1. ITV Report

Five of the best: Midlands relegation escapes

West Brom fans celebrate escaping relegation on the final day in 2005 Photo: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport


West Brom under Bryan Robson are still the only side to survive the drop despite being bottom at Christmas Credit: Nick Potts/PA Archive/Press Association Images
  • Position on the last day: 20th
  • Teams in danger of the drop: Three from Norwich, Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion
  • Form over last ten games: 13 points won
  • Finished: 17th

West Brom were in deep trouble at Christmas. Albion entered the period bottom of the table having sacked manager Gary Megson the previous month. History was firmly against them with no side having ever survived after being bottom at Christmas.

Chairman Jeremy Peace took a bold step in appointing Bryan Robson - who had just been through a torrid spell with Bradford.

Results remained poor and, over Christmas, Robson decided to use the Steve McQueen film 'The Great Escape' as the club's theme for the rest of the season.

The club eventually found some momentum and lost just three of their last twelve games. But Albion were so far back they still needed the three teams above them not to win on the final day of the season - that was even if they did beat Portsmouth.

Southampton were beaten by Man Utd, while Norwich were thrashed 6-0 by Fulham. That meant Albion needed Charlton to get a result against Crystal Palace. With five minutes left Palace were up 2-1. But Jonathan Fortune's goal for Charlton meant Crystal Palace were down while a 2-0 win for West Brom against Portsmouth kept Albion up.


Wolverhampton Wanderers' George Elokobi is helped off the pitch after the final whistle as fans invade as the club survives relegation Credit: Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport
  • Position on the last day: 16th
  • Teams in danger of the drop: Two from Wigan, Blackpool, Birmingham City, Wolves and Blackburn Rovers
  • Form over last ten games: 12 points
  • Finished: 17th

Wolves began the 2010/2011 season well with their first opening win of the season since 1999 following a 2-1 victory over Stoke City.

But one win in 14 games followed which saw them tumble down the table into the relegation by the end of November.

It was a season of lows and highs for Wolves however, their poor form contrasting with some huge wins against clubs at the top of the table. Wins over big-spending Man City and Liverpool were topped by an upset of Man Utd, ending their 29 game unbeaten streak.

As the season approached the finish line, Wolves were dealt a huge blow as talisman and top goalscorer Kevin Doyle suffered ligament damage, ruling him out for the final games. A run of two points out of 15 followed which saw them in relegation contention on the final day.

On the last day of the season five teams were battling to avoid the two relegation spots, all five separated by just a point.

Wolves hosted fellow strugglers Blackburn with both sides knowing that a win would keep them up. With Blackburn leading 3-1, Stephen Hunt's goal in the 87th minute sparked jubilation from the Wolves fans as the goal meant they would stay up on goal difference. In the end Tottenham's stoppage time winner against Birmingham City meant the result did not matter as Wolves stayed up by a point.


Gordon Strachan helped lead Coventry City to one of the great Midlands Premier League escapes Credit: Chris Turvey/EMPICS Sport
  • Position on the last day: 19th
  • Teams in danger of the drop: Two from Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Coventry
  • Form over the last ten games: 13 points
  • Finished: 17th

Coventry's season got off to a shaky start as Ron Atkinson left his post as manager to become Director of Football with Gordon Strachan taking his place. A good run of form saw them move up to 11th by January and their Premier League status seemed secure for another season.

But a run of eight games without a win during February and March meant their 30 year stay in the top flight was in jeopardy as they slumped to second bottom ahead of the last day of the season.

Middlesbrough were above them on goal difference on the last day with Sunderland two points better off just outside the relegation zone. Fortunately for Coventry, Middlesbrough were deducted three points for failing to fulfil a fixture. But such was the pessimism at Highfield Road that Strachan and assistant, Gary McAllister, spent the morning of the game discussing how to rebuild the club once they were outside the top flight.

Coventry received another slice of good fortune as their game against Tottenham was delayed by 15 minutes due to delays on the M1. This meant they entered the closing stages of their game knowing a win would keep them up after Sunderland lost and Middlesbrough drew.

Goals from Dion Dublin (who scored 14 in the season) and Paul Williams put them 2-0 up before Spurs scored leaving a nervy final few minutes for Coventry fans. The hero was to be Steve Ogrizovic who made two huge saves in the final minutes to keep the Sky Blues up.


  • Position on the last day: 21st (relegation zone)
  • Finished: 20th

One of the toughest seasons in the history of Northampton Town ended on a high note for the Cobblers.

The club were forced to enter administration in April 1992 with debts of around £1.6m. Ten of the club's players were sacked and a number of youth players were brought in to make up the numbers.

In one of the final matches of the season, the Cobblers failed to capitalise on a moment of history. In a match with Hereford Utd, Hereford finished the game with seven men having had four players sent off. Despite this, Northampton only managed to draw the game 1-1.

Their poor form meant they needed to win the last game of the season away at Shrewsbury Town to stay up. More than 2,500 Northampton fans made the trip and had to see their side slide to a 2-0 deficit at half-time. But a spiritied fightback after the interval culminated in a scrappy Pat Gavin goal following an attempted clearance from the goalkeeper which sparked jubilant celebrations.


Birmingham striker Robert Hopkins (on ground right) scores against West Ham Credit: PA
  • Position with six games left: 22nd (bottom)
  • Form over last ten games: 17 points
  • Finished: 17th

Entering the end of the season, Birmingham City looked dead in the water. Ron Saunders' side sat bottom of the table with six games to go and were six points outside the relegation zone.

However, the Blues finally found some form as they won five of their last six games (including three tough away wins over the likes of Everton and Tottenham) to finish three places outside the drop.