Premier League Premier League at 25: fans from all 47 clubs on their best and worst memories
Fans from the 47 clubs to have competed in the league reminisce about legends such as Paulo Wanchope, Duncan Ferguson, Juninho and Jay-Jay Okocha
Best moment: For all the rage of the last year (or two, or three, or four depending on if and when the stasis finally broke you), we have been rather blessed during the Premier League era. We have won the league at White Hart Lane, a ground that was demolished with Arsenal having won as many titles there as the home team have in their entire existence. We have won the league at Old Trafford, the home of our great rivals of the time. We have gone an entire season unbeaten. But it’s hard to remember a single moment where life was so perfect as when Tony Adams, Mr Arsenal himself, sprinted forward to bring down a chipped throughball from Steve Bould (!) and lash it home in front of the North Bank at Highbury in the glorious sunshine to seal our first Premier League title in 1997-98.
Worst moment: I still have nightmares about losing 8-2 at Old Trafford in 2011. That will never leave me.
Favourite player: There are plenty to choose from but the class of Dennis Bergkamp wins the day.
Best moment: The opening day of the 1995-96 season, when we beat Manchester United 3-1 in the “you can’t win anything with kids” match. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we seemed to be on the up. We had really transitioned from the Big Ron team and had just spent a club record fee on a new striker, Savo Milosevic, whose allegedly trademark bandana had been selling like hotcakes that day. Savo was never seen in his bandana again and went off injured that day. Nonetheless, Villa-mad Ian Taylor, the most deserving of many sadly uncapped Villa players of the period, dominated the midfield along with Mark Draper, both of whom scored to make it 3-0 at half-time. Beckham scored a belter towards the end and the game is probably better remembered in the United annals than ours, but it was a marker for a period of sustained improvement and direction that ended when we couldn’t get the big names to finish it off.
Worst moment: Our demise was so long coming, so it’s hard to be mad. But our failure to kick on from promising roots more than once in the mid-90s leaves a bitter taste.
Favourite player: It’s hard to look beyond the immenseness of Paul McGrath.
Best moment: Probably Ashley Ward’s goal beating Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield three days before my 11th birthday. It was a dogged team performance full of the grit and courage that won the team many admirers during our short time in the top flight. Either that or nine minutes into the opening-day fixture against West Ham. It was an early kick-off and Neil Redfearn’s early goal in front of the Ponte End meant that little old Barnsley were briefly top of the Premier League. Sadly we couldn’t maintain our title challenge and ended up losing the match 2-1, with a young Frank Lampard scoring the winner.
Worst moment: 28 March 1998. We had won our three previous games to pull level with Spurs in 17th with a game in hand. There was a real optimism that we could stay up. Enter referee Gary Willard. We faced Liverpool at home, having beaten them at Anfield earlier in the season. The first half passed without any indication of the madness to follow, with Neil Redfearn opening the scoring and Liverpool equalising shortly afterwards. Shortly after half-time Darren Barnard was sent off for being within 10 yards of Michael Owen when he fell over. Liverpool went 2-1 up, and then Willard compounded the misery by sending off Chris Morgan for an innocuous shoulder-to-shoulder challenge with Owen, who again went to ground theatrically. Amazingly, Barnsley managed to equalise with nine men, only for Steve McManaman to score a winner two minutes from time. There was still time for one more sending off, this time deserved, for Darren Sheridan throwing a punch at Paul Ince. The manner of that defeat and the subsequent suspensions knocked us for six and we won just once more that season. I was only 11 years old at the time but I can vividly recall the sense of anger and injustice I felt when leaving Oakwell that day.
Best moment: Many Birmingham fans would pick the multiple victories over Villa and specifically the Peter Enckelman incident, but for me it has to be Christophe Dugarry’s imperious performance against Southampton in 2003. I don’t think I have ever seen a more rounded, complete performance from a man wearing royal blue in my lifetime. It was truly special.
Worst moment: Being relegated at the end of the 2010-11 season was particularly painful. There’s a genuine feeling among Blues fans that, with winning the League Cup, European football and staying in the Premier League we could now be a very strong top league side.
Favourite player: Robbie Savage.
Best moment: As my first recollections were of us winning the Premier League and (wrongly) assuming this must a regular occurrence, I won’t pick anything from that singular season. Personally I did love the period when Mark Hughes was manager as we regularly qualified for Europe, with my favourite moment being David Bentley’s hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Manchester Untied at a rainy Ewood to complete a well deserved double over Alex Ferguson’s men in 2006.
Worst moment: The desperation and hatred felt the day Wigan Athletic relegated us in 2012 with a 1-0 win, which had been building ever since our clueless absentee owners sacked Sam Allardyce and replaced him with Steve Kean, created a poisonous atmosphere I never wish to see repeated again anywhere in football. The fact that a sizeable minority of Rovers fans where happy to see us relegated, because it would result in Kean’s sacking should speak volumes about the emotions felt by the fans at that time. In many ways the effect of Kean’s catastrophic reign more so than the relegation itself are still being felt today as we contemplate life in the third tier.
Favourite player: Tugay.
Best moment: Our one season in the Premier League gave us many magical games, goals and results but for a specific moment it was our third goal at home against Spurs. The joy of the goal, which guaranteed the win, was followed a split-second later by the realisation that it was scored by club legend Brett Ormerod. He had thus scored in all four divisions for Blackpool.
Worst moment: Blackburn’s equaliser in the fourth minute of injury time at Ewood Park. With a win we had a great chance of staying up. We should have had a corner, the ref gave a goal-kick, they got a dodgy foul, big punt up the field, ball in the back of the net, totally gutted. Honourable mention for Alex Ferguson not awarding us a penalty when 2-0 up against United – well he did referee the game!
Favourite player: Charlie Adam.
North Blackpool North
Best moment: Watching Fernando Hierro and Gary Speed linking up in midfield spreading the ball with inch-perfect passing to Jay-Jay Okocha.
Worst moment: Seeing Kevin Davies play Simon Cox onside where he equalised for West Brom, meaning we had to win our final game of the season. And as every Bolton fan knew we always ended the season with a Desmond TuTu and were ultimately relegated.
Favourite player: The ever reliable Gary Speed.
Best moment: With only two seasons to choose from we have to look at individual games. The 4-3 victory over Liverpool last season will take some beating for the drama: the joy, the rollercoaster, the subtext of stories including unknown sub Ryan Fraser changing the game and going on to be a first-team regular.
Worst moment: None so far. Although the end of the 2015-16 season, when the team seemed to switch off following mathematical safety, was hard to take. We were getting soundly beaten at home by “big” teams and the attitude was “who cares, we’ve got another season.” I found it hard to not care about a defeat.
Favourite player: Captain Steve Cook
Best moment: There’s little doubt that David Wetherall’s header on the final day of the 1999-2000 season to beat Liverpool and keep us up is the standout moment of our two-season stay in the Premier League. There were other notable mentions though; Dean Saunders’s celebration after our win at Middlesbrough on the opening day, beating Arsenal at home and Stan Collymore’s goal against Leeds also stick firmly in the memory.
Worst moment: In a season in which we only won five games, take your pick from the 2000-01 campaign which ended our time in the top flight. Being beaten 6-0 at Old Trafford by Manchester United wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed as an 11-year-old Bradford fan, especially when most of the football fans at my school supported United.
Favourite player: Stuart McCall always gave his all for the club. And still does.
Best moment: It’s a difficult one, as fortress Turf Moor last season really did serve up some absolute peaches results-wise. The 1-0 win against Manchester United in our first Premier League home game ever also has to be up there. However, for me I think the 1-1 at Stamford Bridge in the 2014-15 season was the best. I was living in west London at the time, watching the game in a pub in Hammersmith. After Matic received his marching orders in the 70th minute, it really did feel like a matter of time before we got something. For those 20-something minutes remaining, I could barely disguise my excitement.
Worst moment: The recruitment of Brian Laws as manager after Owen Coyle infamously left mid-season marked a real low point. It really signified that, despite promotion the year before, Burnley were an amateurish club at all levels and really flatlined our season that had been over 30 years in the making. Lessons seemed to have been learnt at all levels and the club seems to be building something on solid foundations.
Favourite player: Ashley Barnes. Everyone loves a scrapper!
Best moment: Despite our sole Premier League campaign being mostly a disaster, I have a surprising number of highlights. There were the late stunners at Fulham and West Brom and, of course, the opening win over Manchester City. But it can only be Steven Caulker’s winning header against Swansea in the first ever top-flight Welsh derby.
Worst moment: The 3-0 humiliation in the reverse derby fixture and the 4-0 relegation-sealer at the Stadium of Light were painful. However, my worst moment was Sunderland’s last-kick-of-the-match equaliser in late December. Managerless, 2-0 up and cruising past the 80th minute, this was the moment I knew we were doomed.
Favourite player: Most of our best moments came from Jordon Mutch.
Best moment: It’s painful to remember our fantastic time in the top tier considering how desperate mismanagement in recent years has more or less closed the door on us ever reaching the heights of the Premier League in the future. But the 2003-04 season will never be forgotten, when Alan Curbishley almost got us into Europe. Had we kept Scott Parker, a European place would have been nailed on.
Worst moment: We lost all of Curbishley’s momentum rapidly when he left in 2006, with Iain Dowie and Les Reed both sending us on a downward spiral with the most inept management the club had seen for many years. Alan Pardew couldn’t stop the rot and relegation was confirmed in the penultimate match of the season. The only thing I can say in Pardew’s defence is that Dowie/Reed would have relegated us long before Easter.
Favourite player: Scott Parker is the obvious choice but the contribution of Dean Kiely between the sticks should not be underestimated. He saved us many a point.
Best moment: The 2004-05 season, the first after Roman Abramovich bought the club. After years of being likeable, nearly men in the league (Zola, Vialli, Petrescu) in came Roman’s millions and links to almost every elite footballer in Europe. It was so exciting to see us bring in players that would have gone to United or Arsenal previously. Then a certain “Special One” swaggered in and we won our first league title in 50 years. The buzz around the club was intoxicating. This year kickstarted our prolonged success in the modern era.
Worst moment: I feel guilty even complaining as a fan in the modern era. I know the pains and hardships my dad and granddad have endured supporting Chelsea pre-Premier League. But for me our worst moment was the 2015-16 season when José left for the second time. His magic and charisma had seemed long-gone second time around and I have never seen a Chelsea side as low on confidence or as predictable as they had become. It was a shame to see cult heroes such as Ivanovic struggle so badly. The campaign only marginally picked up once Jose had gone but the sour taste still remained. The club was split, with the fans turning on some players. The problems began on the very first day of the season and never really went away.
Favourite player: Frank Lampard.
Best moment: My first game. Defeating Chelsea on a sweltering hot opening day of the 1997-98 season thanks to a Dion Dublin hat-trick. Little did my six-year-old self know it would all be downhill from here.
Worst moment: Watching Coventry draw 0-0 with Bradford on the final day of the 2000-01 season. A drab affair between two already relegated, awful teams. A forlorn end to 32 years in the top flight and the beginning of a decline to being groundless and in the fourth tier.
Favourite player: Robbie Keane.
Best moment: The remarkable comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 against Liverpool at Selhurst Park. It capped off a stunning survival season in our first year back in the Premier League. It being a late kick-off certainly made it all the more special, the ball was almost literally being sucked into the back of the net by the Holmesdale end.
Worst moment: Relegation in 2005 at the hands of rivals Charlton. We had fate in our own hands with less than 10 minutes to go but couldn’t hold on. That relegation hurt the club for a number of years and we went into administration five years later.
Favourite player: Wilfried Zaha.
Best moment: Like it or not Manchester United have generally set the standard during the Premier League years, so the sight of an entirely unknown Paolo Wanchope wandering unimpeded through the whole defence at Old Trafford before knocking the ball casually past Peter Schmeichel is hard to beat. Especially as the Match of the Day cameras then found time to pick a couple of thoroughly bemused United fans who appeared not to understand what had just happened.
Worst moment: A whole season can’t really count as a moment, so I’m ignoring 2007-08 and going for the time Derby found themselves 4-0 down at home to Leicester after 20 minutes. The crowd had already run out of patience before they brought out that year’s Eurovision contestant to regale us with song at half-time. The poor woman wasn’t given what you’d call a warm welcome.
Favourite player: Igor Stimac.
Best moment: You could talk about avoiding relegation on the final days of the season in 1994 and 1998 as being favourites, but that would be a bit of an oxymoron. So I will go with Duncan Ferguson scoring against Man United in 2005, the season we finished fourth. Everyone’s hero completely bullying the most expensive defender at the time Rio Ferdinand.
Worst moment: Only one? The psychological block at every Anfield derby since 1999. The whole mentality at the club needs to change, but these are exciting times to be an Evertonian so hopefully Merseyside derby fortunes will change.
Favourite player: Duncan Ferguson.
Best moment: Staying up on the last day of the 2007-08 season with a 1-0 away win a Portsmouth was special after the great escape, and beating Manchester United 3-1 in 2003 and 3-0 in 2009 were brilliant performances, but the greatest moment has to be triumphing over José Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2006. It was the only time we have beaten them since 1979 and a proper derby complete with a controversial (but correctly rewarded) goal, a red card and a pitch invasion.
Worst moment: Losing 4-1 away to Stoke in 2014. The result and an awful performance condemned the cub to relegation.
Favourite player: Brian McBride.
Best moment: Daniel Cousin’s header flying into the top corner at the Emirates in September 2008. We had gone into the season as lambs to the slaughter, written off as a team that were going to “do a Derby”. We had won two and drawn two games of our first five games of the season, but still went to a televised game away at Arsenal hoping to keep the scoreline vaguely respectable. Hull fans were in dreamland at half-time as we went in at 0-0. Normal service was resumed at the beginning of the second half when Paul McShane scored an own goal, only for Geovanni to produce a screamer to beat Almunia to level things up. Then, minutes later, Cousin glanced in an Andy Dawson corner to put us 2-1 ahead. I thought my eyeballs were going to explode. We held on for an improbable win – only Arsenal’s second league defeat at the Emirates – and had matched Derby’s points total after just six games. I’d seen my team play when we’d been six points adrift in the bottom division less than a decade previously. Here we were beating one of the great names in English football on their own patch.
Worst moment: Despite us enduring three relegations, the rancorous atmosphere felt among the crowd during and after the Allams’ campaign to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers. A fanbase once so united became fractious, as a family that had done so much good for both the club and the city in general went hell-bent on this ludicrous personal crusade. This, combined with a number of other unpopular policies brought in, only served to alienate a large number of our hardcore fanbase and left far too many seats empty as we sank to relegation at the end of the 2016-17 season.
Favourite player: Ian Ashbee. He captained Hull City through all four divisions despite contending with a career-threatening knee injury amid all of that.
Best moment: Still playing for a Champions League place going into the final day of the 2000-01 season. We ultimately finished fifth but what a remarkable achievement for a newly promoted side. It hasn’t been repeated since.
Worst moment: Relegation the following season. The signings we made didn’t fit the club’s mould. We haven’t recovered from that season.
Favourite player: Marcus Stewart.
Best moment: It has to be Mark Viduka’s four goals against Liverpool. He was an unbelievable striker for us and that afternoon he showed his true class. There is also the 3-2 win at Highbury that ended Arsenal’s title hopes in 2002-03 and also eased our relegation fears. For a year at least.
Worst moment: Relegation. The club was a mess from top to bottom and has not got much better since those days. Last season showed some green shoots of recovery that we can build on, but our absence from the big league has gone on too long and in that time various factors have made a return extremely difficult.
Favourite player: Mark Viduka.
Best moment: There can only be one! Winning the title is one of the greatest moments of my life let alone my favourite Premier League moment. More than a year later, and it still hasn’t really sunk in.
Worst moment: Spending £15m on Ahmed Musa maybe? But it’s probably a toss-up between our financial difficulties in 2002, which put the club in great danger of no longer existing, and our League One relegation nine years ago. Thankfully, Nigel Pearson was appointed as our manager in League One and, despite his media dealings towards the end of his last spell, he deserves enormous credit for the job he did at the club. He created the foundations for Claudio Ranieri to win his first ever top division title and unfortunately many footballing fans don’t recognise that.
Favourite player(s): I can’t decide between Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
Best moment: The 2008-09 season. Rafa Benítez put together a superb squad that would have won the Premier League almost any other year, but unfortunately we were fighting for the title with one of the strongest ever Manchester United teams including Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov and Tevez. Our spine of Reina, Agger, Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard and Torres was unbelievably good and the team produced the best football I’ve seen Liverpool play in the entire Premier League era.
Worst moment: The end of the 2013-14 season. Obviously Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea was disappointing but for me the worst moment was the capitulation in the next game against Crystal Palace, where we surrendered a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3. I remember Luis Suárez on the floor in tears after the game and it still hurts to think about it. We had blown our chance at the title when just a week earlier it was so tantalisingly close.
Favourite player: Steven Gerrard.
Best moment: The 6-1 drubbing of United was magical. But when Agüero’s right boot connected with Mario Balotelli’s lay-off to hand us the 2011-12 title, football transcended into a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Worst moment: Step forward, Alan Ball. A home match with Liverpool on the last day of the 1995-96 season. He said to Steve Lomas: “We’re up, kill this game off.” But we weren’t up. We needed a winner. We played for a draw and were relegated by misinformation from the bench. A perfect synecdoche for City’s shambolic mid-90s management.
Favourite player: David Silva.
Best moment: That comeback. OK, that doesn’t help. The comeback against Tottenham Hotspur. OK, not much better. The comeback against Tottenham on 29 September 2001, when Andy Cole kicked off the greatest 45 minutes of Premier League football. I was only nine years old but that second half is forever emblazoned in my mind. It wasn’t just that we came back to win 5-3, it’s the way we did it: the audacity to attack like that and pull it off.
Worst moment: The-Game-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over losing 6-1 to Manchester City at Old Trafford. That was also the beginning of the end for me with Jonny Evans.
Favourite player: If you don’t say Eric Cantona, you’re wrong.
Best moment: Fabrizio Ravanelli’s hat-trick on his debut back in 1996. Taking on one of the big guns of English football this was a chance to test the potential of our exciting, new, continental lineup. Signed with the pulling power of Manchester United legend Bryan Robson, Ravanelli immediately lived up to the huge £7m transfer fee by putting three past Liverpool in a 3-3 draw. He went on to score 31 goals in all competitions over the course of the season. With the team also boasting Brazilians, Emerson and Juninho, there was a genuine buzz that perhaps they could be serious contenders at the top end of the table.
Worst moment: Juninho in tears at Elland Road in 1997. After being deducted three points for not fielding a team against Blackburn earlier in the season, nothing but a win would be good enough against Leeds. Despite Juninho scoring a superb individual goal on the the day, we could only manage a 1-1 draw. As a 12-year-old lad I could just about handle the two cup final defeats in the same season, but the sight of my hero crouched over his knees crying was almost too much to take. Along with the realisation he wouldn’t be in our team the following season. Juninho had three separate spells with the club, eventually helping us to our first piece of major silverware as 2004 League Cup winners.
Favourite player: Juninho is a Teeside hero.
Best moment: Philippe Albert’s wonder chip against Manchester United in that 5-0 victory. After the “I’d love it” debacle, it felt as though the Magpies had finally turned a corner. They hadn’t, but it was a good day.
Worst moment: John Carver being about as useful as an underwater hairdryer as we fell to Championship relegation in 2016.
Favourite player: Alan Shearer is our best, but few players entertained like Hatem Ben Arfa when on form.
Best moment: Beating Aston Villa 1-0 at home on 24 March 1993. My first season of going regularly, I was taken to this game as a 12th birthday treat by my father, who also got me my first Norwich City shirt – the infamous bird-poo shirt. We went top of the league as captain for the night, in the absence of Ian Butterworth, Jon Polston scored the day after he became a father for the first time. I left that night genuinely feeling like we would win the league. We didn’t, we finished third, still our best ever and unlikely to be bettered now. More fun was to follow with the Uefa Cup victory over Bayern Munich the following autumn, but its been pretty much downhill ever since.
Worst moment: Away to Fulham, last day of the season 2004-05. It was simple: a win would keep us up. And despite not winning away all season, spirits were high among the 500 Norwich fans who made the trip. We lost 6-0. Losing at home to West Brom in Chris Hughton’s last game in charge comes a close second.
Favourite player: Grant Holt. How he didn’t get into the England squad for Euro 2012, only Roy Hodgson knows.
Best moment: It’s August 1994, I’m 14 and we’re playing the champions Manchester United in our first home game of the season. The Monday night match is live on TV and there’s a real buzz inside the City Ground. Midway through the first half, United score first, a super volley from a tight angle by Andrei Kanchelskis, but less than five minutes later Stan Collymore turns with the ball on the halfway line and I shudder with anticipation. Forest fans spent the previous season watching Stan terrorise defenders as we were promoted and we had no doubt he could step up and do it against the best. He starts running at pace as Bruce and Pallister back off, a drop of the shoulder gets him space within range and Stan rifles it low past Schmeichel from 20 yards out. The stadium erupts. I’m jumping up and down, delirious, as the mild-mannered, elderly fan sat behind me the past two seasons with barely a murmur swings me by the collar, screaming with joy. What an atmosphere. It’s a good memory, and we were a good team that year. The match ended 1-1 and we finished the season in third, our best effort in the Premier League era.
Worst moment: It’s May 1993, I’m 13, and we’re playing Sheffield United in our final home game of the season, knowing anything less than a win means relegation in Brian Clough’s final season in charge. We stink, as we have done all year, and lose 2-0. Midway through the second half, as it’s clear the win belongs to the Blades, the entire crowd sing Cloughie’s name, the tired old genius manages a sad little wave and my heart breaks. We’re down two years after appearing in the FA Cup final and it’s clear that one of my childhood heroes has lost his way. An awful end to an amazing career. And apart from a short spell under Frank Clark, Forest have been rubbish ever since.
Favourite player: Stan Collymore.
Best moment: Arguably the Premier League’s greatest ever escape in 1992-93. Having to win our last three games against title-chasing Aston Villa, Liverpool and finally Southampton while also hoping those around us lost. After beating Villa at Villa Park (effectively handing Manchester United the title) and Liverpool, it was just Southampton left at home. Despite going 4-1 up after 64 minutes in that final game, in true Latics fashion, we let Matt Le Tissier complete his hat-trick for a nervy end to the game. But the celebrations afterwards were incredible, as nobody had given us a hope in hell three games beforehand. I was very young at the time but it was my first experience of the elation of supporting your local team.
Worst moment: Honestly you could pick any of the final few games of the 1993-94 season as a terrible run saw us relegated. It was a true season of ups and downs as an excellent FA Cup run saw us face off against Manchester United in the semi-final at Wembley. The game was all but won until Mark Hughes scored a ridiculous volley to draw level and force a replay. They hammered us 4-1 in the replay at Maine Road and we never recovered as our league form dropped and were easily relegated. Only a year after the excitement of staying up this was my first introduction to the sadness and despair of football. Little did I know it wasn’t going to get any better, as we prepare for our 20th consecutive season in the third tier!
Favourite player: Andy Ritchie.
Best moment: There are plenty of candidates: going top of the league after our third game back in the top flight following a Teddy Sheringham-inspired 4-0 win over Bolton; finishing eighth in 2008, our cup-winning season, with the best team the city has seen since the early 1950s; the 7-4 thriller against Reading at Fratton Park, still the Premier League’s highest-scoring game. But best of all has to be Pedro Mendes’s injury-time winner against Manchester City in March 2006. Not only was it his second brilliant goal of the game – he received the ball outside the box, following a corner, took it past an onrushing defender, and half-volleyed it into the top corner – but it sparked an incredible late run to safety, when we had appeared dead and buried. Staying up on the penultimate weekend was fantastic and the next couple of years would see the likes of Lassana Diarra, Sol Campbell and Jermain Defoe strut their stuff at the Park, but none of it would have been possible without Mendes’s volley.
Worst moment: Given the painful decline that characterised the last two years in the Premier League, precipitated by Alexandre Gaydamak pulling the financial plug, it is difficult to pinpoint one particular moment that hurt more than any other. If I was pressed, however, I would go for 26 February 2010, when the club was finally placed in administration, having been passed around a number of untrustworthy “owners”: the 10-point penalty that administration carried effectively guaranteed our eventual relegation and the downward spiral to the fourth tier was set in motion.
Favourite player: Lassana Diarra.
Queens Park Rangers
Best moment: The first time QPR beat Liverpool that I remember. It was Halloween night in 1994 and it was a Monday night game. We won 2-1 with goals from my heroes Les Ferdinand and Trevor Sinclair, who scored a diving header! Liverpool were completely outplayed and only John Barnes carried any threat for them that night. As a 10- year-old I was convinced I was on to a lifetime winner. Little did I know.
Worst moment: We were the first team to lose to Swindon in the 1993-94 season on their single visit to the Premier League. They only won five games all season, but two of them came against us! The three relegations I’ve witnessed were also harrowing experiences.
Favourite player: Les Ferdinand.
Best moment: The very first day in the top flight: 19 August 2006. We were 2-0 down to Middlesbrough with taunts from the away end of “This is the Premiership,” but we stormed back with goals in consecutive minutes from Dave Kitson and Steve Sidwell and never looked back that season, finishing a remarkable eighth place. We were only one goal away from Uefa Cup qualification.
Worst moment: Relegation on goal difference the following year. We were winning 4-0 and bettering Fulham’s result at FA Cup finalists Portsmouth, so were set to stay up. But a Danny Murphy goal 10 minutes from time sunk the 3,000 Royals at Pride Park. Second-season syndrome had struck.
Favourite player: Kevin Doyle.
Best moment: With due deference to Brian Deane scoring the first ever Premier League goal and a 6-0 hiding of Spurs, it has to be the 1-0 win over Arsenal when they were punching their weight around. Full house, a cold, crisp night match over Christmas, live on TV, defending a lead with Phil Jagielka in goal defying them for the last half hour. That was our Rourke’s Drift. If only that was the last we’d seen of Jagielka’s handling abilities that season…
Worst moment: With many still pointing at the efforts of Hans Segers and Carlos Tevez, it should be remembered that on both occasions we got relegated in the Premier League on the final day survival was in our own hands, which is where Jagielka comes in again against Wigan. David Unsworth converted the penalty and we were down.
Favourite player: Brian Deane.
Best moment: Beating Liverpool at home during the 1993-94 season in what felt like a routine victory including two Liverpool own goals. At that point it felt like top-level football was normal and we should push again for regular European football.
Worst moment: The appointment of David Pleat in the summer of 1995. At that point money was spent significantly with rare success. A Big Ron rescue mission briefly papered over cracks but mis-spending in this era defined the club for the next 20 years and only recently is a firm-footed recovery likely.
Favourite player: Chris Waddle.
Best moment: May 2001, the last ever goal at the Dell, scored by the official club deity Matthew Le Tissier. It was the only league goal he scored in an injury-ravaged season and his last ever for the club – he retired in 2002 after only a handful more games. It was like the knackered old ground had had its ending scripted by a bad sports film writer.
Worst moment: May 2005, and after years of mismanagement and revolving-door managers, Saints went down on the last day of the season, ending 27 years of top-flight football. Made so much worse by the fact that man who finally led us to the drop was Harry Redknapp, who had taken Portsmouth up a few years earlier. Swapping places with your bitterest rivals must be the worst feeling in the game.
Favourite player: The very definition of a no-brainer: Matt Le Tissier.
Best moment: It’s not as big as the 6-1 thumping of Liverpool on the final day of the 2014-15 season, or as glamorous as reaching the FA Cup final in 2011, but my favourite moment was Stoke’s 2-0 win over Manchester United on Boxing Day in 2015. It seemed to typify everything Mark Hughes has strived to achieve at Stoke. Arnautovic, Bojan and Shaqiri were all fantastic. The remnants of a Pulis-clad defence kept everything at bay. We were clinical at both ends, something Stoke fans have rarely seen. Plus, it’s always nice when your team wins at Christmas.
Worst moment: Ryan Shawcross breaking Aaron Ramsey’s leg was a dark moment for Stoke. The club had a reputation for being tough and the Britannia was a difficult place to play, but that was a freak accident. Shawcross is a great defender and you could see from his reaction immediately after it happened that he was full of remorse – quite literally in tears. I don’t think he has expunged that incident from his profile. Arsenal fans also lend a reminder every time he visits the Emirates.
Favourite player: Ryan Shawcross.
Best moment: Over the years Sunderland have been spoilt with brilliantly eccentric and obscure talents gracing the Stadium of Light in the Premier League. The likes of Djibril Cissé, Lilian Laslandes and Teemu Tainio have all come and gone yet their impact may not be remembered by all. However the one foreign talent who will never be forgotten for what he did at the club was not a player but instead, the wackiest manager we will ever have. I’m not talking about Mick McCarthy but instead the man, the myth, the legend that is Paolo Di Canio. During the shortest of tenures, he made every supporter believe. He made each and every player fight every second of every minute of the pitch. He ran a marathon on the touchline every single game and we the fans loved him for that. When first appointed his remit was clear: keep us up. Fast forward to Di Canio’s second game in charge – April 14 2013 – and we are up against Newcastle, who were desperate to relegate us. The pressure was majorly on but Di Canio dancing around on the sidelines like he was at a 1970s disco in downtown Rome inspired not one, not two, but three incredible goals to smash and grab the best derby-day victory in my lifetime. Super Kev’s super strike in 1999 had finally been surpassed by the kneeslide in full suit from Di Canio. The whole city of Sunderland smiled for a long time after that day and the momentum kept us in the league. Sadly Di Canio didn’t last much longer but that moment has ensured his place in Sunderland folklore forever.
Worst moment: There are many moments that have upset me as a Sunderland fan in the Premier League. We have been relegated a wonderful four times after all. However, the whole 2005-06 season was like being punched in the face repeatedly by Mike Tyson. Excruciatingly painful to say the least. Starting the season with five losses in a row set the tone and we never recovered after that. I remember watching us in a bar in Portugal draw 0-0 with Manchester United at Old Trafford during that season and it just showed that the players were putting in the effort, had the ability to go toe to toe with the big dogs yet the unforgiving nature of such a strong league meant too many times we were second best. Being a 12-year-old at the time and being the only football fan who didn’t support Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool made life very difficult on the playground as well! But I had been prepared for this by our equally dreadful season in 2002-03, when we got 19 points! A fun few years indeed.
Favourite player: Like most Sunderland fans we love the one-season loan legend that is Yann M’Vila but ultimately no one comes close to Kevin Phillips.
Best moment: Fernando Llorente’s header against Liverpool this season. That set up a win at Anfield which made the club believe they could escape what looked like inevitable relegation season. My second favourite moment was the breathtaking 5-4 win against Palace. I enjoyed it at the time, but wouldn’t want to watch anything as nerve-wracking ever again.
Worst moment: Being bottom of the table last season and looking like we’d never get out with Bob Bradley in charge. He looked so out of his depth.
Favourite player: The way Michu lit up the Liberty Stadium for a season was amazing.
Best moment: The 2-2 home draw with Manchester United, when Cantona got himself sent off for standing on Jon Moncur, Mark Hughes had a fight with half the Shrivenham Road stand and we staged a comeback for a point. We were the only side to score four goals against United that season.
Worst moment: The final game against Leeds. We only needed to avoid losing by three goals to stop conceding 100+ goals for the season. We duly lost 5-0 to record an unwanted record that still stands till this day.
Favourite player: If only Jan Aage Fjortoft had started scoring before Christmas!
Best moment: Jürgen Klinsmann’s goal and celebration against Sheffield Wednesday in 1994. Yet again it seemed like Spurs had finally gotten their act together and would be genuine challengers for the title. Of course, we were (yet again) swiftly abused of that notion by Ossie Ardiles and his peculiar aversion to defending, but it was nice while it lasted.
Worst moment: HT: Tottenham 3-0 Manchester United; FT: Tottenham 3-5 Manchester United. The fact that Spurs shipped five goals from winning situations on several other occasions (5-2s against United and Arsenal twice) just rubbed the salt and poured the lemon juice into the wound caused by this defining omnishambles. The less said about the five goals conceded against Newcastle in 2016 the better.
Favourite player: Luka Modric was incredible for us.
Best moment: Beating Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield and being clapped off by the Kop.
Worst moment: Getting relegated in 1999-2000, when Graham Taylor didn’t have the backing to make a proper fight to stay up. We didn’t learn anything from that campaign and went down again with a whimper in 2006-07 under Aidy Boothroyd. The 6-1 thrashing at Anfield wasn’t a treat this year nor was having to face Manchester City with no central defenders available. We were lucky to get away with a 5-0 defeat.
Favourite player: Not a player but Quique Sánchez Flores was hugely admired in the dugout. He kept us up, nearly got us to a FA Cup final and as a gentleman he bonded with the supporters very well. He was of course gone when the season ended. That’s just us these days.
West Bromwich Albion
Best moment: I could pick our 5-1 win over Wolves at Molineux in 2012 or the remarkable 5-5 draw with Manchester United in Alex Ferguson’s last game. However, they fail in comparison to The Great Escape in 2005. It was a seemingly impossible achievement at the time, which was helped by the ineptitude of the teams around us. Even though it only helped paper over the cracks in what was an otherwise poor side, who were relegated the following season anyway, it was still an incredible moment. Although other teams have done it since, it still feels special to be the first team to avoid the drop despite being bottom at Christmas. Plus it means that Charlton’s Jonathan Fortune, the man who scored the goal that relegated Palace on that day, will be the only West Brom legend to have never played for the club.
Worst moment: There haven’t been too many bad moments for the club, especially one of our size. Sure, there have been bad results, poor performances and disappointing campaigns but nothing embarrassing. I’m reminded of Nicolas Anelka and his shameful celebration. Anelka, a vanity signing who contributed nothing during his 12 appearances for the club, dragged our name through the mud. Thankfully it has been mostly forgotten but it was an altogether ugly moment for a club that had done so much to dispel any sort of xenophobia in the game in the 1970s and 1980s.
Favourite player: Jonas Olsson. A long-haired, rock-loving Swedish centre-back. What’s not to like?
West Ham United
Best moment: Too many to mention… Alan Pardew’s touchline rant with Arsène Wenger in 2006, winning 3-0 at Spurs with no striker in 2015, seeing Mourinho sent to the stands at Upton Park in 2016, and Di Canio’s winner in his last home game against Chelsea in 2002 stand out. But coming from behind to beat Manchester United 3-2 in the last ever game at Upton Park last May is hard to beat.
Worst moment: Last-minute goals from Spurs to beat us at home and getting relegated in pathetic fashion under Avram Grant.
Favourite player: Paolo Di Canio. Without him we would’ve been relegated much sooner.
Best moment: The miraculous survival run of the 2011-12 season, which saw the Latics win seven of their final nine games to stay up. That run included several notable scalps, but beating Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates was the stand-out result for me. We’d just beaten Manchester United for the first time in our history, so to follow it up with that result was something special. We enjoyed some good times against Arsenal, though. Charles N’Zogbia’s 90th minute goal to seal a 3-2 win over the Gunners, after being 2-0 down back in 2010, comes a close second.
Worst moment: A few thrashings stand out (9-1, 8-0, 6-0, etc.), but the worst moment for me was losing at home to Swansea in the year we got relegated. I’d grown to expect the unexpected and we went into that game with safety in our own hands. We were banking on that game and I remember being particularly confident. To let control of our own destiny slip against a side with little to play for was a crushing blow. Perhaps we’d have been better against one of the big boys.
Favourite player: Shaun Maloney. Such a skilful player, and capable of magic when at his best.
Best moment: There are so many. Beating Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea regularly. Being in the top division when Manchester City were on sabbatical in the Second Division. All amazing achievements for a club that played Darlington for my first ever football match in 1980 and is now in League One. One particular game stands out; beating Newcastle 3-2 in one of the most genuinely thrilling, open and beautiful games of football I have ever seen. Both sides just went toe to toe and shared something like 35 attempts on target.
Worst moment: I’ll be controversial and say being founding members of the Premier League. It hasn’t been a good thing for English Football and a club such as Wimbledon were never going to benefit long-term from a re-distribution of wealth from the smaller clubs to the bigger ones.
Favourite player: Robbie Earle MBE
Best moment: There are several memorable games, such as when we won at Anfield and Villa Park. Away wins were a rarity for Wolves fans in the Premier League. Other high points were beating Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester City. In 2011 Wolves were struggling, so beating our rivals West Brom with three games to go was great and hugely increased our chance of survival. The highlight for me though was from our first, unsuccessful season in 2003-04. The first six games resulted in one point, as we looked utterly outclassed. We started by losing 5-1 on the opening day to Blackburn. The next game we were embarrassed 4-0 at home by Charlton and soon after we suffered a 5-0 home defeat against a rampant Chelsea. We’d come up through the play-offs and looked out of our depth. We’d been trying for years to be promoted – for this? A couple of scrappy draws and a win against Manchester City in the next three games gave us some hope but we only had six points after nine games. The only thing keeping Wolves off the bottom of the league was Leicester. On 25 October, the 10th game of the season, Wolves played Leicester. This was surely a game we needed to win. A couple of minutes in, Les Ferdinand thumps a header home, 1-0 Leicester. A few minutes later they have a corner from the other side. Ferdinand again: 2-0. A long ball is played forward, Ferdinand controls, lays it off to Riccardo Scimeca: 3-0. The stadium deflates. The second half starts and Wolves are better. After a couple of minutes Cameron strides on to a pass from Blake and scores, 3-1. A long, floated cross is sent into the box and Gillespie handles it. Cameron steps up and buries it, 3-2! Half an hour to go. Could we get a draw from this? Dare we dream? Leicester fall back to try protect their lead and Wolves surge forward. Irwin fires in a cross from 35 yards and little Alex Rae heads home the equaliser! “He’s got no hair. We don’t care. He’s Alex, Alex Rae!” Blake is fouled near the corner flag, the free-kick is half cleared but Irwin grabs the clearance, surges into the box and fires in a cross. Camara – finally – scores his first goal for the club. 4-3! Ultimately both Wolves and Leicester were relegated but it was one of the highlights.
Worst moment: In the 2011-12 season, after 24 games, Wolves are 17th after coming from behind to beat QPR. The next game was a 1-5 defeat at home to West Brom. Mick McCarthy was immediately sacked but the low point was not the defeat or the sacking, it was the last 13 games of that season. They yielded a miserable four points as the season petered out to a craven relegation. Performances were erratic at best and often shockingly poor. Wolves took the lead in four of those 13 games, only to lose them all. From a position of 17th, in front of QPR on goal difference, Wolves finished 12 points behind them as QPR survived by a point. It was a limp, abject surrender after three seasons in the Premier League.
Favourite player: Kevin Doyle.
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