Sunderland 2002/03 – 19 points


Remarkably, when Sunderland suffered a disastrous 1-3 home defeat to Charlton in February 2003, they still had a chance of staying up.

All of Charlton’s goals came via Sunderland players, including an infamous brace for the unfortunate Michael Proctor, but the Mackems were still only five points short of survival with 12 games to play.

In reality, though, defeats like that one are hard to recover from. Sunderland probably needed to win five of their remaining fixtures to stand a chance. They lost all 12.

Peter Reid, who had taken charge of more Sunderland games than anybody else for 43 years, was sacked 10 games into the season, after his team had picked up eight points.

That he turned out to be their most successful manager of the campaign is telling.

Howard Wilkinson followed, but was sacked in March after only winning two of his 20 games in charge. His replacement, Mick McCarthy, presided over a 100 per cent losing record from the remaining nine fixtures.

Club legend Kevin Phillips managed six goals in a campaign that defines the term ‘going from bad to worse’.

Aston Villa 2015/16 – 17 points


The brilliance of Martin O’Neill meant that Randy Lerner’s first few seasons as Aston Villa owner saw the club competing for the Champions League.

Once that team had disintegrated and a disgruntled O’Neill had walked away, though, things soon unravelled.

While Tim Sherwood had done well to guide a young, faltering team away from the relegation places and to the FA Cup final at the end of the 2014/15 season, the sale of talisman Christian Benteke to Liverpool ahead of the 2015/16 season was the breaking point.

Benteke’s departure left a shell of a squad that was suffocated by pressure and expectation that it wasn’t capable of handling. They were served 4-0 and 6-0 home hammerings by Man City and Liverpool, and lost 12 of their last 13 matches as Sherwood, Remi Garde and Eric Black all tried and failed in the dugout.

Funnily enough, this Villa squad did feature some decent young players.

Idrissa Gueye, Jordan Veretout and Ashley Westwood have all gone on to better things, while Jordan Ayew was their top goalscorer. None, however, were capable of halting the club’s steep downward trajectory at the time.


Huddersfield 2018/19 – 16 points

Huddersfield have been granted something of a free pass for this effort.

OK, their budget and standing as a club suggested that they were unlikely to last long at Premier League level. But their clever recruitment in previous years had defied their supposed status and they had proved a year earlier that they were capable of being competitive.

They even showed glimpses of being a decent team in this campaign. They were the only team other than Liverpool to do the double over Wolves, secured draws away at Everton, Burnley and Southampton and held Manchester United at the John Smith’s Stadium after their relegation had been confirmed.

Ultimately, though, their campaign is probably remembered best for Sky Sports mistaking a standard match-going supporter, Martin from Wakefield, for new manager Jan Siewert in the stands during the 3-0 home defeat to Man City in January 2019.

Given that the real Siewert failed to have any impact on the Terriers’ form and was sacked just three matches into their 2019/20 Championship campaign, it wasn’t just Sky who had picked out the wrong man.

Sunderland 2005/06 – 15 points


Sunderland’s relationship with the Premier League is bizarre.

Only 12 teams have had more seasons in the division, yet other than in their second season up – 1999/2000, when Kevin Phillips had his fun – they never seem to have been much good.

Even before a memorable run of seasons between 2011-16, when they found all manner of weird and wonderful ways to remain in the league, they had produced two of the worst five campaigns in the competition’s history.

This was the second of them.

If Mick McCarthy’s pre-match team talk ahead of the opening day 3-1 defeat to Charlton was along the lines of ‘things can’t go any worse than last time’, you couldn’t have blamed him.

But while defeat that day wasn’t terminal, scoring two goals and losing all of their first five matches must have had McCarthy twitching. Rightly so – after 20 games, the Black Cats had won just once.

McCarthy would never win another league match at the Stadium of Light before being sacked in March 2006, with Sunderland’s only victory there that season coming in their penultimate match of the season under caretaker manager Kevin Ball.

In consecutive Premier League seasons, Sunderland had collected 34 points combined, which has only once been the threshold for survival in any single campaign.

Derby 2007/08 – 11 points


Imagine being a supporter of the worst Premier League team ever.

Even after just five games, you can tell. A summer of transfer business that featured Robert Earnshaw (one goal in 22 league appearances) and Claude Davis (27 league appearances in 18 months) as headline additions was ominous.

Taking one point from your first five games, a 2-2 home draw with Portsmouth, confirm your worst fears. You know that if any wins do come along, they are going to be rare.

So when Kenny Miller opens the scoring against Newcastle on September 17 2007,  it doesn’t seem to matter too much that broadcasters Setanta are showing a replay of a previous incident and miss the moment that the ball leaves Miller’s foot.

The goal is bound to be a false dawn. The prelude to another dispiriting defeat.

That is until Derby hold on to secure their only league victory of the season, at which point it really might have been nice to have that moment on tape.

That the TV cameras missed the Rams’ only winner of a desperate campaign just about sums it up.

Derby scored 20 goals scored (the lowest ever), conceded 89 goals (the most ever in a 38-game season) and collected 11 points.

Losing their last three home games 0-6, 2-6 and 0-4 to Aston Villa, Arsenal and Reading rounded things off nicely.

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