Top Ten Relegation Run-In Heroes...

After Connor Wickham's recent heroics for Sunderland, Matt Stanger looks at ten players who have helped steer their clubs to survival when all hope looked lost...

Last Updated: 29/04/14 at 09:36 Post Comment

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10. Connor Wickham
This is what Gus Poyet said on March 26: "It's about searching for a solution and it could be Connor Wickham. We need a big impact now, we need something to happen to change the mood. I would like Connor to look at this as though we have just signed him for the first time. He's a new player, nobody knows him, and he's a young English striker with incredible powers. He's coming to help us get away from relegation. If he has that impact, that will be fantastic. It will be the 'bang' we need."

And this is what we wrote in Mediawatch: 'Mediawatch doesn't wish to speak out of turn, but one goal in 34 Premier League appearances suggests it probably won't.'

After Wickham's five goals in three games earned Sunderland wins over Chelsea and Cardiff and a draw at Manchester City, we don't think we'll ever get the egg of our faces. It's particularly tricky to get it out of your nostrils.


9. Jurgen Klinsmann
Big Jurg was already seen as a legend at White Hart Lane after hitting 29 goals in the 1994/95 campaign before moving on to Bayern Munich after just one season. However, he further cemented his place in Spurs' hearts when he returned in December 1997 to save the club from relegation. Tottenham were in the bottom three when Klinsmann arrived on loan from Sampdoria to answer their S.O.S. but, after scoring just one goal in his first nine appearances, it looked like the striker wasn't the saviour Christian Gross was hoping for. But then the goals started to flow, with Klinsmann finding the net in a 3-3 draw against Liverpool and wins over Crystal Palace and Newcastle. Spurs secured survival in emphatic fashion in the penultimate match of the season, as Klinsmann fired four goals in a 6-2 thrashing of Wimbledon. He grabbed one more on the final day against Southampton and then retired, never to be seen again.


8. Emmerson Boyce
Picture the scene. Roberto Martinez is scanning the Wigan training ground, barely able to hide his disgust when he sees Conor Sammon blast another shot over the bar. He's trying to figure out how this motley crew can survive, but the outlook is bleak. And then it hits him. If Emmerson Boyce, a jobbing centre-half previously at Palace and Luton, can suddenly become the next Cafu, the Latics can do it. Safety, another season in the big time. Somehow the plan worked. Boyce made the switch to right wing-back and scored three goals in Wigan's incredible run of seven wins in the last nine matches. Those 21 points lifted the Latics from 19th to 15th in the last six weeks of the campaign, with Boyce's transformation a crucial aspect of a remarkable turnaround.


7. Danny Murphy
Fulham survived by just three goals in 2007/08, with none more crucial than Murphy's final-day winner at Portsmouth. That the Cottagers stayed up with only 36 points tells you plenty about the quality of the relegation battle that season, as Derby dropped back into the Championship with the lowest points total ever recorded in the Premier League. Fulham's dramatic escape under Roy Hodgson was one of the stories of the campaign, however, with Murphy also grabbing a crucial goal in a 3-2 victory at Manchester City. The hosts raced into a 2-0 lead, but Diomansy Kamara pulled one back before Murphy equalised, slotting home after Joe Hart had saved his spot-kick. Kamara grabbed the winner in injury time, and Fulham then beat Birmingham 2-0 to set up Murphy's act of heroism on the last day at Portsmouth.


6. Christophe Dugarry
While most clubs look for a gnarly centre-half or robust midfielder to steer them out of relegation trouble, Birmingham boss Steve Bruce moved for a sexy-as-hell French World Cup winner in January 2003. The club were 15th when Dugarry arrived, dropping a place after the forward's first five appearances coincided with four defeats. That poor run of form continued until mid-April, when Brum were just a place above the drop zone and Dugarry had failed to score in any of his ten games. But things were about to change. The former Bordeaux and Marseille star hit his first goal in a 2-0 home win over bottom side Sunderland and followed that with another four goals in his next three matches to help Birmingham to four successive victories. Brum survived and Dugarry signed on for an injury-prone second season.


5. Paul Kitson
That Kitson was West Ham's top scorer in 1996/97 despite only making his debut on February 22 tells you all you need to know about his heroic role in the club's survival battle.

Oh, you want more? Okay... Harry Redknapp's wheeler-dealing in the summer failed to prepare the Hammers for a season of struggle as fancy new signings Florin Rãducioiu and Paulo Futre flopped spectacularly. Futre initially stormed out when told he couldn't have the No. 10 shirt, and then decided to retire in November after picking up a knee injury, while Rãducioiu walked out mid-way through the season after scoring only two goals. This left Redknapp desperately short, and so he turned to Kitson and John Hartson in a last-ditch bid to guide the Hammers to safety. Thankfully for him, it worked, with Kitson hitting eight goals, including a last-minute winner in a 3-2 victory at home to Chelsea.


4. Kevin Campbell
Campbell played a key role in West Brom's survival in 2005 after he was signed by Bryan Robson in January and was immediately appointed captain, but it's his part in Everton's escape of 1999 that really merits his inclusion. After arriving as a late loan signing in March when the Toffees were just two points above the drop zone, the striker scored a phenomenal nine goals in eight matches to guide his new team to safety. Campbell hit three successive braces in wins over Coventry, Newcastle and Charlton, before smashing in a hat-trick in a 6-0 demolition of West Ham to earn himself a permanent move to Goodison in the summer.


3. Kieran Richardson
Richardson arrived at the Hawthorns in January 2005 with West Brom deep in the relegation mire. The Baggies had been bottom at Christmas, aware of the unenviable fact that no team had even been in that position in the Premier League and eventually escaped the drop. However, through Richardson and fellow loan signing Kevin Campbell, Bryan Robson managed to transform his team. Four wins and two draws between January and February gave West Brom a fighting chance of survival, but they failed to win for another six matches until the final day, when a Richardson-inspired 2-0 win over Portsmouth kept the Baggies up by a single point. So impressive were the winger's performances that he earned a place in Sven-Goran Eriksson's England squad for a summer tour of the United States, scoring twice on his debut against USA.


2. Carlos Tevez
Big things were expected from Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano when the duo arrived at West Ham in the summer of 2006. 'The pair have been signed for an undisclosed fee and put pen-to-paper on permanent contracts with the club this afternoon,' said the Hammers in a statement. 'All other aspects of the transfers will remain confidential and undisclosed.' Perhaps that wasn't a surprise given the resulting farrago that saw the club pay an out-of-court settlement to Sheffield United, but it was worth the extra Benjamins to secure Premier League survival on the last of the season. Tevez initally struggled to settle in London, and failed to hit the net in any of his first 19 appearances. However, after he finally popped his cherry in a thrilling 4-3 defeat to Tottenham, Tevez was unstoppable. Six goals in nine games followed, including the winner at Old Trafford on the final day that secured the Hammers' survival and earned Tevez a move to Manchester United in the summer.


1. Jon Stead
You might think Stead tops this list simply because I'm a Blackburn fan, but you'd be half-wrong. Now back at Huddersfield, the 31-year-old failed to live up to his early promise, but for three-and-a-bit months in 2004 he was a hero in a little corner of Lancashire. Rovers were only three points above the Premier League relegation zone when they signed Stead in February, with Graeme Souness taking the surprise decision to put his faith in a rookie who had scored 16 goals in 26 games for Huddersfield in League Two. It proved to be a leap of faith worth taking. Stead scored on his debut in a 1-0 win away to Middlesbrough and fired three more match-winning strikes against Fulham, Everton and, most memorably, at home to Manchester United. He was the perfect advocate for the argument that any striker full of confidence can provide a short-term fix in the top flight. Six goals in 13 games helped Blackburn survive, before Stead was then found out, hitting the net just twice the following campaign and once in 30 games after a move to Sunderland.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

I always thought that if Danny Murphy had had Steven Gerrard's physique, he'd have been an England regular for years. Instead, he was a very gifted and intelligent footballer trapped in the body of a road sweeper...
- Skoolyad

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