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What faces clubs relegated from the Premier League?


Year in, year out, Championship previews offer much attention to the three teams that have been relegated from the top flight. Their money, their status and their playing squad all contribute to perceptions regarding how ready they are to challenge again. It is an understandable rhetoric, often teams manage to retain the nucleus of their Premier league squad, and as such should be expected to offer a substantial threat, furthermore, rather than crashing back down from the top flight, they are gently cushioned into the Football league via cash laden parachutes. However, a swift glance at the 2014/15 Championship table provides a contrasting image as to the fates of the relegated sides. Norwich managed the impressive feat of returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking, after a rough patch mid-season, the appointment of Alex Neil reversed fortunes with the Canaries finishing the season in fine form and carrying that momentum through the play-offs. Those efforts were not to be replicated by Cardiff & Fulham, the Bluebirds finished the season in a respectable 11th, yet far from the play-off pace, while Fulham, despite having an eleven million rated striker in their ranks spent much of the season flirting with relegation, eventually stuttering to a 17th placed finish. Norwich can be seen as the exception here when considering that in the past five seasons only three of the fifteen relegated sides have made an instant return to the top flight. Trawling through league tables of old reveal the differing fortunes that relegated teams have endured down the years.

The Instant Return

The Championship is often, and correctly, said to be one of the toughest, most competitive leagues in football. The prize of promotion is so great and the battle so fierce, getting out of the division is no easy feat. It doesn’t happen often, but a few teams down the years have accomplished it at the first time of asking, making a prompt return to the Premier League before anyone’s had time to really notice their absence. Tyne-Wear rivals, Newcastle and Sunderland have both executed the instant return in the past decade. After relegation in 05/06 with a paltry tally of 15 points, Sunderland, with Roy Keane at the helm overcame a tumultuous start to the following season before storming the Championship title in the latter half of the season. After 16 consecutive seasons in the top flight, Newcastle ensured their Championship tenure was brief, led by Andy Carroll’s goals the Magpies made an emphatic return winning the Championship title with 102 points.

Andy Carroll inspired Newcastle to an instant Premier League return after their relegation from the top flight.

Worse Before It Gets Better

Like a phoenix going down in flames to arise from the ashes, just as Gandalf fell into the shadow only to be reincarnated with a shiny new exterior…you get the picture. The pain of suffering not one, but two relegations is undoubtedly vast, it is quite the fall from the riches of the Premier League only to find yourself in League One, where trips to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge seem but a distant dream. Yet in recent years League One has become something of a springboard back to the top, Norwich and Southampton have been the most recent exponents of the third tier rebuild. The sides followed a similar trajectory, both relegated in 04/05, followed by three years in the second tier before sharing relegation once more to League One in 08/09. Paul Lambert’s appointment from Colchester, whom had thrashed Norwich 7-1 in the season’s opening fixture, overcame that rout, launching themselves to the League One title.  That momentum carried through the next year as Grant Holt fired the Canaries to 2nd place and successive promotions. Saints took an extra year to return to the Championship but when they did they too secured their return to the Promised Land with consecutive promotions. The two sides find themselves in the middle of our Venn diagram so to speak, they provide examples of how damaging relegation can be, yet as I write this, both are Premier League clubs. Wolves may well be next in the sequence, suffering back to back relegations to League One, they returned to the Championship last year, Kenny Jackett’s side impressed narrowly missing on play-off football by goal difference. Watch this space. Such yo-yoing between leagues, experiencing pain and joy in equal measure really puts fans through the mill, but it’s certainly never boring, which is more than be said for the chaps in our next section.


Since relegation in 01/02, Ipswich Town have simply stayed put. The Suffolk side, the division’s longest servants have endured 13 arduous Championship campaigns, the majority of which have offered little more than mid-table mediocrity. To give an indication of the length of that stay, since being anchored in the Championship, Ipswich fans have watched their nearest rivals, Norwich, suffer three relegations to go along with four promotions culminating in three separate spells in the top flight. Trying times for fans, yet they can take some solace that they have not suffered the same fate as those under the next banner.

Since their relegation, Ipswich have spent 13 consecutive seasons in the Championship whilst arch rivals Norwich have bounced around the leagues.

The Downward Spiral

Unlike Norwich and Southampton, others have not been able to propel themselves back from the third tier, instead they have been dragged into the quagmire of League One and beyond. Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008, fast-forward to today, it’s a very different story. After relegation from the Premiership in 09/10, Pompey struggled in their first season in the Championship, the following season suffering back to back relations to League Two where the currently reside. Portsmouth’s story shows the financial perils facing sides dropping down the league ladder.

We can speculate, but there’s no telling what fortunes await Burnley, Hull & QPR this season. Let’s not forget the new arrivals, Bristol City, MK Dons and Preston North End, don’t be surprised if the teams with gathering pace outlast those fallen from grace.

The Numbers: Teams Relegated From the Premier League in the Past 10 Seasons

26.6% – 8/30 teams in the past 10 seasons have made an instant return to the premier league.

25% – 5/20 of relegated sides that did not regain instant Premier League status, have since gone on to be promoted in subsequent years (excludes Cardiff and Fulham due to only one season back).

26.6% – 8/30 teams that have suffered relegation from the top flight have then gone on to drop below the Championship

66.6 % – 4/6 of those sides have gone on to make a return to the Championship, with 2/4 of those teams gaining promotion to the Premiership (excludes Blackpool and Wigan).

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