So, despite consigning rivals Newcastle to the Championship, Sunderland’s 2016 survival story is unlikely to go down in footballing legend.
That got us thinking – what is the greatest achievement when it comes to staying up?
There are plenty of contenders. This season alone, Neil Warnock’s Rotherham United revival stands out as an impressive feat – an 11-match unbeaten run guiding the club from the Championship relegation zone to nine points clear of danger. There are comparable tales almost every season, too.
But pouring over 127 years of records was quite a daunting task, so we kept to the recent past and looked at the top flight, where the prize for staying up is the most lucrative.
We considered the run-in for each club by taking the last 10 games of the season into account, looking at their results – and worked out a score based on who they played too.
Of course, it’s not an exact science, but here are our top contenders:
Bradford City 1999-00
Run in: P10 W3 D1 L6 Pts 10
Position with 10 games left: 18th, two points from safety
Final position: 17th – they stayed up by three points
Average position of teams faced: 11th, including eventual champions Manchester United
The Bantams’ end to the season doesn’t look anything special at first – their last 10 games saw five successive defeats to Coventry, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Southampton and Everton, leaving them six points from safety with five to go.
Their 10 points came in their last five games – including a final day win against Liverpool at Valley Parade. Cue celebrations.
West Bromwich Albion 2004-05
Run in: P10 W3 D2 L3 Pts 11
Position with 10 games left: 19th, five points from safety
Final position: 17th – they stayed up by one point
Average position of teams faced: 8th, including all the top four
The first team in Premier League history to survive after being bottom at Christmas. Bryan Robson’s team were supposedly doomed but managed to stay up despite a final-day win over Portsmouth being their only victory in their last seven games.
They managed a win and a draw against two of the eventual top four (Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton) they played in the run-in as well. Portsmouth fans at the Hawthorns also celebrated at the end of the game as the Baggies’ win meant their south-coast rivals Southampton dropped out of the division.
Run in: P10 W5 D2 L3 Pts 17
Position with 10 games left: 19th – six points from safety
Final position: 17th – stayed up by +3 goal difference over Reading
Average position of teams faced: 12th – they lost to Liverpool, the only top-four side faced in the run-in.
Fulham’s tale is similar to Bradford’s survival story – in that they were still six points from safety with five games to go. Roy Hodgson, who had replaced Lawrie Sanchez in December, inspired his side to three wins in their final three games – including a dramatic 3-2 victory at Manchester City. A final day win at Portsmouth secured their status, but only on goal difference.
Run in: P10 W5 D3 L2 Pts 18
Position with 10 games left: 22nd (bottom, and three points from safety)
Final position: 19th – stayed up on goal difference (+2 better than Crystal Palace, who lost 3-0 at Arsenal)
Average position of teams faced: 10th
Paul Scholes’ favourite club stayed up by the skin of their teeth in the Premier League’s inaugural season, largely thanks to three wins in their last three matches. That included a victory at title-chasing Aston Villa, as well as beating sixth-placed Liverpool in the penultimate game of the campaign.
Only champions Manchester United and a fourth-placed Blackburn Rovers side with Alan Shearer up front scored more goals than Oldham that season.
Run in: P10 W4 D3 L3 Pts 18
Position with 10 games left: 19th (three points from safety)
Final position: 16th – stayed up by two points
Average position of teams faced: 12th
Facing six sides in the bottom half of the table certainly helped the Graeme Souness-led Saints to survive in those final 10 games. The signing of Ali Dia did not.
After losing to top-six sides Arsenal and Chelsea, Southampton went on a seven-match unbeaten run that ensured they only needed a draw in their last game to stay up. They lost, but stayed up all the same as other results went their way.
Run in: P10 W6 D2 L2 Pts 20
Position with 10 games left: 19th (eight points from safety)
Final position: 17th – stayed up by four points
Average position of teams faced: 11th
When Alain Perrin was sacked mid-season, Portsmouth enticed ex-boss Harry Redknapp back to the club from neighbours Southampton. It looked like a poisoned chalice, with the struggling side firmly in the relegation zone.
But end-of-season Champions League form saw Pompey turn an eight-point gap into a healthy four-point cushion over 10 games, with survival confirmed before a final-day loss at home to third-placed Liverpool.
West Ham United 2006-07
Run in: P10 W7 D0 L3 Pts 21
Position with 10 games left: 20th (10 points from safety)
Final position: 15th – stayed up with a three-point gap
Average position of teams faced: 8th
If you thought Portsmouth’s late run was impressive, the Hammers overcame an even bigger gap with seven wins from their last 10 games. They even played five of the top six in that run.
But the should they have stayed up? Carlos Tevez scored the only goal in the final-day win at title-winners Manchester United which confirmed survival, but the Argentina international nearly saw the club sent packing to the Championship in one of the Premier League’s most controversial episodes.
The signings of both Tevez and compatriot Javier Mascherano had breached third-party ownership rules, leading to the threat of a points deduction as punishment. As it was, the Premier League stopped short of this measure, fining the club £5.5m.
Position with 10 games left: 20th – one point from safety
Final position: 15th- stayed up by seven points
Average position of teams faced: 10th
Wigan’s remarkable run-in included wins at Arsenal and at home to title-chasing Manchester United, a 4-0 hammering of a Newcastle United side that had hoped to secure Champions League football and only a last-minute winner stopped them getting a point at Chelsea.
Had they not faced the bottom two clubs in their last two games – by which point they were already safe – the average position of the teams faced in their run in would have been seventh. It was all in stark contrast to a side that had conceded three or more goals 10 times up to that point.
Leicester City 2014-15
Run in: P10 W7 D1 L2 Pts 22
Position with 10 games left: 20th – seven points off safety
Final position: 14th – six points from the relegation zone
Average position of teams faced: 12th
After spending four and a half months propping up the Premier League table, struggling Leicester were dead and buried as far as most pundits were concerned. True, they had played well for much of the season but lacked the real quality to turn performances into points, it was said.
Seven wins from their last nine turned that theory on its head, as the supposedly doomed club landed practically in mid-table.
They were, though, helped by the fact most games were against other clubs in the bottom half of the table.
Maybe that’s why they remained most people’s tip for relegation the following year…
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