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    The Best Relegation Fight In Premier League History?

    With three months left of the season there are feasibly still six or seven sides embroiled in the battle for survival. There’s also a real chance that Leicester City could fall; the last time that the top flight champions were relegated the following season was in the 1930s. This season’s basement battle has the potential to be one of the most memorable in the Premier League era but, come May, how will it match up against the list below? Last gasp winners, heroes and villains, controversial signings, these lot had it all. If this season’s run in can match the ones below for entertainment value, keep your diaries open for the final day on 21st May!

    2004-05: Baggies Rewrite the History Books
    West Bromwich Albion became the first side to secure survival having been bottom at Christmas in a four way thriller.

    Season 2004-05 was the first time in Premier League history that no team had been mathematically relegated before the final game, with every side also occupying seventeenth place at some point during the day. West Brom’s 2-0 victory over Portsmouth saw them complete the great escape whilst also condemning Southampton, Norwich City and Crystal Palace to the Championship. The Saints had needed to beat Manchester United but, after taking an early lead through Nigel Quashie, they lost 2-1 to see an end to their twenty-seven year stay in the top flight. Norwich, the only side with their fate in their own hands, were thumped 6-0 at Fulham and Crystal Palace’s 2-2 draw at Charlton wasn’t enough to save them from the drop. Palace had been leading with 10 minutes to go and a win would have guaranteed survival but Jonathan Fortune's equaliser took their fate out of their own hands. West Brom’s 34 points that season is still the lowest tally ever needed for survival but, having been eight points away from safety on Christmas Day, their impressive turnaround cannot be overstated. The scenes at the Hawthorns when Geoff Horsfield and a young Kieran Richardson, on loan from Manchester United, scored the two goals that sealed the win live long in the memory.

    2006-07: Hammers Survive in Contentious Circumstances
    Carlos Tevez (pictured) remains an unpopular figure in the red half of Sheffield following the most controversial relegation battle on this list.
    The Argentine and his fellow countryman Javier Mascherano had been acquired by Alan Pardew’s West Ham at the start of the season under dubious circumstances, but they found themselves in serious danger on the final day, needing to avoid defeat at Manchester United, already crowned Premier Lague winners. Wigan Athletic and Sheffield United also played off in a winner takes all last game of the season, with the former needing nothing less than a win to leapfrog their relegation rivals at Bramall Lane. Against all odds, West Ham managed to win 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to a Carlos Tevez strike and, after Sheffield United lost 2-1 to Wigan, the Blades were condemned to an immediate return to the Championship. To make matters worse, the winning goal had been a penalty converted by David Unsworth, who had been sold by Sheffield United to Wigan just four months earlier. However, the controversy concerned the dual ownership of Tevez and Mascherano who, despite playing for Corinthians in Brazil, were actually owned by a third party. West Ham admitted breaching league rules to sign the players but, instead of being handed a point’s deduction which would have relegated them, they were instead hit with a lucrative fine. Sheffield United are yet to return to the top flight since the incident and still entertain a serious rivalry with West Ham.

    1993-94: Everton Keep Their Record… Just
    Just seven years after their last league title, Everton survived by the skin of their teeth thanks to an incredible comeback.
    The Toffees had been battling relegation all season but there was cause for optimism. Howard Kendall, the club’s most successful manager, resigned from his role in December to be replaced by Norwich’s Mike Walker. Walker had guided Norwich to third place, their highest ever finish, in 1993 and had overseen the first victory by a British side over Bayern Munich in the Olympic Stadium, with the Canaries running out 2-1 winners in the UEFA Cup. Despite this success, Walker’s Everton picked up just four wins before a final day clash with a solid Wimbledon side. Only a win would do if they wanted to stay in the top flight for a fortieth consecutive year. Having gone 2-0 down in twenty minutes, a Graham Stuart double and sweet twenty-five yard volley from Barry Horne (pictured) capped an incredible turnaround. Despite Everton’s win, Sheffield United still needed just a point to survive at the expense of Ipswich Town, who had pulled off a 0-0 draw at second placed Blackburn. However, the Blades conceded an injury time winner to Chelsea to go down 3-2. The next time that they would be in the top flight would be in the infamous 2006-07 campaign. Oldham Athletic also stood a chance of survival at the start of the day, but Everton’s win and Ipswich’s point all but sealed their fate. This may not the most memorable relegation battle but, for the blue half of Merseyside, it is a day that will never be forgotten.

    2008-09: Newcastle Fall as the Tigers Defy the Odds
    Hull City survived their first top flight season on the final day despite a dramatic downturn in results.
    Having won six of their first nine games, including wins at Tottenham and Arsenal, the Tigers proceeded to gain just two more wins all season, surviving by a point on the final day despite losing 1-0 to Manchester United. Significantly, Newcastle United were relegated at the expense of Hull, following a disastrous short spell at the helm from local hero and Premier League all-time top scorer Alan Shearer. The Magpies’ season took a nosedive with only two wins following Christmas and a final day defeat at Aston Villa saw them drop into the second tier for the first time since 1993. A side which had been in the Champions League just five years earlier saw themselves succumb to the ultimate footballing price after a steady decline. Newcastle and Hull would see themselves swap places just a year later, with the former winning promotion at a canter back to the Premier League and the latter suffering relegation. Admittedly, this wasn’t the most dramatic of final days compared to 2007 or 2011 but, given Newcastle's consistent challenging for titles and European places for the previous decade and boasting the likes of Shay Given, Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins, this was particularly surprising.

    2010-11: Wigan, Wolves and Blackburn survive in Five-Way Horse Race
    Blackpool leading at Old Trafford, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers scrapping for a win, Birmingham City conceding in stoppage time, this final day had it all.
    Wolves and Blackburn both knew that a win would guarantee survival as they went toe-to-toe at Molineux. Birmingham City, League Cup winners in February, knew a win at White Hart Lane would guarantee survival despite abysmal form following their first major silverware since 1963. Blackpool and Wigan Athletic needed wins at Old Trafford and the Britannia Stadium respectively, with both knowing that even that might not be enough. Birmingham conceded around the hour mark to see them drop into the relegation zone but then clawed back an equaliser through Craig Gardner. A draw would have been enough until Hugo Rodallega (pictured with manager Roberto Martinez) scored the only goal of the game for Wigan at Stoke, who had lost only four times at home all season. The result at the Britannia meant that Spurs’ injury time winner only added insult to injury for Birmingham, who had picked up just nine points from the previous eleven games. Blackpool, having delighted neutrals all season with dogmatic attacking intent, took the lead against all odds having been a goal down early on at Old Trafford. Sadly, United ran out 4-2 winners. Blackburn went into half time 3-0 up and, despite a Wolves fightback, guaranteed survival with a 3-2 win. Crucially, Wolves’ two goals meant that they would have stayed up at the expense of Birmingham on goal difference even if their local rivals hadn’t conceded in injury time. This description cannot do justice to how truly hectic and exhilarating this final day was. If you’ve managed to keep up, well done and thanks for reading!

    George Kelsey

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    Item Reviewed: The Best Relegation Fight In Premier League History? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: George Kelsey
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