Monday, 8 May 2017

RANKED: The 11 most miraculous relegation escapes in English football

The 11 most miraculous relegation escapes in English football

11. Wigan, 2011/12 SEASON
Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and enduring a thoroughly miserable league campaign, Roberto Martinez's Wigan shocked even themselves with their morale-boosting 2-1 victory at Anfield on March 24, 2012. Remarkably, the Latics then proceeded to win six of their final eight games, including successes over both Arsenal and Manchester United.
Martinez's men eventually finished seven points clear of the trap door, through which Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves fell. After the vital United win, Martinez said: "I won’t be here forever. Perhaps one day Wigan's hearts will fail, and we'll go down, but I'm confident it won't be this season." Right on all counts, Roberto.


10. Sunderland, 2013/14 SEASON
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet claimed his side's escape from relegation "will go down in Wearside folklore". It was indeed an impressive survival act. Seemingly down and out in March, Poyet's men won four games on the trot in April, including victories over both Chelsea (at Stamford Bridge) and Manchester United.
They also drew against eventual champions Manchester City, and the unlikely star of the show was striker Connor Wickham, recalled by Poyet in late March from his loan spell at Leeds, and whose rediscovered goalscoring abilities saw him named Premier League Player of the Month for April. Wickham even turned provider, setting up Seb Larsson's winner at Old Trafford. "I firmly believe that Connor, and the club, will now go from strength to strength," insisted Poyet afterwards. Sadly not, Gus.

9. Leicester, 2014/15 SEASON
Bottom of the league with 10 games to go and seven points adrift of safety, the future was certainly not bright for Nigel Pearson's Leicester. Little did they know, though, that this period would prove the turning point for English football's most sensational achievement of all-time.
The Foxes had been without a victory for almost two-and-a-half months but set off on a stunning end-of-season run, winning seven of their last nine matches – including a final-day 5-1 smashing of QPR – to eventually finish a lofty 14th. In one of those matches, at fellow relegation battlers Burnley, the Clarets missed a penalty only to watch Jamie Vardy go up the other end to score the winner in a 1-0 smash-and-grab. Then 2015/16 happened. 

8. Carlisle, 1998/99 SEASON
“Jimmy Glass, get up there. You might as well for heavens’ sake,” screamed the local radio commentator as Carlisle United’s Division Three home clash with Plymouth in May 1999 went into the fourth minute of injury time. United – caretakered by none other than Nigel Pearson – needed a victory, otherwise they would be relegated.
But with the scores locked at 1-1 even their on-loan goalkeeper, signed by Pearson, reckoned they were doomed. But Carlisle were awarded a late corner (“I just headed to where the action was,” Glass recalled), their keeper trotted forward and in the melee smashed the ball home from seven yards to give his team a 2-1 win, preserve their league status and make himself ever-so-slightly popular with the locals.


7. Bradford , 1999/00 SEASON
“Yep – it’s going to be tough to survive this,” admitted Bradford manager Paul Jewell in April 2000, “and the only thing I can guarantee is that the players will fight until the last day of the season.”

With just five games to go, the Bantams' chances of remaining in the Premier League appeared virtually non-existent, but a battling series of results, which included three wins and a draw, meant that victory over Champions League-chasing Liverpool on the final day at a packed Valley Parade would save their skins and relegate Wimbledon. An early, towering David Wetherall header settled City’s nerves, and although Bradford rode their luck in the latter stages, they clung on to a 1-0 victory, and their top-flight status.

6. West Brom, 2004/05 SEASON
“It’s not a statistic I want to hear,” admitted West Brom manager Bryan Robson, after being told that no team bottom of the table at Christmas had avoided the drop in the Premier League era, “but we’ll just have to prove that the impossible can be made possible.”
Three wins and four draws in the season run-in gave them a fighting chance of survival in the final game of the campaign which, along with Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton, saw West Brom fighting for their lives. Substitute Geoff Horsfield was the hero, hauling himself off the bench to score the first goal against Portsmouth, and setting up Kieran Richardson for a second. In the end, just two points separated 17th and 20th, not that Baggies fans cared as they invaded the pitch at the final whistle.

5. West Ham, 2006/07 SEASON
After labouring in the drop zone for much of the season, Alan Curbishley’s West Ham hit a rich vein of form in April 2007, winning six games out of a possible eight. At one stage they'd been a massive 10 points behind 17th-placed Manchester City in early March. On the final day, the Hammers faced champions Manchester United at Old Trafford knowing that only a victory would guarantee their survival in the top flight. “If West Ham fans think we’ll be taking it easy, they’ve got another thing coming,” Sir Alex Ferguson vowed. 

Carlos Tevez’s form had ignited the Hammers since the spring, though, and it was his seventh and final goal of the campaign – slipped past Edwin van der Sar – that confirmed West Ham's survival, and earned him a summer move to the Red Devils on a two-year deal. Nice afternoon’s work, Carlos.

4. Wigan, 2011/12 SEASON
Rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and enduring a thoroughly miserable league campaign, Roberto Martinez's Wigan shocked even themselves with their morale-boosting 2-1 victory at Anfield on March 24, 2012. Remarkably, the Latics then proceeded to win six of their final eight games, including successes over both Arsenal and Manchester United.
Martinez's men eventually finished seven points clear of the trap door, through which Bolton, Blackburn and Wolves fell. After the vital United win, Martinez said: "I won’t be here forever. Perhaps one day Wigan's hearts will fail, and we'll go down, but I'm confident it won't be this season." Right on all counts, Roberto.


3. Sunderland, 2013/14 SEASON
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet claimed his side's escape from relegation "will go down in Wearside folklore". It was indeed an impressive survival act. Seemingly down and out in March, Poyet's men won four games on the trot in April, including victories over both Chelsea (at Stamford Bridge) and Manchester United.
They also drew against eventual champions Manchester City, and the unlikely star of the show was striker Connor Wickham, recalled by Poyet in late March from his loan spell at Leeds, and whose rediscovered goalscoring abilities saw him named Premier League Player of the Month for April. Wickham even turned provider, setting up Seb Larsson's winner at Old Trafford. "I firmly believe that Connor, and the club, will now go from strength to strength," insisted Poyet afterwards. Sadly not, Gus.

2. Leicester, 2014/15 SEASON
Bottom of the league with 10 games to go and seven points adrift of safety, the future was certainly not bright for Nigel Pearson's Leicester. Little did they know, though, that this period would prove the turning point for English football's most sensational achievement of all-time.
The Foxes had been without a victory for almost two-and-a-half months but set off on a stunning end-of-season run, winning seven of their last nine matches – including a final-day 5-1 smashing of QPR – to eventually finish a lofty 14th. In one of those matches, at fellow relegation battlers Burnley, the Clarets missed a penalty only to watch Jamie Vardy go up the other end to score the winner in a 1-0 smash-and-grab. Then 2015/16 happened. 


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