Relegation is a cruel mistress, especially in Premier League football. Once a team succumbs to life in the second tier, it can be a perilous struggle to get back to the promised land, a task that if not achieved first time of asking could take years to once again come to fruition. Indeed, you only need to look at the journeys of Leeds United and Nottingham Forest, two sides who ruled the roost of previous generations but suffered relegation at the turn of the century, to see how difficult it can be to establish yourself as a Premier League outfit.
While the likes of Burnley and Watford had been able to maintain their top flight status, the former more so than the latter, for more extended periods of time, it’s hard to see a way in which they can enjoy such a tenure again if they don’t come straight back up. The windfall money from relegation will allow them to rebuild the majority of their inevitably dismantled squad but as previous years have shown, that doesn’t guarantee success. Occasionally sides will slip further down the football pyramid, essentially imploding and suffering a drastic fall from grace, condemned to mediocrity in League One.
It doesn’t happen every year, but it’s still strange seeing former Premier League regulars struggle to break out of the third tier despite how poorly they may have performed. With that in mind, read on as we take a look at three former Premier League clubs now firmly rooted in League One.
It’s still hard to fathom that next year will be the 15th anniversary of Portsmouth’s FA Cup win over Cardiff City. The likes of David James, Sol Campbell, Sully Muntari and Lassana Diara took to the field that day for Harry Redknapp’s Pompey, who would go on to face AC Milan in the Europa League and reach another FA Cup final in their golden years. However, the turn of the decade was a tough one at Fratton Park, with the club suffering their first relegation in 2010 before dropping as low as League Two in their darkest moments.
Paul Cook earnt Pompey promotion in 2017, but while predictz English League One predictions had them to kick on and gain supremacy over the football pyramid, the last few years have been spent treading water. This will be a sixth season in the third tier and after coming 10th last season, Danny Cowley has his work cut out for him.
Despite only being relegated at the end of last season, the situation at Derby County looks perilous. Had they not received a points deduction due to some financial irregulates, Wayne Rooney’s band of freedom fighters would have comfortably beat the drop after a campaign that saw them enjoy some purple patches of form, particularly at Pride Park. However, they simply had too much to do and some inconsistency at the business end of the season cost them a place in the Championship, having squandered any hopes of promotion at Wembley back in 2019, when defeat to Aston Villa saw them miss out on a first campaign in the Premier League since 2007-08, and we all know how embarrassingly that ended up — with the lowest recorded points tally in a single season (11).
Once again, the financial struggles of a side have earnt them a place on this list. Going back well over 10 years now Bolton Wanderers were one of the most exciting sides to watch in the Premier League, playing a unique brand of attacking football and always managing to upset the big sides, boasting some impressive strikers over the years including Daniel Sturridge and Nicolas Anelka. They were relegated on the final day of the 2011-12 season after a 2-2 draw with Stoke City, and while the Potters went on to spend another six years in the top flight, Bolton were second tier strugglers before eventually falling to League One in 2019, where they’ve been exceptionally ordinary ever since.