World Football

How the Last 20 Play-Off Winners Have Fared in Their First Premier League Season

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2014

How the Last 20 Play-Off Winners Have Fared in Their First Premier League Season

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    The Premier League is the golden goose as far as football league teams are concerned: growth, glory and riches come from being promoted to English football's top flight.

    For those who just miss out on the top two automatic promotion spots, a chance of redemption is offered in the shape of the play-offs. Teams placed third to sixth in the Championship play a two-legged semi-final, and then a final; the winner is handed the third and final Premier League place for the following season.

    This season, Queens Park Rangers have beaten Derby County 1-0 in the final to take their place in the top flight next term—but what has followed for the teams who trod the same path before them?

1994: Leicester City, Relegated

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    Leicester beat Derby County in the 93-94 final, but endured a tough campaign in what was still a 22-team Premier League the following season.

    They won only one game away from home all season, along with just five home matches, leaving them in a season-long battle to stay off bottom spot.

    With four going down that season, they never really stood a chance at survival and ended up being relegated, in 21st position, 19 points adrift of safety.

1995: Bolton Wanderers, Relegated

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    Bolton Wanderers didn't fare much better the following campaign, with the Premier League now reduced to 20 teams for 1995-96.

    Teams that won the play-offs were quickly learning this was a tough step up, as the Trotters ended up bottom of the league, with eight wins from their 38 games.

    They were nine points adrift of safety and had the worst defensive record in the entire top flight.

1996: Leicester City, Top Half

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    Back in 96-97, Leicester City were still playing at their old Filbert Street stadium, while Neil Lennon was one of their stars in midfield and Martin O'Neill jumped up and down exuberantly on the touchline.

    They made a far better job of promotion via the playoffs than the last pair of sides had, winning an impressive 12 games and finishing in ninth place, above the likes of Spurs and Leeds United.

    Even better, Leicester also won the League Cup trophy that season, beating Middlesbrough in the final after a replay.

1997: Crystal Palace, Relegated

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    Hermann Hreidarsson began his journey of being relegated with five different English clubs by signing for Crystal Palace in 97-98.

    He and his team-mates were unable to prevent Palace's stay in the top flight lasting a single season as they picked up only eight wins, finishing seven points adrift of safety.

    They were relegated in 20th place, bottom of the table.

1998: Charlton Athletic, Relegated

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    Charlton Athletic beat Sunderland in the play-offs in '98, and they were tipped at the time as having a chance to stay up in 98-99 under Alan Curbishley.

    However, a lack of firepower contributed to their downfall—Clive Mendonca top-scored with just eight goals—as they managed just 20 goals in 19 home league games, and one goal more away from home.

    They were relegated in 18th, one place but five points from survival.

1999: Watford, Relegated

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    The 1999-2000 Watford side was, with all due respect, pretty poor.

    They spent relatively large fees on the likes of Nordin Wooter and had a fairly young squad all things considered, and this inexperience told as they finished bottom of the league table.

    Just six wins all season long left them a mighty 12 points from safety—their nearest relegation rivals were seven points clear.

2000: Ipswich Town, Top Five and European Football

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    Ipswich Town were heralded as a perfect example of how teams coming up could survive in the Premier League playing attack-minded football.

    They stunned the watching world by losing just three times at home, winning 20 games throughout the season (that's one less than Tottenham or Everton this season just finished, for reference) and ended up in fifth place, securing UEFA Cup football for the next campaign.

    Of course, the following season they spent big, were relegated and were heralded as a perfect example of "second-season syndrome."

2001: Bolton Wanderers, Survival

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    Bolton Wanderers came up in 2000-01 and brought with them Sam Allardyce, managing in the Premier League for the first time in 01-02.

    They only won nine games all season, but being difficult to beat, they managed to pick up a hefty 13 draws, taking them to 40 points for the season.

    Bolton finished in 16th place, two positions and four points clear of the drop.

2002: Birmingham City, Mid-Table

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    Steve Bruce had taken Birmingham up to the Premier League through the play-offs, beating Norwich City in the final, and they enjoyed a superb first season back in the top flight.

    Birmingham finished in a comfortable 13th place, with 13 wins for the campaign and six points clear of relegation—only seven points separated 11th to 18th by the end of that season.

    Their usual side that season featured the likes of Jeff Kenna, Clinton Morrison and Robbie Savage, while Cristophe Dugarry also enjoyed a successful half-season loan.

2003: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Relegated

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    Wolves became the first playoff-promoted team in four years to go straight back down, after they finished bottom of the Premier League in 2003-04.

    They finished on 33 points, level with the other two relegated clubs Leicester City and Leeds United, but finished behind those two by virtue of goal difference and goals scored respectively.

    Wolves failed to win a single game away from home all season, ending six points below the relegation zone safety line.

2004: Crystal Palace, Relegated

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    Crystal Palace ended with the same number of points as Wolves the previous season, 33, and the same outcome—they were relegated.

    They did, however, finish two places higher in 18th, only a single point from safety after West Bromwich Albion rose from bottom to 17th on the final day.

    The likes of Wayne Routledge and Ben Watson made their way into the Premier League with Palace that season, while one of their two goalkeepers for the campaign was Julian Speroni—still with the club and their No. 1 choice in the season just finished, a decade later.

2005: West Ham United, Top Half

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    West Ham United beat Preston North End in the 2005 play-off final, with Bobby Zamora sending the Hammers up after they had finished sixth in the regular Championship season.

    Alan Pardew was the man in charge at the time, and he led West Ham to an impressive ninth-place finish in their first season in the top flight, winning 16 matches along the way.

    The Hammers amassed 55 points all told, ending closer to the top four than the relegation zone.

2006: Watford, Relegated

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    Watford came up once more via the play-offs in 2006, but 06-07 wasn't any kinder to them than 1999-2000 was.

    Once again they ended the season in 20th place, bottom of the league, with a measly five victories to savour all season long.

    They finished 10 points adrift of safety and scored only 29 goals all season long, in what was another pretty desperate campaign.

2007: Derby County, Relegated

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    Derby County came up via the playoffs in '07, but they would have been hoping their first Premier League season went an awful lot better than 2007-08 actually did for them.

    The Rams were the worst team in Premier League history, winning a single, solitary, lonesome match out of 38 (vs. Newcastle United in September) and thereafter embarked on a record of 32 winless games in a row.

    Derby were relegated in March—the first time a top-flight side in England has had that dubious honour.

2008: Hull City, Survival

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    Hull City's extraordinary start to the 2008-09 season made it seem as though they would easily survive; they won six of their first nine league games and were still in sixth place after 17 matches.

    However, they embarked on a terrible second half of the season, winning just once more, losing 14 of their last 19 games to finish 17th, one place outside the drop zone and a single point clear.

    Manager Phil Brown's memorable half-time team-talk out on the pitch in front of Hull's own bemused fans didn't have much of an effect—they lost that game 5-1.

2009: Burnley, Relegated

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    Burnley beat Sheffield United in the play-offs in '09, giving them a first shot at the Premier League.

    A change in managers midway through the campaign cost them dearly, though, as they won just three league games after Owen Coyle departed for Bolton Wanderers.

    Burnley ended in 18th place, relegated on 30 points, five behind their nearest rivals West Ham.

2010: Blackpool, Relegated

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    Ian Holloway's Blackpool side entertained and enthralled with their own brand of all-out-attack madness, but the goals they scored—55 of them, a large total for a bottom three side—were wiped out by a massive 78 conceded.

    That cavalier approach to defending cost the Tangerines their top-flight place after a single season, as they finished 19th with 39 points, one less than Wolves, who finished in 17th.

    On the final day of the season they briefly led at Old Trafford against Manchester United—2-1 up with half an hour to play—but their defensive deficiencies cost them once more as they ended up losing 4-2, when an unlikely win would have kept them up.

2011: Swansea City, Mid-Table

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    Swansea impressed Premier League viewers with their fearless brand of possession football as soon as they came up via the play-offs in 2011.

    Under manager Brendan Rodgers, Swansea won 12 games and ended the campaign in 11th place, only outside the top half on goals scored—a single goal behind West Bromwich Albion.

    They went on to win the League Cup the following season and remain in the top flight after three seasons.

2012: West Ham United, Mid-Table

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    West Ham United were promoted from the play-offs two years ago, beating Blackpool in the final.

    A Sam Allardyce team, they were typically tough to break down in their first season back in the top flight and won 12 of their matches, totalling 46 points to finish 10th in a very congested middle section of the table.

    West Ham also survived the most recent campaign, ending 13th, and will prepare for a third successive season in the Premier League.

2013: Crystal Palace, Mid-Table

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    Crystal Palace came up from the Championship a year ago having beaten Watford in a tense final, winning 1-0 after extra time.

    They initially struggled in the Premier League, losing nine of the first 10 games, but the introduction of Tony Pulis for the second half of the campaign changed all that.

    A five-game winning streak in March and April sealed their survival, as Palace ended the campaign in 11th place, with 45 points.

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