The Great Escape: 5 Relegation Escapes To Remember
For most of the season in the Premiership all the attention is focussed on the major issues at the top of the league. The race for the title and the battle for the big prizes grab the majority of the headlines and the lesser lights of the league are left to battle it out for much of the season. Over the years though the contest that consumes our attention the most come the final day is the fight to stay in the top division. Rarely does the league title remain up for decision until the last day but the drama at the bottom of the league provides a healthy diversion for neutrals and gut wrenching intrigue for the clubs involved. This weekend in the Premier League could see another of those gripping Sunday afternoons with no less than four clubs involved in the scrap to stay up. In anticipation of Sunday’s climax we look at the clubs that have successfully survived the drop on the last day.
An oldie but well worthy of a mention as Joe Royle’s team overcame an eight point gap in the final week of the season. The Latics fate was out of their hands as they had to win three games and hope results went their way. Oldham derailed Aston Villa’s title charge at Villa Park, beat Liverpool at home and then overcame Southampton 4-3 on the final day. Crystal Palace’s defeat against Arsenal kept Oldham up and firmly cemented Joe Royle’s legend at the club.
Times have changed at Everton these days but back in the 1990s they seemed to tumble from one relegation scrap to another. This one was a particularly close call as they needed to better Bolton’s result on the final day to survive. Things were going swimmingly when Gareth Farrelly belted in a 25 yard screamer but when Dion Dublin equalised for Coventry they were very much on the brink. Two late goals for Chelsea against Bolton turned the season on its head and sent the Trotters down as Evertonians celebrated a dramatic final day reprieve.
Under Paul Jewell Bradford traversed their way to the summit of the English game, when they got there though the Bantams discovered it was a difficult place to survive in. With a slightly dated ground and a lack of real quality they were tipped by everyone to conveniently slip back to where they came. So confident was Sky Sports pundit Rodney Marsh he promised he would shave his head if Bradford managed to stay up. Bradford gave themselves a chance coming into the final weekend with three consecutive victories. David Wetherall’s header against Liverpool at Valley Parade kept Bradford up, consigned Wimbledon to the drop and Rodney Marsh to a humiliating haircut on the Valley Parade pitch at the beginning of the following season.
West Bromwich Albion 2004/2005
Even as early as Christmas the Black Country club looked hopelessly out of their depth, bottom of the table and desperately short of talent. Yet somehow West Brom became the first club to be bottom at Yuletide and beat relegation. After a good run of results they still began the final day bottom of the league and needing a minor miracle. Goals from Geoff Horsfield and Kieran Richardson were enough to see Portsmouth off at the Hawthorns but improbably, poor results for Norwich, Southampton and Crystal Palace saw the Baggies stay up with a record low of just 34 points.
Fulham looked dead and buried after a season where they had struggled desperately away from Craven Cottage. I remember sniggering when Roy Hodgson was appointed to save the London club’s bacon. How wrong I was as Hodgson and his players pulled off an unlikely escape that was kickstarted by a 3-2 victory at Manchester City where they came from two goals down. Fulham’s victory against Portsmouth kept them up and given Hodgson the opportunity to further enhance his reputation this season.
West Ham’s Carlos Tevez assisted escape in 2007 also warrants mention and now we can look forward to another intriguing climax to a relegation battle.