Let me ask you a question.
Maybe you support a team in the Premier League. Maybe you don’t. Either way, put your Premier League hat on for a second.
Would you rather your side finished ninth in the league, avoiding drama at both ends of the table, or 17th, barely surviving after a season of slogging it out?
For the following teams the latter option proved a beautiful climax to a hard fought campaign.
Derby County- 2000/01
Derby finished eight points clear of Man City to comfortably survive another season in the top flight.
A cursory glance at their squad shows a wealth of cult heroes. Mart Poom’s goal was protected by Taribo West and Horacio Carbonari, with Georgi Kinkladze dancing around in midfield.
Throw in Deon Burton, who once came off the bench to replace Ronaldo, and Malcolm Christie up front and you’ve got yourself a party.
Bolton Wanderers- 2002/03
What do you get when you combine a World Cup winner, Serie A winner, double Champions League winner and the most skillful player to grace the Premier League?
Sam Allardyce’s 2002/03 Bolton squad, containing the delights of Youri Djorkaeff, Bruno N’Gotty, Ivan Campo and, most entertainingly, Jay-Jay Okocha.
Jonathan Walters was even knocking about, proving he’ll still be scoring four Premier League goals a season long after we’ve all gone.
Fulham’s improbable survival in 2008 put Roy Hodgson’s name back on the map domestically.
Clint Dempsey and Brede Hangeland were still underrated, Jimmy Bullard was on the verge of the England squad and Brian McBride could beat a giraffe to the ball in the air.
But Hodgson’s finest move was handing Jari Litmanen the no.10 shirt, only for the Finland midfielder to miss part of the season after someone kicked a ball at his ear in training.
He left without playing a single game for Fulham but by then Hodgson had already won over hearts and minds at Craven Cottage.
West Ham- 2009/10
Everywhere you looked during West Ham’s 2009/10 campaign there were mavericks.
Let’s start with the strikers Gianfranco Zola could call upon. Ilan was a Brazil international, Guillermo Franco represented Mexico at a World Cup and then you had Mido and Benni McCarthy.
But Carlton Cole outscored them all, backed up by midfielders Scott Parker, Luis Boa Morte, Kieron Dyer, Alessandro Diamanti and Inter Milan loanee Luis Jiminez.
Aston Villa- 2014/15
Villa’s spine of Ron Vlaar, Tom Cleverley, Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke should have been strong enough to comfortably avoid relegation.
Villa’s squad didn’t lack flair either, with Scott Sinclair, Joe Cole, Charles N’Zogbia and Jack Grealish all seemingly capable of moments of magic.
So what went wrong? Philippe Senderos, Alan Hutton and Aly Cissokho were in defence. Say no more.
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