Football in Tunnel Entrance

The Six Biggest Teams to be Relegated From the Premier League

There have been many big clubs who have flirted with relegation from the Premier League over the years and often they do enough to get themselves out of trouble before the unthinkable happens. But there have been a few occasions when some of the biggest clubs in the land have fallen short and been relegated to the second tier of English football.

In this article, we’ll first outline the biggest clubs to have been relegated during the Premier League era, then we’ll look at all the clubs that have been relegated between the inaugural Premier League season and the end of the 2020/21 campaign. Finally, we’ll explain the criteria we’ve used to assess which clubs should be categorised as “big” (which is sure to cause no end of consternation with fans of clubs like West Brom, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland… among others!).

Manchester City

Season Points Position Points from Safety
1995/96 38 18th 0 (-7 goal difference)
2000/01 34 18th 8 points

Given Man City’s success in recent years during which most of the time they have either won or almost won the Premier League title and the various cups, some people might have forgotten their relatively recent relegations (yes, plural!) from the Premier League. Indeed, so dramatic was their decline when they were relegated from the Premier League (in 18th position on 38 points) at the end of the 1995/96 season, they got relegated the following season to the third tier of English football (then the Football League Second Division); even then they only finished third the following year and had to battle through the playoffs to get back to the second tier.

It wasn’t quite as problematic for City when they again faced relegation from the top flight after the 2000/01 campaign (when they finished in 18th position on 34 points); they finished top of the second tier the following season after earning an impressive total of 99 points to come straight back to the Premier League and within a decade they had won the title!

Something sure to have rubbed salt in the wounds of City fans was that on both occasions when their side was relegated, city rivals Man United won the Premier League title. But the tables have turned somewhat in recent times, and of course the blue half of Manchester would certainly be celebrating if United ever got relegated from the top flight. We can’t see it happening but you never know in football!

Aston Villa

Season Points Position Points from Safety
2015/16 17 20th 22 points

The 2015/16 Premier League season was very strange. The biggest shock, that sent ripples around the entire world of football, was that relative minnows Leicester City won the title, with the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City and Man United trailing in their wake. But things were also far from predictable at the other end of the table as two clubs that would certainly fit into the categorisation of being “big” suffered the indignity of relegation: Newcastle United and Aston Villa.

Looking at Villa here and their relegation at the end of the 2015/16 campaign was a massive fall from grace for a side that posted three consecutive sixth-place finishes in the top flight between 2008 and 2010 and who won the League Cup twice in the 1990s. In fact, the Villans were just about challenging for the Premier League title in the early and mid-90s and between the 1995/96 and the 2010/11 seasons then finished in the top 10 on 12 occasions. They were also the runners-up to Man United in the inaugural Premier League season in 1992/93, albeit 10 points adrift of the eventual champions.

Initially with Tim Sherwood at the helm, Villa started the campaign with a win away at Bournemouth, but it was downhill from there. They lost eight of their next nine league matches (drawing the other) to send them to the bottom of the table… where they stayed for the remainder of the season. They ended on just 17 points with three wins on the board. In fact they had more managers over the course of the season than victories!

Such is the competitiveness of the Championship, it took Villa three attempts to make it back up to the Premier League, eventually making it through the play-offs at the end of the 2018/19 season, since when they haven’t exactly thrived. For Villa fans, their European Cup triumph of 1981 seems like a very long time ago.

Newcastle United

Season Points Position Points from Safety
2008/09 34 18th 1 point
2015/16 37 18th 2 points

Newcastle went down the same year as Villa, but they only just fell short. They ended the season in 18th position on 37 points, agonisingly just two points behind North East rivals Sunderland. Unlike Man City and Aston Villa, when Newcastle went down, they came straight back up after winning the Championship title the following season. In fact, they did the same when they were relegated after the 2008/09 campaign. On that occasion they took the second tier by storm and amassed an astounding total of 102 points.

It’s fair to say Newcastle have had mixed fortunes in the Premier League era. In the early and mid-1990s they were right up there challenging for the title and finished as runners-up to Manchester United in 1995/96 and again the following year. In recent times though the Magpies have become something of a mid-table side – at best. Having said that, the recent sale of the club might trigger a new era of success that would make their sizeable fanbase very happy.

West Ham United

Season Points Position Points from Safety
2002/03 42 18th 2 points
2010/11 33 20th 7 points

Under Harry Redknapp, West Ham were a very decent side in the mid to late 1990s and they regularly finished in the top 10 in the Premier League. Once Harry had moved on, Glenn Roeder took charge and led the Hammers to a very creditable 7th place finish in the 2001/02 season.

But things went somewhat pear-shaped the following season, despite having an impressive squad of players that included David James in goal, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Trevor Sinclair in midfield and Jermain Defoe and the fiery, yet magical, Paulo Di Canio up front. West Ham had a woeful first half of the season, and although they turned things around towards the end of the campaign (when Trevor Brooking was given the manager’s job on a caretaker basis), they couldn’t do enough to avoid the drop. And that was despite finishing on a relatively high points total of 42. Unfortunately for the Hammers, they still fell short by two points with Bolton finishing above them in 17th position on 44 points.

West Ham came back up to the top flight for the 2005/06 season and remained there until the end of the 2010/11 campaign when they had a torrid time under the stewardship of Israeli former Chelsea boss Avram Grant. Unlike when previously relegated, the Hammers couldn’t get over the “magic 40-point mark” this time around and ended the season rock bottom on 33 points. To be fair, they made it back to the PL at the first time of asking, again through the play-offs, and have been there ever since, their move to the London Stadium allowing the club to capitalise on what has always been a large fanbase.

Leeds United

Season Points Position Points from Safety
2003/04 33 19th 6 points

Some fans of other clubs might question our inclusion of Leeds as one of the biggest clubs in the land given their relative lack of success for much of this century. But it wasn’t all that long ago that the West Yorkshire club finished in the top five in the Premier League for five years running while they also made the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup and even the Champions League around the turn of the century. Their hugely loyal fanbase, historical success in the 1970s but, more than anything, the fact that they had been challenging at the top of the table for a number of seasons is what makes them a must for this list of the most surprising relegations in PL history.

The West Yorkshire side had some world class players at the time and played a fine brand of football that made them many fans’ “second team”. But things took a turn for the worse in the early 21st century, in no small part because of the financial mismanagement of the club under then-chairman Peter Ridsdale.

Selling club legend Rio Ferdinand to bitter rivals Manchester United was an indication that things were not right behind the scenes. Then Leeds were forced to sell some more of their best players including Jonathan Woodgate, Robbie Keane and Lee Bowyer to fund loan repayments. Leeds had finished fifth, fourth, third, fourth and fifth between 1997/98 and 2001/02 but inevitably performances on the pitch began to suffer. They dropped down to 15th in 2002/03 and during the 2003/04 season things really came to a head. Leeds ended up finishing in 19th position and spent the next three seasons in the second tier.

Worse was to come for the Whites though as they got relegated to League One at the end of the 2006/07 season, where they spent three seasons. After finally battling back into the Championship, it took a decade of underperformance and near misses before they made it back to what Leeds fans believe is their club’s rightful place in the Premier League. How long they stay there remains to be seen.

Leicester City

Season Points Position Points from Safety
1994/95 29 21st 19 points
2001/02 28 20th 12 points
2003/04 33 18th 6 points

Another side that some would contest are not as big a club as some of those we’ve omitted, we have included Leicester because they are the only side other than Liverpool, Man United, Man City, Chelsea or Arsenal to have won the Premier League this century. Throw in their FA Cup win in 2021 and their run to the quarter finals of the Champions League in 2017 and we think they deserve inclusion, despite not having one of the biggest stadiums in the division or perhaps as impressive a history as others.

Of course, before Leicester out-foxed all and sundry to conquer the Premier League in the 2015/16 season, they had long been something of a yo-yo club. Their relegations were not as shocking as that of Leeds or some of the other teams we have featured because much of their success has come more recently.

However, in many ways, with three relegations from the Premier League and even a season in League One (2008/09), the fact that the Foxes made it to the very top of the pile is even more astounding that it would otherwise have been. Now an established top flight side that regularly challenges for the European places, Leicester are one of the success stories of modern English football and their success lets the fans of similarly sized clubs dare to dream of what might be around the corner for their team.

Which Teams Have Been Relegated From The Premier League?

Here we’ll run through all of the sides who got relegated from the Premier League from its inaugural 1992/93 season to the end of the 2021/22 campaign. There are plenty of clubs that we’ve not classified as “big” and it is a matter of opinion as to whether some of them should be, but we’ll explain our logic on the matter later in the article.

Season 3rd Bottom 2nd Bottom Bottom Club
2021/22 Burnley Watford Norwich City
2020/21 Fulham West Brom Sheffield United
2019/20 Bournemouth Watford Norwich City
2018/19 Cardiff City Fulham Huddersfield Town
2017/18 Swansea City Stoke City West Brom
2016/17 Hull City Middlesbrough Sunderland
2015/16 Newcastle United Norwich City Aston Villa
2014/15 Hull City Burnley Queens Park Rangers
2013/14 Norwich City Fulham Cardiff City
2012/13 Wigan Athletic Reading Queens Park Rangers
2011/12 Bolton Wanderers Blackburn Rovers Wolves
2010/11 Birmingham City Blackpool West Ham United
2009/10 Burnley Hull City Portsmouth
2008/09 Newcastle United Middlesbrough West Brom
2007/08 Reading Birmingham City Derby County
2006/07 Sheffield United Charlton Athletic Watford
2005/06 Birmingham City West Brom Sunderland
2004/05 Crystal Palace Norwich City Southampton
2003/04 Leicester City Leeds United Wolves
2002/03 West Ham United West Brom Sunderland
2001/02 Ipswich Town Derby County Leicester City
2000/01 Manchester City Coventry City Bradford City
1999/2000 Wimbledon Sheffield Wednesday Watford
1998/99 Charlton Athletic Blackburn Rovers Nottingham Forest
1997/98 Bolton Wanderers Barnsley Crystal Palace
1996/97 Sunderland Middlesbrough Nottingham Forest
1995/96 Manchester City Queens Park Rangers Bolton Wanderers
Season 4th Bottom 3rd Bottom 2nd Bottom Bottom Club
1994/95 Crystal Palace Norwich City Leicester City Ipswich Town
Season 3rd Bottom 2nd Bottom Bottom Club
1993/94 Sheffield United Oldham Athletic Swindon Town
1992/93 Crystal Palace Middlesbrough Nottingham Forest

So from the 30 completed Premier League seasons featured and the 91 relegated teams, the six “big” clubs, according to our assessment, have only faced the drop on 11 occasions, so 12.1% of relegated clubs have fit into our categorisation as big. But what do we actually mean by the term?

What Makes A Football Club “Big”?

Although we’ve already detailed the occasions when big clubs have been cast aside from the top table of English football, it still makes sense to clarify what it means to be a “big” club in the first place. As with most things in this fluid and complex world, the notion of a big club is rather subjective and there is often a certain amount of bias involved (or wishful thinking) on the part of fans. All kinds of metrics could be used to ascertain whether a club can realistically be classified as big, including the following:

Average Crowd Size

Football Crowd Holding Scarves in the Air

A simple and effective way to assess how big a team is to look at how many fans turn up to watch them. There is the caveat that a club can’t sell more tickets than they have seats available in their stadium. On the other hand, there are plenty of clubs, especially further down the football ladder, who don’t get near to selling out their matches.

When it comes to average attendances, the top team in the land is Manchester United, who average well over 70,000 fans per home game. Next up we have Arsenal and West Ham (since their stadium move) who average just under 60,000 per home game. Tottenham, another who’ve upgraded to new premises in recent times, are around the 55,000 mark, with Liverpool and Man City around 52,000 and then Newcastle United being the only other team in England who consistently attracts more than 50,000 fans to home matches.

Chelsea, who on most measures would be considered one of the biggest clubs in England, only average around 40,000 fans per home match due to the relatively low capacity of Stamford Bridge. That means they are more comparable to the likes of Everton and Leeds United who also average not too far under 40,000 fans for home games, and a couple of thousand behind Aston Villa who are nearer to 42,000.

Based on (recent) attendance figures alone, the biggest clubs in England are therefore Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, West Ham United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton and Leeds United. The teams to just miss out, who average between 30,000 and 35,000, are Southampton, Leicester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Brighton and Hove Albion. Sides from the second tier that command respectable attendances that are not too far behind include Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest, Derby County and Middlesbrough.

Recent Domestic Honours

Footballer Holding Silver Trophy in the Air

Of course, attracting a healthy crowd is one thing, but if a side is unable to produce success on the pitch, can they really be called a big club? That is a question that could certainly be levelled at the likes of Newcastle, Everton, Aston Villa and West Ham, and even Tottenham. None of those sides have won the Premier League title and West Ham have never won a top flight title ever (their highest finish was third place in the 1985/65 season).

Everton have won nine top flight titles over the years, but none since the 1986/87 season. Villa have to go back to 1980/81 for their seventh and last title, while Spurs have to look back to 1960/61 and Newcastle even further back to 1926/27 to the last time they finished at the top of the pile in England.

Looking to the domestic cups, Spurs have eight FA Cups to their name (though none since 1990/91), which is (at the time of writing) the same as Liverpool and two ahead of Man City. Chelsea also have eight FA Cups, though Man United have 12 in the bag and Arsenal are at the top of that particular tree with 14 FA Cups.

Recent domestic honours have been dominated by the big five clubs of Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. But it should be remembered that Blackburn Rovers (1994/95) and Leicester City (2015/16) have both won titles in the Premier League era, while Leeds won the final top flight title before the PL began.

Leicester have also won the FA Cup in recent times (2020/21), as have – even more surprisingly – Wigan Athletic (2012/13) and Portsmouth (2007/08). Despite Leicester’s relatively modest average attendance figures that hover around the 32,000 mark, we think they are deserving of sneaking into the category of being a big club on the basis that they have at least won the Premier League and the FA Cup this century, which is more than can be said of the likes of Everton, Tottenham, Leeds or Newcastle.

European Success

White Passenger Plane Taking Off

For all Man City’s domestic success in recent times, it is worth noting that the only European trophy they have won was the 1969/70 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. That means that as well as Liverpool Chelsea and Man United, the following sides have also won more European silverware than City: Newcastle (2), West Ham United (2), Leeds United (2), Tottenham (3), Aston Villa (3) and Nottingham Forest (3).

There is certainly a lot of kudos earned by winning a European tournament, but it is the recent successes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Man United in the Champions League that stand out when assessing the size of clubs in the modern era. Ipswich Town’s UEFA Cup win in 1981 and Forest’s European Cup wins in 1979 and 1980 were impressive, but they were so long ago that we find it hard to take them into account here.


Old Leather Football Stitches

We’ve focused mainly on recent successes to assess the significance of the clubs because clearly some teams that once enjoyed massive success are nowhere near being categorised as a big club today… we’re looking at you, Preston North End who were the first team to do the league and FA Cup double. Alas, Preston peaked in the late 19th century. Still, they’ve won as many top flight titles as Spurs, who most people, probably everyone outside of Preston, would consider a big club today.

While historical success does play a part (for instance with the likes of Leeds United) in establishing a club as significant, for the purposes of this article, it is less important than success – or near success – achieved in the Premier League era. So although Sunderland have won the league six times in their history, their last top flight title was way back in the 1930s, so it doesn’t hold much sway with us.

The Best Not-Quite-Big Clubs To Get Relegated From The Premier League

As you will see from the table above, there are plenty of teams who’ve been relegated from the Premier League who might be described as “almost big” or perhaps “once big” clubs. Here we include the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City and Sunderland. Although their fans (and even some others) might beg to differ, it would be stretching things a little to suggest any of these are truly big clubs in today’s game. That said, of course, muddying the waters further is the fact that all things are relative and compared to many cubs those teams are indeed “big”.

Returning to the issue, it might seem a little harsh on the Baggies for us to have excluded the West Midlands club but included the likes of Leeds and West Ham amongst our big clubs. Indeed, the likes of Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town could have had valid claims for being big clubs not so long ago on the back of their European successes, but given the demise of both clubs in the decades since, they don’t make the grade for us.

A special mention should be given to Blackburn Rovers who are the only side to have been relegated after winning a Premier League (albeit a few years after their title-winning campaign).

How Likely is it That a Big Club Gets Relegated?

It is not altogether surprising that the truly big clubs (the likes of the current, so-called Big Six, Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham) have generally been well clear of the relegation zone by the end of the Premier League season. There have been plenty of clubs that just about squeeze into the “big club” category who have flirted with relegation but who – at least of the time of writing – have managed to sustain themselves in the Premier League, Everton being the prime example here.

All in all, it might be slightly surprising that more than 10% of clubs relegated from the Premier League have been big clubs. But all have found a way back to the top flight, even though it has taken some far longer than others. With the rewards of being in the Premier League being so gigantic, clearly clubs will throw everything they have at ensuring they stay there. And though there are exceptions, the biggest clubs are rarely in too much danger of relegation in the modern era.