There have been many “great escapes” in English football history. Those that would immediately spring to mind to fans would be Luton Town, Hartlepool United, Torquay United, West Bromwich Albion, Bournemouth, Hull City and Coventry City. The list is almost endless. For those whose team endured these escapes, they long live in their heads as good and bad memories, while neutrals watched in fascination as the story unfolded. Here’s a look back at just five of football’s greatest getaways.
The greatest escapes in English football history
Burnley – 1987
Almost 34 years ago Burnley, now an established Premier League club, was bottom of the Football League. Given the declining audience and investment in the scarce supply, relegation to non-league football could have been catastrophic for the Clarets’ existence. The 1986/87 season lasted until the last day. Three teams were about to be relegated and with Burnley at the bottom they were the favorites.
Their season started brightly with only one loss in their first seven games; after that, however, things quickly went downhill. Five losses in the next six games dropped the Clarets from the table. That run set the tone for the remainder of the season, and with attendance struggling to top 3,000 for much of the campaign, Burnley Football Club seemed doomed to fail. Burnley had been a top team 11 years earlier and in 1960 they were crowned English champions.
But the last week of the 86/87 season was a roller coaster ride for everyone. A surprise win over the rise of Southend United gave everyone hope. However, a loss to Crewe Alexandra followed. By the last day of the season, Burnley was down and had to win with different results. 15,696 people turned up at Turf Moor in hopes of survival. The national media was also in attendance to cover the possibility of the relegation of a founding member of the Football League and a fallen giant.
The game was delayed by 15 minutes to allow fans access. Those extra 15 minutes turned out to be exciting in the end as they know the results from elsewhere and know exactly what to do. Relegation rivals Torquay United pulled and Lincoln City lost, meaning a win would ensure Burnley’s survival. The Clarets led 2-0 against Leyton Orient and had to hold out. Orient pulled back a goal and the results began to take hold. Burnley now has to defend, not admit. You did just that and ended up in the Football League by one point.
Leicester City – 2015
To say that Leicester struggled in the 2014-15 season would be an understatement. What did happen, however, would not only count as one of football’s greatest getaways, but also serve as a launch pad for one of the most successful periods in the club’s history.
A loss in the first five games indicated a pleasant season. However, the shape of the foxes dropped dramatically. The next 13 games brought only two points. Two wins in the next three games gave fans false hope when another winless run of eight ensued. City were at rock bottom and had only won four league games throughout the season after losing at Tottenham in late March.
Refusing to give up, the foxes began an epic run of form. The last nine games of the season brought seven wins. Of the 27 available points, Nigel Pearson’s team got 22 points. It was in remarkable shape and saw performances that fans didn’t think was possible. In the end, their epic run took them to 14th place in the table, six points from relegation places and eleven points from the lowest place they had occupied for most of the season.
Speaking to talkSPORT about the season, Captain Wes Morgan said: “Although we were in relegation problems, this season we felt like we were playing good football and we just didn’t get the green.
“It got to a point where people thought, ten more games, everything is done and dusted, they sure can’t get out.” But we made the great escape. “
The marvelous history of Leicester City doesn’t end there. A year later, they defied adversity and won the Premier League title.
Sunderland – 2014
When the greatest escapes are talked about in football, Sunderland will often play a role. The Black Cats have had many seasons where relegation was likely, but somehow they managed to survive. The 2013/14 season was. no exception and probably spawned Sunderland’s greatest escape.
The Black Cats were seven points away from safety with just six games. Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United were still to be played away and for many relegation would be confirmed sooner rather than later. Sunderland needed a miracle.
Paolo Di Canio started the season as a manager. The controversial Italian had kept Sunderland in the Premier League last season and made his mark on the squad in the summer. 14 players arrived with 13 departures. Many believed that Di Canio was right in rebuilding the team; However, the quality of most of the arrivals left a lot to be desired. One point from the first seven games indicated that another season of fighting would take place at the Stadium of Light.
Di Canio was released and Gus Poyet entered. His first home game gave fans hope as they beat tough rivals Newcastle United to claim their first win of the season. Form improved a bit and progress was being made in the League Cup (they would make it to the final) but by the start of the new year Poyet’s side were bottom of the table despite losing just one loss in nine games. The good form came to a standstill when only one point was collected in the next eight games. Sunderland was at the bottom now with little to no hope.
Before traveling to Manchester City, Poyet changed his team’s formation. The 5-3-2 formation ran out and Poyet began using a 4-5-1 instead. Sunderland only had six games to save and are hoping the teams above them will lose points. The Black Cats have collected a surprise draw in the Eithad. It was followed by a 2-1 win at Chelsea before Cardiff City left the Stadium of Light on the wrong end of a 4-0 defeat. The fans started to believe. A 1-0 win at Old Trafford was followed by another home win, this time against West Brom. 13 points had been won in just five games and was enough to bring Sunderland to a high 14th place and end the greatest escapes.
Carlisle United – 1999
Carlisle had struggled all season to find Konstanz on the pitch. It was this lack of form throughout the season that resulted in the Cumbrians sitting at the end of the table on the final day. With only three games left, United had an even bigger battle when their goalkeeper was sold. Without another holder, the loan could be signed.
United needed a win and a result elsewhere to find their way and were relegated from the Football League. However, no one would have predicted what would develop and who the hero would be. Carlisle greeted Plymouth Argyle knowing that only victory would give them any chance of survival. Scarborough, the other team struggling to survive, moved in with Peterborough United. The Carlisle game was level 1-1 when the Scarborough result was announced and there were only four minutes left.
In seconds, United forced a corner. Loaned goalkeeper Jimmy Glass, who was only playing his third game for the club, stepped forward in hopes of disrupting Plymouth’s defenses. A header was saved by the Argyle keeper and bounced back on Glass, who shot the ball into the goal. Just seconds before pictures of Scarborough fans were shown on television. Glass’s goal changed everything. It’s that goal that he remembers the most, and for a goalkeeper, that’s something.
Sheffield United – 1991
Sixteen games had passed when Sheffield United recorded their first win of the 1990/91 season. After successive promotions, it appeared that the Blades had gotten to the top too early and the chances of immediate relegation stood. Dave Bassett’s team only had four points on Christmas Day. The blades needed a miracle.
In this situation a manager would sign more players; However, Bassett decided to invest in sales force. A psychologist and a fitness trainer came. Diets changed, exercise changed, attitudes changed, and soon enough the results changed. Her first win was celebrated with a pitch invasion of fans celebrating.
The results continued to improve, and their superior fitness earned them points late in the games when the opponents got tired. From a team that didn’t nearly win against teams in the first half of the season and now wins against the best teams in the league. This shape brought the blades from the bottom to 13th place in the table, 12 points ahead of the relegation zone.
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