5 instances since the turn of the century when promoted teams exceeded expectations in the PL
Looking back at the 2018-19 season of the Premier League, the three newly-promoted teams, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Cardiff City and Fulham all had completely different fortunes in the top-flight.
While the likes of Cardiff and Fulham went straight back down to the Championship, Wolves surpassed all expectations and flew the flag high for the promoted sides.
Wolves, who secured automatic promotion to the Premier League as the winners of the Championship in the 2017-18 season, took the top-flight by storm following a six-year exile.
Guided by the charismatic Nuno Espirito Santo, the Black Country outfit not only gave their own fans a lot to cheer about but they also impressed one and all with their character, resilience and bravery.
They finished the season with an eye-watering record against the big-six in the Premier League, accumulating 16 points out of a possible 36 and registering victories over Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.
In the end, Wolves secured a 7th-place finish in the top-flight and Watford’s defeat at the hands of Man City in the FA Cup guaranteed the club’s return to the European stage for the first time since 1980-81.
Over the years, we have seen a lot of teams getting promoted to the Premier League from the Championship with high hopes and expectations, only for them to go straight back down to the second tier.
However, there have been many instances in the history of English football when promoted teams have taken everyone by surprise and exceeded all expectations.
As this year’s promoted sides Norwich City, Aston Villa and Sheffield United prepare to ensure survival in the top-flight, let us turn the pages of the history books and revisit the instances when promoted sides took the top-flight by storm.
Here are 5 teams since the turn of the century who surprised one and all with their heroics upon securing promotion to the Premier League.
1. Ipswich Town – 5th (2000-01)
Ipswich might have been relegated to League One this past season but there was a time when the club made headlines in the Premier League.
The Tractor Boys finished third in the First Division in the 1999-00 season and eventually beat Barnsley 4-2 in the play-off final at Wembley to secure promotion to the Premier League following a five-year absence.
Having somehow scraped through the playoffs, there was hardly anyone who gave them a chance to survive in the top-flight. In fact, they were the favourites to suffer relegation and make an immediate return to the first division.
However, the Tractor Boys not only silenced their critics by staying up but they also did so in some style, coming up with flying colours to secure a 5th-place finish in the Premier League.
Heroics from Man City legend Richard Wright, forward Marcus Stewart and big-money signing Hermann Hreidersson ensured that Ipswich finished the season with as many as 20 victories.
The Tractor Boys were very much in the race to finish in the top-three, with Stewart’s 19 goals in the Premier League helping the club mount an unlikely title challenge, although a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Charlton Athletic ended all hopes of securing Champions Cup qualification.
However, a 5th-place finish was enough for Ipswich to qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time since 1982 and manager George Burley was voted as the Manager of the Year by his colleagues, in what should go down as arguably the most remarkable campaign by any promoted side since the turn of the century.
2. Man City – 9th (2002-03)
Man City might be the reigning Premier League champions and currently amongst the European powerhouses but things were hardly the same for the Citizens around the turn of the century.
As a matter of fact, they weren’t even a regular in the Premier League back then, as the club largely hopped in and out of the First Division and also dropped down to the third-tier once.
Man City secured promotion to the Premier League under the stewardship of Kevin Keegan in an emphatic manner as the outright winners of the First Division in the 2001-02 season, scoring as many as 108 goals in the process.
Their stellar performances in the second-tier caused many to believe that they would thrive in the top-flight, however, what followed took everyone by surprise, as City romped to an impressive 9th-place finish on their return to the Premier League.
Boosted by the arrival of marquee signings Nicolas Anelka, Peter Schmeichel, Sylvain Distin and the late Marc-Vivien Foe, Man City reached great heights in the Premier League and finally proved their mettle in the top-flight, with Anelka and Foe netting 14 and 9 goals respectively.
However, the 2002-03 season will be best remembered by the fans on the blue half of Manchester for City’s 3-1 victory over bitter rivals Man United, which was their first derby victory in 13 years.
3. West Ham – 9th (2005-06)
West Ham finished 6th in the Championship in the 2004-05 campaign and eventually beat Preston North End in the playoff finals to secure a return to the Premier League at the second time of asking.
Having barely managed to secure the final playoff spot in the second-tier, the Hammers were tipped by many to go back down to the Championship but they reminded their critics that teams do not necessarily need to win the league in the second division to thrive in the Premier League.
The Hammers didn’t spend extravagantly but they did add quite a few fresh faces to their ranks in both the transfer windows combined, with Dean Ashton, Yossi Benayoun, Lionel Scaloni, James Collins and Shaka Hislop being the most notable of the new signings.
However, West Ham’s success in the Premier League that season was largely down to the exploits of Marlon Harewood, who netted 14 goals over the course of the campaign, whilst Bobby Zamora and Teddy Sheringham also added 6 goals apiece.
The Hammers not only registered an impressive 16 wins and 7 draws in the league but they also made it to the finals of the FA Cup, only to lose out to Liverpool on penalties.
West Ham’s 9th-place finish saw them miss out on qualification to the Intertoto Cup but given that Liverpool had already qualified for the Champions League, the honour of qualification to the UEFA Cup was passed down to the Hammers.
4. Charlton Athletic – 9th (2000-01)
The Addicks secured promotion to the Premier League as the outright winners of the First Division in the 1999-00 season under the stewardship of the legendary Alan Curbishley.
The resounding success in the second-tier saw the club bring in a number of talented players in the summer of 2000, including the likes of Claus Jensen, Jonatan Johansson, Mark Fish and Karim Bagheri, with a view to ensuring safety in the top-flight.
Charlton enjoyed an impressive campaign in the Premier League and finished ninth, accumulating 14 wins and 10 draws, while scoring as many as 50 goals in the process.
Johansson topped the scoring charts with 11 goals and the likes of Richard Rufus and Mark Fish too put in some consistently impressive displays at the back to steer the Addicks to safety.
5. Birmingham City – 9th (2009-10)
Alex McLeish’s side made a return to the Premier League with a second-place finish in the Championship in the 2008-09 season, with Kevin Phillips topping the scoring charts with 14 goals.
However, with Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung completing a takeover of the club, the Blues made some high-profile signings following their promotion, including a controversial move for Christian Benitez. The likes of Barry Ferguson, Scott Dann, Lee Bowyer, Craig Gardner and Michel all came through the door as well.
Birmingham failed to beat any of the big guns in the Premier League but their impressive performances overall were enough to secure a top-ten finish, with Cameron Jerome playing a key role with 11 goals.
The Blues narrowly missed out on European qualification but a tally of 13 wins and 11 draws gave them a lot to write home about, nevertheless.
Middlesbrough raiding Ipswich Town for this 26-year-old star would be a solid move and here’s why
Middlesbrough Opinion: Boro should try and win the race for Jonas Knudsen
According to the East Anglian Daily Times, Middlesbrough have rekindled their interest in Ipswich Town’s out-of-contract Danish international left-back Jonas Knudsen, with a view to a potential transfer in the summer.
East Anglian Daily Times also understands that Bundesliga outfits Freiburg and Fortuna Dusseldorf, as well as 13-time Danish champions FC Copenhagen, are also interested in getting the 26-year-old on board when his contract at Portman Road expires in a month’s time.
Knudsen featured sporadically for the Tractor Boys in the second half of this past season after making it clear to manager Paul Lambert that he wasn’t going to sign a new contract.
The Dane was one of the shining lights of Ipswich’s rather disappointing campaign in the Championship this season, as Lambert’s side finished rock-bottom in the standings and got relegated to the third-tier.
Signed from Danish club Esbjerg back in 2015, Knudsen spent four seasons at Portman Road and made a total of 155 appearances in all competitions, scoring on 4 occasions and setting up another 9 in the process.
A regular for Denmark at all youth levels upto U-21, Knudsen has also accumulated 6 senior international caps under his belt and was a part of the squad that took part at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia last summer.
Middlesbrough are yet to appoint a new full-time manager since the dismissal of Tony Pulis but the club’s links with Jonas Knudsen is a clear indication of the fact that Boro are keen to make a strong statement in the summer.
The Teessiders might be under pressure to cut down their costs and balance the books after failing to challenge for promotion this term but bringing in a few high-profile free-agents should not do them much harm.
Knudsen, though not a household name in Europe, has quite a good profile for a player of his age. The 26-year-old played more than 150 games for Esbjerg and featured in the Europa League prior to his arrival at Portman Road four years back and the Dane has proven himself to be one of the most reliable in his position in the Championship over the years.
To put things into perspective, Middlesbrough need to invest in their left-back options this summer to ensure that they have the perfect balance in their squad heading into the upcoming campaign. Boro are likely to lose one of their most versatile left-sided players in Stewart Downing at the end of June and his departure would certainly call for some reinforcements.
George Friend featured regularly in that left-back or left-wing back role under Tony Pulis this past season, while George Saville also filled in the void occasionally.
Sam McQueen, who was on loan from Southampton this term, provided much-needed cover and back-up but he is likely to depart the club in a month’s time and Boro would need to find a permanent solution to their left-back conundrum.
Jonas Knudsen has a bagful of experience at the Championship level and Boro have every reason to look at the Dane as a potential long-term fix.
Still only 26, he is just entering his prime years as a left-back and one would expect him to get better with time, meaning that Knudsen could go on to establish himself as a useful player at the Riverside Stadium in the years to come.
Noted for his long throw-ins, Knudsen is also a very good reader of the game and boasts of above-average aerial prowess for a full-back.
A fast, agile and hardworking presence down the left-hand side of the pitch, the Dane is not only adept at cutting out attacks with crucial tackles and interceptions but he is also equally adept at creating chances with his immaculate crossing.
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Middlesbrough need to look at players who can offer good value for money in the market and Jonas Knudsen certainly falls within that bracket.
It is a no-brainer that they would do themselves a world of good by luring the 26-year-old to the Riverside Stadium this summer, although Boro would need to fend off interest from more established European clubs if they are really serious about getting their hands on the coveted left-back.
Tyler Roberts to start ahead of Jack Harrison? – Predicted 4-1-4-1 Leeds United XI to face Ipswich
Predicted Leeds United XI to face Ipswich Town in the Championship
Marcelo Bielsa’s side are not in the race for automatic promotion any longer but the Whites have already guaranteed themselves a playoff spot and they will be looking to end the season on a winning note when they make the trip to Portman Road to face Ipswich Town on Sunday.
Ipswich have nothing but pride to play for, with the Tractor Boys set for a season in League One next term following their relegation from the Championship.
Marcelo Bielsa has no significant injury concerns heading into the final game of the season against Ipswich Town on Sunday.
Manager: Marcelo Bielsa
1. Kiko Casilla (GK)
The Spaniard made some good saves against Villa last week and he will be expected to continue as the No.1 between the sticks on Sunday.
2. Gaetano Berardi (LB)
Stuart Dallas got beaten way too easily on a number of occasions last week against Villa and the Swiss international did a better job after coming off the bench.
3. Luke Ayling (RB)
He put up an assured display at the back in his previous outing and has always been a reliable presence at the back for the Whites.
4. Pontus Jansson (CB)
The Swedish international returned to form following lean patch at the heart of the defence over the Easter Period and Leeds will need him to keep up his good work.
5. Liam Cooper (CB)
He has been one of the standout figures at the back for Bielsa and there is no reason why he should be benched for this one.
6. Kalvin Phillips (CDM)
The Englishman did a good job in a holding midfield role last week and his presence will once again be crucial for Leeds on Sunday.
7. Pablo Hernandez (RW)
The veteran hasn’t been at his best in recent weeks and Leeds will need him to return to form in the final game heading into the playoffs.
8. Tyler Roberts (LW)
The youngster impressed with his energy and crossing from the flanks after coming on in place of Jack Harrison against Villa and Bielsa should allow him to continue in that role.
9. Adam Forshaw (CM)
He did reasonably well playing in that No.8 role in the midfield last week and Bielsa should hand him another opportunity in that position to see if he is really capable of playing there.
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10. Mateusz Klich (CAM)
The Pole got himself a goal playing in a No.10 role behind Bamford and he is likely to continue there on Sunday.
11. Patrick Bamford (ST)
He didn’t manage to make much of an impact against Villa and Leeds will need him to gather some confidence heading into the playoffs.
“Best set of fans”, “Happy for Chrissy Wilder”: Some Sheffield United fans react to 2-0 win vs Ipswich + Player Ratings
Sheffield United vs Ipswich Ratings: Sheffield Player Ratings + Reaction
Sheffield United have effectively clinched promotion back to the Premier League with the chances of a slip-up at this stage looking quite thin. Already 6 points clear of 3rd place Leeds United, the Blades will be hoping that Aston Villa can continue their win-stream when they travel to Elland Road on Sunday.
Sheffield were comfortable 2-0 winners over Ipswich Town on the night and a couple of decent goals added to the atmosphere in the stadium. Having laid witness to multiple bursts of noise around the stadium, United did well to keep their mental states in check and come through what was touted be a tricky fixture with a positive result.
Here are the Sheffield United Player Ratings:
Dean Henderson 7
Did well to keep Ipswich off the scoresheet and was extremely composed with his kicking as well.
George Baldock 8
The full-back was unstoppable on the night as he just never seemed to tire out. His powerful running was a big asset.
Chris Basham 8
Did well in the left-sided centre-half role and proved his ability to carry the ball forward from defence.
John Egan 8
Yet another awe-inspiring display for the Blades defensive commander who has been supremely consistent this term.
Jack O’Connell 9
Easily the man of the match on the night, the centre-back notched up a goal and an assist in the win.
Ollie Norwood 8
Did well to apply pressure on the Ipswich men in midfield and almost set up the striker for another goal.
John Fleck 8
A dogged and adamant display from the tireless midfielder who seemed to launch a multitude of Blades attacks.
Enda Stevens 8
His crosses from the flanks have been unbelievable and it’s a huge surprise that he didn’t get himself an assist tonight.
Mark Duffy 8
Was taken off around 5 minutes before the final whistle and got himself a well-deserved standing ovation.
David McGoldrick 8
The Blades have been crying out for a proper striker and they’ve definitely found the right man in McGoldrick.
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Scott Hogan 8
Scored the first-goal of the night and ensured that the Ipswich defence wasn’t allowed a second of peace.
Here’s how some joyous Blades fans reacted to this victory:
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