Toon top of the league? A look at the ghosts of Christmas tables past…
Just for fun, we take a look at the tables from Christmas Day five, ten, 15, 20 and 25 years ago. Because who doesn’t like looking back and thinking ‘Reading? Bolton? How the f*** did that happen?’?
FIVE YEARS AGO – 2016/17
Swap Chelsea and City, replace Tottenham with West Ham, and we’re back where we were five years ago, when Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United were tightening their grip on…sixth.
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea were 11 games into a 13-match winning run which took them to the summit from where they never left. They took the title from Leicester, who were suffering an almighty hangover from their miracle season as champions.
MoPo’s Spurs powered on in the second half of the campaign to take the runners-up spot while Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dropped to fourth come May.
It was tight at the bottom, with only seven points separating the drop zone from the top half, but it didn’t remain that way. Swansea hauled themselves out of trouble to be replaced by Boro. Sunderland would win only two more games all season to finish a whopping 16 points from safety under David Moyes. The Black Cats have since plummeted to the third tier; Moyes is touring Europe and knocking on the door of the top four with West Ham.
Big Boxing Day: Newcastle v Man Utd, DCL, Tuchel, West Ham…
TEN YEARS AGO – 2011/12
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Today’s Big Six was the top six in 2011, when Roberto Mancini, Sir Alex Ferguson, Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas, Arsene Wenger and Sir Kenneth of Dalglish were in charge.
This was the season that Alan Pardew somehow led Newcastle to fifth, 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. Bolton have since been to League Two, while Wigan and Sunderland currently reside in League One.
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO – 2006/07
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 six teams who have spent the whole of the last 15 years in the top flight.
What feels familiar is that West Ham had just sacked Alan Pardew after a run of ten defeats in 13 games. The Hammers survived, though they needed a little help from Carlos Tevez. Just don’t mention those two words to Neil Warnock.
TWENTY YEARS AGO – 2001/02
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 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 runners-up spot.
Leeds fans should not linger on this table for too long, and Aston Villa supporters may remember that John Gregory resigned a month later after getting relentless stick from fans.
The bottom three went down by the way – under Gregory, Micky Adams and George Burley.
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO – 1996/97
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 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?