The two records which prove why four Premier League teams should be relegated for Leeds and Saints

Matt Stead
Leeds forward Crysencio Summerville and Southampton manager Russell Martin with the Nottingham Forest, Luton and Burnley badges
The Premier League and Championship need a one-time shake-up

Leeds missing out on promotion with 93 points while Forest or Burnley stay up on 27 is clearly hilarious but should prompt not entirely unserious questions. Two records may be broken this season: the fewest points needed for Premier League survival, and the most points without automatic Championship promotion. There is an obvious fix.


A phenomenal trophy-hoarding player though he was, Bryan Robson’s managerial career is indelibly tied to promotion and relegation. And while he has not coached since 2011, some of his more distinctive achievements from the touchline have never been so relevant as in 2024.

His Middlesbrough side were the first in Premier League history to be deducted points, which directly contributed to their drop into the First Division in 1997. The tally he reached with West Brom when engineering the Great Escape in 2005 remains the lowest ever needed for Premier League survival. And when the top flight last relegated four teams in a single season to downsize the division from 22 teams to 20, he and Boro were one of two beneficiaries as second-tier champions.

Back in 1995, the Premier League’s biggest teams pushed for the restructure to handle fixture congestion with the mounting hindrances of cup replays and an imminent Champions League expansion. Time being the flat circle that it is, history is repeating almost three decades later.

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And with football’s tectonic plates shifting once again, perhaps there is an opportunity to entertain an obviously entirely impractical and completely unfeasible but vaguely enjoyable and wholly necessary workaround to what feels like a unique set of circumstances playing out between the dotted lines and coloured zones at the bottom of the Premier League and the top of the Championship.

The 34 points Robson’s West Brom amassed in 2004/05 will remain a low point for safety only for a couple more weeks. Nottingham Forest can cobble together a maximum of 35 in their remaining games, while Luton can match Geoff Horsfield and friends, and 33 is the highest mark Burnley can reach.

It is conceivable that Forest (three defeats in their last four) and Luton (five losses in six) are beaten in each of their remaining fixtures, while Burnley fall to Newcastle and Spurs but overcome Forest at home on the final day to stay up with a risible 27 points. One of these clubs will end up celebrating survival; none particularly deserve to.

The words of Philip Cornwall, formerly of this parish, echo particularly loudly every few seasons: any Premier League team who earns less than a point a game should be relegated. That would pull Everton and Brentford into the conversation which might be a tad excessive, but this campaign has been particularly egregious for underachievement in the lower reaches and three teams going down hardly seems enough.

Everton might also have slightly bigger things to worry about, because Everton.

It is not as if the Championship would struggle to offer four sides at least comparable quality in return. Ipswich need a single point this weekend to guarantee themselves a place alongside Leicester in next season’s top flight. And while the record for the lowest total needed to secure Premier League safety is almost certain to be broken, so too could the record for most points accrued without earning automatic promotion from the second tier – set at 90 by a Clive Mendonca-haunted Sunderland in 1997/98.

Leeds have already equalled that and face Southampton on the final day, with the Saints themselves potentially one of the best teams not to come up in recent memory.

For both to win well over half their games before being done in the play-offs by Norwich or West Brom, while six victories from 38 could simultaneously be enough to keep a team in the Premier League, would obviously be very funny and precisely the sort of thing that should and does happen to Leeds. But the prospect of Daniel Farke and his players being labelled bottlers while one of Nottingham Forest or Burnley are hailed for some sort of incredible escape feels illogical.

Luton staying up would be something of an exception but the wheels on that bandwagon appear to have decomposed.

There should be little sympathy for those clubs sustained on parachute payments with squads and wage bills which afford them a preposterous advantage after falling through the trapdoor; the brilliance of Ipswich and Kieran McKenna has only been magnified by that factor as in any ordinary season, the three teams relegated to the Championship would have been immediately promoted together.

But the most underwhelming Premier League relegation battle of all time frames everything differently. The magical 40-point mark has become a farcical 30-point milestone which four teams might not clear, with one still managing to survive.

Luton cannot celebrate dodging the drop after conceding more than 80 goals; Vincent Kompany must not be showered in champagne after winning three games by mid-March; Nottingham Forest should not be allowed to employ Mark Clattenburg and spend the whole season crying about conspiracy before retaining their status. There are four teams desperate to come up from the Championship who are better than those striving to avoid it, and one obvious fix for that.