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5 occasions when top-flight reputations were proven to count for nothing

Everton v Arsenal – Premier League – Goodison Park
(Image credit: Jon Super)

Ailing Arsenal could face the ignominy of relegation to the Championship, according to Alan Shearer, who insists that he “wouldn’t be too sure” about the Gunners’ survival prospects after their latest Premier League setback.

Shearer should know, having taken Newcastle into the second tier during a short and ill-fated managerial reign at St James’ Park in 2009.

Here, the PA news agency casts its mind back over five occasions when top-flight reputations were proven to count for nothing.

Manchester United (1974)

Soccer – League Division One – Manchester United v Manchester City – Old Trafford

Denis Law’s back-heeled winner sealed Manchester United’s fate (PA Archive)

Denis Law returned to haunt his former club as United were sent crashing into Division Two just six years after winning the European Cup. United needed to beat Manchester City to stand a chance of staying up but Law, who had spent 11 years at United before crossing the city in 1973, back-heeled an 81st-minute winner to confirm his former club’s fate.

West Ham (2003)

West Ham United v West Ham United All Stars – Mark Noble Testimonial – Upton Park

Paolo Di Canio was part of an under-achieving West Ham squad (John Walton/PA Archive)

Featuring the likes of Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and Paolo Di Canio, the Hammers squad was arguably the best to go down. They never recovered from a calamitous start under Glenn Roeder and – despite picking up markedly under his replacement Alan Pardew, who lost just one in 10 heading into the final game of the season – they had left it too late and a final-day draw at Birmingham proved futile.

Nottingham Forest (1992)

Brian Clough is besieged by fans

Brian Clough’s glittering tenure ended dismally (Neil Munns/PA)

Brian Clough’s remarkable reign transformed Forest from provincial also-rans into league champions and double kings of Europe, but petered out in relegation. Forest lost Des Walker and Teddy Sheringham at the start of the first Premier League season and struggled throughout. Their fate was sealed in a 2-1 defeat at Ipswich on the final day of the campaign, with Clough’s son Nigel scoring the only goal.

Newcastle (2009)

Alan Shearer File Photo

Alan Shearer could not save Newcastle from the drop (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The Magpies paid the price for a calamitous season off the field, with Kevin Keegan’s departure in September causing acrimony, followed by Chris Hughton’s controversial dismissal and the equally-contentious appointment of Joe Kinnear. Amid increasing anger at owner Mike Ashley, Kinnear left on health grounds and Shearer took over for the final eight games of the season – but he could only win one of them and Newcastle were down.

Leeds (2004)

Bolton v Leeds United

Leeds were relegated under Eddie Gray (Phil Noble/PA Archive)

Leeds lived the dream with five consecutive top-five finishes and a Champions League semi-final in 2001. But as their debts soared towards nine figures, the club off-loaded their star names and slumped into the second tier under Eddie Gray. The misery did not stop there for the Yorkshire club, who went on to drop into League One after a points penalty for falling into administration.