Securing your place in England’s top tier is the Holy Grail for much of the English footballing pyramid. 

Once this is secured, it is a case of clinging on for dear life for the many sides who struggle to compete with the Premier League’s big boys.

Well, here is a list of nine teams who did much more than that and went on to push for top-half finishes after gaining promotion to the Premier League.

10. Birmingham City (2009/10) – 9th

Alex McLeish

With Alex McLeish at the helm and Cameron Jerome leading the line, Birmingham City were a shoe-in for a top half finish. The Blues even went on a 12-game unbeaten run which saw them climb up the table to sixth place just before Christmas.

However, they only make this list on account of a superior goal difference to tenth-placed Blackburn, but Birmingham fans will not let that sully their best ever Premier League finish.

9. Leicester City (1996/97) – 9th

Martin O''Neill the manager of Leicester City orchestraes his team from the sidelines

After Steve Claridge scored a 120th minute winner in the 1996 Division 1 playoff final to earn Leicester Premier League status, the Foxes enjoyed a similarly spectacular season in England’s top tier. 

However, finishing in ninth position wasn’t Martin O’Neil’s greatest accomplishment that term, as he lead his side to League Cup glory as they beat Middlesbrough in the replay of the final.

8. Man City (2002/03) – 9th

Mikael Silvestre and Richard Dunne

In a time before Man City knew anything about Premier League titles, or witnessed the elegance of Kevin de Bruyne, one Richard Dunne could be seen marauding across the Maine Road turf week in, week out. 

However, the man who received 74 yellow cards in his Premier League career helped his side to an impressive ninth place finish having just come up, with a win in the Manchester derby along the way.

United still went on to lift the title that year but, silver linings.

7. Middlesbrough (1998/99) – 9th

Paul Gascoigne

After securing their ninth place finish in the 1998/99 campaign, Middlesbrough remained in the top flight for 11 consecutive seasons, until the 2008/09 season where, unsurprisingly, seven wins from 38 games was not enough to keep them afloat.

Their return in 2016 was short-lived but Boro do look good value to secure promotion back to the Premier League in years to come.

6. West Ham United (2005/06) – 9th

Bobby Zamora

Despite securing an impressive ninth placed finish on their return to the Premier League, West Ham’s season was defined by their since unparalleled run in the FA Cup.

After dumping three Premier League rivals out of the cup, West Ham earned themselves a final date with Liverpool. However, the day ended in heartbreak for the Hammers, as a 90th minute Steven Gerrard equaliser – one of his greatest ever goals – set up a penalty shootout, which Alan Pardew’s men went on to lose after scoring just one of their spot kicks.

5. Reading (2006/07) – 8th

Kevin Doyle

With the likes of Kevin Doyle, Leroy Lita and Steve Sidwell in their ranks, was an eighth place finish ever really in doubt? Well, yes. But the Royals accumulated 16 wins across the campaign, including a particularly memorable 6-0 thrashing of West Ham.

Despite this extraordinary season, Reading were relegated at the end of the following campaign.

4. Sunderland (1999/00) – 7th

Kevin Phillips of Sunderland

The Millenium hangover lasted slightly longer for Sunderland, as they didn’t win a Premier League game in 2000 until the end of March. Despite this mid-season lull, they finished the season in 7th place, propelled by the goals of Kevin Phillips, who notched 30 on the season – winning the Golden Boot in the process. 

Had they scored 11 more goals, the Black Cats would have finished sixth, but you can hardly lay the blame for that at Kevin Phillips’ door.

3. Ipswich (2000/01) – 5th

Ipswich v Soton

Ipswich secured their spot in the Premier League following a resounding 4-2 win over Barnsley in the playoff final and followed that up with their best ever finish in the Premier League, coupled with a semi-final appearance in the League Cup. This earned them UEFA Cup football the following season, but they were dumped out by eventual semi-finalists Inter.

However, the Tractor Boys found themselves in relegation peril just one year later after managing to win just nine Premier League games, sealing their fate – and they are yet to return to the top flight since.

2. Newcastle United (1993/94) – 3rd

Kevin Keegan

Lead by Peter Beardsley and Andy Cole, the Magpies amassed an impressive 77 points during their first season in the Premier League, with the pair notching 55 goals between them. 

Andy Cole’s 34 earned him the record of most goals scored in a Premier League season by one player, a record that is now shared with the league’s highest scorer in Alan Shearer and still stands to this day.

1. Nottingham Forest (1994/95) – 3rd

Stan Collymore of Nottingham Forest

Forest book-ended their season in spectacular fashion after they went 11 games unbeaten to begin the campaign and then closed it out with a 13-game unbeaten streak which included nine wins. Coincidentally, Forest also won 77 points, which was the same tally that saw Newcastle finish third the season prior.

This secured their first appearance in the UEFA Cup for over a decade, but their campaign ended all too soon as they lost out in the quarter-final to eventual champions Bayern Munich.


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