"Roll on, May" - The worst seasons ever

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By now, several of you will have realised that your season isn't going to go quite to plan. Some will fear that it could turn out terribly; some will already know it has. But take heart: there's always someone who's done worse. Like this lot...

Stoke City 1984-85
(Old) Division One
P42 W3 D8 L31 F24 A91 Pts17

No wonder the Potters took their time to climb back to English football's top table: they'd had their fingers burnt badly last time they were there. Finishing bottom of the old First Division with what was then the lowest points total ever could be bad luck, but to also claim the fewest ever wins, and lowest number of goals scored, is just plain carelessness.

Stoke’s ’84-85 team was the brown Coventry City away shirt of sides – ugly, unfashionable, and not even funny in an ironic way. So what went wrong? Well, October, for a start. And November. Not to mention December.

Fifteen league games yielded five points, 10 goals, and a solitary win (2-1), against Manchester United, back in the days when they were shite too.

When Bill Asprey departed shamefaced in April, his side had just embarked upon their second 10-game losing streak of the season. Well, why do things by halves?

"This could be our year, lads"

Tasmania Berlin 1965-66
P34 W2 D4 L28 F15 A108 Pts8

Setting records for being miserable and hapless is bad. Setting records for setting records for being miserable and hapless is just silly. Shamble forward, then, Tasmania Berlin.

Their 1965-66 season saw 12 German league records shattered. A record-breaking winless streak (31 games) included the most losses and longest ever losing streak (10 games), and thereby the fewest wins and draws. That was worth a record-shattering eight points.

Tasmania scored less and conceded more than anyone, ever (including a record 900-minute goal drought); and their top scorer netted two (also a recor… oh, you get the idea). And their lowest-ever average attendance included the smallest-ever Bundesliga crowd – 827 spectators, who were presumably killing time while their hot baths were being run.

Accrington Stanley 1959-60
Division Three (North)
P46 W11 D5 L30 F57 A123 Pts27

In the company of such rampant haplessness, 11 wins seems vaguely respectable – although 123 goals conceded is dismal by any standard. But Stanley’s season was more about context than statistics. In a fit of hubris the previous year, the directors spent £1,420 on buying one of Aldershot’s stands, and £10,000 on lugging it north. Only it didn’t fit, so no one could see the pitch (which may actually have been the plan all along).

A grand stand: Peel Park post-closure

Most of the club’s fans chipped off to watch Blackburn, who were better; the revenue loss crippled the club, and inspirational manager Walter Galbraith resigned in protest at having his budget cut.

New boss Harold Bodie saw almost all of his senior players leave, along with most of the remaining fans, understandably reluctant to sit in a rubbish stand and watch pap. Stanley were duly relegated in 24th place, the club folding in March 1962.

Swindon Town 1993-94
P42 W5 D15 L22 F47 A100 Pts30

Remember D:Ream? ‘Thiiiiings… can only get betterrrrrr?’ Worked for New Labour in 1997, but it had made a mockery of Swindon Town before that. With six points from their (winless) first 15 games, things couldn’t get worse for newly-promoted, Hoddle-less Swindon.

Except they could, with the severest of thrashings at Everton (6-2), Aston Villa (5-0) and Newcastle (7-1). No team had conceded 100 top-flight goals in 31 years. Until Swindon’s 5-0 last-day tonking at home to Leeds, that is. When the fifth and 100th goal flew in, the County Ground erupted with sarcastic approval.

Darwen 1898-99
(Old) Division Two
P34 W2 D5 L27 F22 A141 Pts9

Old football was rubbish, but Darwen’s fin de siecle was diabolical. Finishing bottom, they let in 141 goals – an average of 4.14 per game, still a League record. In losing an astounding 27 of their 34 matches, Darwen endured three 10-0 thrashings, at the hands of Walsall, Manchester City and – most tellingly – Loughborough, also godawful, who finished second from bottom.

In an interesting coda, Sunderland narrowly failed – despite their best efforts while straddling the Premiership and Division One in 2003 – to match Darwen’s 18-game losing streak. Which proves that old football may have been rubbish, but ineptitude is timeless.

East Stirlingshire 2003-04
Scottish Division Three
P36 W2 D2 L32 F30 A118 Pts8

“I cannot think of a worse season that anybody has ever had,” muttered Ian Ramsay, chairman of East Stirlingshire’s supporters club, as his beloved team slumped to their 30th defeat in 33 games. “Even the old guys cannot think of a worse performance.” After the board cut player wages from £30 to £20 a week, and most of the better players had done one, the team could only attract 100 supporters a week.

“I’m not [here] to make a clown of myself,” alleged manager Dennis Newall, but he might as well have strapped on the size 28s and started honking with gay abandon. Victory over Elgin City averted the stigma of being literally the worst Scottish team ever, a mark set by Clyde (P18 W2 D0 L16 GD-46). But that was in 1900, and everyone who can remember that is now dead.

But East Stirling's story proves that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't always the light of an oncoming train.

As we write this blog, the Shire sit proudly in a play-off spot with genuine hope. So although 2004 was a bad year, there was better to come. And to those who point out that the Shire also finished bottom in 2005, 2006 and 2007, we politely remind you that, like we say, there's always someone worse off than you...

---------------------------------------------- More to read...

Last week's list: The strangest (and funniest) sackings

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