their last 10 to survive by four points as Birmingham, West Brom and Sunderland fell out of the top flight.
West Ham 2006-07
It shows how dramatic their escape from relegation was that West Ham signing Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano wasn’t the most memorable part of the campaign. The Argentinians arrived at Upton Park but didn’t make a great impact and the Hammers were bottom of the pile with 10 games to play and 10 points from safety. Their next game was a morale-crushing 4-3 loss to Spurs and that seemed to put the final nail in the coffin of their Premier League campaign. Then came a Tevez-inspired explosion which ended with seven wins from the next nine with Carlitos banging in six in that time, including the winner at Old Trafford on the final day of the season which secured safety.
Oldham were a thrilling team to have in the Premier League back in the earlier 90s and their last day survival in 1993 suited their entertaining tendencies. The Latics were in the drop zone with three games to play and, winless in four, things were not looking good. They had tough games to come, including away to Aston Villa who were battling for the title. The Lancastrians won at Villa Park then beat Liverpool in a 3-2 thriller to take the season right to the final day. They needed to win and hope Crystal Palace lost to Arsenal. The Gunners duly hammered the Eagles 3-0 and Oldham came through 4-3 over Southampton. Finishing 19th (out of 22 at the time) the Latics were only out-scored by Blackburn and Manchester United that season.
The Black Cats started the season with Paolo Di Canio in charge and it was truly a disastrous start to the campaign as they picked up just one point from their first eight matches. As they lost 4-0 to Swansea on October 19, most had written them off already. Gus Poyet had taken over by this point and he did improve things, but the Mackems still remained in the relegation zone from Matchday 3 to Matchday 22 of the season. A brief revival saw them emerge from the bottom three at the end of January but five straight losses in March and April left them rock bottom with six games to play. They had only won six games out of 32 before that so it was a huge ask, but they drew the first then won four on the spin, including beating Chelsea and Manchester United away to stay up with a game in hand. Remarkable.
West Brom 2004-05
The Baggies became the first team to survive the drop having been bottom at Christmas, and it was an unusual relegation escape for not just that reason. West Brom won just six games all campaign, drawing an incredible 16 matches. They were hard to beat but couldn’t pick up three points regularly, a combination that saw them in an incredibly tight relegation battle. They went into the final day without a win in six and needing victory to survive. Given how few wins they had managed there were few confident they would beat Portsmouth in the last contest but they duly did. Crystal Palace could only draw at Charlton and that kept Brian Robson’s side in the top flight by just one point.
The season before Leicester won the Premier League title, it is easy to forget just how close they came to being relegated to the Championship. From September 22 to April 3, the Foxes won just two out of 23 Premier League games and sat rock bottom of the table from November 29 all the way to April 11. With nine games to go they really needed a miracle and most were shocked that Nigel Pearson had retained his job as manager. The decision to keep him on was vindicated, though, as they won seven of their last nine matches, eventually finishing 14th. Leicester had picked up more points in their last nine than they did in their first 29 games, an incredible recovery.
The west Londoners got the season underway with a narrow loss at Arsenal and then a win over Bolton at Craven Cottage – a very decent start. They then won just one of their next 22 league games and things did not look so good. With five games to play, and with Roy Hodgson now at the helm, Fulham were still six points from safety. Then, out of nowhere, they won four out of those five, including coming from 2-0 down to beat Manchester City away, to survive by goal difference. They won just eight games all season and four of those came in the last five games – unreal.