Currently in its 24th season, the Premier League has grown to become by far the biggest league in the world of sport. Broadcast to almost 5 billion people in 212 different countries totalling around 650 million homes, the Premier League has become both the most watched and most lucrative football and sporting division on the planet. Premier League teams regularly challenge for major European and world titles and the league is generally considered one of the strongest in the world.
Teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all have enormous worldwide audiences and have all had fine players and teams over recent years. The league is often admired for its competitiveness, with even the lesser teams being considered as decent opposition capable of beating the top sides. As always, there have been exceptions though, and this list details the weakest teams to ever grace England's top flight since its renaming as the Premier League.
In almost a quarter of a century, a total of 47 clubs have competed in the Premier League; 15 of those make this list, with 5 teams making double appearances. There are various ways to rank the worst teams, the most obvious being their points tally at the end of the season, although that is not the only factor taken into account. Others include general performance levels, number of points cut adrift that season and the number of goals scored and conceded. Here are the top 20 worst ever Premier League teams:
20 Portsmouth - 2009/10
Portsmouth's 2009/10 campaign is one which is remembered largely for events off the field, which were even more miserable than the goings-on on the field. Pompey entered administration in 2009, meaning they were docked 10 points. They were bottom of the league after just the second game week and remained in 20th place for the entirety of the season, finishing on 19 points (29 were it not for their points deduction). Their top league goal scorer Aruna Dindane managed only 8 goals and the season included humiliating 5-0 defeats to Chelsea and Manchester United for a team who had won the 2008 FA Cup.
19 Wolves - 2011/12
Wolves have had a number of difficult seasons in the Premier League, but none more so than in 2011/12. The three-time English champions slumped to a miserable 20th placed finish with only 25 points to their name, 12 fewer than they required to stay up that season. The lowest scorers with the most goals conceded, Wolves rarely looked anything other than relegation certainties that season. They finished the season with only 5 wins to their name, one of the lowest number of wins in Premier League history. A heavy 5-1 home defeat to West Brom and a 5-0 trouncing away to Fulham summed up a miserable season at Molineux.
18 Nottingham Forest - 1992/93
Despite being led by one of the greatest managers in the history of the English game, Nottingham Forest still had a disastrous 1992/93 campaign. Legendary manager Brian Clough who had led the club to two European Cup's earlier in his tenure was ageing, unwell and drinking heavily. He had struggled to adapt to the modern game, and Forest were paying the price. When the club sold Teddy Sheringham and Des Walker, their fate was all but sealed. Forest finished in last place, 9 points off safety, and would have had one of the worst tallies of all time were it not for a run of 5 wins in 7 games between January and February 1993.
17 Watford - 2006/07
Watford had an impressive FA Cup run in the 2006/07 season, making it all the way to the semi-finals, but their league form was dreadful. The Hornets won only 5 games all season, although they did draw 13 times, meaning they have one of the fewest wins and fewest defeats of all the teams on this list. Nonetheless, a final points haul of only 28 saw them finish dead last and 10 points off safety. Watford's biggest woes were in an attacking sense, scoring just 29 goals in 38 games, with their top scorer Hameur Bouazza racking up only 7 league goals all season.
16 Bolton Wanderers - 1995/96
The 1995/96 season was Bolton's first ever in the Premier League, following promotion from the second tier, but the Trotters spent most of the season looking hopelessly out of their depth. They lost a whopping 25 games, conceding 71 goals and finished in 20th place with only 29 points, 9 short of 17th placed Southampton. Bolton simply weren't good enough, and routinely conceded three or more goals, their most emphatic defeats included losing 3-0 at home to West Ham and 6-0 at home to Manchester United.
15 Reading - 2012/13
Reading had three different managers over the course of the 2012/13 season, but none could stop the rot and ever make them look like keeping their heads above the water. After a tremendous Championship winning season, Reading were disappointing in the Premier League. They played okay at times but lacked the resilience to hold on to leads, and often conceded late goals. They ended the season in 19th, with 28 points and only 6 wins to their name. A run of 4 wins from 6 games around the turn of the year made a shocking campaign look a little less humiliating, but 3-0 defeats to Sunderland and Wigan told the story of a desperate 12 months for the Royals.
14 Nottingham Forest - 1998/99
The second and final appearance by Nottingham Forest on this list, the 1998/99 season was truly one to forget for Forest fans. The club managed to win just 30 points from 38 games, 11 points short of the tally required to stay in the division that season. Dave Bassett, Micky Adams and Ron Atkinson all attempted to stop the rot at the City Ground that season, but with little success. Forest made their dire season seem a little less terrible right at the end of the season. In fact, Forest won more games in their last three fixtures than they had in the 32 games which preceded them.
13 Derby County - 2001/02
Derby County had a truly terrible season in 2001/02, somewhat overlooked by most due to the fact that the entry directly below them on this list were ever-so-slightly worse. The Rams lost 24 games, the most in the league, and racked up only 30 points, 10 points fewer than Sunderland, who were the lowest ranked team to stay up that season. Derby threatened to put together a great escape in February and March, stringing a few impressive results together, but a run of 7 consecutive defeats after that proved the final nail in the Derby coffin.
12 Leicester City - 2001/02
Leicester City currently top the Premier League in one of the greatest shocks in the competition's history, but 15 years ago things were rather different for the Foxes. The 2001/02 season was one which started badly and got worse for the East Midlanders. With one of the worst players in Premier League history in the form of Junior Lewis in their squad, the Foxes flopped to a 20th placed finish on 28 points, in a season in which 40 points was the required total for survival. Their dreadful campaign included a heavy 5-0 home defeat to Bolton and and equally humiliating 4-0 loss at home to Southampton.
11 Leicester City - 1994/95
Even worse than their performance in the 2001/02 Premier League season was Leicester's showing over 5 years earlier in 1994/95. The Foxes finished second bottom, only slightly better off than one of the worst sides in Premier League history. Their record at the end of the season stood at 6 wins, 11 draws and 25 defeats, giving the final points tally of 29, a whopping 19 points off safety. The most humiliating moment of Leicester's season was a 4-1 defeat to an Ipswich side who were so bad you'll have to wait a while for their entry on this list.
10 Bradford City - 2000/01
Ending the Midlands monopoly of this list is Bradford City, and their shocking 2000/01 season. A 6-0 defeat to Manchester United in only their fourth game was a sign of things to come at Valley Parade, as the Bantams went on to win only 5 games, conceding 70 goals and scoring only 30. That record gave them a points tally of just 26, 16 shy of the required total for survival. Their toothless forwards were Bradford's biggest flaw that season, top league goal scorers Ashley Ward and Robbie Blake managed only 4 goals each.
9 West Brom 2002/03
Having been something of a yo-yo side during the Premier League era, West Brom are no strangers to a poor Premier League season, but the 2002/03 campaign was by far the club's worst. The Baggies won only six games all season, losing 24, giving them a total points haul of just 26, 18 points off staying in the division. West Brom seemed to lack strength all over the park that season, and suffered heavy defeats such as losing 6-0 to Liverpool, 3-0 to Middlesbrough and 3-0 to Fulham. Once more, the Baggies lacked a goal scorer, with their two top league scorers tied on 5 goals a piece.
8 Watford 1999/00
Watford are currently having a season to remember, flying high in the Premier League with Odion Ighalo proving to be one of the most effective strikers in the division. Cast one's eyes back 15 years though and the Hornets weren't sitting so pretty. Their second entry on this list and their 1999/00 campaign was much worse than their entry in 17th on this list. In 1999/00 Watford were essentially awful all season long, and never looked anything other than relegation fodder. They lost an incredible 26 times, including a 4-0 defeat to Coventry and a 5-0 defeat to Wimbledon. They ended the season dead last on 24 points, 12 shy of staying up, which was a low 36 points that season.
7 Swindon Town 1993/94
Without being disrespectful, a team of Swindon's size were always likely to be up against it in the Premier League, and so it proved. The 1993/94 season was Swindon's first, and to date their only, campaign in the Premier League. The Robins had done exceptionally well to win promotion but the man who orchestrated their success, player-manager Glenn Hoddle, departed for Chelsea in the summer, leaving Swindon looking vulnerable, and so it proved. The club won only 5 of their 42 games, finishing on 30 points, 13 off safety. They conceded an eye-watering 100 goals that season, the most in Premier League history, and results such as losing 7-1 to Newcastle and 5-0 to Leeds contributed to that.
6 Q.P.R. 2012/13
The 2012/13 Q.P.R. season was so bad it bordered on the comical, unless you were a Q.P.R. fan of course. Rangers right-back Jose Bosingwa saw the funny side of it at least, he was pictured laughing as he left the field when the clubs fate was sealed and their relegation to the Championship confirmed. That single moment summed up that Q.P.R. team. It was one filled with prima-donnas and mercenaries. The vast majority lacked passion, commitment and any real sense of attachment to the club. They went down with whimper. Q.P.R. won only 4 games that season, finishing on 25 points, 14 off survival, and suffered heavy defeats such as losing 5-0 and 4-1 in their two games against Swansea City.
5 Ipswich Town 1994/95
The worst campaign during the Premier League's 22-team era, Ipswich Town managed only 7 wins from 42 games, and a humiliating 29 defeats. Toothless in attack and catastrophic in defence, the Tractor Boys scored only 36 goals that season, whilst conceding 93, not far short of Swindon's leaky record. Remarkably, their top scorer, Claus Thomsen, was a defender, and he managed 5 goals, speaking volumes about the clubs midfielders and attackers. Particularly forgettable games for the Tractor Boys included a 4-0 defeat to Leeds and a 3-0 defeat to bitter rivals Norwich.
4 Sunderland - 2002/03
Sunderland have probably been the most perennial strugglers in the Premier League era, and are once again fighting for their lives to keep their heads above the water this season. At least there is some fight in the Black Cats under Sam Allardyce, the same could not be said of the Wearside outfit back in 2002/03. Sunderland won only 4 and lost 27 of their 38 league games that season, ending the season with an embarrassing 19 points, 25 points off staying in the division. Even the prolific Kevin Phillips managed only a measly 6 Premier League goals that season in a dreadful Sunderland team.
3 Aston Villa - 2015/16
A little premature perhaps, and some would say somewhat harsh to rank the current Aston Villa team below the Sunderland team of 2002/03, but this Villa side are almost entirely void of talent, ideas and any belief. Having sold key men such as Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke, Villa were always likely to face a battle to maintain their Premier League status this season, but few could have anticipated them being as bad as they have been. They are currently 20th in the league with 16 points, with only 3 wins and 17 defeats to their name. Villa lost their last game 6-0 to Liverpool, their heaviest home defeat in 83 years, and the club appears to be in real trouble.
2 Sunderland - 2005/06
With two entries in the top four having taken place only a few years apart, the early-mid 2000s may not have been the best time to be a Sunderland supporter. Their 2005/06 season was an utter shambles, and most thought it would stand as the worst Premier League season for a long, long time, if not forever. The Black Cats won only 3 of their 38 games, losing 27, and winning only 15 points all season. They scored a pitiful 26 while conceding 69, their joint top scorers managing a comical 3 league goals each. Particularly humiliating defeats for Sunderland included heavy defeats to their North East rivals, such as a 4-1 defeat at home to Newcastle and a 3-0 loss at home to Middlesbrough.
1 Derby County 2007/08
When Sunderland smashed the lowest points record in 2005/06 with only 15 points, most thought it was a record that would stand for decades, certainly few expected Derby County to break it only two years later. The Rams were promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs, and had a squad which seemed markedly lacking in top flight quality. So it proved. Derby won just one game all season, coming in their sixth game of the campaign. They ended the season with a record of one win, eight draws and 29 defeats, giving them a final total of just 11 points.
Barely making it into double figures, it was an astonishingly bad season. Derby were mathematically relegated in March, the only club to have ever suffered such a fate. They scored only 20 goals, the fewest in Premier League history, while conceding a whopping 89. Their dreadful season included conceding 6 goals 4 times and conceding four or more goals nine times. The campaign prompted the phrase 'Do-a-Derby', often directed towards promoted clubs pre-season who people expect to fail spectacularly in the Premier League. No promoted team since though has ever come close to doing as badly as the Rams did in 2007/08.