Having just achieved the unwanted accolade of the worst-ever Premier League start, Sheffield United could be about to join a calamitous club of horror.
This time of year always brings fear to the stragglers at the bottom of the table. When they just can’t buy a win and are already staring relegation in the face. Nottingham Forest seemed doomed at this stage last year, with many Reds fans' aspirations just to beat the wretched eleven points that Derby achieved in the worst-ever Premier League season, Steve Cooper’s side eventually survived with a game to spare. So, while the Blades could still get out of their dire predicament, let’s have a look at some of the worst Premier League sides we’ve seen since its introduction in 1992…
Sunderland could make this list three or four times, but arguably their worst season came in 2006, largely under the stewardship of Mick McCarthy. Five defeats straight off the bat foreshadowed an abysmal season, with the Black Cats being relegated immediately after being the winners of the inaugural EFL Championship. This string of defeats was followed by a run of five points in three games, results that temporarily lifted Sunderland above the dotted line.
It wouldn’t take long for them to fall back into the drop zone, however, going on a run of 13 games without a victory - just the one draw alongside 12 defeats. McCarthy was kissed goodbye the day before Valentine’s Day, with interim boss Kevin Ball only able to produce one victory once it was too late: a win over Fulham in Sunderland’s final home game of the season. Their sorrowful 15 points were the worst in Premier League history, a record that would only stand for a couple of years…
Derby County 07/08
Championship playoff winners in 2007, Derby County were always going to struggle in the Premier League, but how much was a shock to the land? Despite an opening day draw against Portsmouth that saw them sit seventh, their descent down the table came rapidly, ending the third match week in 19th. They did pick up a win in their sixth game at home to Newcastle and sat on six points after ten games.
However, the goals just kept leaking as Derby fell to the foot of the table in game week 11, staying there for the remainder of the campaign. Billy Davies was sacked following 14 games, and with the Rams only going on to accumulate five points under new gaffer Paul Jewell, nothing would save this dire Derby side. Their fate was sealed on the 29th of March, the earliest a side had ever been relegated from the Prem, finishing on a sorry eleven points.
Some of the affectionate accolades that this team still holds today include: the fewest ever Premier League points in a season (11), the second most goals conceded in a season (89, behind Swindon (93/4) with 100), the worst goal difference (-69), the joint fewest home wins (1), the joint fewest away wins (0) and the joint most defeats in a season (29). The Rams haven’t visited the Premier League since, probably a good thing for the morale of those from the poorer side of the East Midlands.
Aston Villa 15/16
An ever-present in the league until this point, Aston Villa and relegation just didn’t sound right. But they did so in style, finishing on a sorry seventeen points. After losing Christian Benteke and club captain Fabien Delph in the summer, not much was expected from an ageing Villa side that included Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards and Gabby Agbonlahor.
The Villains would win their opening fixture at Bournemouth but very quickly slumped into the relegation places by game week seven. Tim Sherwood, Remi Garde and Eric Black all tried to steer Villa to safety, but the sinking ship could not be saved, with no wins after that opening day victory until the following January. Separate losing streaks of seven and 11 matches were enough to see Villa relegated on the 16th of April, finishing the season with just 17 points.
Huddersfield Town 18/19
After surprising the world by securing survival and getting victories against Manchester United and Newcastle United in their first PL campaign, second-season syndrome was at its finest at the John Smith’s Stadium in 2018. The Terriers shipped 9 goals in their first two outings against Chelsea and Manchester City, setting the tone for a substandard season ahead.
An unbeaten November offered much-needed optimism with 7 points from three games; however, reality would hit once again with not a single point picked up in December and only 6 points gained in the new year. Town was relegated with 22 points, the most memorable moment coming when fan favourite David Wagner was replaced by fellow German Jan Siewert, with a Huddersfield fan being mistaken for the manager at the start of his tenure.
As the Premier League’s most relegated side, there have been a few stinkers from the Canaries over the years, most notably in the 2019/20 season. Early wins against Newcastle (3-1) and Manchester City (3-2) papered over cracks for the East Anglian club, who stuck with manager Daniel Farke for all 38 games.
Ultimately, Norwich failed to gather any momentum, being unable to go more than two games unbeaten throughout the season. Teemu Pukki was a much-loved asset in many fantasy teams with 11 goals to his name, but the Finnish striker's efforts were ultimately in vain. COVID-19 hit and hurt Norwich badly, ending the season with 10 straight defeats, nine of which came after the restart.
Sheffield United have got a long way to go before they end up in this tier of disappointment, but the early signs suggest that they may just make an appearance.