Exactly 25 years have passed since the Premier League was signed, sealed and delivered by faceless (likely pinstriped and double-breasted) suits. It is common knowledge that the formation of the Premier League in 1992 was in direct response to the ailing state of English football.
Too many sceptics, the subsequent slew of foreign players into Premier League squads was the death knell of the English national team. Maybe so, but those same sceptics would do well to remember that the title-winning Leicester squad of 2015/16 was largely English.
Opponents of the Premier League may also bemoan the emergence of heartless investors, as the so-called “Prawn Sandwich Brigade” continues its virulent, interminable growth.
Rather than invest in youth and form a band of brothers over a period of years, any perennial loser of a club can now become godlike overnight if a multi-billionaire oligarch simply likes the cut of the board’s jib. It is a far from ideal state of affairs, but it’s not like Manchester City are winning the title every year, is it?
You are no football fan at all if you haven’t already seen an innumerable array of drab “top ten” lists, such as those detailing the worst relegated sides in history. You know how they go, always culminating in Derby’s class of 2008 – which didn’t even get enough points to incur a driving ban.
We look today at the most underachieving Premier League squads from each of the 25 seasons to date. Don’t agree with us? Most of these teams were not relegated, and even the ones that were didn’t break any particular records. However, they still fell way short of the standards expected from them…
For reigning champions to go an entire season without winning away is simply embarrassing. The “mighty” whites finished sixth from bottom in the Premier League’s inaugural season. Image Source: ozwhitelufc.au
Graeme Souness was a major fixture in a rampantly successful Liverpool squad in the 1980s. His stint as manager was so poor, that it was the beginning of the end for the famous Anfield ‘boot room’. Liverpool finished eighth, behind Wimbledon. Let that just sink in for a moment. Image Source: Liverpoolwikia.com
The hype... oh dear lord, the HYPE! The Premier League’s first ever Jürgen began life at Spurs in a blaze of glory, netting the decisive goal on his debut in a 4-3 win at Hillsborough. Sadly, they finished 7th, and a whopping 11 points off a UEFA Cup place. Worst of all was the club’s failure to meet Manchester United in a “dream final” of media darlings at Wembley. Image Source: The42.ie
Early in the season, Tony Yeboah scored a brace of truly unbelievable goals that marked the West Yorkshire club as potential entertainers. Alas, a good start gave way to a slump, and an exit from the UEFA Cup in November. Leeds finished a lowly 13th, just a year after smashing through the 70-point barrier. Image Source: Fear and Loathing in LS11
What happened? Thanks to the presence of Juninho, Boro were one of the most entertaining sides in the league throughout 1995/96. Sadly, a run of one win in thirteen during the autumn of 1996 ensured that Boro could do little about avoiding relegation. Losing the League Cup final to Leicester was an extra kick in the jewels. Image Source: Cityfans
Sheffield Wednesday 97/98
When you have a strikeforce of Paolo Di Canio and Benito Carbone, but fail to gain mathematical safety until the penultimate weekend, then something is lacking. In the Owls’ case it was leadership on and off the pitch, shown by some shocking defensive performances – including a 7-2 defeat at Blackburn. Image Source: EMPics
Standout moments from cult hero Temuri Ketsbaia were rare glints in an otherwise mediocre Newcastle season. They ended up finishing 13th just two years after clinching a second consecutive runners-up spot. Image Source: Stu Forster
West Ham United 99/00
Ahead of Euro 2000, an 18-year old Joe Cole was the name on everyone’s lips. While it is true that his presence alongside Frank Lampard often made West Ham a difficult side to play against, the season was blighted by winless runs and a number of heavy defeats that reflected a lack of consistency. Source Image: Graham Whitby-Boot/Sportsphoto Ltd
A proposed new stadium at Kings Dock, the return of Duncan Ferguson, the acquisition of “world-class” players in Gascoigne and Nyarko – what could possibly go wrong? The answer to that was EVERYTHING. A shambolic and dull side amassed just 42 points and finished 16th in Walter Smith’s final full season at Goodison Park. Image Source: Clive Brunskill/Allsport
The previous season, this disciplined outfit had been in serious contention for Champions League football until the final weekend. After a dreadful autumn full of UEFA Cup distractions, not even a New Year run of seven wins in eight could save the Tractor Boys. Image Source: Twitter
Fresh off the back of a 2nd place finish and with Senegal’s best talents from the 2002 World Cup squad, Gerard Houllier’s Reds blazed an early trail. However, they ended the year of 2002 in fifth place – and stayed there, after losing to Chelsea on the final day of the season. Image Source: Action Images
Manchester Utd 03/04
Despite winning the FA Cup, United finished third (as reigning champions) for the second time in three years. Rio Ferdinand’s missed drug test, and a shock 1-0 defeat at Molineux to a squad containing some United has-beens and talentless lower league drones summed it all up. Image Source: Getty Images
The Magpies had narrowly missed out on Champions League football and then sacked Sir Bobby Robson in August 2004. Of all people, Graeme Souness took charge, and oversaw a Lucifer-esque fall from grace. They finished 14th, with a punch up between Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer the only standout memory. Source Image: Getty Images
After winning the first four games, Charlton were tipped as title outsiders. Reality soon bit, and the Addicks quickly became one of the most boring and dull sides to watch. Image Source: CitytillIdie.com
After reaching the UEFA Cup final in May 2006, great things were expected of a squad led by a young and forward-thinking manager. Sadly, Boro could not emulate the highs of recent years and finished with a negative goal difference, lodged firmly in mid table. Source Image: AFP Photo
Manchester City 07/08
The first signs of a revolution at City came when Thaksin Shinawatra took over the club, and Sven Goran Eriksson arrived. At first, any optimism did not appear misplaced. The side won its first three league games and completed a double over bitter rivals Manchester United in February 2008. But things went downhill quickly, as Eriksson failed to keep an egotistical dressing room together. The season ended with worse than a whimper, as City went down 8-1 at Middlesbrough. Image Source: Getty Images
Newcastle United 08/09
You knew this was coming, but this is a textbook example of how NOT to run a football club. A squad containing Damien Duff and Michael Owen should be challenging for titles, yet the shock appointment of Alan Shearer in April was highly questionable to say the least. The run of wins needed to escape the drop never came. Image Source: Villatalk .com
After reaching the 2009 FA Cup Final, poor, late and rushed decisions were made in the summer transfer market, and resources remained unforgivably shallow. By Christmas, an injury crisis meant that the Toffees looked in serious danger of relegation. Somehow they finished 8th, but it was certainly an opportunity missed. Image Source: Press Association
When a club like Liverpool is mere days from administration and second-bottom in late October, serious questions need to be asked. The appointment of Roy Hodgson raised a few eyebrows, as did the signings of Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen. The Reds also suffered a league double at the hands of newly-promoted Blackpool. Enough said. Image Source: Action Images
A 10th place finish the previous was a sign of long overdue progress at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats failed to capitalise on that momentum, with some shocking pre-Christmas form putting paid to any hopes of an improved finish. Image Source: Caughtoffside.com
Olivier Giroud replaced Robin van Persie as Arsenal’s main striker. Giroud is a true ‘marmite’ player, and there is a constant nagging feeling that Arsenal could have done much better from the Van Persie money. The Gunners were consistent and finished fourth, but continually bottled key games against title rivals. Image Source: Caughtoffside.com
Swansea City 13/14
After guiding Swansea to the 2013 League Cup, Brian Laudrup became one of the most coveted managerial names in Europe – even being touted as a potential replacement for Arsene Wenger. By February 2014, his squad lay 15th and in freefall. His sacking summarised just how much of an opportunity missed the 2013-14 season was for Swansea. Image Source: bt.dk
The galvanising presence of Harry Redknapp did nothing for QPR. The ‘Rs’ failed to pick up a single away point until the 10th February 2015. They also exited both cup competitions at the first hurdle, en-route to a bottom place finish with just 30 points. Image Source: Graham Whitby-Boot
Crystal Palace 15/16
Sitting pretty in sixth as Christmas approached, Palace endured a barren run of thirteen games without a win. Their capitulation after leading the FA Cup Final summed it all up. Source Image: Getty Images.
Boro just don't like years ending in '7' do they? They may yet survive. But Karanka's side are extremely dull to watch and score less than a nun on a desert island. Image Source: Getty Images
Some seriously disappointing seasons from decent clubs. It just goes to show how a combination of a top manager and decent players, coupled with previous success does not always guarantee triumph the following year. Sometimes though, it’s just the players attitude which is stopping the team achieving, look at Leicester City this year.