5 Most Upsetting Premier League Relegations
5 Most Upsetting Premier League Relegations
Everton, Leicester and Leeds will engage in a fierce battle to avoid relegation when the 2022-23 Premier League season concludes on Sunday. Two sets of fans are set to endure heartbreak, while the third fanbase will jubilantly celebrate a great escape. Every relegation from the top flight is painful, but it is perhaps expected at yo-yo clubs like West Brom and Norwich. It would be a different matter entirely for a Premier League stalwart like Everton or Leicester. That inspired us to delve into the history books and explore the five most devastating relegations of all time.
Wimbledon’s 14-year stint in the top flight came to a brutal end in 2000. They went into the final day of the season level on points with relegation rivals Bradford City, but they boasted a superior goal difference. Wimbledon were the clear favourites to survive, as Bradford had to take on a Liverpool side featuring the likes of Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Jamie Carragher. However, David Wetherall scored a powerful header in the 12th minute and then produced a titanic defensive performance to keep the Reds at bay. Meanwhile, Wimbledon lost 2-0 to Southampton, and they were relegated.
It marked the end of one of the most remarkable rags-to-riches stories in English football history. The club joined the EFL in 1977, starting out in the fourth tier, and it took them just nine years to reach the top flight. The Crazy Gang then captured the imagination by beating Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final, led by colourful characters such as Vinnie Jones, Dennis Wise, John Fashanu, Lawrie Sanchez and Dave Beasant. They were fixtures in the Premier League from its inception in 1992, and they even played in Europe during the 1995-96 campaign.
However, their decline began when manager Joe Kinnear resigned with health problems in the summer of 1999. They struggled under replacement Egil Olsen, and he was sacked with two games remaining. Terry Burton was parachuted in, but he could not turn things around. Wimbledon languished in the second tier for four years, and they were then relegated again in 2004 after finishing bottom of the league.
They rebranded as Milton Keynes Dons that summer and relocated to Buckinghamshire – a very unusual move in English football. MK Dons ended up in League Two – the fourth tier – by 2007, but they are currently plying their trade in League One. After the club announced their decision to leave south London, fans set up AFC Wimbledon, which started out in the Combined Counties League. A series of promotions ensued, and they ended up competing with MK Dons in League One.
Crystal Palace, 2005
The Eagles have been relegated from the Premier League three times since the old First Division was rebranded in 1992. Their fans have suffered a fair amount of heartbreak, but Crystal Palace’s 2005 relegation was especially upsetting. On the final day of the campaign, all four of the teams at the bottom of the table still had a shot at survival. Norwich were thrashed 6-0 at Fulham, while Southampton suffered a 2-1 defeat against Man Utd, sealing their fate. That left a straight fight for salvation between Palace and West Brom, who had started the day rock bottom of the standings.
The Baggies managed to beat Portsmouth 2-0 courtesy of goals from Geoff Horsfield and Kieran Richardson, throwing the gauntlet down to Palace. Iain Dowie’s men responded with a swashbuckling performance against Charlton at The Valley. They went 1-0 down following Bryan Hughes’ early opener, but Dowie threw on veteran striker Dougie Freedman, who turned the game on its head. He fired in an equaliser within two minutes of coming off the bench, and he then won a penalty, which Andy Johnson converted. The Eagles were eight minutes from safety, only for Charlton’s Jonathan Fortune to head in a free-kick. Freedman almost won it at the death for Palace, but Addicks goalkeeper Dean Kiely made a superb save, and Palace were relegated, sparking a pitch invasion from euphoric West Brom fans at The Hawthorns.
Sheffield United, 2007
Sheff Utd’s relegation to the Championship in 2007 still rankles fans to this day. The Blades were above West Ham in the table as they went into the final day of the season, and they knew they would be safe if Man Utd beat the Hammers. However, the Red Devils had already clinched the Premier League title at that point, and despite sending out a strong team spearheaded by Wayne Rooney, they succumbed to a 1-0 defeat courtesy of Carlos Tevez’s strike. Meanwhile, the Blades lost 2-1 to Wigan and they ended up going down.
Then the real drama began. It transpired that West Ham had breached the league’s third-party ownership rules by signing Tevez – who banged in eight goals in 10 games towards the end of the season to keep the Hammers afloat – and compatriot Javier Mascherano on loan. Sheff Utd fans were incensed, and they marched upon the Houses of Parliament in protest. West Ham ultimately had to pay Sheff Utd £18 million in compensation after the clubs came to an out of court settlement. It took them 12 years to return to the Premier League after that relegation, and some fans will never forgive or forget.
Pompey’s fairy-tale rise to prominence came to a dramatic end when they finished bottom of the Premier League table in 2010. They had emerged as one of the division’s great entertainers during their seven-year stay in the top flight. Their zenith came in 2008, when they finished eighth in the standings and won the FA Cup under Harry Redknapp’s management. The team featured the likes of David James, Sol Campbell, Sylvain Distin, Lassana Diarra, Niko Kranj¿ar, Sulley Muntari and Nwankwo Kanu.
Yet the club fell into financial trouble amid allegations of asset stripping against owner Alexandre Gaydamak, who sold to Sulaiman Al Fahim in the summer of 2009. Al-Fahim’s ownership lasted just 40 days, and Ali Al-Faraj then bought the club. The squad suffered from a lack of investment, and Portsmouth were docked nine points after entering administration. They picked up just seven wins in 38 games, and they finished bottom of the pile. Pompey are now marooned in League One along with MK Dons, and their FA Cup triumph in 2008 is but a distant memory.
Wigan suffered one of the most bizarre relegations of all time at the end of the 2012-13 Premier League season. They produced a stunning fightback to beat West Brom 3-2 at The Hawthorns at the start of May that year, leaving their destiny in their own hands. However, they then lost by the same scoreline to Swansea three days later, which left them on the brink. They were three points adrift of safety, with just two matches remaining.
However, the Latics then had to put the relegation battle to one side and prepare for an FA Cup final against Man City. Their oil-rich opponents boasted the likes of Tevez, Sergio Agüero, Sami Nasri, Yaya Touré, David Silva and Vincent Kompany, so Wigan were huge underdogs. Yet they produced one of the most heroic defensive performances in FA Cup history, keeping Tevez and Agüero at bay for 90 minutes. Substitute Ben Watson then popped up with a last-gasp goal in injury-time to hand Wigan a 1-0 victory, earning them their first ever major trophy.
Fans hoped that Wigan’s players could produce more heroics when the battle for survival resumed a few days later. The Latics needed to avoid defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates in their penultimate game to stay in with a shot, but they were apparently worn out by their efforts against Man City. They slumped to a 4-1 loss against a Gunners side inspired by Lukas Podolski, which sent them down. A 2-2 draw with Aston Villa on the final day of the season was inconsequential, as they ended up 18th, three points behind rivals Sunderland.
The following season, Wigan were playing in the Championship and the Europa League. They veered from big European evenings to games against the likes of Doncaster Rovers and Yeovil Town, making it a very strange season. They reached the playoffs that year, but they could not bounce back to the Premier League, and they also finished bottom of their Europa League group. The Latics are currently yo-yoing between the Championship and League One, but they will always cherish the memory of that FA Cup triumph.
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