The focus for a long time was on the “big four” of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. Tottenham and Manchester City made enough inroads to turn that into the “Sky Six” temporarily. To be honest, most of the noise generated by the media, which drives the fans is about a handful of clubs. If it weren’t for the negativity about Arsenal, you’d be likely to think there are really just two teams in the league this year: United and City.
Fans eagerly allow this media bias to help form their opinions about other clubs, often calling them “small.” That’s not to say there aren’t smaller or bigger clubs in the Premier League currently. Based on grounds or history, obviously Wigan or Swansea are smaller than United or Arsenal. But they aren’t that small. And it doesn’t mean they are without history and accomplishment. In fact of the Sky Six, do you know how many are founding members of the Football League? None. But that was in 1888, so obviously those clubs no longer matter. Nope! Seven of the 12 founding members are in the top flight today and Derby Co. and Burnley have been back in recent seasons.
For the record, the 12 that started all of this are Accrington (the only one to fold), Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Derby County, Everton, Notts County, Preston North End, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
That means that seven clubs in the EPL already have a deeper story than the media would have you believe. The next time somebody calls Blackburn or West Brom a small club, it would be wise to remind them that they won their first F.A. Cups in 1884 and 1888 respectively, before Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool even existed. And if somebody asks “Who is Stoke City,” then the answer is Notts County’s only contemporary.
This isn’t an indictment of the Sky Six, Big Four or the City/Chelsea petro-era. This is a plea to respect all clubs because in the league there is only one club that was born post WWI (Wigan Athletic) and only a few that have no major silverware. This is a list of all 20 EPL clubs and their honours by year of birth:
Stoke City (as Stoke Ramblers or Stoke FC until 1928) are the second oldest football team in the world. They do not have as many honours as most clubs but they did come in second in the First Division in 1947 and made the final of the F.A. Cup last year. But mostly, they have been around much longer than your club.
Aston Villa have won the First division seven times, the F.A. Cup seven times and a European Championship in 1982. They have played at Villa Park since 1897 and were once considered the most successful side in England bar none.
Bolton Wanderers (as Christ Church FC until 1877) have won four F.A. Cups and were an early power of English football. While they seemed to have fallen from grace in the 1960′s, they returned to the league in 2000 and have have been a mid-table staple since. They were the first team to win the F.A. Cup at Wembley.
Blackburn Rovers have won three top flight titles and six F.A. Cups. They still hold the longest undefeated F.A. Cup run at 24 and had Jack Walker to thank for their last title.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (St. Luke’s until 1879) have won three First Division titles and four F.A. Cups. They have played at Molineux since 1889 and the name Stan Cullis should be in every fan’s knowledge base.
Everton (St. Domingo’s until 1879) has only been relegated twice since joining the league at the beginning. They have won nine First Division titles, five F.A. Cups and a Cup Winners Cup. Everton’s current financial crisis goes back to Heysel and the loss of brand recognition that the incident cost them due to the European ban.
West Bromich Albion have won one First Division title and have been runners up twice. They have won five F.A. Cups as well. The 1953-54 side that nearly won the double was once named the “Team of the Century” by the media. Their nickname of the Baggies was once a derogatory slur used against them.
Manchester United (Newton Heath until 1902) started life as an awful club. After a change of ownership and name in 1902, they have gone on to win 19 league titles, 11 F.A. Cups, a Cup Winners Cup and three European Cups. In fact, with each new owner United has grown bigger and won more, but United fans seem to long for the days of solid second division obscurity. Makes you almost hope they achieve it.
Fulham lack honours but they are the oldest London club. Their current period in the top flight is by far their best. They were runners up in the 1975 F.A. Cup and 2010 Europa League. They were denied a piece of the legend of the 1966 World Cup due to a car accident that stymied the career of Johnny Haynes, who had captained the Three Lions 22 times.
Sunderland have won six First Division titles and two F.A. Cups. A massive financial scandal in 1957 involving over-payments of players led to them being relegated for the first time a year later.
Manchester City (as St. Mark’s or Ardwick until 1894) were a founding member of the Second Division. They have won the First Division twice and the F.A. Cup five times. Like Arsenal’s WM and Tottenham’s Push and Run, they have a tactical plan to their name, called the Revie plan. And they won the Cup Winners Cup in 1970. But since they have so much money, we need to remind them that they were in the third tier of English football in 1999 :p
Queens Park Rangers formed when two clubs known as St Jude’s and Christchurch Rangers merged. They were a lower tier club until 1967, when they won a League Cup, got promoted twice in succession and came second in the league in 1976. They lost a F.A. Cup final in 1981 and have been a yo-yo club since. They were also the richest club in the world for a short while.
The Modern Era of Football starts with the formation of Tottenham Hotspur (originally Hotspur FC) in 1882 on the Hackney Marshes. They are the only non-league side to win the F.A. Cup (in 1901) and have won it an additional seven times. They were the first side to win the double in 1961 to add to their title in 1951. Any mention of the number of titles since 1961 will not be authorized in the comment section They have also won four League Cups and two UEFA Cups.
Arsenal (originally Woolwich Arsenal) were formed in South London. They have taken up temporary residence in North London since 1913. They were the first southern club in the league and have been managed by two men who changed the English game for the good in Arsene Wenger and Herbert Chapman. They have won 13 league titles, ten F.A. Cups and a Cup Winners Cup.
Newcastle United were formed from the merger of Newcastle East End and West End and have played at St. James Park since then. They have won four First Division titles, six F.A. Cups and the 1969 Fairs Cup. They have the dramas of Kevin Keegan and Mike Ashley to draw upon in the recent past and the near double in 1905 to draw upon in the distant.
Liverpool split off from Everton over a grounds issue with a board member. They were promoted in 1894 and have won 18 titles, seven F.A. Cups, three UEFA Cups, and five European Championships. The names Heysel and Hillsborough have given this club more drama than any club needs.
Norwich City were founded in 1902 as well. Unfortunately it took them 70 years to get to the First Division. But still have two League Cups and have been in the top flight a number of times. So “Let’s Be ‘Avin Ya.”
Chelsea have won four titles, six F.A. Cups, four League Cups and a Cup Winners Cup. They have a strong link to the hooliganism era and were robbed of entry to the first European Championship by the league.
The last two are the two with the least history and honours, but we must respect that the work done to make these clubs has been done in staunchly rugby towns.
Before this year, Swansea City have played two seasons in the top flight. They hold the record for the fastest rise from the Fourth Division to the First jointly with Wimbledon. They both did it in four years but the Swans did it first. Their reserve team has won the Welsh league 12 times. The Gaffer told me that they are the only team Pele feared, but I think that might be a lie.
Wigan Athletic were the fourth attempt to raise a club in Wigan. They didn’t make the league until 1978 but in 1995 Dave Whelan took over and they made it to the First Division in 2005 and lost to United in the League Cup final in 2006. They also have two Johnson Paint trophies.
So as you can plainly see, no team is small. No team lacks history or drama or even honours. There are bigger clubs and smaller clubs, but that is always relative to the era. So let’s try to respect all other clubs rather than using derogatory terms based on their attendance, their traveling support, their last trophy or their current financial malaise. And remember, the lower divisions are littered with great teams such as West Ham, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Derby County to name but a few. Your team could end up there with a bad season, and then you might be called small too.