Whatever frustrations your club give you on a weekly basis you should thank your lucky stars you aren’t a Sunderland fan (unless you are a Sunderland fan in which case my heart goes out to you). The Black Cats are in a complete mess, with an owner that doesn’t want to be there, a huge disconnect between club and supporters and are on the verge of successive relegations from the Premier League to League One.
They are rock bottom of the Championship having won only four times all season while nearly 8,000 fans have signed a petition pleading with Ellis Short to sell the club at whatever price and just get the hell out of there. The American has already lowered his price from £100m to £50m and may be forced to go even lower especially if the club is relegated to the third tier.
Black Cats manager Chris Coleman has even admitted things need to change. He said: “At a club like Sunderland there is incredible passion, and a lot of supporters need people here who care about the club as much as them,” he said. “Therein lies a problem; obviously Ellis wants to sell the club and they recognise that maybe his love for the club was maybe yesterday.”
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It’s a catastrophic fall from grace and a horrible time to be a Sunderland fan but they aren’t the only one staring successive relegations in the face; Hull came down with the Wearsiders and sit just one place outside the Championship relegation places on goal difference.
However, neither side would be the first to suffer consecutive relegations from the top level as these four clubs will attest to:
They may be of returning to the Premier League for the first time since in six years but it was only four years ago that they suffered the ignominy of successive relegations from the top flight to the third tier of English football. A string of bad boardroom decisions starting with Mick McCarthy’s sacking in February 2012 (a massively unpopular decision in the dressing room) saw the club tumble down the divisions.
They won just 16 out of 63 games since McCarthy’s departure and got through three managers. The inexperienced Terry Connor, the naive Stale Solbakken and the also inexperienced Dean Saunders. Some of the squad followed McCarthy to Ipswich and the ones left behind just didn’t try, feeling under-appreciated by the hierarchy after wages didn’t match their expectations in the Premier League.
That squad malaise will ring true fo any Sunderland fan reading this story but it does have a happy ending as Wolves returned to the Championship immediately and are now on the brink of promotion to the Premier League three years later.
McCarthy and Connor are now back together at Ipswich and at least Mick’s time at Wolves gave us the greatest look to camera by any manager ever…
The last club to have successive relegations from the Premier League (and indeed the only other club given the top division had only just been transformed into the all-singing, all-dancing football machine it is now) was Swindon in 1993. No-one really expected the Robins to survive when player-manager Glenn Hoddle led them to a shock play-off promotion over Leicester to get to to the top flight for the first time ever, but few would have seen how badly they would fail.
Hoddle left for Chelsea before the 1993-94 seasons stated and was replaced by assistant John Gorman (sound familiar?) Gorman wasn’t cut out for the job and the Robins finished bottom with just five wins and conceding 100 goals (a record yet to be beaten). Gorman was sacked in November 1994 with Swindon struggling near the foot of Division One and replaced by 33-year-old Manchester City midfielder Steve McMahon. Clearly the Swindon board loved a player-manager.
McMahon couldn’t stop top scorer Jan Age Fjortoft leaving as the Robins slipped down to the old Division Two in his first season and a took over but, despite a run to the League Cup semi-finals. They returned to the second tier at the first attempt but slipped down again to the third tier in 2000 and haven’t been higher since.
Man, Wolves really don’t do themselves any favours do they? They appear for the second time on our list and this time for suffering successive relegations in not two but three consecutive seasons. It’s almost as is the board in 2012 hadn’t learned anything from the club’s history as in the mid 1980s boardroom decisions almost led to the club quickly going out of business.
A total of £1.5million was poured into demolishing and then building a new stand but it left the club financially ruined. Former player Derek Dougan helped save the club but it didn’t stop the relegations. A year and a half after beating European Champions Liverpool in January 1985 they lost at home to Newport County in the old Division Three on their way to relegation to the fourth tier for the first time in their history as crowds dwindled to as low as 4,000. Wasn’t really worth building that new stand, was it lads?
Bristol City 1980-83
In 1979 Bristol City finished 13th in the top division after three years up here. Three years later the Robins were in the old Fourth Division following a complete meltdown of financial affairs that left the club bankrupt and without any players.
A consortium called BCFC (1982) bought the players contracts but asked the eight highest paid players – Julian Marshall, Chris Garland, Jimmy Mann, Peter Aitken, Geoff Merrick, David Rodgers, Gerry Sweeney and Trevor Tainton – to terminate their contracts to save the club the money it needed to survive.
For some reason some of the players were on 11-year deals but they all agreed to tear up their deals for the good of the club, literally minutes before it was due to fold, going down in history as the ‘Ashton Gate Eight’. In the Third Division at the time they went down to the Fourth Division as player – and local businesses – all abandoned them, many because the club’s previous owners has failed to pay its debts to many local businesses which left the new owners difficulty in obtaining credit because of bad feeling toward the club.
And the manager at the time of all this? One Roy Hodgson, taking charge of his second ever job in football. Wonder what became of him?