The demotion season is upon us. In the next few weeks three teams will drop out of the Premier League, to be replaced by Fulham (promoted this week) and two others. As it stands it will be Norwich City, Watford and Burnley going down, but just how long is it since each of the 20 clubs currently in the Premier League last experienced relegation? Because make no mistake, they all have, just some more recently than others.
TWO YEARS AGO
Norwich City & Watford, 2020
Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. Norwich are almost certain to seal a record sixth relegation from the Premier League and a ninth from the top-flight overall (Birmingham City hold all-time the record with 12) while Watford are about to leave the Premier League for the fourth time and the top-flight for the fifth time. Two years ago Norwich and Watford went down alongside Bournemouth, who look likely to return to the Premier League alongside Fulham, a club who were replaced by Norwich in both 2019 and 2021. Will this eternal shuffle continue next season?
SIX YEARS AGO
Aston Villa & Newcastle United, 2016
Two clubs who engage in a minor rivalry departed together in 2016. Until then Villa had been ever-present members of the Premier League and had last exited the English top-flight in 1986-87, finishing rock bottom before bouncing back immediately under the newly-installed guidance of Graham Taylor. They narrowly stayed up in 1989 and then finished as runners-up in 1990, powered by Italia 90’s David Platt. 2016 was Newcastle’s second Premier League relegation, though, having also gone down in 2008-09. Unlike some clubs, United seem to have perfected the art of a quick dip in the second tier before returning to the main pool, and have been immediately promoted back as champions in both 2010 (under Chris Hughton) and 2017 (under Rafael Benitez).
SEVEN YEARS AGO
Seven years ago Burnley were relegated but this time they kept patience with Sean Dyche who brought them back up the following season and remained in charge of the club until last week. Seven points from their last three games in 2014-15 wasn’t enough to save Clarets as they paid the price for an opening 10 matches in which they only took four. If Burnley if do go down this season it will be their seventh top-flight relegation overall, but they remain one of only five clubs to win all four English divisions at one point or other (along with Preston, Sheffield United, Portsmouth and Wolves), which is nice.
10 YEARS AGO
And talking of Wolves, this year marks 10 years since they last suffered a top-flight demotion, failing to win a single game after a 2-1 away win at QPR in early February, sacking manager Mick McCarthy after the following game (an admittedly hard to swallow 5-1 home defeat to arch-rivals West Bromwich Albion) before not being able to replace him for the remainder of the campaign, leaving his assistant Terry Connor to run the season down. Under Stale Solbakken and then Dean Saunders in 2012-13 they went down to League One but are now back and established as a top-half Premier League club.
11 YEARS AGO
West Ham United, 2011
This was West Ham’s second Premier League relegation (after the “too good to go down” side of 2002-03) and their sixth from the English top-flight overall. The Hammers were one of three teams who were involved in the creation of the FA Premier League who didn’t get a chance to play in it because they were relegated in May 1992. The other two were Notts County and Luton Town, neither of whom have played a single match in the Premier League, although that may change for Luton next season. West Ham planned for a return to the Premier League in 2011 by signing the millennial Kevin Nolan, who would later go on to manage Notts County, but not Luton.
17 YEARS AGO
Southampton & Crystal Palace: 2005
2005 was the start of some dire times for Southampton, who slipped all the way down to the third tier following this demotion in 2005. It’s the second of only two top-flight relegations for Saints, which given they have played 45 seasons in the top-flight, is pretty decent. 2021-22 is only Crystal Palace’s 22nd top-flight season yet they have gone down six times, with this relegation in 2005 the final instalment of four relegations in four Premier League campaigns (1993, 1995, 1998 & 2005). Times have changed, though, and since they returned to the top division in 2013, they have been here ever since, never finishing lower than 15th.
18 YEARS AGO
Leeds United & Leicester City, 2004
Leeds won the title in the 1990s, Leicester would do so in the 2010s but neither side enjoyed the 2000s that much. Leeds’ relegation in 2004 was the culmination of woeful financial management in the early 2000s. Leicester’s was more down to the footballing meltdown that many clubs experienced in the post-Martin O’Neill era but either way, by 2008-09 the sides would be playing each other in League One. Once the decline begins, it can be hard to arrest. Or, if you’re Leicester City, you can be champions of England only seven years later. Up to you.
21 YEARS AGO
Manchester City, 2001
Manchester City’s 10th, and possibly final, relegation from the English top-flight came back in 2001 under the managership of Joe Royle. They went down with Coventry and Bradford as part of the country’s first ever triple-City top-flight demotion and it came only five years after they had gone down from the Premier League under Alan Ball. City, of course, remain the only reigning champions to get relegated (1938) and have also been relegated from the top-flight twice in seasons in which they’ve scored 100+ goals (1926 & 1963). City used to do notable relegations. Now? Not so much.
34 YEARS AGO
We are into the murky pre-1992 era now and the most recent of the Premier League ever-presents to go down from the top-flight are Chelsea, and the only team in this list to do so in a play-off. A curious campaign with an odd number of teams (21) due to an administrative desire to relegate four sides and bring three up (to reduce the division to 20 sides, only to put it back up to 22 in 1991), Chelsea came 18th and were plunged into a play-off with Blackburn who had come fifth in the Second Division. Dispatching Rovers 6-1 across two matches, Chelsea then faced Middlesbrough in the two-legged final, losing 2-0 in the away leg before recording a futile 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge. Did the home fans take it well? Not very. Did they bounce back at the first attempt? Very much so.
39 YEARS AGO
Brighton had four seasons in the top-flight between 1979 and 1983, two in the two points for a win era, two in the breathtaking three points for a win era that followed it. They are now in their fifth Premier League campaign yet in none of the previous eight campaigns have they finished higher than 13th, so a top half finish for Graham Potter’s team this season would be a new paradigm for the Sussex outfit. In 1982-83 they won nine league games, in 2017-18 they won nine league games, in 2018-19 they won nine league games, in 2019-20 they won nine league games, in 2020-21 they won league games and there was the incident with the seagull. How many have they won so far in 2021-22? Nine, of course.
45 YEARS AGO
Tottenham Hotspur, 1977
Just 16 years after doing the league and FA Cup double, Spurs were relegated from the top-flight. This despite winning 12 games (as many as 11th placed Leicester City) in 1976-77. Tottenham would spend just one season languishing in the second tier before bouncing back to the top-flight. They are yet to become champions of England for a third time, though they did end 2016-17 as both top scorers and the team with the best defence, one of only two sides in English top-flight history to do that and not win the league.
48 YEARS AGO
Manchester United, 1974
The other side to achieve that best attack/best defence/no title combo? Manchester United in 1997-98. By then United had emerged as the strongest and biggest Premier League side, so were able to shrug it off by winning the treble in the following campaign, but their first Premier League title in 1993 came only 29 years after they had been sensationally relegated from the First Division. Champions in 1967 and European Cup winners a year later, United struggled to cope with the departure of a manager who had built the club into a dominant force, going through a series of different managers who were unable to replicate Matt Busby’s era-defining achievements. Like Spurs later in the decade, United spent just one – high-spirited – season in the second tier before returning to the top table, where they have been, for better or worse, ever since.
68 YEARS AGO
Manchester United’s great rivals Liverpool have been ever-presents in the English top-flight since 1962-63 but it took them eight seasons to get out of the Second Division after relegation in 1954. They came 11th in 1955 but then came frustratingly near-miss finishes of third-third-fourth-fourth-third-third before Bill Shankly’s team became second tier champions in 1962. Liverpool have since won the top-flight title 14 times, to go with the five they won between 1901 and 1947. It’s unlikely to change any time soon but Liverpool have three relegations from the top division, with 1895 and 1904 preceding 1954.
71 YEARS AGO
Everton have played more top-flight seasons than any other English club – 2021-22 is their 119th – but that doesn’t mean they’ve never gone down. First in 1930, with Dixie Dean in their squad, and then most recently in 1951, finishing rock bottom despite being apparently safe in 15th (of 22 clubs) in late February. They didn’t return until 1954 but have been top-flight mainstays ever since, with a 19th place finish in 1980 their lowest, along with 17th places in 1973, 1994, 1998 and 2004. Currently in 17th place in the 2021-22 Premier League, the club would almost certainly accept that gladly at the end of the season.
75 YEARS AGO
It seems reasonable to suggest that anyone that can clearly remember Brentford being relegated from the top-flight is into their 80s now, and there must be hardly anyone left who can remember the club finishing as London’s top side in 1935-36. None of these theoretical pensioners are going to witness Brentford going down in 2022 either, the Bees recent Christian Eriksen-inspired form keeping them well out of trouble as the season reaches its conclusion.
109 YEARS AGO
Few football myths have endured as long as the one that states Arsenal have never been relegated. In reality Arsenal finished bottom of the First Division in 1913 and then played, as per the rules, two seasons in the second tier before World War One paused the game for four years. Some claim that as they were Woolwich Arsenal in 1913 it is not the same club, but if moving stadiums within the same city invalidates all previous matches & records then the same logic means that Arsenal, who moved from Highbury to the Emirates in 2006, have never been champions of England. And that’s a claim that’s heard a lot less.