The Premier League is the promised land for every club in English football.
Whether you’ve been in the top-flight for decades on end or dream of the big time from the depths of non-league, teams are ultimately battling every weekend to climb higher up the footballing tree.
And since the top division changed forever with the launch of the Premier League in 1992, a select group of 50 clubs have been able to call it home with Brentford proving the most recent entrant.
Premier League alumni
To be fair, half a century of clubs feels like a pretty round number when 92 institutions populate the Football League, but getting into the competition is one thing and staying in it is another.
And with supporters gleefully excited for the return of Premier League action this weekend, we wanted to look back on how the 50 alumni fared during their time in the world’s best division.
From Manchester United winning an eye-watering 13 titles to Derby County registering the lowest points tally in history, it’s fair to say that not every club has had the same Premier League journey.
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The lucky 50 clubs
So, to settle the Premier League royalty from the division’s footnotes, we’ve called upon the trusty medium of ‘Tiermaker‘ to rank all 50 clubs based on their performances in the famous competition.
With tiers ranking from ‘Championship standard’ to ‘The GOAT’, each decision will be based upon the opinion of yours truly and will be informed by both historic statistics as well as the eye test.
It’s also worth noting that the definition of each category, which will be explained as you go along, is more important than the exact order of them, particularly when it comes to ‘Streets will never forget.’
Oh, and lest we forget that we’re talking about the Premier League here, so kudos to every single club for making it to the big time and finishing low down in this Tiermaker is by no means an insult.
Ranking every Premier League club
However, you’re not here for the disclaimers and housekeeping, so let’s get to the business end of the debate and work our way through a ranking of every single Premier League club in history:
Huddersfield Town, Barnsley, Swindon Town, Cardiff City, Bradford City, Derby County, Oldham Athletic and Reading
Woof, this is going to feel harsh, but our bottom tier is – simply put – made up of the worst-performing Premier League clubs in history who were either relegated immediately; had a very brief stay or broke a very particular record…
Barnsley and Swindon dropped down as soon as they came up and currently reside in second and third-bottom place in the all-time Premier League table thanks only to Brentford for obvious reasons.
Cardiff performed slightly better with two appearances, but were relegated both times, while Oldham only survived a single campaign because there were initially 22 clubs when they dodged the bullet in 1992/93.
Bradford survived by the skin of their teeth in 1999/00 only to finish rock bottom the following year and despite remarkably finishing eighth in 2006/07, Reading have been relegated in both of their subsequent terms.
Admittedly, picking Derby did feel cruel, but although they held their own in the division between 1996 and 2002, they remain the Premier League’s worst ever team for amassing just 11 points in their only season since.
Nottingham Forest, Watford, Norwich City, Sheffield United, Birmingham City, Queens Park Rangers, Hull City, Ipswich Town and West Bromwich Albion
In some instances, ‘yo-yoers’ might seem over the top, but the moral of the story is that these clubs haven’t been able to maintain regular stays in the Premier League and are ultimately well-versed in relegation.
Despite only playing in the Premier League during the 1990s, Forest dipped in and out of the division three times and Ipswich could never put a string of more than three seasons together.
Sheffield United and Birmingham are relatively small-time yo-yoers with a combined six spells, but only when compared to West Brom who have risen and fallen between the divisions five times alone.
Watford’s four yo-yoes from the Championship to the Premier League spanned as many decades, while Hull’s hat-trick of brief cameos all came within the space of just nine years.
And while Norwich fans may point in protest to their third-place finish in 1992/93, it’s impossible not to include them in this tier when they have more separate Premier League stints than any other club at six.
Similarly, fair play to QPR for finishing fifth during the Premier League’s maiden voyage, but their recent flash-in-the-pain appearances in the division had ‘yo-yoers’ written all over it.
Too early to say
If we had to put Brentford in one of the normal tiers, then I guess it would be ‘held their own’, but there are only so many conclusions that we can draw from seven games thus far.
Held their own
Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Brighton & Hove Albion, Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley, Charlton Athletic, Coventry City, Swansea City, Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth
As the title would suggest, these are clubs who have gone on a sustained run of seasons in the Premier League regardless of whether that streak is taking place now or all the way back in the 1990s.
Palace, Brighton and Burnley have all consolidated their position in the current Premier League ranks for at least five seasons just as Bournemouth and Swansea did across the mid to late 2010s.
Meanwhile, it still feels strange that Wigan are no longer in the Premier League because their wild journey under Roberto Martinez, which featured FA Cup glory, bordered on ‘streets will never forget’.
Sheffield Wednesday stuck around for eight seasons between 1992 and 2000, Portsmouth kept afloat for seven years on the bounce, Coventry put a run of nine campaigns together and Charlton totalled eight seasons in the big time.
Streets will never forget
Stoke City, Wimbledon, Blackpool, Leeds United, Bolton Wanderers, Sunderland, Fulham, Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Wanderers
I know the phrase, you know the phrase, your cat probably knows the phrase. These clubs left a special type of impact on the minds of Premier League fans regardless of how they actually performed.
Who could forget the wonders of the Roy Delap throw-in? Tony Pulis’ Stoke are arguably the most unique promoted side in the Premier League history and crazily went on to sign players like Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Michael Owen.
Similarly, the streets will never forget Bolton having everyone from Fernando Hierri to Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha to Ivan Campo on their books during the golden age under Sam Allardyce.
Wimbledon’s ‘Crazy Gang’ are the stuff of English footballing folklore, Fulham’s run to the Europa League final was unforgettable and Leeds captured the imagination with their Champions League streak.
Blackpool are arguably the most entertaining one-time Premier League club by scoring two wins over Liverpool and almost saving themselves with two goals at Old Trafford on the final day of the season.
Sunderland scored wins over Newcastle for fun at their pomp, plus Kevin Phillips’ European Golden Shoe-winning season, while Wolves are the heirs to the ‘Streets will never forget’ throne with their Portuguese revolution.
Part of the furniture
Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Southampton and West Ham United
Ask yourself this: would the Premier League feel the same without these guys? That’s the question upon which this entire category is built regardless of whether there’s been the odd hiccup along the way.
Sure, Newcastle, West Ham and Southampton have all returned to the Championship at some point or another, but the revered trio have been in the Premier League more than they haven’t over the last 29 years.
Aston Villa also bid goodbye to the promised land for three seasons, but only a select group of six clubs, which includes this tier’s Tottenham and Everton, have simply never been relegated.
The whole tier also places within the top 11 of the all-time Premier League table with a combined 6,072 games in the division to their name with only two of them not having over 1,000 appearances of their own.
Premier League royalty
Arsenal, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool, Leicester City and Chelsea
Look, at the end of the day, you’re deserving of ‘Premier League royalty’ status on one condition and one condition alone: have you won the damn thing?
So, sure, if we were to flesh out the Tiermaker into more categories then Arsenal would – of course – be finishing above Blackburn and Leicester, but all of these clubs deserve a place at the top table in my eyes.
However, it just happens that one club lifted the Premier League trophy on such an outrageously regular basis that we simply had to make room for one more special classification…
Who else? With Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm, the Red Devils pumped out era upon era of Premier League conquerers with seven of the first nine seasons ending in glory at Old Trafford.
It says everything that United’s unassailable tally of 13 Premier League titles isn’t even vaguely threatened with Chelsea and City occupying second place on eight fewer trophies than their rivals.
What do you think?
Look, the Premier League has a long, long history of ups and downs, drama and controversy that makes it incredibly hard to rank all 50 clubs into different categories – but we’ve given it a good go.
From the elite tier of seven clubs to have lifted the trophy to the ‘streets will never forget’ magic of Stoke and Blackpool, every single team to have graced the Premier League has made an impact.
We might not have been impressed with Cardiff, Bradford and so forth compared to the rest, but we wouldn’t have the Premier League alumni look any different and we can’t wait to see who joins next.