Tag Archives: Survival Sunday

Iconic Moments: Everton survive by the skin of their teeth (May 1998)

After 44 years of unbroken top-flight existence, Everton’s status was in severe jeopardy going into the final day of the 1997-1998 Premier League season. For the second time in five years, they went into a final round of fixtures in the bottom three and needing a better result than their relegation rivals to avoid the drop to the First Division. They had achieved it in 1994 against Wimbledon with Sheffield United the unfortunate side to experience the heartache of relegation.

In 1998, they were in a head-to-head battle with Bolton Wanderers. Everton were a point behind and had a more favourable fixture at home to Coventry City, whilst Bolton were travelling to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Things went Everton’s way in their match when Gareth Farrelly’s terrific early strike put them 1-0 ahead. Bolton fell behind to a goal from Gianluca Vialli in west London but there were to be exciting final twists.

Everton’s Nick Barmby saw a penalty saved by Magnus Hedman and when Dion Dublin equalised for Coventry with an arching header three minutes from time, Bolton knew the situation. A leveller at Chelsea would keep them up and even the Chelsea supporters were urging the Trotters to equalise. This was after Everton had suggested earlier in the week that Chelsea wouldn’t be motivated to win as they had a Cup Winners’ Cup final on the horizon days later against VfB Stuttgart.

In stoppage-time, the home supporters began booing their own players but in a counter-attack, Jody Morris finished off the contest and Bolton’s chances. Fans cheered Morris’ goal but less enthusiastically as any other Chelsea goal scored at Stamford Bridge all season. Chelsea’s 2-0 win meant a point would be enough for Everton and they held on for their draw by the skin of their teeth to achieve another manic final day escape from relegation, this time courtesy of only goal difference.

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Premier League Rewind: 15th May 2005

Results: Birmingham City 2-1 Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers 3-2 Everton, Charlton Athletic 2-2 Crystal Palace, Fulham 6-0 Norwich City, Liverpool FC 2-1 Aston Villa, Manchester City 1-1 Middlesbrough, Newcastle United 1-1 Chelsea, Southampton 1-2 Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Blackburn Rovers, West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Portsmouth

The centre of attention on the final day of the 2004-2005 Premier League season was at the bottom of the table. For the first time in the competition’s history, all three relegation spots were up for grabs and by full-time, only one set of supporters from Norwich City, Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion would be celebrating survival.

The team in the driving seat were Norwich. They were outside the bottom three and a first away victory of the season at Craven Cottage against a Fulham side with little to play for would secure their top-flight status and relegate the other three sides irrespective of their results. However, as soon as Brian McBride had the Cottagers infront after just 10 minutes, it looked like it would be a long afternoon for the Canaries supporters. Any hope of beating the drop was virtually extinguished by Papa Bouba Diop’s cracking free-kick and it turned into a mauling for Nigel Worthington’s side. Andy Cole came off the bench to round the scoring off in stoppage-time. Fulham won 6-0 and Norwich were relegated.

The Canaries’ miserable afternoon in west London meant there was an opportunity for the other three teams then to escape the drop. Southampton had the trickiest fixture even though they were at home on the last day to FA Cup finalists Manchester United. They made a brilliant start, with an own goal off John O’Shea giving the Saints a lead at virtually the same time as Norwich were going a goal down at Fulham. A Darren Fletcher header did little to change the outcomes and at half-time, the point was enough for Harry Redknapp to protect his record of not experiencing Premier League relegation on his CV. Ruud van Nistelrooy had other ideas. The Dutchman had experienced a difficult campaign plagued by injuries by his 62nd minute header – his sixth league goal of the season put the Red Devils infront and they held on for a 2-1 victory to end Southampton’s 27-year stay in England’s top-flight.

So, Norwich and Southampton were both down, which meant it was a straight shootout between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion for survival. Palace travelled to a Charlton Athletic side without a win in their last eight games but they trailed at half-time to Bryan Hughes’ first half effort. Iain Dowie then brought Dougie Freedman off the bench and soon after his arrival; he put the Eagles level with a cute chip over the advancing Charlton goalkeeper Dean Kiely. Then, Mark Clattenburg pointed to the penalty spot when Jonathan Fortune handled the ball in his own penalty area. Andy Johnson’s 21st goal of the season meant Dowie’s side were now just 19 minutes from safety. However, with eight minutes remaining, Fortune made amends with a towering header from a free-kick to level the scores at 2-2. That is how it ended but would it be enough for Palace to avoid a fourth Premier League relegation?

It wouldn’t be the case if West Bromwich Albion beat Portsmouth at The Hawthorns. The Baggies were bottom going into the final day and only a win would be enough to give them a chance of achieving survival. Just a minute after his arrival into the match as a second half substitute, Geoff Horsfield drilled the Baggies into the lead and on-loan midfielder Kieran Richardson settled the contest with 15 minutes remaining. When he scored, Palace were winning so the three points weren’t enough but Fortune’s equaliser at The Valley sent The Hawthorns into a carnival atmosphere. No team in Premier League history had ever done what West Brom had just done. They were bottom on Christmas Day but had achieved survival on this, the ultimate Survival Sunday.’

Away from the drama at the bottom of the table and the other dramatic issue was who would take seventh place and the final UEFA Cup position in the table. Middlesbrough held the advantage and were playing chief rivals Manchester City at Eastlands. The scoreline was 1-1 when City had a late penalty. If Robbie Fowler had converted it, the Citizens would have claimed seventh position but his spot-kick was saved by Mark Schwarzer so Boro held on for the point that secured the last European qualification spot.

What else happened in May 2005?

  • Labour and Tony Blair win their third successive General Election but only a majority of 66 seats – a great reduction on their recent margin of victory in 2001.
  • After the election, Conservative party leader Michael Howard announced his intention to step down.
  • Liverpool FC win their fifth European Cup in sensational fashion, beating AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul after coming back from 3-0 down at half-time to draw 3-3.
  • The Eurovision Song Contest is won by Greece’s Helena Paparizou with her song “My Number One.”
  • 27-year-old transport manager Tim Campbell wins the first series of The Apprentice, winning a £100,000 job with Lord Alan Sugar’s firm, Amstrad.
  • American businessman Malcolm Glazer gains control of Manchester United after securing a 70% share. The takeover angers many United supporters.
  • BBC Weather relaunches, changing to 3D graphics.

 

Seasonal Stories: West Bromwich Albion (2004-2005)

Defying history  

The 2004-2005 Premier League campaign saw a fascinating battle to preserve top-flight status. On Christmas Day 2004, West Bromwich Albion were bottom of the table and looking in dire straits. No side before them had escaped relegation from this perilous situation. However, the Baggies made history and survived on an epic last day.

Megson departs

West Bromwich Albion were about to embark on their second Premier League campaign in the summer of 2004. Relegated in their debut season, the Baggies had made an instant return, finishing runners-up to Norwich City in the First Division. Once again, it was Gary Megson who would be in-charge of the men from The Hawthorns.

£5 million was invested into the squad in the summer transfer window. Rob Earnshaw came in for £3 million from Cardiff City, whilst former Nigerian international Kanu bolstered the striking options further, joining after his contract had expired at Arsenal.

The season started solidly enough with three successive 1-1 draws against Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. However, it wasn’t until early October until a maiden victory in the season arrived. High-flying Bolton Wanderers arrived in the Midlands sitting in fourth position but they were beaten 2-1 after a week where the first signs of rifts within the dressing room and the manager had been reported in the press. Summer arrivals Kanu and Zoltan Gera got the goals in the victory over the Trotters. It ensured West Brom were the first newly-promoted club to win in the campaign.

Despite the win, relations between Megson and owner Jeremy Peace were straining towards breaking point. Shortly after the Bolton victory, Megson announced that he would not sign a new deal if offered one by the club and he would leave his post as manager at the end of the season. Three days after a 3-0 away defeat to relegation rivals Crystal Palace, he left the club by mutual consent.

After Frank Burrows steered the club through a couple of games in caretaker charge, Bryan Robson was appointed as Megson’s permanent successor, taking the post on 9th November.

Giving, not receiving

Robson’s first game in charge was against one of his former clubs in Middlesbrough. After scoring his first two goals in the 2-2 draw away at Southampton, Earnshaw scored his first home Premier League goal for the club. However, Kanu’s unbelievable miss from virtually a couple of yards out in the closing stages meant Middlesbrough went away from the Midlands with all three points.

Earnshaw was in a purple patch of form and he found the target again a week later in a very respectable 1-1 draw away at champions Arsenal. That hard-fought point at Highbury though was followed by five successive defeats, beginning with a 3-0 home defeat to Manchester United. With other sides near the bottom finding some form, West Brom plummeted to the foot of the table.

The festive season performances were the stuff of nightmares. A demoralising 4-0 loss to local rivals Birmingham City ensured West Brom would go into Christmas Day propping up the table. That result was followed by a shambolic display at home to a Liverpool FC side on Boxing Day that had won only once on the road all season. John Arne Riise scored twice and Florent Sinama-Pongolle achieved a rare Premier League goal as Liverpool left The Hawthorns with a 5-0 victory and kept the hosts marooned to the bottom of the league.

Although Richard Dunne’s late own goal earned a point at Manchester City to finish 2004, Robson was yet to win a game at the helm as manager. They were bottom of the table going into 2005 and with no club previously having avoided relegation after being bottom on Christmas Day, the club’s Premier League future looked very bleak.

29TH DECEMBER 2004 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
15 Blackburn Rovers 20 3 10 7 19 32 -13 19
16 Fulham 20 5 3 12 22 35 -13 18
17 Crystal Palace 20 3 6 11 20 31 -11 15
18 Norwich City 20 2 9 9 17 36 -19 15
19 Southampton 20 2 8 10 18 32 -14 14
20 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 20 1 8 11 16 42 -26 11

Market moves

The opening of the January transfer window saw the chance for Robson to strengthen his squad. He brought in the experience of Kevin Campbell from Everton. His goals had saved the Toffees from relegation in 1999 and he certainly knew how to find the back of the net from his Arsenal days.

The promising midfielder Richard Chaplow was added from Burnley and Kieran Richardson joined on-loan from Manchester United. All three would play a part in this great escape. After 13 games without a win, Robson’s side recorded a 2-0 home win against Manchester City, with Campbell scoring on his home debut and Ronnie Wallwork getting a vital second in the closing stages.

Wins followed over Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic in March. At The Valley, Earnshaw scored a tremendous second half hat-trick to become the first player to score trebles in all four English divisions, the FA Cup, the League Cup and at international level for Wales. The 4-1 away victory at Charlton would turn out to be West Brom’s solitary away win of the season. However, this was the day when their fans really started to believe they could pull off the impossible.

Another win came at the start of April. Gera’s second half header steered the Baggies to a 1-0 win over Everton and took them off the foot of the table with Norwich replacing them as the basement club.

Survival Sunday

Defeats away to Middlesbrough and at home against Arsenal put Albion on the brink again as the final month of the season approached. Form continued to fluctuate between the Baggies, Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton. The Canaries put together a run of four wins and a draw in six games to lift themselves out of the relegation zone going into the final round of games.

Danny Higginbotham’s stoppage-time equaliser for Southampton ensured the points were shared at Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace. Later that evening, Earnshaw’s 11th Premier League goal of the season from the penalty spot earned Robson and West Brom a precious point at Old Trafford against Manchester United. For the first time in Premier League history, no side had been relegated before the final day of the season. ‘Survival Sunday’ was on.

Only Norwich had control of their situation. A win for them at Craven Cottage would relegate the other sides but they were beaten 6-0 by Fulham. That made relegation a certainty for the Canaries. Defeat at home to Manchester United meant Southampton would join them so that meant it was a straight shootout for survival between West Brom and Crystal Palace.

Albion had a winnable game at home to Portsmouth and after a nervy first half; they got the win they needed to have any chance of staying up. Seconds after arriving as a substitute, Geoff Horsfield scored the opening goal before Richardson ensured a 2-0 victory. They now needed a favour from Charlton at The Valley against Crystal Palace. With eight minutes left, Jonathan Fortune scored a dramatic equaliser for Charlton to make the scoreline 2-2 and push Palace into the drop zone. Despite their best efforts, the visitors’ couldn’t find the crucial winner they required.

FINAL 2004-2005 TABLE – THE BOTTOM SIX

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
15 Blackburn Rovers 38 9 15 14 32 43 -11 42
16 Portsmouth 38 10 9 19 43 59 -16 39
17 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 38 6 16 16 36 61 -25 34
18 Crystal Palace 38 7 12 19 41 62 -21 33
19 Norwich City 38 7 12 19 42 77 -35 33
20 Southampton 38 6 14 18 45 66 -21 32

When the full-time whistle went in London, the party could begin at The Hawthorns with memorable scenes as fans invaded the pitch to greet and carry their heroes off the field. Robson had achieved a remarkable feat. No team in history before had been bottom on Christmas Day and survived.

Relegation would follow the following season and again in 2009 under Tony Mowbray. It was only when Roy Hodgson succeeded Roberto Di Matteo in February 2011 that their reputation as a yo-yo club ended. West Brom enjoyed an eight-year spell in the Premier League before suffering a fourth Premier League relegation in 2018. Whatever West Bromwich Albion will achieve in their future, it will have to go some to beat this remarkable tale of survival achieved in 2004-2005.

Iconic Moments: Survival Sunday – Albion escape (May 2005)

On the final day of the 2004-2005 Premier League season, none of the bottom four were guaranteed of avoiding relegation. It was between Norwich City, Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. By the end of the afternoon, one club would be celebrating survival and the other three would be feeling the pain of relegation.

For Norwich, a first away win of the season at Craven Cottage against Fulham would condemn the other three sides regardless of their results. That never looked likely once Brian McBride put the home side ahead in the 10th minute. The Canaries wilted in the bright west London sunshine, losing 6-0. They were going to be relegated.

At half-time, it was Southampton who were in the box seat. Harry Redknapp’s side had the toughest game against Manchester United but were drawing 1-1. John O’Shea’s own goal had been cancelled out by a fine header from Darren Fletcher. Unfortunately, Ruud van Nistelrooy’s sixth goal of an injury-hit domestic season would mean the Saints’ 13-year Premier League stay would come to an end. It was Redknapp’s first Premier League relegation as a manager.

West Bromwich Albion started the day bottom of the table and only a win would do at home to Portsmouth. Less than a minute after his arrival from the substitute’s bench, Geoff Horsfield volleyed the Baggies into a precious lead. On-loan midfielder Kieran Richardson added a second goal to give West Brom a 2-0 victory. Now, they had to wait and hope Crystal Palace didn’t win at The Valley.

The Eagles trailed at half-time to out-of-form Charlton Athletic but recovered brilliantly in the second half. They were leading with eight minutes left until Jonathan Fortune’s header saw the Addicks level the match and plunge Iain Dowie’s side back into the bottom three. They couldn’t find another goal so the draw wasn’t enough. That meant the party could begin at The Hawthorns. It was West Bromwich Albion who prevailed on ‘Survival Sunday.’

In the process, they’d made their own piece of Premier League history. No side previously had been bottom on Christmas Day and escaped relegation. Albion had just proven it could be done.

Memorable Matches: Charlton Athletic 2-2 Crystal Palace (May 2005)

Goalscorers: Bryan Hughes 30, Dougie Freedman 58, Andy Johnson 70 PEN, Jonathan Fortune 82

Teams:

Charlton Athletic: Dean Kiely, Talal El Karkouri, Jonathan Fortune, Radostin Kishishev, Paul Konchesky, Luke Young, Matt Holland (Lloyd Sam 67), Bryan Hughes, Danny Murphy (Dennis Rommedahl 76), Shaun Bartlett (Jerome Thomas 79), Jonatan Johansson

Crystal Palace: Gabor Kiraly, Danny Butterfield (Dougie Freedman 55), Danny Granville, Fitz Hall, Mikele Leigertwood, Tony Popovic, Tom Soares (Aki Riihilahti 86), Michael Hughes, Ben Watson (Darren Powell 89), Wayne Routledge, Andy Johnson

Referee: Mark Clattenburg, Attendance: 26,870

It was the final day of the 2004-2005 season and ‘Survival Sunday.’ None of the bottom four clubs were safe. By the end of the day, only one team from Norwich City, Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion would be celebrating another season in the Premier League with the other three sides having to face up to the agony of relegation.

Iain Dowie’s Crystal Palace side travelled to The Valley to take on a Charlton Athletic side that hadn’t won in the Premier League since mid-March. Despite winning just once on their travels all season at Birmingham City, Dowie must have been confident that a victory would be enough for the Eagles to avoid relegation for the first time in their Premier League history.

Given the circumstances, they made a very nervous start and were punished by their more experienced opponents after 30 minutes. Played in by Radostin Kishishev, Bryan Hughes made a run from his wide position, shrugged off the attentions of Danny Butterfield and used the post to guide the ball into the back of the net. It was the home side’s first notable attack of the match and it had led to the opening goal. At half-time, Palace were going down. Defeat would condemn them to the drop, no matter what was happening elsewhere.

Having started with just one lone forward in Andy Johnson, Dowie knew he needed to take a risk now. 10 minutes into the second half, he withdrew Butterfield and threw on a second forward in Dougie Freedman. The change had the desired early impact. With only his second touch of the match, Freedman exposed a missing Charlton backline and bought Palace level, calmly lifting the ball over Dean Kiely. Incredibly, it was his first Premier League goal of the season and what a time to get it.

Results elsewhere were generally going for the south Londoners too. The dream was over for Norwich, who would lose 6-0 at Fulham whilst Southampton’s 2-1 home defeat to Manchester United saw their top-flight run come to a shattering end. Maybe unknown at the time to the players but it was now a straight fight between West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace.

West Brom were leading Portsmouth 2-0 but another goal for Dowie and his troops would put them in pole position to survive. They got their opportunity with 20 minutes to go. A long goal-kick from Gabor Kiraly found Freedman. As he attempted to cut inside Jonathan Fortune, the defender stopped him with his hand. Mark Clattenburg awarded a penalty. In such a tense scenario, Johnson stepped up and sent Kiely the wrong way to put the visitors 2-1 ahead. It was his 21st goal of the season.

However, heartache would follow. A rash challenge from Mikele Leigertwood gave Charlton a free-kick in the 82nd minute. It was delivered into the back post by Jerome Thomas and Fortune made up for his earlier error by powering the Addicks level. The draw meant Crystal Palace were relegated and West Brom survived. It had been a nail-biting and ultimately, heartbreaking afternoon for the Eagles.

The Clubs: West Bromwich Albion

All data correct upto 23rd February 2018

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
445 109 126 210 465 680 -215 453 12

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Chris Brunt 258
James Morrison 244
Gareth McAuley 203
Jonas Olsson 201
Ben Foster 198
Youssef Mulumbu 157
Claudio Yacob 157
Craig Dawson 142
Graeme Dorrans 121
Jonathan Greening 106

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Peter Odemwingie 30
James Morrison 29
Chris Brunt 24
Saido Berahino 23
Salomon Rondon 21
Shane Long 19
Romelu Lukaku 17
Gareth McAuley 15
Youssef Mulumbu 12
Zoltan Gera 12

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-5 West Bromwich Albion 12th February 2012 2011-2012
West Bromwich Albion 4-0 Everton 19th November 2005 2005-2006
West Bromwich Albion 4-0 Sunderland 25th February 2012 2011-2012
West Bromwich Albion 4-0 Burnley 28th September 2014 2014-2015
West Bromwich Albion 4-0 Burnley 21st November 2016 2016-2017
Charlton Athletic 1-4 West Bromwich Albion 19th March 2005 2004-2005
Everton 1-4 West Bromwich Albion 27th November 2010 2010-2011
West Bromwich Albion 3-0 Middlesbrough 17th January 2009 2008-2009
West Bromwich Albion 3-0 Sunderland 25th April 2009 2008-2009
West Bromwich Albion 3-0 Blackburn Rovers 7th April 2012 2011-2012

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
West Bromwich Albion 0-6 Liverpool FC 26th April 2003 2002-2003
Chelsea 6-0 West Bromwich Albion 14th August 2010 2010-2011
Fulham 6-1 West Bromwich Albion 11th February 2006 2005-2006
West Bromwich Albion 0-5 Liverpool FC 26th December 2004 2004-2005
West Bromwich Albion 0-5 Manchester United 27th January 2009 2008-2009
Birmingham City 4-0 West Bromwich Albion 18th December 2004 2004-2005
Middlesbrough 4-0 West Bromwich Albion 23rd April 2005 2004-2005
Chelsea 4-0 West Bromwich Albion 24th August 2005 2005-2006
Manchester United 4-0 West Bromwich Albion 18th October 2008 2008-2009
Sunderland 4-0 West Bromwich Albion 13th December 2008 2008-2009

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Gary Megson 2 26th October 2004
Bryan Robson 2 18th September 2006
Tony Mowbray 1 16th June 2009
Roberto Di Matteo 1 6th February 2011
Roy Hodgson 2 14th May 2012
Steve Clarke 2 14th December 2013
Pepe Mel 1 12th May 2014
Alan Irvine 1 29th December 2014
Tony Pulis 4 20th November 2017
Alan Pardew 1

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Portsmouth 15th May 2005 27,751 2004-2005
West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Manchester United 27th November 2004 27,709 2004-2005
West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Manchester United 18th March 2006 27,623 2005-2006
West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Liverpool FC 1st April 2006 27,576 2005-2006
West Bromwich Albion 0-5 Liverpool FC 26th December 2004 27,533 2004-2005
West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur 28th December 2005 27,510 2005-2006
West Bromwich Albion 1-4 Chelsea 30th October 2004 27,399 2004-2005
West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Arsenal 2nd May 2005 27,351 2004-2005
West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur 25th August 2004 27,191 2004-2005
West Bromwich Albion 1-3 Manchester United 11th January 2003 27,129 2002-2003

 

Intro

Having been the ultimate yo-yo club of the first decade of the new millennium, West Bromwich Albion have become a stable Premier League side. 2017-2018 is their eighth successive campaign in the top-flight and they are usually a solid, organised side who keep a raft of clean sheets and are one of the best teams at scoring from set-pieces. However, their Premier League place is looking in serious doubt as we enter the final three months of the current campaign.

 

2002-2003

West Bromwich Albion’s debut campaign in the Premier League was one about learning for future experiences. Gary Megson had done brilliantly to guide them into the top-flight unexpectedly but their first season at England’s highest level since 1986 would end with a swift return to the First Division.

The big arrival over the summer was the £2.5 million acquisition of highly-rated midfielder Jason Koumas from Tranmere Rovers. After losing their first three matches, West Brom achieved three successive 1-0 victories over Fulham, West Ham United and Southampton. However, they would win just three more matches in the league and were relegated on Easter Saturday 2003, despite a rare away success at bottom-placed Sunderland.

Goalscoring was a major problem with their joint-top scorers in the league, Danny Dichio and Scott Dobie, managing just five goals.

 

2004-2005

The Baggies’ second Premier League adventure is one of the most dramatic in the league’s archives. Having earned an instant return at the first attempt of asking, Megson brought in 10 players in the close season; including Nigerian forward Kanu, Danish defender Martin Albrechtsen and hotshot forward Rob Earnshaw. The season started poorly though and after a 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace in mid-October, Megson resigned after falling out with the board.

Former player Bryan Robson was appointed as his successor but results didn’t improve. A 4-0 defeat to Birmingham, followed by a 5-0 drubbing at home to a Liverpool FC side that had won just once all season away from Anfield left them bottom at Christmas. No club had survived from this position in Premier League history.

Robson used the January transfer window to strengthen the squad. He signed Kevin Campbell, whose goals had saved Everton from relegation in 1999 and took Kieran Richardson on a loan deal from Manchester United. Both signings worked well and a 2-0 home win over Manchester City in mid-January saw them achieve only their second win of the season.

An improvement in form followed. Earnshaw scored a hat-trick off the bench in an impressive 4-1 away win at Charlton which was their first away success of the season before a Zoltan Gera header defeated Champions League-chasing Everton. West Brom had hope of ‘The Great Escape.’ Yet on the final day, they were still bottom of the table and had to win, whilst hoping results went their way.

They played Portsmouth and midway through the second half, substitute Geoff Horsfield scored with almost his first touch to put them infront. Richardson added a second goal to ensure the 2-0 victory they needed. Now, it was a case of waiting and hoping. Relegation rivals Norwich and Southampton both lost, whilst a late Charlton equaliser meant Crystal Palace’s 2-2 draw at The Valley was not enough.

Once the realisation dawned on the players and fans that survival had been achieved, a mass pitch invasion was sparked, with huge celebrations. West Brom had become the first team to ever survive in Premier League history having been bottom on Christmas Day.

 

2005-2006

The club were unable to repeat their escape act of 2004-2005. The squad wasn’t strengthened hugely during pre-season and despite home victories over Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and a 4-0 beating of Everton, West Brom won just seven league matches all season.

It looked like they might just avoid the drop again but Portsmouth’s tremendous run at the end of the campaign, coupled with no wins in their last 13 matches meant they slipped out of the top-flight. Robson would leave his post in September 2006.

 

2008-2009

West Brom returned to the Premier League for the 2008-2009 season with Scot Tony Mowbray now in-charge. They made a stronger start to the season, earning 10 points from their opening seven matches, including an away win at Middlesbrough with Jonas Olsson’s first goal for the club. A terrible run of two points from the next 10 games though saw them slip into familiar territory and despite a pre-Christmas 2-1 victory over Manchester City, West Brom were bottom again on Christmas Day.

This time, there would be no repeat of 2004-2005. Just four more victories were recorded and although they convincingly defeated Middlesbrough and Sunderland at home (3-0 on both occasions), their third Premier League relegation was confirmed on the penultimate weekend of the season, thanks to a 2-0 home defeat by Liverpool FC.

Mowbray left the club at the end of the season to take the managerial post at Celtic and he would be replaced by Roberto Di Matteo, who had guided Milton Keynes Dons to the League One play-offs.

 

2010-2011

Di Matteo guided West Brom back to the Premier League at the first attempt and there were very early promising signs. Nigerian forward Peter Odemwingie joined the club and became the first Baggies player to win the Premier League Player of the Month award for his exploits in September. This included a shock 3-2 away win at The Emirates Stadium over Arsenal.

They were also the only side all campaign to take a point from Old Trafford, coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Manchester United. That left them sixth in the table, before a winter collapse. 11 defeats in 16 matches saw them slide to 16th and just one point above the drop zone. After a 3-0 loss at Manchester City in early February, Di Matteo was placed on gardening leave and replaced by Roy Hodgson, who was available after his dire spell as Liverpool FC manager.

The club had the leakiest defence in the division on his arrival and priority number one was tightening this area up. Hodgson achieved this and five wins in the final three months, including a 2-1 success over his former employers from Merseyside ensured a comfortable end to the season. Somen Tchoyi’s final day hat-trick in the 3-3 draw with Newcastle United ensured an 11th place finish.

 

2011-2012

Hodgson broke West Brom’s transfer record in the summer of 2011 to acquire Shane Long from Reading for £7.5 million. Despite four defeats in their first five games, West Brom were never in danger of any relegation trouble. The highlight of an impressive season was a 5-1 demolition of Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux in February. Odemwingie scored a hat-trick in a result which remains the club’s biggest victory in the Premier League era.

For the first time, West Brom finished in the top 10 but Hodgson would not be staying. In late April, he was chosen as Fabio Capello’s successor to become manager of the England national team.

 

2012-2013

Roy’s replacement was rookie boss Steve Clarke, who made the step-up after serving as an assistant manager at Newcastle United, Chelsea and Liverpool FC. Clarke made a fantastic start, with Liverpool beaten 3-0 on the opening day. This was despite spending just £4 million in the summer and that was to make goalkeeper Ben Foster’s move from Birmingham City into a permanent transfer.

The signing of Romelu Lukaku on-loan from Chelsea was a masterstroke. The Belgian scored 17 times, including a final day hat-trick in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final match as a manager. West Brom showed great character to recover three-goal deficits and draw 5-5 in an incredible ending to their season.

They beat Chelsea at home for the second successive campaign and achieved a league double over Liverpool FC. This was their best-ever Premier League season, finishing eighth with a record-points total of 49 points and 14 wins.

The only sour note was Odemwingie’s desire to leave. An issue over contract talks saw him try to force a move through to Queens Park Rangers on transfer deadline day in January. He even stupidly turned up at QPR’s training ground car park, believing a deal had been agreed between the two clubs. It hadn’t and he was forced to return reluctantly to The Hawthorns. The fans didn’t forgive him and his time with the club was effectively over.

 

2013-2014

There were high hopes for a similar campaign in 2013-2014 but it didn’t materialise. Odemwingie was sold to Cardiff City but Clarke missed out on getting Lukaku again on-loan. The Belgian chose Everton on transfer deadline day.

The season started solidly and they hit the heights of 9th place after a 2-2 draw at Chelsea in November which was nearly a victory until a controversial penalty was awarded to the home side in stoppage-time. Four successive defeats though did for Clarke and he was sacked in mid-December after a 1-0 away loss to Cardiff.

After Keith Downing took over in caretaker charge during Christmas, Pepe Mel was the surprise choice as permanent boss. It didn’t work out. He won just three of his 17 matches in control, which included blowing big leads at home to both Cardiff and Tottenham Hotspur. West Brom finished just one position above the bottom three and Mel was sacked a day after the season concluded.

The highlight of the season was a 2-1 away win at Old Trafford over champions Manchester United.

 

2014-2015

Alan Irvine took over in the summer of 2014 but he didn’t last long. A run of poor results saw him dismissed two days before the year was out. Under his stewardship, West Brom won just four times although they did record one of their biggest Premier League victories; 4-0 over Burnley in September.

Irvine was replaced by Tony Pulis who immediately made the Baggies tougher to beat. They achieved 10 clean sheets in his 18 matches in charge and there were notable victories over Chelsea and Manchester United in the closing weeks of the season. West Brom finished in a fairly comfortable 13th place.

The form of Saido Berahino was impressive throughout. He scored 14 Premier League goals in the season but that would be the high of his time with the Midlands side. Like Odemwingie previously, his head would be turned by interest from other clubs.

 

2015-2016

Home wins against Arsenal and Manchester United were the highlights of an unremarkable 2015-2016 season for West Brom which saw them finish a place lower than the previous season and one point fewer too.

Pulis broke the club’s transfer record to sign Venezuelan international Salomon Rondon from Zenit Saint Petersburg whilst Jonny Evans was another key arrival from Manchester United. Rondon responded by finishing as the top scorer with nine goals whilst Evans played his part in a strong-minded and well-drilled backline.

To demonstrate their no-thrills approach, all of Albion’s 10 victories were achieved by a one-goal margin.

 

2016-2017

For only the third time, West Brom achieved a top-10 finish in the Premier League and it could have been eighth in the table. It was a position they held from a New Years’ Eve 2-1 success away at Southampton until the final week of the season when they were overtaken by the Saints and AFC Bournemouth to wind up 10th.

Pulis masterminded another home victory over Arsenal with their power from set-pieces being far too much for a fragile Gunners team to deal with. Craig Dawson scored twice in the 3-1 victory. Salomon Rondon scored eight times, including a hat-trick of headers to defeat Swansea City in December.

There was also a second successive 4-0 humbling of Burnley and a 2-1 away triumph at reigning champions Leicester City; a result which began to spell the end for Claudio Ranieri as Leicester boss.

Seven defeats from their last nine matches took the gloss off what was a fairly strong season for the club.

 

2017-2018

West Brom started the 26th Premier League campaign with two successive 1-0 victories over AFC Bournemouth and Burnley but that is as good as it has got so far. Pulis was sacked after a heavy 4-0 home loss to Chelsea in November and Alan Pardew has been unable to steady the ship.

Seven points adrift of safety with just 11 games left to play, time is running out for the club to protect their Premier League status.

Memorable Matches: Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool (May 2011)

Goalscorers: Ji-Sung Park 21, Charlie Adam 40, Gary Taylor-Fletcher 57, Anderson 62, Ian Evatt 74 OG, Michael Owen 81

Teams:

Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rafael (Chris Smalling 46), Nemanja Vidic (Wayne Rooney 84), Anderson, Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, Nani, Ji-Sung Park (Michael Owen 63), Dimitar Berbatov

Blackpool: Matt Gilks, Stephen Crainey, Ian Evatt, Alex Baptiste, Neal Eardley, Keith Southern (Brett Ormerod 86), David Vaughan, Charlie Adam, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Jason Puncheon (Luke Varney 75), DJ Campbell (Matt Phillips 75)

Referee: Mike Dean, Attendance: 75,400

Blackpool had been an exciting side to watch in the 2010-2011 Premier League season. Ian Holloway’s side had beaten Liverpool FC twice and Tottenham Hotspur during their rollercoaster season and began the final day of the campaign outside of the bottom three. Despite their destiny being in their own hands, that meant the Tangerines’ probably needed to get some kind of result at Manchester United. It was a party atmosphere at Old Trafford.  A week earlier, Manchester United had become the most successful club in English football history, wrapping up their 19th league title to overtake Liverpool’s record. Blackpool respectfully gave the newly-crowned champions a guard of honour before the sides did battle in an end-to-end contest.

Both sides had chances in the first 20 minutes. Keith Southern had the first opportunity of the match but side-footed wide of goal whilst Matt Gilks had to repel efforts from Rafael and Dimitar Berbatov. However, he couldn’t stop Ji-Sung Park giving the home side the lead. A misunderstanding between the goalkeeper and Ian Evatt allowed the South Korean in, who calmly dinked the ball over Gilks to put Blackpool into the relegation zone.

All season, Holloway’s instinct had been to attack opponents and he was not going to change this tactic on the final day. It earned some reward five minutes shy of half-time. Gary Taylor-Fletcher won a free-kick after a clumsy tackle from Nemanja Vidic. Free-kick specialist Charlie Adam placed his effort perfectly beyond Edwin van der Sar, who was making his final Premier League appearance before retirement.

Blackpool did the unthinkable 12 minutes into the second half and took the lead at the Theatre of Dreams. Neat build-up involving Jason Puncheon and David Vaughan saw the Welshman’s cross deftly placed into the back of the net by the excellent Taylor-Fletcher. The away supporters were now beginning to dream. Blackpool were half an hour away from staying up in the top-flight.

Their lead lasted just five minutes though. Park found an unmarked Anderson who curled a strike into the top corner. Blackpool were now only staying up on goal difference. A more catastrophic moment would occur on 74 minutes. Substitute Chris Smalling’s cross was diverted into his own net by the unfortunate Evatt. The expressions on the faces of fans and manager said it all. With eight minutes left, Anderson’s sliding pass found an onside Michael Owen. He made no mistake to send Blackpool towards the Championship exactly a year to the day when they were promoted via the play-offs.

Holloway’s team had made many friends along the way but ultimately, their energetic season ended in disappointment as they went down on the final day along with Birmingham City. For United, they could celebrate another title-winning moment on an afternoon of contrasting emotions.

Memorable Matches: Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-3 Blackburn Rovers (May 2011)

Goalscorer: Jason Roberts 22, Brett Emerton 38, Junior Hoilett 45, Jamie O’Hara 73, Stephen Hunt 87

Teams:

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wayne Hennessey, Jody Craddock, George Elokobi, Kevin Foley, Michael Mancienne (Sylvan Ebanks-Blake 46), Stephen Ward, Karl Henry (Adlene Guedioura 85), Jamie O’Hara, Stephen Hunt, Matt Jarvis, Steven Fletcher (Christophe Berra 90)

Blackburn Rovers: Paul Robinson, Gael Givet, Phil Jones, Christopher Samba, Michel Salgado, Jermaine Jonas, Steven N’Zonzi, Martin Olsson, Brett Emerton, Junior Hoilett (Morten Gamst Pedersen 79), Jason Roberts

Referee: Howard Webb, Attendance: 29,009

‘Survival Sunday’ in 2011 was going to be a tense one for five clubs. Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackpool, Birmingham City and Blackburn Rovers went into the final day of the season still not safe. It was going to be a remarkable afternoon full of twists and turns.

Two of these sides met at Molineux as Wolves hosted Blackburn. A point would be enough for Blackburn to survive, whilst Wolves really needed the three points as teams below had fixtures that they could easily win. Mick McCarthy’s side came into the match in good form, having beaten West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland in their previous two games, whilst Blackburn, who were sitting seventh in mid-January, had been dragged into the relegation scrap in the season’s closing months.

Steve Kean was a man under pressure. Not wanted by many of the club’s fans after the shock sacking of Sam Allardyce in December 2010, Kean needed his side to deliver a perfect performance and they were sensational in the opening 45 minutes. Their display just added to the nail-biting tension of the afternoon.

Rovers settled quicker and took the lead after 22 minutes. Michel Salgado, a former UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid, fired a shot across the face of goal which was turned into the back of the net by Jason Roberts. That lead was doubled 16 minutes later with the direct approach working for the ex-Premier League champions. Paul Robinson’s kick was only partially cleared by Jody Craddock. Brett Emerton took aim from distance and his strike flew into the back of the net. It was Wolves who were sinking towards the Championship by the interval. The dangerous Junior Hoillett skipped past tame challenges from Craddock and George Elokobi. Once again, Wayne Hennessey was left with no chance whatsoever and at half-time, Wolves were in big trouble.

They had to improve on their dreadful showing in the first 45 minutes and they did improve. With 18 minutes remaining. Stephen Hunt rolled a free-kick back to Jamie O’Hara and the Tottenham loanee managed to find the corner of the net from 20-yards out. However, the situation was constantly changing. Wigan took the lead away at Stoke and when Craig Gardner equalised for Birmingham at White Hart Lane, Wolves were going down on goals scored. They needed one more goal, even in defeat to survive.

It came dramatically with just three minutes of normal time remaining. Hunt received the ball on the edge of the penalty area and bent a riveting shot into the top corner of the net and send Molineux into ecstasy. Even though they were still losing on the day, it looked like they’d done enough. There were celebrations at the full-time whistle from both sets of supporters. Blackburn had got the result, Wolves the goal required to keep them up and everyone inside the ground was happy. Ultimately, it was Birmingham and Blackpool who would feel the pain of relegation on a see-saw afternoon of drama.

Memorable Matches: Everton 1-1 Coventry City (May 1998)

Goalscorers: Gareth Farrelly 6, Dion Dublin 88

Teams:

Everton: Thomas Myhre, Craig Short, Dave Watson, Michael Ball, John O’Kane, Carl Tiler, Don Hutchinson, Gareth Farrelly (Gavin McCann 88), Nick Barmby, Duncan Ferguson, Mikael Madar (Danny Cadamarteri 46)

Coventry City: Magnus Hedman, Roland Nilsson, Gary Breen (Paul Williams 51), David Burrows, Richard Shaw, Paul Telfer (Marcus Hall 89), George Boateng, Trond Egil Soltvedt, Dion Dublin, Darren Huckerby (Simon Haworth 69), Noel Whelan

Referee: Paul Alcock, Attendance: 40,109

For Everton fans, the 1997-1998 season had been extremely disappointing. Howard Kendall had failed to revive the sparkle he’d shown in his previous spells with the Toffees’ and they went into the final day of the season in the bottom three. One point behind Bolton Wanderers, they needed to better Bolton’s result or face the prospect of playing Division One football in the last full season of the 20th century.

For the game against Coventry City, Kendall made two changes from the side that wilted 4-0 at Highbury the previous weekend. Peter Beagrie and Slaven Bilic were dropped and in came Mikael Madar and Gareth Farrelly. One of these alterations was to have an early desired impact.

In the 7th minute, Duncan Ferguson won a header in the air. He nodded the ball back to Farrelly. The midfielder controlled the ball and unleashed a spectacular shot with his right-foot. The ball evaded Magnus Hedman’s dive and rippled the back of the net via the post. Goodison Park erupted with a sense of delirium and joy. The goal had come from the most unexpected of sources and it was just the start they were looking for.

From the outset, Everton pressed high and harried a Coventry side that were comfortably in mid-table but could finish in the top half with a win. The formidable Coventry striking partnership of Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin were marked out of the match completely in the first 45 minutes. Despite their high intensity, chances were still at a premium for Everton but they nearly doubled their lead just short of the interval. Hedman had to show fantastic acrobatics to tip a shot around the post from a scrambled corner when Dave Watson’s miscued shot took a deflection off his own teammate, Madar.

Coventry had to improve in the second half and they gave Everton much more to think about in the second half. Roland Nilsson was the first to try his luck and he hit a post through a deflection off the youngster John O’Kane. Then, the home supporters started to dream that survival was likely as Gianluca Vialli had put Chelsea infront at Stamford Bridge against Bolton.

With five minutes left, Everton had the chance to seal the three points. Half-time substitute Danny Cadamarteri won a rather fortuitous penalty. Replays showed that Paul Williams had made a clean tackle on the forward. Referee Paul Alcock believed he hadn’t and awarded the spot-kick. Justice was done though as Hedman saved Nick Barmby’s penalty. Then, Coventry added to the drama. David Burrows’ swung in a cross. Dublin won a header against his marker and the ball squirmed past Thomas Myhre who tried to catch the ball, but only succeeded in palming the ball into his own net.

The Sky Blues pushed for a winner but Everton completed a second ‘Great Escape’ in four seasons. Bolton’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea meant the point here was enough for the Evertonian faithful, who spilled onto the pitch with a mixture of relief and delight. Howard Kendall resigned in the summer of 1998 but at least he had kept Everton in the top-flight…just!

The Managers: Paul Jewell

Premier League Clubs Managed: Bradford City (1999-2000), Wigan Athletic (2005-2007), Derby County (2007-2008)

Paul Jewell’s management career has been a mixed bag, as was his time as a Premier League manager. He experienced a range of emotions – from keeping Bradford City in the top-flight against the odds in 2000 to experiencing the pain of relegation eight years later with a hopeless Derby County side.

Jewell grew up on Merseyside and in his playing days, was an apprentice at Liverpool FC. However, he never broke into the first-team ranks and moved to Wigan Athletic in December 1984. He made 137 appearances for the Latics and would later return to the club in a management capacity. He went to Bradford City in June 1988 which is where he spent the bulk of his remaining playing days.

Paul featured in the squad setup at Valley Parade for the best part of a decade, appearing 269 times in the first-team and scoring 56 times. By this stage, coaching was already interesting him and it would be the Bantams’ where he would experience his first taste of management.

Succeeding Kammy

Bradford won promotion from Division Two in 1996 under the guidance of Chris Kamara. Jewell was already on the coaching team as Kamara’s no.2. When he was sacked, owner Geoffrey Richmond turned to Jewell, initially on an interim basis. He was given the job full-time after impressing in 21 games as a caretaker and their ambition was clear. That was to get Bradford into the Premier League.

A serious promotion challenge was launched ahead of the 1998-1999 season. He broke the club’s transfer record twice that summer and also brought Stuart McCall back to the club following his successful spell in Scotland with Rangers. It took a while for things to gel and Bradford won just one of their first seven matches that season. However, they went on an excellent run of form as autumn turned to winter and established themselves as the leading candidate to be promoted along with runaway leaders Sunderland.

Ipswich Town and Birmingham City were their closest challengers but a 3-2 victory on the final day at Molineux over Wolverhampton Wanderers saw Bradford return to the top-flight after a 77-year absence.

Beating Liverpool to survive

The 1999-2000 campaign was always going to be a battle against survival. That was despite adding further Premier League experience with the likes of Peter Atherton, Ian Nolan and Dean Saunders joining the ranks. Bradford did win on the opening day 1-0 at Middlesbrough and pulled off a shock home victory over Arsenal too but they were at the wrong end of the table for much of the season.

The Bantams’ were battling to avoid relegation along with Wimbledon, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday. Going into the final day of the season, Derby were safe and Sheffield Wednesday relegated. It was down to a straight shootout between Wimbledon and Bradford. Wimbledon began one point ahead and it looked like Bradford had the harder fixture too. With a weaker goal difference, only victory against Liverpool FC would be enough to have a realistic chance of survival. David Wetherall’s header was enough to beat the Reds. Wimbledon lost 2-0 at Southampton, so they went down and Bradford survived against the odds.

However, all was not well between owner and manager. In the media, Richmond called Bradford’s 17th-place finish “a disappointment.” Jewell was furious and tendered his resignation. This was rejected but eventually, he was placed on gardening leave. Richmond believed that even though he was still contracted to the club, Paul has instigated a move to become Sheffield Wednesday manager. Whether it was true or not in terms of this approach is unclear. However, a compensation package was eventually agreed and Jewell left for a new challenge at Hillsborough.

Further ambition with Wigan

The Sheffield Wednesday experience was not good. Jewell was sacked just eight months after arriving with the debt-ridden club struggling near the bottom of Division One. In June 2001, he dropped down to the third-tier with Wigan Athletic. The aim was like with Bradford – to guide a fairly modest club into the upper echelon of English football.

In 2003, the first part of this jigsaw was achieved with promotion to Division One and the Latics’ nearly made the playoffs in their first campaign at this level. In the end, Jewell’s team were pipped to sixth spot on the final day by Crystal Palace – who would ultimately end up being promoted to the Premier League. A year later, Wigan were stronger for that near-miss. On the final day of the season, they held off their rivals to take the second automatic promotion spot and bring top-flight football to Lancashire for the first time.

Wigan’s first game at Premier League level was against champions Chelsea. They played exceptionally well but were denied a point by a late winner from Hernan Crespo. Two games later, they achieved their first victory over Sunderland and it started an incredible run of form which included a six-game winning run. Wigan were in the dizzy heights of second position by mid-November and although form levelled out in the second half of the campaign, they still finished a fabulous 10th in the final standings. There was also a run to the League Cup final but that ended in a harrowing 4-0 loss at the Millennium Stadium to Manchester United.

Stressful second season syndrome

The 2006-2007 season was not as straightforward for Jewell.  His side struggled all season for consistency and flirted with relegation for much of the campaign. On the final day, Wigan travelled to Bramall Lane in the bottom three. For Jewell, it was a similar story to the 2000 escape act with Bradford. Wigan had to win or they would be relegated.

It was a turbulent afternoon against relegation rivals Sheffield United. Paul Scharner gave Wigan an early lead, before Jon Stead pegged the home side level with a brave header. On the stroke of half-time, David Unsworth struck a penalty to put Wigan back infront. They managed to hold on in the second half, despite being reduced to 10 men. Ultimately, it was the Blades’ who were relegated. The relief on Jewell’s face on the final whistle was palpable as he was embraced by Wigan’s coaching staff. The stress of being under pressure had evidently shown. A day later, he resigned as manager.

He told the club’s website: “I have made this decision with a heavy heart but I feel it is time for me to have a break from football.”

The impossible job at Derby

Jewell stuck to his word and took six months out of the game, despite being linked to various roles, including jobs with Leicester City and the Republic of Ireland international position.

In November 2007, he answered the call of Derby County; two days after Billy Davies departed the Rams. However, the task he acquired was virtually impossible. This Derby squad is still the worst-ever team to have played in the Premier League. They went down with just 11 points and Jewell failed to win a single match between his appointment and relegation being confirmed in March 2008. His sole win was on penalties in an FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday.

He stayed on despite the relegation but left right at the end of 2008 after a stuttering start to the Championship season which left Derby in 18th position in the table. His last managerial role came at Ipswich Town between January 2011 and October 2012. Although there was a League Cup semi-final appearance, not much else went right in Suffolk. He celebrated his 550th game as manager during his Ipswich reign but left by mutual consent after a couple of heavy away defeats shortly afterwards.

Paul Jewell’s most successful period in his management career was at Wigan Athletic but it will probably be his final day escape act with Bradford City that will be his best achievement when it comes to looking back at his managerial legacy.

Premier League Files: Geoff Horsfield

Premier League Career: Birmingham City (2002-2003), West Bromwich Albion (2004-2006)

Geoff Horsfield was one of those players who would always give a workmanlike effort. His hold-up ability and talent to back into defenders allowed his strike partners to get onto the end of decent opportunities. Horsfield’s career has been through a varied rollercoaster of emotions; from the joy of helping Birmingham City to the Premier League in 2002 to a battle with testicular cancer six years later.

His Football League breakthrough came as a teenager at the now-defunct club Scarborough before being released in 1994. Geoff had to earn his living then in part-time football with the likes of Witton Albion and Halifax Town whilst holding down a job as a bricklayer. A serious knee injury whilst in the non-league briefly threatened his longer-term football career but Horsfield would never let adversity get him down. After helping Halifax return to the Football League, he joined Fulham for £300,000 in October 1998 who were managed at the time by Kevin Keegan.

There was an immediate impact at Craven Cottage. Fulham won the Second Division title by 14 points and Horsfield was voted into the division’s PFA Team of the Year after chipping in with 15 goals from 28 games. Before leaving to take the England job, Keegan made a bold prediction: “Geoff’s your old-fashioned centre forward and we love him. He will score goals in the next divisions. He chases a lot of lost causes.”

Keegan’s successor, Jean Tigana disagreed and sold him to Birmingham City in July 2000. Horsfield proved the Frenchman wrong, featuring in the 2001 League Cup final and scoring the equaliser in the 2002 First Division playoff final against Norwich City which saw Birmingham promoted to the Premier League for the first time.

He will always be fondly remembered by Birmingham supporters for his contributions in the two Second City derbies in the 2002-2003 campaign. He capitalised on a dreadful mistake from Alpay to score the third goal in Birmingham’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at St Andrews. That was his first goal at this level. Six months later, he beat Peter Enckelman to a loose ball to score the second goal in a 2-0 win at Villa Park to ensure a famous league double for Birmingham as they finished a creditable 13th in their first season at this level.

However, he was slightly frustrated about his lack of starts in the top-flight and moved on in the closing days of the 2003 August transfer window, eventually to Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion via a brief unhappy spell at Wigan Athletic.

On signing Horsfield, Gary Megson suggested: “I actually went out on a bit of a limb by saying to the chairman that I think [Horsfield] would get us promoted … I think he just gave us that little something that was missing in getting hold of the ball, a little bit of cuteness up the front that enabled us to bring other people into the game.”

Megson was correct with his view. Geoff scored seven times and helped West Brom back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking. 2004-2005 would see him have another go at the top-flight.

It started slowly for both player and club but Geoff became a Baggies’ cult figure forever with his impact on ‘Survival Sunday’ in 2005. Going into the final day of the season, none of the bottom four were safe and two points adrift of safety, it was West Brom who were the bookies’ favourites for relegation. By now, Bryan Robson was in charge and he left Horsfield on the bench for the crucial match against Portsmouth. The scoreline was 0-0 when Robson decided early in the second half to bring Horsfield on.

Within seconds, he had scored with his first touch to haul West Brom ahead and out of the bottom three. Kieran Richardson added a second goal, set-up by Horsfield and when Crystal Palace conceded late at Charlton, the party could begin. West Bromwich Albion survived and Horsfield later admitted this was the best achievement of his football career, despite the promotions he’d achieved with Halifax, Fulham and Birmingham.

He started 2005-2006 with this confidence, scoring twice against Portsmouth again and adding another against former club Birmingham but that was to be his last goal in the Premier League. He was loaned to Sheffield United in February 2006 and although he was a member of the Blades’ Premier League squad of 2006-2007, he never played for the club at the highest level.

In October 2008, Geoff revealed he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was advised to retire from football. After successful treatment, he returned to the game with spells at Lincoln City and Port Vale. After doing some coaching with the latter, he walked away from football completely in May 2012 to pursue his business interests.

He was a no-nonsense footballer and there is no doubt that Geoff Horsfield left his mark on the Premier League chapters of both Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.