Football’s Greatest Relegation Battles: 2004/2005


There has been plenty of talk about relegation battles this season up and down the country.

The Premier League fight sees Cardiff currently five points off safety but knowing that a win over Burnley on Saturday could reduce that gap to two points with five games left to play.

In League One, meanwhile, there are up to 12 teams that could realistically be relegated, with the outlook of the table changing all the time.

But can either of those beat arguably the ultimate relegation battle – the final day of the 2004/05 Premier League season?

The day in question was in May 2005, when four teams were battling to stay up.

In pole position were Nigel Worthington’s Norwich, who started the day in 17th place with a trip to 13th placed Fulham to come.

The Cottagers had nothing to play for so there was a sense around the club that survival was a distinct possibility.

In 18th were Harry Redknapp’s Southampton, who were up against Manchester United at St Mary’s.

The final two spots were taken up by Crystal Palace and West Brom – the latter of which had endured a torrid season, first under Gary Megson then Bryan Robson.

The Baggies went into Christmas Day in last place, with no other team in Premier League at that point having stayed up from such a position.

But they did have home advantage on the last day, playing host to Portsmouth, themselves in 16th place but well clear of the danger zone by then.

Here is how the day unfolded:

4:10pm – Saints hit the front

Southampton strike the first blow of the final day, a John O’Shea own goal giving Redknapp’s side a shock lead over Manchester United.

Meanwhile, at Craven Cottage, Fulham make things a lot more difficult for Norwich, Brian McBride putting them in front after 10 minutes at Craven Cottage.

Eight minutes later, however, Darren Fletcher equalises for United, but McBride’s strike means Southampton still occupy the all-important 17th place.

4:30pm – Palace in trouble

Needing a win to even be able to contemplate staying up, Crystal Palace go behind at Charlton.

Bryan Hughes puts the home side ahead on 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, there’s even worse news for Norwich five minutes later, as Papa Bouba Diop scores a wonder free kick from 25 yards to put them 2-0 behind and with a huge mountain to climb.

5:09pm – All change

Fulham strike a third to effectively consign Norwich to the Championship, Zat Knight striking a third for Chris Coleman’s side on 54 minutes.

Meanwhile, at the Valley, Dougie Freedman lobs Dean Kiely to level the scores for Crystal Palace and give them a chance at survival.

Moments later at the Hawthorns, the all-important goal – Geoff Horsfield’s 58th minute strike gives West Brom the lead over Portsmouth, meaning that they now sit in 17th by one point.

5:18pm – Drama at St Mary’s

Southampton, who knew at this stage that a goal for them would likely keep them up, see one go in at the wrong end as Ruud van Nistelrooy gives United the lead for the first time in the match.

5:26pm – Johnson gives Palace lifeline

Crystal Palace’s main success story in 2004/05 was undoubtedly Andy Johnson.

The 24-year-old forward joined Palace in 2002 in a part-exchange deal with Birmingham for Clinton Morrison, and immediately hit the ground running.

He hit 11 league goals in his first season, before adding another 27 goals to his overall tally in Palace’s promotion campaign of 2003/04.

It was in the Premier League where he made most of the headlines though.

A 71st minute penalty against Charlton was his 21st of the season, and crucially meant that Palace were safe going into the final 20 minutes of action.

At Craven Cottage, Steed Malbranque scores a fourth for Fulham on 72 minutes to add to the misery of 7,000 travelling Norwich supporters.

5:30pm – West Brom seal win

West Brom’s fairy tale is almost complete, Kieran Richardson extending the Baggies’ advantage to 2-0, but they’re still relying on a Charlton equaliser against Palace.

5:37pm – Fortune breaks Palace hearts

Palace look all set to hold onto their 2-1 advantage, but Jonathan Fortune – at fault for both Palace goals – heads home a Jerome Thomas free kick.

5:45pm – Kiely heroics save West Brom

Eagles veteran Dougie Freedman has one last chance to keep his side up, but Charlton ‘keeper Dean Kiely saves brilliantly as the full-time whistle blows at the Valley to confirm West Brom’s survival against all the odds.

The Aftermath

There were incredible scenes at the Hawthorns as Baggies fans invaded the pitch and lifted goalscoring hero Geoff Horsfield aloft.

This achievement was undoubtedly Bryan Robson’s most memorable moment as a manager, at the club he spent six years at as a player.

He made some big signings in the close season, including a £3m deal for Wigan striker Nathan Ellington.

However, Albion could not repeat their heroics of 2004/05 and were relegated with two games to play, Robson then leaving the club by mutual consent at the end of the season.

The ex-Manchester United and England midfielder then spent a period out of management before being appointed as Sheffield United boss following Neil Warnock’s resignation in May 2007.

Crystal Palace almost made an instant return to the Premier League under Iain Dowie.

Crucially, they retained the services of Andy Johnson despite Premier League interest, the forward going on to score 15 goals in Palace’s first season back in the second tier.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, though, they lost on aggregate to eventual play-off winners Watford in the semi-final.

Norwich endured a torrid spell back in the Championship and were relegated to League One in 2009.

Their first season in their third tier started with a 7-1 home defeat to Colchester United.

Remarkably, they were 4-0 down after 20 minutes, and Canaries manager Bryan Gunn was sacked quickly after. Paul Lambert took over – the man in charge of Colchester for that game.

Harry Redknapp resigned as Southampton manager in November 2005 to rejoin Portsmouth, the Saints quickly going on a downward spiral.

Rupert Lowe resigned as chairman in 2006 and was replaced by Jersey-based businessman Michael Wilde.

Wilde made money available for transfers and Southampton lost in the 2007 play off semi-final.

Financial troubles began to mount in 2009, however, and the club were placed into administration.

They were already relegated that season which meant a 10-point deduction came into place the following season in League One.

Markus Liebherr bought the club and quickly installed Alan Pardew as the club’s new manager, but it was under Nigel Adkins that the club achieved promotion from League One in 2011 then promotion back to the Premier League the following season.