Oh dear... The 26 worst football teams EVER
1. The Atom Men bomb
Experiencing the Jasper Carrott gag about Birmingham City (“You lose some and you draw some”) as reality would have been dreamland for Berkshire berks AFC Aldermaston in 2010.
The unfortunate Wessex League Division One outfit couldn’t even manage a stalemate over 40 fixtures between May 2009 and April 2010, until they finally scraped a 1-1 with Warminster Town. During a sickening campaign, they conceded more than 150 goals.
While the team claimed that morale remained pretty high, two key factors had conspired against the side nicknamed The Atom Men: unable to pay players, they’d lost 10 squad members to rivals Tadley that summer, and over a horrible winter their training pitch was decimated.
At least gaffer Adie Heath took things with downbeat good grace. “I didn’t know about the record until last week,” he said. “I suppose it’s given the club a bit of attention.”
2. Not quite Busby or Fergie standard…
Twenty years after moving into Old Trafford, Manchester United’s 1930 vintage were merely a moderately successful northern outfit with two titles and an FA Cup win to their name – as well as two relegations from (and promotions back into) English football’s top tier.
Not the powerhouse of post-war England, then, but still – losing all of their opening 12 games was a spectacularly bad show. The slipshod Red Devils shipped 49 goals during their dreadful dozen (starting 3-4, 1-3, 2-6, 0-6, 4-7), and finished the season with 115 goals conceded in dead last. The record remained the most dismal start to a season by a top-flight side in Europe’s big five leagues for nearly nine decades, before finally being broken by Serie A strugglers Benevento in 2017.
United’s final fixture – a 4-4 at home to Middlesbrough – drew just 3,969 souls. Manager Herbert Bamlett somehow kept his job, but was axed the following November.
3. “In goal, No.1, Fidel Castro…”
“If this club was a horse, we’d have been taken down the knacker’s yard and sold for dog meat by now,” a fan called Bob told FourFourTwo when we paid a vulture-like visit to Ewen Fields during 2013/14 – and little wonder. Throughout their only term in England’s fifth tier (then the Skrill Premier), the Greater Manchester outfit won just once, drew seven and lost 38, getting relegated with a minus 81 goal difference.
They did so, however, with a magnificent gallows sense of humour: their Twitter feed became a must-follow (“Hyde 2-3 Wrexham. Arses”/ “Hyde 2-4 Wrexham. Bollocks”/ “Hyde 2-5 Wrexham. Can’t win ‘em all”), and they named trialists after left-wing revolutionaries (“Thewlis, Brizell, Fidel Castro, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Hughes, Maximilien de Robespierre, Thurston, Tony Benn, Tames”).
The trauma of amassing the league’s record point low lingered on, though – they got relegated again the year after.
4. Five days, three matches, 114 goals conceded
The odds were stacked against the Federated States of Micronesia, a country with a tiny population dotted across 607 islands, as they rocked up for the 2015 Pacific Games. The players had never been on an 11-a-side pitch before, and many had only been playing the game for around 18 months.
“Most have never been out their villages, let alone to another island,” said Aussie coach Stan Foster. “I took them to Guam and it was the first time they’ve been on an elevator or escalator. It’s kindergarten.”
At least kindergarten is fun: Micronesia endured three of the most humiliating defeats in football history. They opened up with a 30-0 defeat by Tahiti, whose nine different goalscorers rubbed salt into the wound by performing a haka afterwards (“They beat us and then they made fun of us,” complained player Dominic Gadad). A 38-0 drubbing by Fiji followed, but it was Vanuatu who delivered the killer blow – running out 46-0 winners, with 16 goals for Jean Kaltack. “The marking was a bit slack,” admitted the gaffer.
5. El Salvador floored by Kiss
The Central American minnows weren’t that bad at Spain ‘82 – they only lost 1-0 to Belgium and 2-0 to Argentina in their other meetings – but their opening fixture, 10-1 against Hungary, was a horror show.
Circumstances, alas, had conspired against them. The Salvadorans were the final squad to get to Spain, after a three-day odyssey (“Our itinerary seemed as though it was planned by the enemy,” pondered defender Jaime Rodriguez). Riddled by jetlag, they didn’t even receive any balls to train with until 24 hours before the game was due to start. The exhausted players were also hampered by some unwise tactics.
“They weren’t as bad a team as the result suggests,” said Hungary captain Tibor Nyilasi. “They just went forward naively.” Luis Ramirez Zapata did score, making it 5-1 – and going wild – only for Hungarian sub Laszlo Kiss to fill his boots. “The poor sods probably thought they could beat us,” said Kiss afterwards. It remains the worst shellacking in World Cup history.
6. Remember remember to park in the garage
You know your season’s going awry when the team can’t even have a Christmas dinner without police being summoned to protect players from 100 furious supporters who spat at them, kicked cars and threw fireworks at the restaurant.
That isn’t the only reason Pescara president Daniele Sebastiani will never forget 2016/17 – fans also set two cars alight on his driveway and cherry bombed his house. The discontent was understandable: after the first half of the season, the Dolphins had won one match – Serie A had awarded them a 3-0 victory after Sassuolo fielded an ineligible player – and, despite the sacking of coach Massimo Oddo, things didn’t get much better.
Pescara languished at the bottom of Serie A for 14 weeks, leaked 81 goals and accumulated 18 points on their way to Serie B. Their only away win was that 3-0 victory over Sassuolo, a game they had originally lost 2-1.
7. “Well, I only conceded 226 goals”
There are two ways to respond to a 10-0 opening-day loss. Stiffen your spine. Or, if you’re Longford in the 2016/17 Gloucestershire Northern Senior League Division Two, back it up with a 13-0 reverse.
Things didn’t improve for the 13th-tier side. By Christmas, Longford had lost every match and racked up 15-0, 16-0 and 17-0 defeats, so they did what anyone would… recruited Stuart Pearce on a one-game deal, 14 years after his last appearance as a player.
The publicity stunt for an insurance company was a minor success, resulting in just a single-goal defeat against Wotton Rovers – their best result of a harrowing campaign: P30; W0, D0, L30; F10, A226.
“I’m one of those people who is never down,” insisted 25-year-old insurance administrator Irshad Badat, the keeper. “I think I’ve played all right this season. I’ve certainly had quite a bit to do.”
8. Darwen fail to evolve
Darwen FC, based just a couple of miles south of Blackburn, were one of northern English football’s pioneers: they were the first English club to sign professional players, reached the semi-finals of the 1880/81 FA Cup, and were Football League members from 1891 to 1899. But that final term (1898/99) in the Second Division was truly calamitous.
After being sued and financially crippled by one of their ex-players, the Salmoners lost on 18 consecutive occasions – and deployed 63 different locals (including a writer from the paper) across the year in a bid to terminate the torture. They succumbed 10-0 three times, and let in a record number of Football League goals (141 over 34 games).
The downward spiral never really ended, either: Darwen failed to win re-election and currently play in North West Counties League First Division North (tier 10).
9. Nobody fears The Bash
A 0-0 draw isn’t usually a cue for wild scenes of celebration. The 71 hardy souls at Bashley Road were delirious, however, after ‘The Bash’ picked up their first point in the Southern League Division One South & West after 27 games in February 2016, against Mangotsfield United.
The season hadn’t commenced well for the financially struggling New Forest mob: having not won any match since September 2014, they’d sacked boss David Stride during pre-season, and then axed his successor Steve Riley. “We don’t want to look back in April as this being our only point of the season,” said new Bashley boss Tom Prodomo.
And indeed it wasn’t: they managed to eke out one more point – thanks to another 0-0 against Slimbridge – finishing the year with 40 losses, 201 goals conceded, and a goal difference of minus 188. They are now in the Wessex League.