The 11 most miraculous relegation escapes in English football
“Jimmy Glass, get up there. You might as well for heavens’ sake,” screamed the local radio commentator as Carlisle United’s Division Three home clash with Plymouth in May 1999 went into the fourth minute of injury time. United – caretakered by none other than Nigel Pearson – needed a victory, otherwise they would be relegated.
But with the scores locked at 1-1 even their on-loan goalkeeper, signed by Pearson, reckoned they were doomed. But Carlisle were awarded a late corner (“I just headed to where the action was,” Glass recalled), their keeper trotted forward and in the melee smashed the ball home from seven yards to give his team a 2-1 win, preserve their league status and make himself ever-so-slightly popular with the locals.
Bradford , 1999/00
“Yep – it’s going to be tough to survive this,” admitted Bradford manager Paul Jewell in April 2000, “and the only thing I can guarantee is that the players will fight until the last day of the season.”
With just five games to go, the Bantams' chances of remaining in the Premier League appeared virtually non-existent, but a battling series of results, which included three wins and a draw, meant that victory over Champions League-chasing Liverpool on the final day at a packed Valley Parade would save their skins and relegate Wimbledon. An early, towering David Wetherall header settled City’s nerves, and although Bradford rode their luck in the latter stages, they clung on to a 1-0 victory, and their top-flight status.
West Brom, 2004/05
“It’s not a statistic I want to hear,” admitted West Brom manager Bryan Robson, after being told that no team bottom of the table at Christmas had avoided the drop in the Premier League era, “but we’ll just have to prove that the impossible can be made possible.”
Three wins and four draws in the season run-in gave them a fighting chance of survival in the final game of the campaign which, along with Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton, saw West Brom fighting for their lives. Substitute Geoff Horsfield was the hero, hauling himself off the bench to score the first goal against Portsmouth, and setting up Kieran Richardson for a second. In the end, just two points separated 17th and 20th, not that Baggies fans cared as they invaded the pitch at the final whistle.
West Ham, 2006/07
After labouring in the drop zone for much of the season, Alan Curbishley’s West Ham hit a rich vein of form in April 2007, winning six games out of a possible eight. At one stage they'd been a massive 10 points behind 17th-placed Manchester City in early March. On the final day, the Hammers faced champions Manchester United at Old Trafford knowing that only a victory would guarantee their survival in the top flight. “If West Ham fans think we’ll be taking it easy, they’ve got another thing coming,” Sir Alex Ferguson vowed.
Carlos Tevez’s form had ignited the Hammers since the spring, though, and it was his seventh and final goal of the campaign – slipped past Edwin van der Sar – that confirmed West Ham's survival, and earned him a summer move to the Red Devils on a two-year deal. Nice afternoon’s work, Carlos.