Back from the brink: The greatest escapes in English top-flight history

Tom Hancock
LiveScore
Former Sunderland boss Gus Poyet proved the Black Cats’ had nine lives in 2014
Former Sunderland boss Gus Poyet proved the Black Cats’ had nine lives in 2014

Everyone wants to be top of the tree at Christmas, but someone has got to be the base — and this year Norwich are propping up the table.

Despite showing signs of improvement under new boss Dean Smith, the Canaries’ dreadful start to the season means they go into the festive period bottom of the Premier League. 

But all hope is not lost. It does not happen very often, but teams have pulled off great escapes from the East Anglian outfit’s position in the past.

Ahead of the upcoming seasonal fixtures, we turn the spotlight on the last five sides to perform a post-Christmas miracle.

Leicester (2014-15)

Leicester wrote one of the great sporting stories in 2016 by winning the Premier League at 5,000-1 odds. But they were almost not even in the top flight that season.

On Christmas Day 2014, the Foxes found themselves rock-bottom of the league — five points from safety — and heading straight back towards the Championship.

Nigel Pearson would ultimately be sacked but he steered his side to safety by engineering a remarkable late-season upturn in form which saw Leicester take 22 points from their final 10 games. 

In the end, they finished 14th and six points clear of relegation.

Leonardo Ulloa's 11 league goals were crucial to Leicester's Premier League survival in 2015
Leonardo Ulloa's 11 league goals were crucial to Leicester's Premier League survival in 2015

Sunderland (2013-14)

Sunderland had already recorded two of the Premier League’s lowest five points totals — but they avoided taking up another spot on that list in 2014.

The Black Cats could barely have got off to a worse start, earning just one point from their first eight matches.

Paolo Di Canio, who had only been appointed in March, was dispensed with after game five of that winless run, to be replaced by Gus Poyet.

The Uruguayan was able to steady the ship and turn it right around. 

Eight wins and four draws between Christmas and the end of the season, including four victories from their last five matches, saw Sunderland finish five points above the dotted line in 14th.

Fabio Borini netted five times in Sunderland’s final six fixtures of the 2013-14 season to fire his side to safety
Fabio Borini netted five times in Sunderland’s final six fixtures of the 2013-14 season to fire his side to safety

West Brom (2004-05)

Bryan Robson’s West Brom made history by becoming the first team in the Premier League era to stay up having been bottom at Christmas.

As late as March, the Baggies were eight points from safety and looking doomed — but victory in a Midlands derby against Birmingham kick-started a late revival which culminated in final-day survival.

A 2-0 win over Portsmouth in the last game of the campaign sparked jubilant scenes at The Hawthorns as West Brom clung onto their top-flight status by a single point and helped relegate Pompey's fierce rivals Southampton.

Amazingly, Bryan Robson’s men won only six matches all season — fewer than two of the three relegated sides.

Bryan Robson celebrates an improbable escape from relegation on the final day of the season
Bryan Robson celebrates an improbable escape from relegation on the final day of the season

Sheffield United (1990-91)

Fourteen years before West Brom replicated the feat, Sheffield United were the last team to survive after propping up the old First Division table at Christmas.

Back in the top flight following successive promotions, Dave Bassett’s side failed to win any of their first 16 games of the season. They eventually got off the mark with a 3-2 victory against Nottingham Forest in the final match before Christmas.

That seemed to awaken something in the Blades, who proceeded to win 12 of their remaining 21 matches — including seven on the spin between January and March.

They ultimately finished 13th, closer to the top half than the drop zone.

Manchester City (1989-90)

It is hard to imagine Manchester City as anything other than the near-unstoppable juggernaut they are today, but the seven-time champions of England have been relegated from the top flight on 10 occasions.

And it might have been 11 had they not turned things around in 1990 — when, like Leicester and Sunderland later on, they eventually came 14th out of 20 teams.

They ultimately finished just one place behind arch-rivals Manchester United on goal difference after losing 11 matches in the first half of the campaign.

The Citizens avoided the drop quite comfortably in the end, going on a nine-match unbeaten run from March to April and winning five of their final eight games.

Tags

Premier LeagueLeicester CitySunderlandWest Bromwich AlbionSheffield UnitedManchester City
LiveScore logo

LiveScore: Live Sport Updates

Footbal Scores & Sports News

Get instant notifications with the LiveScore app
app-storegoogle-play
cristiano Ronaldo