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Best of the Worst: The Great Escape

Best of the Worst: The Great Escape

Over the years, 40 points has been presumed enough for a Premier League team to avoid the trap door known as relegation. In real sense it is actually possible to survive the drop with fewer points. So which team has managed to survive while accumulating the least amount of points over a Premier League season? In other words which is the worst team to have escaped relegation?

Two criteria that instantly come to mind when trying to determine the worst team to avoid the drop are games won & lost and goal difference. In the 2009/10 season Wigan Athletic were leaking goals like nobody’s business and they managed to concede 79 goals in a 38 game season while somehow managing to avoid relegation, ending the season with a goal difference of -42.

When looking at it from another angle we could try and determine who survived the drop despite having the odds stacked against them. An underfunded Bradford City side of the 1999/00 season miraculously managed to stay up, while in the 2017/18 season Huddersfield Town hobbled to safety with a squad full of lower league level players as no major signings had been made to improve the squad prior to the start of the season despite their jump to elite level football in the Premier League.

If we were to stick with the criterion of points won the best candidate for this selection would definitely be the 2004/05 season’s West Bromwich Albion, who won only 34 points and somehow survived the drop. It kind of makes sense since the 2004/05 season is known for having the most dramatic relegation scramble in the league’s history.

Heading into the final match day West Brom were actually bottom of the league, engaged in a four way shoot-out with Norwich City, Southampton and Crystal Palace. An explanation as to why West Brom were not doing so well is that they were a rather inconsistent team when it came to relegation from and promotion to the Premier League – a sort of team fans would refer to as a yo-yo club. They were in the midst of a decade of yoyoing between the Premier League and the Championship. They won promotion from the old Division One in 2002 only to be relegated from the Premier League in 19th position the following year. Manager Gary Megson would lead them back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, finishing in second place in 2004 as they were to take centre stage in one of the most fascinating yet strangest relegation battles the Premier League had ever witnessed.

The squad that won promotion didn’t really undergo a major transformation. Football League regular Robert Earnshaw was signed from Cardiff City for three million pounds, midfielder Jonathan Greening came in from Middlesbrough for an undisclosed fee and Fulham legend Zoltan Gera joined the West Midlands side for one million pounds. Other notable signings that were made include Junichi Inamoto, Darren Purse and future Manchester United goalie Tomasz Kusczczak. In an unexpected twist, Arsenal forward Nwankwo Kanu swapped North London for the West Midlands, joining West Brom as a free agent. The biggest move of the summer for West Brom however was a departure. Lee Hughes had been a prolific goal scorer for the Baggies over two spells at the club and was the club’s top scorer the previous season. Sadly in an unfortunate turn of events, he was headed to prison as in August 2004 he was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to six years behind bars. He served a period of just over three years before being released but West Brom responded by terminating his contract.

Despite a lack of star power in the team, West Brom made a rather decent start to their 2004/05 season campaign with three consecutive draws which kind of signalled their intent to compete with the best the Premier League had to offer rather than lay down and hand over points to their opposition. However, between the end of August and January of the following year West Brom managed to pick up just one win which came against Bolton Wanderers. They didn’t fair too well against other teams as they suffered heavy defeats to Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Man Utd, Birmingham and Liverpool, with harsh reality quickly settling in. Gary Megson wouldn’t even make it to the autumn as West Brom manager as he was sacked in late October with Frank Burrows assuming the role of caretaker manager before former West Brom and Man Utd captain Bryan Robson took over in November.

Just over a month had passed before Robson’s effect could be felt at the club with mediocre results dominating the headlines in the West Midlands. A rather humorous moment highlighted the tough times West Brom were going through as in a game against Middlesbrough Nwankwo Kanu missed an open goal with his side 2-1 down, thus denying his team a valuable point. To make matters worse this was Robson’s first game in charge of West Brom, a sign of things to come.

Despite the growing sense of ineffectiveness, the club manged to rally, going into the new year on the back of draws against Man City, Bolton and Newcastle. In the January transfer window veteran forward Kevin Campbell joined the club on a free transfer, Richard Chaplow was signed from Burnley and Man Utd prospect Kieran Richardson came over from Old Trafford on a short term loan deal.

West Brom’s reinvigoration was quite impressive. Despite spending just over a dozen of weeks at the foot of the table West Brom would lose just four times in the league during the rest of the season. Heading into the final day of the season they sat in bottom place but still believed they had a chance of making the great escape provided results in the other games went their way. Divine intervention seemed to do the job this time as miraculously the stars aligned. Norwich were thrashed away to Fulham, Southampton were beaten by Man Utd at home and Crystal Palace conceded a late goal to only take a point against Charlton Athletic. At the Hawthorns, substitute Geoff Horsfield and Man Utd loanee Kieran Richardson each scored to win their game against Portsmouth, grabbing all three points ensuring survival.

West Brom made history on that famous afternoon as they are the side to have escaped relegation with the fewest amount of points in a 38 game Premier League season.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Davenport Reuben

    Relegation has motivated teams to sit and analyse their tactical formula thus teams needing to sell players who are underperforming and overhauling bad management of a team thus teams bouncing with brilliant results.

    1. Jesse Njenga

      True. Relegation can take a lot out of a team, it takes great strength to bounce back.

    1. Jesse Njenga

      Running is also good, nice way to stay healthy.

  2. Kipkorir Bett

    A Weekend without foodball is a horrible weekend

  3. Carson Anekeya

    While traditional benchmarks like points accumulated, goal differences, and games won or lost offer metrics, the narratives of resilience and defying expectations stand out. These stories underscore the multidimensional nature of survival in the Premier League, demonstrating that sheer statistics don’t always define a team’s journey. Quite interesting.

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