Staying Up

Next a terrific guest contribution from Nick Johnson, who you’ll remember from his articles in the Fulham Review.

For most Premier League clubs mere survival is the name of the game. While all but a select few know that sooner or later the axe will fall, the risk is generally higher for newly promoted teams. Of the three clubs which gain promotion to the top flight each year, at least one will usually return whence they came the following season. That’s why the Championship promotion class of 2001 stand out. For eleven years Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton have all retained their Premier League status; far and away the best record since the advent of three up, three down in 1973/4.

The next best is the six years attained by Manchester United, Aston Villa and Norwich from 1975 until the East Anglian club’s relegation in 1981. There are three cases of a promoted trio surviving four years, one of three years, four two year survivals while in the remaining twenty seven seasons at least one team has gone straight back down after one year, including every season since 1989 apart from 2001.

Even going back through the years of two up, two down to the advent of the Football League in the 1880s, on only four occasions was the eleven season record beaten. There were three runs of twelve years and one of fourteen: Villa and Man Utd again after their promotion in 1938. (The war years when there was no competition have not been counted).

Southampton and Spurs also deserve a mention for lasting twenty seven and thirty four years respectively after their promotion in 1978. Bolton, who came up with them as champions let the side down by being relegated after only two years.

While all this may seem obscure to the point of irrelevance, it is worth reflecting that Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton have generally been well run at both Board and Team level during this period, although the situation at the two Lancashire clubs has now taken a turn for the worse. From the perspective of December 2010 it seems unlikely that this record will continue into next season.


And now some supporting data, which is well worth a look (if you click on the image you can make it go big).

5 thoughts on “Staying Up

  1. 34 more years, in fact, until we even get into the top 20*, assuming Stoke, Boro and a few others have fewer years in the top flight while we achieve this.

    *I reckon once you’re in the top 20 for years in the top flight you can call yourself a “big club” if you’re willing to accept my rather looser definition of what it means to be a big club.

  2. Similarity to Charlton and QPR confirmed. Our average league position over the years would probably be a few places higher than this — at half way up/down the second tier — plus we rank higher in terms of famous people who have worn our colours — see next.

    The standout entry, I suggest, is Coventry. A lower league club until Jimmy Hill became manager, they then had an amazingly long run at the top — we aren’t yet a third of the way towards emulating it, for heaven’s sake — and have never since re-appeared.

    Mr Hill must be near the end of the road now, and is not the easiest to warm to, but without him Fulham might not have made it through to the Fayed era and we’d be Grimsby-ish on that list.

  3. In response to IW and BWG above,I agree entirely.

    Of course the picture changes over time. In 1928/9 Bury were enjoying the last of their 23 top flight seasons and therefore a “big club” as were Notts County (26), while Arsenal were behind them on 19.

    Sunderland had a 57 season unbroken run from 1890-1958 followed by eight short spells with a maximum of 6.

    Coventry’s record is amazing. They flirted with relegation often enough, but who hasn’t. Yes, we owe a huge debt to Jimmy Hill. It’s worth recording that in his FIRST managerial job he took Coventry from the Third Division to the First in just a few seasons.

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