Even though he came into the game in electric form, who would have bet on a Carlos Tevez’s burst into Edwin Van Der Sar’s penalty area resulting in the goal that saved West Ham from relegation against 2007’s newly crowned Premier League champions? He sent Hammers fans home to London as relieved as they were jubilant; a mix bag of feelings reserved for those fortunate few who make the great escape.
At this stage, the Premier League relegation scrap is a tough place to find yourself. We’re approaching April and yet, at the time of writing, two losses and a draw could mathematically see 10th place AFC Bournemouth fall into the relegation zone where Southampton currently sit in 18th with a game in-hand.
With the top of the league all but wrapped up since Christmas, it’s here in the depths of relegation – through the sunken eyes of David Moyes, the cold winds of insecurity blowing through Huddersfield Town and the all-too-familiar threat of Championship football drawing Newcastle dangerously close to a relapse – that this campaign seems set to provide its real climactic moments.
But out of every side that has suffered relegation from England’s premier division, which teams have sunk the most? Since 1888, here are the most relegated top-flight sides:
10 top-flight relegations: Manchester City, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion
It’s easy to forget, while watching this season’s Manchester City play their beautifully devastating brand of football, just how often they floated in and out of the Premier League and old First Division not too long ago. Before Guardiola, there was Goater and co. suffering their 10th top-flight relegation in 2001.
Recent years haven’t been as kind to West Bromwich Albion, who sit bottom of this season’s Premier League and look unlikely to pull off an escape like Bryan Robson’s Baggies managed in 2004.
Similarly, Stoke City are dangerously close to ending their decade-long run in the Premier League, further limiting the chances of Lionel Messi ever getting to ‘do it’ there on a cold, windy Tuesday night.
11 top-flight relegations: Derby County, Leicester City and Middlesbrough
Leicester City’s reputation is fondly sealed in Premier League folklore, but on balance, their time spent in the top flight hasn’t always been so glorious. They last fell into the Championship in 2003/04. That season was also Claudio Ranieri’s final one in England before The Foxes brought him back to marshal their unforgettable campaign in 2015/16.
Joining them in joint-second with 11 top flight relegations each are Middlesbrough, who we all owe thanks to for gracing us with Juninho’s magic, and Derby County, whose Premier League years have never matched their back-to-back Division One titles in the seventies.
12 top-flight relegations: Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland AFC
Between them, these three sides have accumulated 216 seasons in England’s top tier, but they hold the joint-record for dropping out of it more times than anyone else.
Sunderland accumulated plenty of titles in the old First Division. Even in recent years, they always found a way to stay among England’s elite, whether through Jermaine Defoe’s ageless sharpness or – even more impressively – through Nikolas Bendter’s grand tally of eight league goals. Now, though, they are drowning in the depths of the Championship. After suffering their twelfth top-flight relegation last season, their next promotion may well come out of League One.
But on average…
Despite being members of this undesirable league, these nine clubs are some of the oldest in world football and have accumulated hundreds of seasons as one of England’s elite, so their relegation count doesn’t tell the whole story.
If we compare the abovementioned teams’ relegation averages, it is Leicester City who experience the highest rate of top-flight relegation – in nearly a quarter (22%) of their seasons spent playing there. Out of this season’s Premier League sides, Crystal Palace have the highest relegation average – dropping out in 6 of their 17 seasons (35%) in the first tier.
At the other end of the table?
Due to their recent debut in England’s top tier, AFC Bournemouth are the only club that haven’t been relegated from it, as things stand.
Looking further back at the league’s more seasoned teams, Coventry City’s one relegation in 34 top-flight seasons is the lowest, although they have not played in the Premier League since 2001.
And despite the doom and gloom that Arsenal Fan TV continues to treat onlookers to, Gunners fans have only had to endure one top-flight relegations in their club’s entire history – fewer than any of their elite rivals, including North London neighbours Tottenham who have suffered four.
*The top-flight seasons measured here account for the Football League (1888-1892), First Division (1892-1992), and Premier League (1992-2017).