It’s been expected for months now, but Fulham finally sealed promotion back to the Premier League last week with a 3-0 home win over Preston North End. Following a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth on Saturday, they have scored 99 league goals with three games remaining. It’s seems almost certain that they’ll enter the 100-goal club of clubs in 2021-22, but who will they be joining?
Marco Silva’s Fulham side seem set to become the 24th team to score 100 plus goals in a single season in the English second tier, and the first since Manchester City 20 years ago.
That Man City team were led by Kevin Keegan and stormed to the title with 99 points from 46 games, just a season after being relegated from the top-flight under Joe Royle. Shaun Goater was the main source of goals, with 28 for the Champions – enough to win him the golden boot that season in Division One. Across the last 55 years of the EFL second tier, City are one of only two teams to reach the 100-goal mark, along with Bolton Wanderers in 1996-97.
That Bolton team scored their 100th goal of the league season in their final game – a 2-2 away draw at Tranmere, with Jamie Pollock scoring with 13 minutes remaining. Unfortunately for Colin Todd’s outfit, the home side equalised in injury time to stop Bolton from becoming the first team in EFL history to score 100 goals and reach 100 points, but their 98-point tally was still enough to win the second division title by a huge 18 points ahead of Barnsley.
Southampton in 1963-64 and Ipswich Town in 1960-61 also scored 100 goals in their 42-game seasons within the second tier. Spare a though for Saints, though – their 100 goals only helped them finish fifth that season.
In terms of goals per game, Small Heath’s (aka Birmingham City) title-winning 1892-93 season saw them score 90 goals in just 22 games – the only team in English league history to average at least four goals per game (4.09). Small – or should that be massive – Heath went on to lose a test match against Newton Heath (aka Manchester United) at the end of that season, meaning they were to remain in the second tier despite winning the title. They then followed this up in 1893-94 with 103 goals in 28 matches at a rate of 3.68 goals per game (the second-highest average ever) but astonishingly lost out to an unbeaten Liverpool, who only scored 77 times. Goals don’t always win titles.
The second division record is held by a George Camsell-fuelled Middlesbrough in 1926-27, when they scored 122 times in just 42 games on the way to the title. There’s little chance of Fulham reaching that tally, unless they average six goals in each of their last four games – but considering the Whites’ 22 goals across four league matches to start 2022, it’s not completely out of the question.
Reaching 100 in the Top-flight
Across this century, there have been just nine occasions of a team scoring 100 goals or more in the EFL across a single season. Over half of those (5) have come in the Premier League, with Manchester City dominating the goalscoring records across this period.
In 2019-20, City scored 102 times in the Premier League but could only finish behind Liverpool in the table. It was the first time that a top-flight side had scored at least 100 goals in a single league season and not won the title since a reversal of fortunes in 2013-14 when Liverpool scored 101 times but finished one goal and two points behind Manchester City in the Premier League (102 goals and 86 points).
In between those two campaigns, Manchester City’s 106 goals in their title-winning 2017-18 effort saw them finish as the highest scoring team in an English top-flight season since Tottenham Hotspur in 1962-63 (111 goals). This season also saw them become the only team in EFL history to both score 100 goals and reach 100 points – although if you converted all EFL teams to three-points-for-a-win historically, there would have been seven other occasions when that had happened.
The first-ever Premier League team to reach 100 goals were Chelsea in 2009-10 under Carlo Ancelotti. They surpassed the 100-goal mark in spectacular fashion, with an 8-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic on the final day at Stamford Bridge to wrap up the league title ahead of Manchester United.
Of the 33 teams to have scored 100 plus goals in a top-flight English season, over a third (12) came across a four-season period between 1956-57 and 1960-61. This was arguably the pinnacle of English top-flight goalscoring, with both 1957-58 (Preston, Wolves and Man City) and 1960-61 (Spurs, Wolves and Burnley) seeing three teams score at least 100 league goals.
Special mention goes to Manchester United in 1959-60, who scored 102 goals but could only finish seventh in the league table – the lowest top-flight finish for a side to score a century of goals.
Other EFL Centurions
The all-time English Football League record for goals by a team in a single season is held by Peterborough United in their fourth-tier title-winning campaign of 1960-61, with the Posh scoring an incredible 134 goals in 46 games.
Overall, there have been 140 previous occasions of a club scoring 100 or more goals in a single EFL campaign since the inaugural 1888-89 season. It’s become a much rarer occurrence over the last half century, however – only 12 teams have hit a century of league goals in a season in the last 55 years (1967-68 onwards).
As well as the previously mentioned efforts from the five Premier League clubs between 2009-10 and this season, as well as Man City (2001-02) and Bolton (1996-97) in the second tier, there have been five further occasions in the third and fourth levels of the English league pyramid over this period:
Lincoln City in 1975-76 (4th Tier)
Huddersfield Town in 1979-80 (4th Tier)
Northampton Town in 1985-86 (4th Tier)
Peterborough United in 2010-11 (3rd Tier)
MK Dons in 2014-15 (3rd Tier)
Will Fulham Have an Attack to Fear in the Premier League?
Let us reveal a shocking truth: it’s harder to score in the Premier League than in the Championship.
Fulham might well get a century of goals in the second tier this season, but they won’t be replicating that feat next season in the top-flight. The last team to average a higher goals per game in their first Premier League season following promotion than in their promotion-winning campaign in the second tier were Nottingham Forest in 1993-94 – they averaged 1.61 goals per game in the 1992-93 Division One campaign compared to 1.71 in the Premier League the following season.
On average – before this season – promoted teams have scored 1.09 goals per game in their first season following promotion, compared to an average of 1.65 in the previous term – a drop of just over a goal every two games. This century, the only team that have come close to converting their goalscoring form in the Premier League from the Championship were Leeds United in 2020-21, when they saw a drop of just 0.04 goals per game (1.67 vs. 1.63).
But could this Fulham side be different? They have 41-goal (so far) Aleksandar Mitrović at their disposal, after all.
We’ve only ever seen 10 players score more than 15 goals in a Premier League season for a newly-promoted club, with only two of those coming in the last 17 years – Patrick Bamford for Leeds in 2020-21 (17) and Charlie Austin for QPR in 2014-15 (18). Neither of those players reached even 20 goals in the Championship season prior to their personal success in the following top-flight campaign.
It’s not as if Mitrović has had too much success in his previous stints in the Premier League.
The Serbian topped the Championship scoring charts in Fulham’s last promotion-winning season in 2019-20 with 26 goals, but he was only able to score three times in 1390 Premier League minutes the following season – a goal every 463 minutes on average: the equivalent to just over five full matches.
In 2018-19 he had some joy in the Premier League, with 11 goals in 37 appearances but had little help from his team-mates. His 11 goals represented 32% of Fulham’s seasonal total in the top-flight, while the next best scorer for the Whites was André Schürrle on six.
This season we’ve seen Ivan Toney score 12 goals for Brentford, following a brilliant Championship campaign in which he scored 31 times for the Bees in 2020-21. These goals have helped steer Brentford away from relegation, albeit with unexpected assistance from the fantastic signing of Christian Eriksen in January.
It’s very unlikely Fulham will pose a threat to Premier League defences in the manner that we’ve seen in their successful Championship campaign this season, but with a matured version of Mitrović in the form that he’s displayed over the last 10 months, they’ll surely be giving opposition sides a lot to think about in 2022-23.
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