Were a football fan from just ten years ago to travel into the present, they would be astonished to see some of the top clubs of their day now floundering in the lower tiers of English football. Whilst the top teams of the Premier League have more or less managed to avoid slipping too far down the footballing pyramid, other first division clubs on the peripherals of success have had a true fall from grace, and occupy leagues hardly befitting their stature.
However, with the history and fan bases these great clubs count in their arsenal, it’s surely only a matter of time before we start to see these “sleeping giants” begin their rise back up to their rightful place in the highest echelons of English football.
As famous names such as Pompey and Bradford bid to march back up the English football pyramid, here’s our guide to the biggest sleeping giants outside the Premier League.
Currently marooned in League One, it is astonishing to think Portsmouth were FA Cup winners only twelve years ago. That great team of 2007/2008, led by the indomitable Harry Redknapp defeated Cardiff City in the final to claim the second FA Cup for Pompey. They also made it to another cup final in 2010, sadly losing out to Chelsea, with Didier Drogba scoring the only goal.
Money issues saw the club rack up millions worth in debt, and the gradual slide down the leagues began as the top talent left for pastures new. By the start of the 2013/2014 season they were all the way down in League Two, and narrowly avoided relegation out of the football league. However, the team is in the ascendancy under the management of Kenny Jackett, and are back knocking on the door of the Championship.
The Bantams’ League Two status is still difficult to ponder for its legions of loyal fans, who were enjoying Premier League football at the start of the 21st century. Again, money problems and a series of disinterested or incapable owners have seen City lose decades of progress, and find themselves playing the likes of Barrow and Harrogate Town this season.
What will be more gut-wrenching for those in claret and amber is that City almost secured a return to the Championship a few seasons ago, losing out to Millwall in the 2017 playoff final via a last minute heartbreaker. Under the deeply unpopular leadership of German owners Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp, fourth division football returned to Valley Parade. With a poor start to the season for Stuart McCall’s men, it seems a long while before top tier football will come back to BD8 and a quick glance at the current bookmaker odds suggests they could be spending at least one more season outside England’s top divisions..
Whilst some of the teams on our list do have prior lower league experience, Sunderland’s fall from grace was truly without precedent. To go from one of the biggest clubs in the country, hosting Premier League action for season after season at the massive Stadium of Light, to a mid-table League One side was a truly difficult pill to swallow for all Mackams.
A familiar tale of money worries and mismanagement is responsible for this backwards progress, but what must have been doubly embarrassing for Sunderland fans was to see the behind the scenes mayhem at their club played out for all to see in the Netflix documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die.
However, the Black Cats have started this season fairly well, and if you’re a Sunderland fan of an optimistic persuasion you can claim a number of top uk free bets and promotions that can be used to wager on the Black Cats to earn promotion.