clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Three teams that have plummeted from the top flight to League One; could Sunderland do the same?

The prospect of relegation to League One looks more likely with each passing week, but we certainly wouldn’t be the first club to fall from the Premier League to its third tier subordinate. Let’s take a look at those other clubs which fell from grace before us...

Brighton & Hove Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers - npower Championship Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Despite a slightly more convincing 1-1 draw with Millwall at the weekend, the disappointing loss to Aston Villa on Tuesday has compounded an already subdued atmosphere around Sunderland.

We are four points adrift from safety, rooted to the foot of the table, and while it's not impossible to rescue our league position, most of us are pretty convinced we are going down.

The teams sitting above us - Barnsley, Hull and Burton - all have a game in hand over us and the former two boast a drastically better goal difference; the possibility of us miraculously turning things around while our fellow strugglers all drop points seems like wishful thinking in it’s most desperate instance.

So, if we do drop down to League One, that will be consecutive relegations for our mess of a club. It’s hard to tell how we will do playing against the likes of Southend, Oxford United and Accrington Stanley (not kidding - have a look at the League Two table!) Considering most of us were convinced we would be safe in the Championship this season.

In an attempt to give us some hope for our possible drop down to League One, I have looked at other teams that started out in the Premier League and eventually found themselves in the third division.


Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves spent eleven years in the second tier of English football from 1992 to 2003 before they finally made their way to the Premier League, but after just one season they ended the campaign in bottom place - a season that also saw Charlton Athletic narrowly miss out on a Champions League spot!

Wolves were then promoted at the fifth time of asking and were back where they would hope to stay. However, Wanderers failed to prolong their stay in the Premier League and were relegated once more, after ending the 2011/12 season 12 points from safety.

The West Midlands outfit had taken five attempts to achieve promotion the last time they found themselves in the Championship and weren't looking to wait this long again, but things took a turn for the worst when manager Stale Solbakken was sacked in the January with the side sat in 18th place. Dean Saunders took over and the season only got worse for Wolves, with the club dropping down to League One in consecutive relegations.

Wolves had found themselves in the same situation in the 80s, making them the only team to ever experience back-to-back relegations twice.


Wigan Athletic

Wigan Athletic spent eight seasons in the Premier League before finally falling to relegation in 2013. During their time in the top tier they went through three managers before appointing the current Belgium boss, Roberto Martinez, in 2009.

The Spaniard arguably over-achieved during his stint with the Greater Manchester club by managing to keep the side out of the relegation zone for a majority of his time there. Once the Latics dropped down to the Championship, Martinez was rewarded with the role of head coach at Everton.

Wigan's first season in the Championship was a promising one. They had shocked the nation in the previous season's FA Cup Final by beating Manchester City and qualifying for the Europa League for the first time in their history.

Unfortunately, they ended their European adventure bottom of their group with only five points. However, the Tics impressed in the second tier, finishing the season in the top six. The possibility of Premier League football was so close, with the club coming up against QPR in the Play-Off semi-finals - but a 2-1 loss on aggregate meant Wigan's hopes of promotion were over, and they were set for another season in the Championship.

The following season should have been Wigan's chance to claim that promotion they were pursuing, but a massively disappointing campaign under Malky Mackay saw the team finish at the business end of the table - consigning the club to the third tier of English football.

Unsurprisingly, Wigan managed to end their League One campaign in first place, and their bid for Premier League football was back on. However, just as they thought League One was behind them, they dropped back down again after another Championship campaign as unsuccessful as the last.

Wigan currently sit in the play-off positions in League One and will be hoping for promotion once again, but it’s been a disappointing few years for the side who have been relegated three times in five seasons!

� PA

Leeds United

Leeds United's time in the Premier League was very successful, for the most part. Finishing in the top six for seven out of twelve seasons and even getting to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2000/2001 made for happy reflection from Whites’ fans on their club’s top flight tenure. However, a disastrous 2003/2004 season saw United drop down to the second tier for the first time since 1990.

Leeds spent three years in the Championship - failing to get past the semi-final of the play-offs in their second and then ending the third in bottom place.

The Whites were very unlucky during their three season stint in League One, ending each season in a play-off position. In 2008 they lost in the final to Doncaster Rovers, before losing to Millwall in the semi-finals the following season.

It was third time lucky in 2010 and United managed to claim automatic promotion. While the Yorkshire club have sat comfortably in the Championship ever since, it all seems very depressing for Leeds fans who can only dream of Champions League football now.


Three clubs with three very different fates following their slump into League One. If we’re to slump into League One like these clubs before us, the consequences - clearly - are anyone’s guess.