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Coral’s 10 worst English top-flight football title defences ever

| 17.12.2015

Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | December 7, 2015

10 worst ever English top-flight football title defences

Premier League champions Chelsea’s latest slip-up, a 2-1 defeat to surprise table-toppers Leicester City, puts them down in 16th in the table and just a point above the drop zone after matchweek 16.

In light of the Blues’ astonishingly woeful start to the season, Coral football writers delve deep into the history of the English top flight to find out the 10 worst ever title defences.

Sheffield United – 16th in 1898/99

Soccer - FA Cup - Final - Sheffield United v Derby County

The award for the first-ever true title flops in English First Division goes to the Blades, way back at the end of the 19th century. After winning the 10th official league the season before, they finished just one place and four points above the drop zone – but did claim their first-ever FA Cup.

Aston Villa – 15th in 1900/01

Soccer - FA Cup - Final - Aston Villa v Everton

Just two seasons later, Villa were at it too; however, this is perhaps the more surprising as at the time the Villans (9/2 to stay in the Premier League this term) had just won their fifth league title and were aiming for a third in succession.

Liverpool – 15th in 1906/07

Soccer - Football League Division One - Liverpool

The Red have won the second-highest amount of top-flight titles in England, with 18, but following their second success in 1906 were unable to put up any sort of fight. They also finished 11th after their first triumph in 1901/02.

Everton – 16th in 1919/20

Soccer - Everton
Former Everton forward George Harrison, not to be confused with another famous Liverpudlian by that same name years later

It is perhaps quite harsh to add Everton to this list, as their title defence of their win in 1914/15 was interrupted by the First World War. The Toffees also had the same issue just before WWII, and finished 10th that time around following the restart of leagues for 1946/47. Everton also came 18th in 1928/29 after winning the previous campaign.

Manchester City – 21st (relegated) in 1937/38

Soccer - Football League Division One - Manchester City

Current Premier League favourites City (5/4) are the first, and still only, English top-flight football club to get relegated after they achieved that unwanted feat for their maiden title. What is all the more remarkable, however, is that they actually finished with the highest goal-difference that season – crazy!

Chelsea – 16th in 1955/56

Soccer - Chelsea Training - Stamford Bridge

After Chelsea won their first ever title, they too dramatically failed the next campaign. They were not to taste league victory again for another 50 years, and here’s hoping that’s not the case after this season too…

Ipswich Town – 17th in 1962/63

Soccer - Football League Division One - Ipswich Town Photocall

Before Sir Alf Ramsey took as England head coach in 1963, three years before he lead the Three Lions to World Cup glory, he guided the Tractor Boys to their only ever league title. Ipswich dramatically declined in 1962/63, and never really recovered after Ramsey left for the national job in April that campaign.

Aston Villa – 11th in 1981/82

Soccer - European Cup - Final - Aston Villa v Bayern Munich - De Kuip

Villa’s seventh, and to this date last, league title came in the early 1980s in the middle of the dominant Liverpool era. They came 11th the following season, but that was perhaps forgotten by fans as the club won the European Cup, beating Bayern Munich in the final.

Leeds United – 17th in 1992/93

Soccer - Barclay's League Division One - Leeds United v Norwich City

The Whites were the last winners of the old First Division, but were nowhere near replicating their achievement the following season in the new Premier League. Perhaps it was the loss of a certain Eric Cantona to 1992/93 champions Man Utd?

Manchester United – 7th in 2013/14

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Bayern Munich v Manchester United - Allianz Arena

While seventh is good in comparison to the above title defences, this was the dominant Red Devils side that won 13 Premier Leagues from 1992 until 2013/14. It is the campaign, however, that saw Man Utd (9/1 PL third-favourites) without the great Sir Alex Ferguson, who finally retired after 27 years at the helm and was replaced by David Moyes.


Check out our Premier League archive, as well as more from our trivia section.



Sam Barnard

Sam has been writing for Coral since January 2014, and is the assistant editor of the news site. As well as the main betting sports, football, tennis and cricket, he covers the likes of golf, F1 and darts too, the latter of which has become a particular favourite. Sam enjoys playing as much as writing about sports, but niggling injuries have limited his participation in recent years, so is happy to mainly watch the pros such as Manchester United, Yorkshire CCC, Raymond van Barneveld and even Gibraltar national football team instead.