Football’s Biggest Falls From Grace

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Sam Allardyce did a wonderful job with Bolton Wanderers in their Premier League days but they are one of a number of clubs struggling in the lower echelons of the Football League.

Sam Allardyce

There’s no shortage of teams who have experienced the high of Premier League football only to suffer relegation and then fall further down the football pyramid in recent years.

Here we pick out five clubs who have slipped significantly from the top flight down to the lower leagues without showing much sign of recovery.

5 – Notts County

The only team in this rundown who are now a non-league club, Notts County – the oldest professional association football club in the world – currently occupy eighth place in the National League and are running out of time to mount a bid for the play-offs.

County were in the First Division in 1991-92 but were relegated that season so missed out on the first-ever Premier League campaign. Despite their Meadow Lane home having a capacity of nearly 20,000, they were relegated to League Two in 2015 before they lost their Football League status for the first time in their history in 2019.

4 – Bolton Wanderers

Bolton had failed to stay in the Premier League on two occasions when relegated in both 1996 and 1998 before returning to the top flight in 2001. Under Sam Allardyce, the Trotters then became an established Premier League outfit and enjoyed sixth, seventh and eighth-place finishes plus two UEFA Cup campaigns before eventually going down to the Championship in 2012.

Financial problems have badly affected Wanderers in recent years and they were down in League Two last season but managed to earn promotion back up to the third tier, where they now sit in 11th place.

3 – Bradford City

Another well-supported club, Bradford remain stuck in the bottom tier of the professional football pyramid and are 14 points off the play-off places in League Two this season under experienced manager Mark Hughes.

They had two seasons in the Premier League following promotion in 1999 but, like Bolton, have had financial problems to deal with and have been in administration twice. There have been the occasional high points, like reaching the 2013 League Cup final in the same year they won promotion to League One via the play-offs, but the Bantams are a long way off where they once were.

2 – Oldham Athletic

Oldham are in real trouble in League Two and could be heading down to the National League for the first time in their history unless they improve in the final few months of the season.

The Latics were founder members of the Premier League in 1992 and just about survived in spring 1993 before losing their top-flight status a year later. They spent 21 seasons in the third tier (Division Two/League One) between 1997 and 2018 before slipping into the fourth tier and non-league football now looks to be on the cards at Boundary Park.

1 – Portsmouth

Pompey were regulars in the Premier League in the early noughties and even enjoyed FA Cup glory in 2008 when they beat Cardiff City in the final at Wembley.

The south coast club then made it all the way to the Cup final two years later but were beaten by Chelsea on that occasion and, after that, things quickly went downhill at Fratton Park.

Between 2010 and 2013, Pompey entered administration twice and were relegated three times, before being saved from liquidation when being bought out by the fan-owned Pompey Supporters Trust.

Portsmouth are currently 10th in League One and those days of top-flight football and memorable Cup victories seem a very long time ago.

A sports journalist for over 15 years, Aidan has been part of written and audio coverage on a wide-ranging number of events. Having played and coached at amateur level, he offers in-depth insight and opinion into the world of football in particular.
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