Five One-Hit Wonders in English Football
Since the establishment of the Football League in 1888, a total of 24 different teams have won the league title in England ranging from current Championship sides like Preston and Sunderland to League One outfits like Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday. Manchester United have won the most league titles with 20, followed by Liverpool (19), Arsenal (13), Everton (9), Manchester City (8) and Aston Villa (7).
A total of five teams have won just one league title in England’s top-flight. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at each of these ‘one-hit wonders.’
1. Nottingham Forest
Nottingham Forest were coming off an eighth-placed finish in England’s second tier when Brian Clough took charge of the club in the summer of 1976 — they would finish one point above Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool to secure the final promotion spot in Clough’s first campaign. The following season, Forest won their first-ever First Division title, wrapping up the Championship by April and beating Liverpool in the League Cup Final.
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Whilst they were unable to add another league title to their trophy cabinet, they would proceed to win a League Cup in 1979 as well as back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980. They have sealed their status in the annals of European and English football history, and as far as I know, they remain the only team with more European Cups than league titles.
2. Ipswich Town
Ipswich Town were playing in the third tier when Alf Ramsey took charge in August 1955 just weeks after retiring from professional football, having spent the off-season coaching in Southern Rhodesia or current-day Zimbabwe. They finished third before winning the Third Division South in his second season, with Ipswich following that up by winning the second tier in 1960/61, earning a berth in the top-flight for the first time in club history.
The Tractor Boys had gone undefeated in February and March and began April atop the league, taking advantage of Burnley’s poor form and becoming the first team in English history to win the league title after getting promoted. The following season, Ramsey left in October to take charge of England, where he would remain in charge until 1974, leading them to the 1966 World Cup title.
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As for Ipswich, they would narrowly stay up before finishing bottom of the league in 1963/64, but they would return four years later under Bill McGarry who left to take charge of Wolves and was replaced by Bobby Robson in January 1969. He would remain in charge for 13 years as Ipswich emerged as a heavyweight in English football, winning the 1977/78 FA Cup, the 1980/81 UEFA Cup, and finishing second in 1980/81 and 1981/82.
3. Leicester City
Having ended a 10-year absence from the top-flight under Nigel Pearson, Leicester City would complete one of the greatest escapes from relegation in Premier League history, becoming the third team to stay up after being bottom at Christmas and the first to stay up after picking up fewer than 20 points from 29 matches. However, they were rocked by scandal during a pre-season goodwill tour to Thailand involving his son James’ role in a “racist sex tape” made by three Leicester reserve players.
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Claudio Ranieri took charge and led them to the 2015/16 Premier League title in what would prove to be one of the greatest Cinderella stories in sports history. With Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez providing goals and creativity, Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante holding down the fort in central midfield and Robert Huth and Wes Morgan excelling in central defense, Leicester pulled off the impossible and became the seventh team to win the Premier League title.
4. West Bromwich Albion
English football resumed after a five-year absence due to World War I, with the 1919/20 campaign seeing Notts County and The Wednesday (now Sheffield Wednesday) suffer relegation, whilst Aston Villa won the FA Cup. Villa’s bitter rivals West Bromwich Albion would win the league title, finishing nine points above Burnley and breaking two league records by scoring 104 goals and registering 60 points.
Their early success would not last long — by the time World War II rolled around, West Brom had been relegated twice. The Baggies would return to the top-flight and finish as runners-up for the second time in 1953/94, winning the FA Cup that same year, and adding a League Cup in 1966 and another FA Cup in 1968, but they have never managed to replicate their feat of 1919/20.
5. Sheffield United
Founded in 1889 as an offshoot of Sheffield United Cricket Club, Sheffield United Football Club won promotion to the top-flight in 1892/93, rising up the ranks and finishing second in 1896/97. The next season, they would finish atop the league to claim their first and only top-flight title, following that up with an FA Cup and a second-place finish in the next two seasons, adding three more FA Cups over the first quarter of the 20th century.
The following century has been less kind for Sheffield United, who, like West Brom, have fewer league titles than their crosstown rivals. And yet, both Sheffield teams look poised for a successful spring — Wednesday are in the top three and will likely either finish in League One’s top two automatic promotion spots or duke it out in the playoffs, whilst the Blades sit second in the Championship, eight points behind Burnley and eight above Luton Town.
By: Eduard Holdis / @He_Ftbl
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / PA Images