Promotion for clubs in football can be an exciting time; filled with hope and ambition, dreams of becoming a domestic force, even embarking on a meteoric rise. Certainly when Leicester City achieved promotion to the Premier League in the 2013-14 season, not even the most die-hard Foxes fan would have expected the club to win the Premier League title in their second season. Especially after barely surviving in their first.
But, football really is a funny old business, where anything can happen. Indeed, the debates on most people’s lips at the start of a season after looking at the fixtures and the transfer business that each club has done, certainly surrounds the issue of title winners and European places, though another is perhaps the most interesting.
Often for those filling in their predictions, it can pose the most taxing thought process. Who will get relegated? Arguably one of the most competitive league’s in the world, the English top-flight has seen some fierce relegation battles over the years, with some shock survivals in dramatic last minute fashion.
Leeds United pulled off a coup in the final couple of minutes in the 2021/22 season, when Jack Harrison scored an injury time winner against Brentford to seal the fate of relegation rivals Burnley who had begun the final day one point above the Yorkshire club, outside of the drop-zone. There have, of course, been others.
However, one talking point is how many of the promoted clubs that came up will survive relegation. The odds of all three achieving this are often long, although, there is at least one that many believe have a good chance due to a number of factors, such as manager, style of play, finances or simply having a strong enough squad.
Some clubs have given valiant efforts early on when being promoted, though have faded and ended up going straight back down; Norwich City, often consistently.
However, during the history of the Premier League, no newly-promoted club to the English top-flight has ever been relegated during their first season. Examples include Huddersfield Town’s survival during the 2017/18 season, when the Terriers earned a point at Stamford Bridge to ensure this.
Interestingly, promoted sides have a habit of starting the season well; often high on confidence and still riding the crest of a wave from their exploits a few months previously. Also, they are a team with a winning attitude that has been used to, invariably getting three points every week. As such, it is understandable why a promoted club would start so well.
Under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United’s first season back in the top flight for nearly 20 years, saw them stick to their attacking principles and shock many sides, indeed becoming many fans’ second-favourite club to watch after their own, earning a ninth-place finish.
While, as mentioned, it is very rare for all three promoted clubs to stay up during their first season, there are instances where this has happened.
When Have All Three Promoted Clubs Stayed In The Premier League?
So far, there have been three occasions when all three promoted clubs have upset the odds and stayed in the top flight. Below we go further into detail to give you the story of how this happened.
Premier League Season 2001/02
The first time that this actually happened was when Fulham, Bolton and Blackburn all survived in the 2001-02 Premier League season which actually reveals some very interesting stats.
A season where Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal dominated the league and in which Ipswich Town, Derby County and Leicester City all got relegated, the three promoted clubs each enjoyed a number of accolades.
Fulham finished in 13th place, after considerable investment from their wealthy owner at the time, Mohamed Al-Fayed, who actually stated the club would then win the title that season. However, they were invited to play in the Intertoto Cup during pre-season, which they went on to win and automatically gain a place in the UEFA Cup (now Europa League), for the following season.
Bolton ended the season in 16th – their survival actually guaranteed in the penultimate game of the campaign.
Blackburn, meanwhile, finished 10th, though it was their shock victory over Tottenham in the League Cup which really capped their season, which also qualified them for the, then UEFA Cup.
In curious fashion, Bolton were top of the league after their first three fixtures, which saw boss Sam Allardyce scoop the Manager of the Month Award for August, while Fulham’s prolific French striker, Louis Saha won August’s Player of the Month, after scoring three goals against Manchester United and Sunderland.
Premier League Season 2011/12
Interestingly, both Blackburn and Bolton stayed in the top flight for a decade (Fulham until 2013), which was when the feat was repeated again, when QPR, Swansea City and Norwich became the second clutch of three promoted clubs to stay in the Premier League.
Even the most casual fan of the Premier League is likely to remember the 2011/12 season for the dramatic last minute winner from Sergio Aguero for Manchester City, that snatched the title away from fierce rivals Manchester United on goal difference, on the last day of the season. Interestingly, City were playing a spirited QPR side, who also could not be sure of their survival. Despite a narrow loss, the West London side managed to stay up, due to other results going their way.
Meanwhile, Swansea and Norwich finished 11th and 12 respectively, both on 47 points (the former having a superior goal difference), to cap very commendable seasons in the top flight.
During the campaign, some notable moments from the promoted clubs, saw Canaries’ striker Grant Holt notch 15 goals to finish eighth in the scoring charts. As for accolades, Swansea got the best disciplinary record, with 39 yellow and two red cards, while their manager, Brendan Rodgers, won Manager of the Month for January and Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson won Player of the Month for March. Also noteworthy, is that Norwich won the award for Best Behaved Fans.
Premier League Season 2017/18
When Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion were all promoted to the Premier League in the previous season, there was the expectation that only the Magpies, realistically stood any chance of staying up, due to the size of the club.
Manager Rafael Benitez had brought the club back up in style, winning the league at a canter and, out of all three clubs, they looked the most likely to not go back down. For many Premier League fans, the other two were relatively unknown and many bookmakers had them as heavy favourites for the drop.
A season which saw Manchester City win their third Premier League title, the three promoted clubs also performed admirably.
After an impressive start under irrepressible manager David Wagner, Huddersfield soon waned, eventually finishing 16th on 37 points – four above the dropzone. Meanwhile, Brighton were just in front of them on 40 points in 15th place. It was Newcastle though, who performed the best finishing the season in 10th on 44 points.
Notable accolades for promoted clubs that season included both Brighton and Huddersfield goalkeepers, Matt Ryan and Jonas Lossl recording 10 clean sheets apiece to finish in joint-seventh along with three others. Meanwhile, Wagner won Manager of the Month for August after his side’s impressive start and Brighton’s Chris Hughton won the same achievement in February.
A Super Stat For One Season
|Promoted 2016/17||Relegated 2017/18|
|Premier League||Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Huddersfield Town||Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City|
|Championship||Sheffield United, Millwall, Bolton Wanderers||Sunderland, Burton Albion, Barnsley|
|League One||Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers||Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, Oldham Athletic|
|League Two||Lincoln City, Forest Green Rovers||Chesterfield, Barnet|
|Vanarama National League||AFC Fylde, Ebbsfleet United, Maidenhead United, Halifax Town||Guiseley, Chester FC, Torquay United, Woking|
Indeed, the 2017/18 campaign wasn’t only notable for the Premier League. This is the only season since records began when every club that was promoted in 2016/17 in the English Football League and the Vanarama National League stayed up the following season.
While the above table outlines an incredible stat, the likelihood of this happening again in football is slim – certainly bookmakers would give you very long odds on this outcome, especially with so many different variables that are now in football.
More often than not we see the vast majority of football clubs go back down the following season, because they simply do not have the financial muscle to compete in the league that they have been promoted to – this being the case at all levels.
While a previous winning attitude might give a promoted club an early push in a new, and albeit, a harder league to begin with, the chances are that the novelty wears off and the club is then dragged into a relegation fight – often with at least one of the clubs that they were promoted with.
Those clubs that have stayed up, often have had a long term plan in place and they have been meticulous in sticking to it. Brighton are one example of a club that has done this, with shrewd investment and recruitment that has enabled them to be able to compete and progress gradually over the last few years. Their model is certainly commendable and they are certainly a club to keep an eye on.
How Likely Can Promoted Clubs Stay Up?
Some interesting stats that not many clubs might be aware of illustrate just how hard it can be to stay in the Premier League upon returning.
A report in 2017, revealed that, of the 78 teams that were promoted to the top flight since 1992, 45 (58 per cent) of them picked up at least 10 points in their first 10 games, while 41 per cent have equalled or done better than the 12 points that Huddersfield and Brighton accumulated during this timeframe.
In 1995 when the league changed to a 20 club competition, data found that the average position for a newly promoted club after the first 10 games is 14th.
During the maiden Premier League season, Middlesbrough, who had just been promoted, cantered to 15 points from their first 10 games and were in seventh, however, a dreadful run of form saw them lose 12 of 15 games either side of Christmas as they eventually went down. It certainly is a hard task.