“What is the biggest points difference between a top and a bottom side? Has a team ever finished a season 100 or more points ahead? Tom Solan asks.
Modern football’s inequality means that a disconnect between first and last is increasingly common. In the past it has been rare, and not just because it was two points to win until Jimmy Hill had one of his best brainwaves. The leagues were usually closer, which makes Everton’s success in 1984-85 all the more remarkable. They won the title with 90 points, which they beat 73 points ahead of Stoke (17). And it would have been even more if they hadn’t lost three of their last four games after winning the title over time.
Real Madrid (100 points) matched this deficit in La Liga in 2011-12, with Racing Santander (27) finishing at the bottom. This was the peak of the José Mourinho-Pep Guardiola era, when, in the words of our Sid Lowe, money was the new failure. The rivalry produced standards – and total points – that were unprecedented in Spanish football.
If you want high standards, Antonio Conte is your man. there was 77-point gap between Juventus (102) and Livorno in Serie A in 2013-14, and Liverpool (99) finished 78 points ahead of Norwich (21) when they finally won the Premier League in 2019-20. As with Everton in 1984-85, the gap could have been greater: a once-sprawling Liverpool took eight points from their last seven games after winning the title.
The year before that, Liverpool played champions Manchester City so hard that City finished with 98 points – 82 more from Huddersfield (16). That margin was matched in Scotland in 2001-02, when Celtic won the title with 103 points and St Johnstone finished 21 points below.
But the biggest points difference we could find happened in Wales. In 1996-97, Barry Town (105 points) won the League of Wales in a canter, and completed an interesting game. 89 points ahead of the following Briton Ferry Athletic club.
Last season, they scored 89 points and raised it. Barry won the championship with 104 points from 38 games, going unbeaten in the process. That they put 95 points are clear of Cemaes Ynys Mon (now known as Cemaes Bay, we think), who finished with nine points. Really clean.
Record the rankings
“After I saw Wout van Aert complete three consecutive second places on the stages of this year’s Tour de France, I immediately thought: what is the record for a top-flight team to finish second in consecutive years? Or to miss the finals Cup in a row? Joran asks Lamisse.
It’s hard to come up with a comprehensive answer to this question, unless one of you is willing to trawl through every league table and cup final in association football history, but regular announcer Chris Roe has taken the English top flight.
“There are four instances where a team has finished second in three consecutive seasons,” Chris writes. “Preston North End (1890/91-1892/93), Manchester United (1946/47-1948/49), Leeds United (1969/70-1971/72) and Arsenal (1998/99-2000/01).”
It is worth dwelling on a few of them, and not just because we have a number of words to fill. To begin with, they were separated by uneventful seasons. Preston won two titles between 1888-90, going unbeaten in the first of those campaigns, and Arsenal followed up their haul of silver medals in three years with two gold-hat-tricks. In the second, as anyone who is older than a fetus knows, they were completely unstressed.
Don Revie’s Leeds were almost as famous for what they didn’t achieve as what they did. They finished as runners-up five times in eight seasons from 1964-72, although they did manage some back-to-back titles in 1968-69 and 1973-74. Matt Busby’s Manchester United finished second in four of the first five post-war seasons, from 1946-51, before winning the league the following season.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea will hope for the same happy ending: last season, they became the first team to lose three FA Cup finals in a row. Borussia Dortmund also led the DFB-Pokal from 2013-14 to 2015-16. But at least they beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the final and won the 2016-17 competition.
Vale of Leven lost three Scottish Cup finals between 1882-83 and 1884-85, although the second of those was a walk-off when they missed out on the final against Queen’s Park due to what was widely described as “injuries, illness and the disease is called “wound”.
In Spain, Valencia twice lost three consecutive Copa del Rey finals, from 1944 to 1946 and from 1969-70 to 1971-72. Finally, save a thought for Torino. Not only did they lose the last three Coppa Italia finals from 1979-80 to 1981-82, but the first two were on penalties. The following season, a team from Torino finally lifted the trophy. Unfortunately, it was Juventus.
In the names of more hot dates clubs
In knowledge of last week we looked at the clubs named after the day or date. Turns out we were just scratching the surface.
“There are three Brazilian clubs named after 15 November: Esporte Clube XV de Novembro de Jaú, Esporte Clube XV de Novembro de Piracicaba, and Clube 15 de Novembro, from the southern city of Campo Bom,” writes André Leme Lopes. November 15 is the day of the military coup that overthrew the monarchy and established the Brazilian Republic (in 1889); one of our most important civil festivals. But all three clubs were founded on November 15th, so I simply can’t say whether the clubs were named after their civic history or their founding dates. Maybe both.”
Nigel Stapley has another example from southeast Europe. “In 1947, Albania’s KF Tirana was forcibly changed by the Hoxha regime to ’17 Nëntori’ (November 17) to commemorate the liberation of the capital from Nazi occupation on that day in 1944 ,” he writes. “The club returned to its original name after the fall of communism in Albania in 1991.”
“We’re always told that friendships don’t matter, especially when we lose them.” Rhian Hart wrote in July 2014. “But is it true? Has any team lost the Premier League title in pre-season with a record?
Of the last eight Premier League champions, only one side – Manchester City last season (42.9%) – had a win rate of less than 50% in the pre-season. On average, league winners boast a 68% winning percentage throughout the close season.
In contrast, Alex Ferguson guided the Red Devils to an 11-point lead over second-placed City in his final year (2012-13), despite his side winning just three of their six pre-season matches. Similarly the 2010-11 Scottish side won just 57% of their summer ties, but still took the Premier League crown by nine points.
So a string of poor pre-season performances doesn’t necessarily signal a shaky start to the season – as City proved last year, when they thrashed Newcastle United 4-0 on the opening day, within weeks of lost against two South African teams. before
Can you help?
“Growing up as a football fan in the 1960s, I don’t recall ever coming across the concept of the term striker. Can anyone identify when or where this definition of goalscorer was first used?” asks Simon Warner.
“The pre-season lineups always come up with some amazing stuff,” begins Jez Orbell. “It’s hard to get an absolute answer but what are the stark differences between consecutive opponents. For example, has a club played Real Madrid in one fixture and a Guernsey pub team in another?
“All the scorers in East Fife’s 3-2 win over Buckie Thistle were called Scott,” notes Gerard Flanagan. “Has this happened before? Have there ever been four goals in a match with the same name?”