It’s all too easy to focus attention on the goings on at the very top of the Premier League.
With the quality only increasing to even further nosebleed-inducing standards each year, plus the inevitable ‘race’ for a top four spot which feels a little overdone at this point, the battle to avoid the drop can sometimes feel overlooked.
That is criminal.
Avoiding relegation in any league is a massive ordeal, not least in the most lucrative in the world. The Championship is a dog fight, and with those parachute payments only going so far, it can be endlessly difficult for clubs to find a way back up into the Premier League if they can’t avoid the drop.
Sometimes relegation is a foregone conclusion and clubs can look all but down rather early into the season. And while that can often be a tad underwhelming, it’s all the sweeter when they find a second wind and neutrals are treated to a dramatic dart to the finish between the clubs at the bottom of the table.
With that in mind, GIVEMESPORT has ranked some of the greatest escapes that the Premier League has witnessed.
9. Aston Villa (2019/20)
Despite going all the way to the final of the EFL Cup and losing 2-1 on the day to a far superior Manchester City, Aston Villa’s league season was far from a success. Spending well over £100m upon their promotion from the Championship and breaking their club record for Wesley, Dean Smith’s side relied massively on hometown hero Jack Grealish to keep their head above the water, while flirting with the drop zone all season. Four points adrift of safety with four games to play, they went unbeaten in that run-in, winning twice and crucially drawing with West Ham on the final day, to secure safety by a single point.
8. Oldham Athletic (1992/93)
A great escape in its inaugural season, Oldham proved to be a shrewd advertisement for the drama and entertainment on offer in the newly formed Premier League. After a good start that saw them firmly in the middle of the pack, the Latics dropped off and found themselves bottom with ten games to go. They needed three wins from their final three games to even have a chance of staying up. Dramatically, they pulled that off, beating title challengers Aston Villa to kick off the run. Crystal Palace lost on the final day of the season, seeing them relegated and Oldham surviving on goal difference.
7. Fulham (2007/08)
Turning to Roy Hodgson as Premier League survival was called into question around December time, Fulham had plenty of work to do to keep afloat in 2007/08. Despite staring relegation in the face after a defeat to Liverpool in April, a vital comeback win against Manchester City the following week saw them avoid mathematical confirmation of relegation. That was enough hope to cling onto for Hodgson’s side, who galvanised heading into the final straight, winning their final two games to jump out of the drop zone at the death, confirming survival with a 1-0 win away to Portsmouth on the final day.
6. Everton (1993/94)
2021/22 isn’t the first time that Everton have looked perilously close to losing their status as having never been relegated from English football’s top flight. In 1993/94, they retained Premier League status in its second season, by the skin of their teeth. Going 2-0 down to Wimbledon on the final day of the season looked to be the final nail in the coffin for the Toffees, who had been First Division champions as recently as 1987. That was until an incredible second half comeback ensued, with Graham Stuart scoring twice and Barry Horne once to hand Everton a 3-2 and confirm their safety.
5. Sunderland (2013/14)
In a whirlwind season, Gus Poyet’s Sunderland never looked consistent enough to steer away from relegation once again following his arrival in October, but they managed it. And with some unlikely heroes. Finishing 14th doesn’t tell the entire story of their wobbles. After losing just once in the month of January, Poyet’s side then went on a torrid run of nine games without a win, picking up just two points from February to mid-April. Another shift in momentum swung their way at the crucial point in the season, though. Fabio Borini netted four goals in their last five games, and an away win at Chelsea in April ignited a crucial four-game winning streak, to guide them clear of the drop.
4. West Ham (2006/07)
Arguably the most controversial relegation scrap in Premier League history, West Ham confirmed their safety on the final day of the season with a 1-0 win against champions Manchester United. The goal, scored by Carlos Tevez, secured West Ham’s safety by ensuring Sheffield United went down instead. Because Tevez wasn’t officially owned by West Ham but instead by third parties, the Blades attempted to sue in order to retain Premier League status. That wasn’t successful, but their appeal to an FA panel was, forcing West Ham to settle out of court for an undisclosed sum, in order to avoid paying United some £30m in compensation.
3. Wigan Athletic (2011/12)
It would’ve been very easy for Wigan to hit the panic button and sack manager Roberto Martinez after a run of eight consecutive losses from September to November, but patience would ultimately pay dividends – just. A torrid January saw them lose another four on the spin as they lost pace, but even though they spent plenty of time at the foot of the Premier League table, they kept believing. The Tics came up trumps after that, regrouping towards the end of the season as they won seven of their final nine games, including games against Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and relegation rivals Blackburn.
2. West Brom (2004/05)
Bryan Robson’s appointment as manager in November couldn’t stop West Brom from being bottom of the table on Christmas Day, making relegation to the Championship feel unavoidable. Somehow, though, the Baggies managed to make it to the final day of the season without already being confirmed as relegated, in a ridiculously tight affair. They headed into their final match of the season against Portsmouth at the bottom, but finished 17th and safe after winning 2-0, while Norwich lost 6-0 at Fulham and Crystal Palace spurned a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Charlton, seeing them both relegated instead.
1. Leicester City (2014/15)
Finishing 14th doesn’t tell the full story, as Leicester needed – and found – a miracle in order to stay up. Esteban Cambiasso signed on a free transfer but couldn’t inspire the Foxes up the table, as they spent almost five months in 20th place. But a 2-1 win at home to West Ham at the start of April inspired a monumental comeback from Nigel Pearson’s side, who won seven of their remaining nine fixtures and lost just once in the process, dragging themselves back from certain relegation after being completely written off. It’s an even more spectacular feat considering what happened the following season.