The English premiers league has become a victim of big money in sport and over the years, survival for the richest has pushed some of the best football clubs in the league to oblivion. When many teams complained about the takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi Wealth Fund, no one seemed to realize that the alternative for the club was ending up in the mud like Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers. So, what kills a football club? While poor management plays a key role, the one thing that seems to cut across all these clubs that hit rock bottom is lack of investment. Here is a look at 10 former great EPL clubs that saw their glory swept away.
Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League during the 1994-1995 season and only Leicester City has won the title out of the traditional Big Six. It was also the second club to win the newly renamed English Premier League. Things turned south immediately as the club performed abysmally in the Champions League and never got sight of the top four until their relegation in the 1998/99 season. The club bounced back into the Premier League in the 2000/1 season and stayed in the top tier for 11 seasons, marking the club’s best stretch in its history. The club’s relegation in the 2011/12 season proved to be their worst yet as the club proceeded to be relegated to the third tier in the 2016/17 season. No significant improvement has hit the club since; Marking the real fall of the giant for the club.
Bolton Wanderers finished the 2021/22 season in the top half of League One and most of the club’s fans were more than happy to finish their season that way. You couldn’t believe that that is the same club that kicked Atletico Madrid out of the Champions League in 2004. The club under Sammy Allardyce became a mainstay in the top half of English football. It signed some of the greatest names in European Football including Nicklas Anelka, Jay-Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo. The club lost its EPL footing in the 2011/12 season and went into the Championship where financial troubles saw it go into administration as it drifted into League Two in 2020. The team that was once feared as the most stubborn mid-table club in the EPL is not even on the map anymore.
After winning the top division title twice in the 40s, Portsmouth became one of England’s most decorated football clubs. The club became a mainstay in the top flight of English football since its promotion from the Championship in 2002. Their fame hit is peak when they won the FA Cup in 2008 making. Within three years of winning the FA Cup, Portsmouth was playing in League Two thanks to sinking into administration twice leading to points being garnished from the club. Portsmouth soon became the most decorated EPL club to play in League Two after fielding the likes of Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Sulley Muntari in the premier league three seasons earlier. The club hasn’t recovered its footing even after the fans took over ownership of the club.
Despite being owned by the billionaire Marcus Evans, Ipswich Town is one of the English clubs that have been worst hit by lack of investment. The club was bought by Gamechanger 20, a US investment fund that promised to lift the club out of the mud and back to its 60s and 70s glory. Ipswich Town won the UEFA Cup in the 1980/81 season adding to their FA Cup and the old English Division 1 glories. The club has struggled to win anything in both League One and the Championship and no longer seems to put a squad together to challenge for anything in the top divisions.
Stoke City remains one of the 12 founding members of the Football League in 1888 that has never won the completion. Their only major trophy remains the 1972 EFL League Cup win. That doesn’t mean the club hasn’t had its glories though. It is a matter of always getting close but never getting there. The club spent a whole decade in the top division of English football between 2009 and 2018 and even played in the European competition in 2011/12. When the club was taken over by the rich Coates family, the local owners promised to invest in the local boys and see the club go to the top of English football again but it has been more word than action all these years. The club is hardly holding onto their place in the championship.
Sunderland is one of the most successful English football clubs of all time with six top division wins to their name but nothing has come to the Stadium of Light in the last 4 decades. The club was supported by a fan base of over 40,000 at the League One playoffs as the club struggled to get back to the championship after two successive relegations to the third tier of English Football. The club has some of the richest owners in the championship and investment hasn’t been a problem. The problem is where the money gets spent as recruitments have only become worse year after year since their last relegation from the top flight in 2017. They found themselves in the championship just three years after fighting for European places in the Prem. They are one of the fastest decline stories of any former EPL club.
Miracles can happen in League One as well where Wigan survived relegation by a point in the 2020/21 season only to win the tier in the 2021/22 season. Winning the League One season is far from what the club’s large fan base would have prayed for considering the fact that they won the FA Cup after beating Manchester City in 2012/13. The sale of the club to Hong-Kong based entertainment consortiums saw investment in the club dry up and debts mount with the owners feasting on the club than they invested in it. The owners refused to help the club after it racked up losses due to the pandemic forcing it into administration which sealed its fate to the third tier of English football. The club was saved by the Bahranian businessman Talal Al Hammad who fell in love with them after watching them fight to stay in League One in 2020.
With two European Cups to their name as well as a Super Cup, it is fair to say that Forest is one of the most successful English clubs in Europe. They were bound for a third European Cup were it not for the ban on English clubs playing in Europe in 1985 after the Heysel stadium disaster. The club saw its fortunes dwindle as the 21st century approached and was relegated from the top flight in 1999. They have never seen the top flight again since then, but have found themselves in the third tier three times and nearly went lower than that.
With big names like Roberto Martinez, Paulo Sousa and Brendan Rogers in their cabinets, Swansea boasts of having some of the best records in the EPL whenever they manage to get promoted. The club was nearly wound up in the 80s, just a few seasons after finishing 18 points off the top of the top division. Their best time at the top came between 2011 and 2017 when the club won the EFL Cup and qualified for European football fighting to the round of 32 where they were kicked out by Napoli. Since their relegation in 2018, the club has declined to a mid-table Championship team that no longer challenges for anything.
Derby Country is one football club that has been at the heart of every significant advance in English football. Since winning the Post-war FA Cup in 1946, Derby became a major force in the top division-winning it twice. The club’s last performance in the EPL came in the 2007/08 season when they were relegated after only managing 11 points after 38 matches. The worst year for the club came in the 2021/22 season though when it was deducted 21 points and relegated to League One after years of mismanagement.