West Ham’s remarkable away win at fourth placed Chelsea at the weekend has gone a long way to easing the relegation pressures. It has lifted the Hammers to a healthy 13th, within four points of the top five, yet we remain just four points above the drop zone. So can we breathe a sigh of relief, or is it too early to feel confident?
The experts don’t seem to be that worried. Even before last weekend’s surprise victory at Stamford Bridge, Oddschecker had West Ham odds-on to stay up, and now those odds are even shorter. Not only that, but history is on our side.
Part of an elite group
One thing that West Ham fans can console themselves with is the club’s solid history. While we may be flirting with the drop once again this season, we do belong to a very exclusive club when it comes to football promotion and relegation. West Ham have only ever played in the top two divisions, with sixty one of our ninety three football league seasons played in the top flight since we first joined in 1919.
The Hammers were rooted in the second tier of English football for most of the thirties, forties and fifties, before they gained promotion in 1958 as division one champions. Since then, we have only spent nine seasons in the second tier in over sixty years. Following our last promotion, in 2012, West Ham have not finished lower than 13th in the Premier League.
Can you name the rest?
There are only seven other clubs that can match West Ham’s two-leagues-only record, some that won’t surprise you and one or two others that might. West Ham’s weekend opponents, Chelsea may seem like a permanent fixture in the Premier League, but from the mid-seventies to the end of the eighties they were something of a yo-yo team. In just fourteen seasons they bounced down to the second tier and back up again three times.
Current league leaders, Liverpool may also seem like part of the Premier League furniture, but they haven’t always been that way. After relegation in 1954, they played eight seasons in the second division as the ‘nearly men’. They ended up suffering four third place finishes and two fourths before finally winning their league, and promotion back to the top flight, in 1962.
Setting the benchmark
Of course, when it comes to league longevity, few can compare to Manchester United. Since they were promoted in 1938, they have spent just one season in the second tier, in 74/75, before returning as division two champions the following year. Arsenal can boast an even better record, with just two seasons in their entire football league history outside of the top flight.
At the other end of the scale, Newcastle United have been relegated to the second tier twice in the last twenty years. On both occasions, they returned as champions just one year later. Crucially, despite their apparent volatility, they have never dropped any lower.
Completing the eight teams who have never played below the top two tiers are Everton, and Tottenham Hotspur, putting the Hammers in some pretty Illustrious company.
As anyone flogging financial products is obliged to tell you, past performance is no promise of future gains, but at the same time, a hundred years of history cannot be ignored. Even if West Ham do suffer the drop this year, there seems little or no chance that they will go into free-fall and drop out of contention altogether. If anything, history seems to show us that relegated clubs tend to come back up very quickly, thanks to the huge gulf in quality between the Premier League and the Championship.
It’s safe to say that we can all put our calculators away. West Ham have established themselves as a permanent fixture at the top of English football, and this year’s relegation battle looks unlikely to change that. And remember, we are as close to the top five as we are to relegation!