Ranked! The 20 worst Premier League teams ever – by points total

Sunderland 2005/06

Rancid filth. From drunken captains to dour managers, this lot are simply and statistically the worst sides ever to compete in England’s top flight since 1992/93

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Over the years, the Premier League has brought some joyous moments of pure skill and drama, featuring stunning goals and last-minute reversals. It has also served up some absolute dross – and that’s what we’re celebrating here.

FourFourTwo have scoured the tables to bring you the 20 teams who’ve racked up the fewest points in a Premier League season (and even got the calculator out to adjust for the 42-game seasons of the early 1990s). Sunderland fans, look away now.

20. Middlesbrough (2016/17)

Points: 28, Goal difference: -26

FourFourTwo went up to Middlesbrough’s training ground during this season in question for a couple of interviews, and Aitor Karanka was wandering around with no shoes on. A little insight into the glamorous football journalism life, there. The Spaniard had steered Boro to the top flight with some exciting attacking football, but the goals dried up in the top flight despite the acquisition of Alvaro Negredo. Boro scored just 27 in the league all season.

After a strong start, there was an inexorable slide, and Karanka was given the boot in March to be replaced by Steve Agnew. Unfortunately it was all too late.

19. Reading (2012/13)

Points: 28 points, Goal difference: -28

It took the Royals until November to win their first league game of the season, a 2-1 triumph over Everton at the 11th attempt. A brief surge in January, including wins over Newcastle and West Brom, led to striker Adam le Fondre and manager Brian McDermott winning Player and Manager of the month respectively, but it was short-lived.

McDermott was sacked a month later and replaced by Nigel Adkins, who was unable to steady the ship. The Royals ended the season with six wins from 38 games, but still didn’t finish bottom (see QPR).

18. Watford (2006/07)

Points: 28, Goal difference: -30

Promoted clubs tended to struggle in this era, and Aidy Boothroyd’s Watford fit the bill perfectly, despite having brought in a number of experienced players including Chris Powell and Danny Shittu, plus goalkeeper Ben Foster on loan from Manchester United.

It took until November for their first win, over Middlesbrough, and they didn’t get another until January 23 – the same day then-top-scorer Ashley Young departed for Aston Villa. Algerian Hameur Bouazza stepped up his game, but it wasn’t enough. The low point came when Spurs keeper Paul Robinson accidentally scored from a free-kick that bounced over Foster’s head.

17. Leicester (2001/02)

Points: 28, Goal difference: -34

A 5-0 defeat to newly promoted Bolton on the opening day set the tone for a dismal final season at Filbert Street. Peter Taylor lasted until the end of September before being replaced by Dave Bassett.

The new boss picked up a couple of wins before enduring a four-month winless run that sealed the Foxes' doom. They secured just five victories all season, despite the efforts of top league scorer Brian Deane (six goals) and player of the year Robbie Savage.

16. Swindon (1993/94)

Points: 30 (27.14 adjusted for a 38-game season), Goal difference: -53

The Robins' first and last top-flight season started with four defeats in a row, and continued with a winless run that stretched until November – their 16th league game. Swindon had been denied promotion three years previously due to financial irregularities, but came up via the play-off final thanks to player-manager Glenn Hoddle.

He’d departed for Chelsea, though, with assistant John Gorman left behind. There were some memorable moments, including a thrilling draw with Liverpool and win over Spurs, but Swindon haemorrhaged goals. They were the first side in 30 years to ship more than a hundred, which meant that the efforts of top scorer Jan Age Fjortoft (12 league goals) were in vain. Two points from their last eight games sealed Swindon’s fate, and they finished 10 points adrift of 21st-place Oldham.

15. Portsmouth (2009/10)

Points: 19 (28 with a nine-point deduction), Goal difference: -32

It’s tempting to point at their FA Cup win the previous year, and the nine-point deduction for financial irregularities, then make the argument that maybe this Portsmouth team were actually alright. They weren’t. They were in the relegation zone from week two, and even if you ignore the nine points which were removed in March, they'd still make our list. 

The squad is like a Harry Redknapp greatest hits album – but of course the wheeler-dealer was long gone by this point, leaving first Paul Hart, and then Avram Grant to shake the likes of Aruna Dindane and Jamie O’Hara into some sort of team. Somehow, they still made another FA Cup final (but lost to Chelsea). 

14. Leicester (1994/95)

Points: 29 (26.2 adjusted for a 38-game season), Goal difference: -35

After two play-off final defeats, the Foxes made it back to the top flight via the play-offs at the third attempt – but their spell in the Premier League was short-lived.

A bad start with just two wins in their first 10 games proved impossible to reverse, and they lost manager Brian Little to Aston Villa in November. His replacement Mark McGhee fared little better and Leicester finished second-bottom – two points ahead of Ipswich.

13. West Brom (2002/03)

Points: 26, Goal difference: -36

For the Baggies, promotion to the top flight under Gary Megson heralded an era of bouncing up and down between the top two divisions. He strengthened the squad in the summer with the signings of Jason Koumas and Lee Hughes from Tranmere and Coventry respectively, but this was a squad lacking in Premier League experience, and it showed.

Jason Roberts partnered Danny Dichio up front, with the latter ending up as top scorer with eight goals in all competitions. They still finished seven points ahead of Sunderland.

12. Bradford (2000/01)

Points: 26, Goal difference: -40

Chris Hutchings had a stellar start to his managerial career, but things quickly unravelled. Bradford had narrowly survived the previous season under Paul Jewell, who departed for Sheffield Wednesday in the summer. Hutchings' first assignment was the Intertoto Cup, which Bradford somehow qualified for despite finishing 17th.

He guided them to the semi-finals via trips to Lithuania and the Netherlands, and then continued that good form by beating Chelsea in the first home game of the Premier League season. Unfortunately this was his only league win out of 12, and he was replaced in November by Jim Jefferies, who fared little better as strikers Dean Windass and Benito Carbone struggled for goals.

11. QPR (2012/13)

Points: 25, Goal difference: -30

After surviving relegation by a point the previous year, despite Joey Barton’s antics against Manchester City and that Sergio Aguero goal, QPR boosted their squad in the summer under Mark Hughes. Junior Hoilett, Jose Bosingwa, Julio Cesar, Ryan Nelsen, Andy Johnson and Rob Green arrived on free transfers, joined by Samba Diakite, Park Ji-sung, Stephane Mbia and Real Madrid's Esteban Granero.

After Hughes was sacked on November 23 having failed to win a game, Harry Redknapp got the chequebook out again in January. He burned through the cash, splashing £12.5m on Christopher Samba, £8m on Loic Remy, £2m on Jermaine Jenas plus Tal Ben Haim (inevitably) on a free.

Redknapp was more successful than Hughes, and even threatened to build some momentum with back-to-back wins in March. But it was too little too late. A 0-0 draw with an equally dismal Reading at the end of April condemned both sides to the drop.