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Tuesday, April 12, 2011
King Kenny, relegated cup winners

Norman Hubbard

Norman Hubbard is ESPNsoccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to asknorman@hotmail.com and he'll try to answer as many as possible.

Now that Kenny Dalglish has returned to Liverpool, what is the longest period between managerial stints at the same club? Doug McBurney from Detroit, Michigan asked.

Among English league clubs, it is the 19 years and 10 months between Dalglish leaving Liverpool in March 1991 and his comeback this January. As far as I can ascertain, the previous longest gap was the 17 years between the end of Jack English's first spell at Darlington (in 1928) and his brief return in 1945.

That equals a 17-year gap between the end of Arthur Fairclough's second stint at Barnsley and the start of his third, in 1929. In total, there were 28 years between the end of his first spell in charge and the beginning of his final one; however, as he returned for eight years from 1904 to 1912, Dalglish was away for longer than anyone else.

With Birmingham in danger of going down just weeks after winning the League Cup, I was wondering if any other Premier League or First Division teams have ever won the League or FA Cup and been relegated in the same season? Dan from Idaho asked.

To date, only one team has won a major cup competition and gone down: Norwich in 1985. It is notable for a couple of reasons: they went down with 49 points, albeit from 42 games, and the side they beat in the League Cup final, Sunderland, were also relegated. Gordon Chisholm's own goal decided the final, by the way.

Several teams have reached the FA Cup final and gone down - the most recent being Portsmouth last year. The others were Chelsea (1915), Manchester City (1926), Leicester City (1969), Brighton (1983) and Middlesbrough (1997), but all were runners-up. Boro's feat is unique, by the way, because they lost both the FA Cup final (to Chelsea) and the League Cup final (to Leicester) in the year they went down.

With regards to European qualification for Premier League teams, it is my understanding that if a team which gets relegated at the end of the domestic season gains qualification to the Europa League through either winning the Carling Cup, participation in the FA Cup final or the Fair Play initiative, they will retain their spot in the qualifying rounds even though they will be in the Championship.

When was the last time this has happened, and what was the furthest a team has gone in European competition, whilst being relegated?
Lincoln McPhee from Melbourne, Australia asked.

Your understanding is right. Portsmouth were the one exception, as FA Cup finalists and the relegated side last year, but that was a consequence of going into administration. But for that, they would have been free to enter the Europa League. The last non-Premier League side to represent England in Europe was Millwall, the 2004 runners-up in the FA Cup, in the following season's UEFA Cup.

Among English clubs, the furthest any have gone in Europe when they weren't a top-division side is the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners' Cup, achieved by Southampton in 1976-77 and West Ham four years later. Both won the FA Cup as Division Two teams. However, Cardiff City reached the semi-finals of the Cup Winners' Cup as a Division Two team in 1967-68, qualifying as Welsh Cup winners although they played in England's second flight.

In the rest of Europe, Celta Vigo did a rare double of relegation and reaching the last 16 of the Champions League in 2003-04. Juventus reached the last eight in 2005-06 in a year that culminated in their demotion, but that was a consequence of the calciopoli scandal without which they would have won Serie A. Real Betis, meanwhile, were quarter-finalists in the Cup Winners' Cup in 1978, the same year they were relegated.

Which team has the best record in bouncing back in the second half of the season? For example, a team which was in the lower half of the table (almost towards relegation) in the first half of the season and came back strongly in the second half of the season to finish in the top ranks? Prakash Bengani from India asked.

There are a few examples of teams improving rapidly in the second half of the season. As ever, statistics can be interpreted differently, so I'll let you decide.

Two seasons ago, Tottenham took two points from their first eight games, were 16th after 19 games and 18th and in the relegation zone two matches later, but went on to finish eighth. That same year, Manchester City were in the bottom three after 18 games, one short of the half-way mark, and went on to finish 10th. In 2005-06, Everton were in 17th place with 17 points at the half-way stage. They then picked up 33 points from their last 19 games to finish 11th. Southampton also went from 17th to 11th in 2001-02, though without their form improving as dramatically. Chelsea were 20th at the midway point of the season in 1993-94, and subsequently dropped to 21st, but ended the season in 14th.

Perhaps more remarkably, Dave Bassett's Sheffield United were bottom at the half-way stage of the 1990-91 season with 10 points from 19 games. The remaining 19 brought them 36 points - almost four times as many - and they finished 13th, 12 points clear of relegation. Taking 78% of their points in the second half of a top-flight season is the most I'm aware of.

This is bending your criteria slightly, but Bob Paisley's Liverpool team won the league in 1981-82 despite only being in 12th place after 17 games. As it was a 42-match season, that still left 60% of the campaign, but they climbed 11 places to take the title in it.

• And further to the last column and the question about sent-off strikers, reader Clayton Freeman from Florida writes: "Among world-class players with reliable records, though, the owner of this dubious distinction may be the Mexican Hugo Sanchez. In his two decades of top-level play, he collected at least 26 confirmed red cards (not counting innumerable dismissals from the sidelines during his later coaching days)."


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