Ranked! The 10 worst EVER starts in the Premier League

Portsmouth 2009/10

Three top-flight sides are winless after six games, but none crack this list. From luckless Black Cats to plummeting Eagles, Alasdair Mackenzie profiles the sorriest starts – and what happened next

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Unusually, a trio of winless teams are propping up the Premier League table as it enters its seventh week. Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle are still on the lookout for that elusive first victory, with all three teams picking up just two points from their opening six games.

Yet while the outlook might appear bleak, they can at least take solace from the fact that several teams have started the season in even worse fashion over the years.

Cardiff and Huddersfield have an identical record at this point and are 14th and 15th in the list of all-time worst Premier League starts after six rounds, while Newcastle are way down in 26th thanks to their superior goal difference.

Two teams can count themselves lucky to miss out on a place in this 10: Sunderland (2016/17) and Blackburn (1996/97), who were just squeezed out on goal difference...

10. Man City (1995/96) & Sunderland (2005/06)

W0 D1 L5, F3 A10 GD -7, Pts 1

Two in one to start us off, as this pair of sides from different eras recorded identical records from their opening six games – much like Cardiff and Huddersfield have this term.

New Manchester City manager Alan Ball got off to a nightmare start in 1995, drawing on the opening day with Tottenham before falling to five successive defeats. Mick McCarthy’s Black Cats simply swapped the timing of their win a decade later: they fell to five straight defeats before finally getting a point on the board with a draw at home to West Brom in week six.

Where did they finish up?

After winning just two points in their opening 10 games, City began to gradually improve. But they were made to pay for their early-season struggles: on the final day of the season they earned a surprise 2-2 draw with Liverpool which they hoped might secure their survival, but goal difference led to the Citizens finishing below both Coventry and Southampton. (Famously, manager Alan Ball had misinformed midfielder Steve Lomas that the Saints were losing, and who duly wasted time in the corner.)

Sunderland felt no such heartbreak, as their demotion was never in doubt. In a humiliating campaign, the north-east club won just three games and finished the season bottom with a pathetic 15 points – the second-worst total ever in the Premier League. By that point, McCarthy had been sacked in March and caretaker Kevin Ball failed to spark a miraculous turnaround. Balls. 

READ Derby's 2007/08: the Premier League's worst ever season, by the men who were there

9. Crystal Palace (2004/05)

W0 D1 L5, F5 A13 GD -8, Pts 1

On their return to the top flight, Palace rarely looked equipped to deal with the demands of the Premier League. Manager Iain Dowie had pulled off a remarkable and unexpected achievement by taking the Eagles up from the First Division, but the start his side made among English football’s elite was a sign of things to come.

A creditable opening day draw away to Norwich was followed up by five straight defeats, putting the newly-promoted side on the back foot from the start.

Where did they finish up?

Dowie’s side rallied after week six with three wins and a draw in their next five games. Unfortunately that turned out to be the best run of form of the entire season for the Selhurst Park club.

The goals of Andy Johnson, who finished the season with an impressive 21 league strikes (11 of them penalties) kept Palace in contention for survival until the final day. However, a 2-2 draw with Charlton saw them miss out on another season in the top flight by just one point.

8. Newcastle (1999/2000)

W0 D1 L5, F8 A18 GD -10, Pts 1

The Magpies’ abysmal start to the 1999/2000 campaign is most vividly remembered for the resignation of Dutch legend Ruud Gullit. The Newcastle boss walked out of St James’ Park after five games, having watched his side slump to four defeats and a draw (a 3-3 with Wimbledon, despite the Magpies holding a 3-1 lead after an hour).

The final straw came with a 2-1 defeat to arch-rivals Sunderland, in which Gullit left star strikers Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson on the bench following a fallout. In came Steve Clarke as caretaker, but the Scot oversaw a further two defeats as Newcastle’s nightmare started continued. They remain the side to have conceded the most goals (18) in a Premier League season after six games.

Where did they finish up?

One of the most remarkable turnarounds in this list came about thanks to the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. He arrived on Tyneside with Newcastle propping up the table and made an immediate impact, overseeing an 8-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday in his first home game. The renaissance continued with the 66-year-old at the helm, as he led them to an 11th-place finish and encouraged an attacking style of football that saw the Magpies finish the season as the third-highest scorers in the league.

7. Sunderland (2013/14)

W0 D1 L5, F4 A14 GD -10, Pts 1

A memorable campaign at the Stadium of Light got off to a terrible start as Paolo Di Canio’s revamped side, featuring 14 new signings, failed to gel. After five games in which the Black Cats picked up just one point (a 1-1 draw with Southampton), the Italian was sacked amid rumours of squad unrest.

Di Canio’s dismissal failed to produce an instant reaction under caretaker Kevin Ball and subsequently Gus Poyet, with Sunderland falling to further defeats against Liverpool, Manchester United and Swansea to make it seven defeats from their opening eight games.

Where did they finish up?

Poyet did begin to make an impact, starting with a 2-1 win against rivals Newcastle in his first home game in charge. However, by the time Sunderland were beaten by Everton on April 12 – their seventh defeat in eight games – survival seemed an almost impossible task.

The Uruguayan’s turning point came when his side inflicted Jose Mourinho’s first ever home league defeat in the Premier League with a 2-1 win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It sparked a remarkable run of four wins in a row that was enough to achieve a 14th-place finish. By this stage, Poyet had also taken Sunderland all the way to the League Cup final, where they were beaten by Manchester City.

6. Sheffield Wednesday (1999/2000)

W0 D1 L5, F3 A13 GD -10, Pts 1

Wednesday soon became favourites to go down after a disastrous start to their Premier League campaign. A draw with Bradford gave the Owls their only point in an opening six games where they were also hammered 4-0 by Manchester United and lost each of their home games against Liverpool, Tottenham and Derby.

The poor run would continue as a further three defeats followed, including a humiliating 8-0 reverse away to Newcastle.

Where did they finish up?

The Owls finally recorded their first, long overdue win on October 2 with a surprisingly emphatic 5-1 triumph over Wimbledon. It failed to rouse the team, though, who immediately slumped back into a seven-game winless run.

Manager Danny Wilson was eventually dismissed in March after his side were beaten by a Watford side facing even worse struggles than Wednesday, but caretaker boss Peter Shreeves couldn’t arrest their slide. Defeat to Arsenal on the penultimate day of the season confirmed relegation as they went down in 19th place.