Just for fun, we take a look at the tables from Christmas Day five, ten, 15 and 20 years ago. Because who doesn’t like looking back and thinking ‘Reading? How the f*** did that happen?’? Thanks to the excellent www.statto.com for the tables.
FIVE YEARS AGO
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Today’s top six was the top six in 2011, though only Arsene Wenger survives of the managers; his rivals back then were Roberto Mancini, Sir Alex Ferguson, Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas and Kenny Dalglish. It’s fair to say that the competition has got tougher.
This was the season that Alan Pardew somehow led Newcastle to fifth (though look at that ‘form’ showing a classic Chunky blip), while Liverpool would eventually drop into eighth, costing Dalglish his job. But just look at that defensive record – this was back when Martin Skrtel was good.
Semi-interestingly, nine of those clubs are no longer in the Premier League, with Wigan recovering in fine style that season but succumbing the following year.
TEN YEARS AGO
Anybody who doubts Sam Allardyce’s ability to inspire a middling team to over-perform needs to look at this league table featuring a Bolton side on their way to their fourth consecutive top-eight finish. It’s like some kind of sorcery. And just look at Portsmouth in the ‘chuck a load of money at it and sod the consequences’ years, while Manchester City were pre-money and mid-Stuart Pearce. They are one of only seven teams who have spent the whole of the last ten years in the top flight. Which sounds kind of mental.
What feels familiar is that West Ham had just sacked Alan Pardew after a run of ten defeats in 13 games. The good news for Palace fans is that the Hammers then survived, though they needed a little help from Carlos Tevez. Just don’t mention those two words to Neil Warnock.
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO
Just look at Sir Bobby Robson’s Newcastle, top of the pile after a run of victories inspired by Craig Bellamy and Laurent Robert. Eventually, they would drop to fourth place and Arsenal would win the title at a canter as Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United ended the season ten points behind in third, while Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool managed their highest finish since 1991 with the coveted runners-up spot.
Leeds fans should not linger on this table for too long, and nor should fans of Aston Villa, who may remember that John Gregory resigned a month later after getting relentless stick from fans. Oh for the days when being mid-table was simply not acceptable to Villa…
The bottom three went down by the way – under Gregory, Micky Adams and George Burley. Which makes us all feel really sodding old.
TWENTY YEARS AGO
You know how this ends, right? With Manchester United winning the Premier League and Liverpool in fourth. And that was back when fourth only got you a place in the UEFA Cup. That was also the fate that befell Arsene Wenger in his first part-season in English football as Arsenal finally finished third, behind Newcastle. Within two weeks of this league table, Kevin Keegan resigned, announcing that he had taken the club as far as he could. Halcyon days.
Sunderland contrived to get relegated from that relatively comfortable position while Blackburn recovered to 13th, above Everton. What a cock they made of their season by selling Andrei Kanchelskis…
But just look at bloody Wimbledon. Where were you when JFK was good?