What Are the Worst Football Teams in Premier League History?

Derby County vs Cardiff
Derby County vs Cardiff (Jon Candy / Flickr.com)

Since the Premier League changed the face of English football when it burst onto the scene for its inaugural 1992/93 season, there have been some pretty abject performances by certain teams. We are talking in relative terms, of course, as even making it to the hallowed ground of the Premier League is a massive achievement in itself, especially considering the tiny budget a number of clubs have done it on.

But in this article, we will focus on the teams for whom it all went pear-shaped in the top flight and we’ll shine the spotlight on the worst of the worst teams in Premier League history. There are quite a few to choose from, but where to start?

How Should We Judge the Worst Teams?

There are various ways to measure how bad teams have been at various times. Some might look at the biggest defeats in a single game, and that would indeed reflect the worst one-off performances. But here we’re taking a longer view and comparing how teams have performed (and indeed suffered) over the course of a full season in the Premier League.

We’ll take a look at the teams who amassed the fewest points in a season, those that suffered the most defeats and those who scored the fewest and conceded the most goals during their journey towards rock bottom. As you will see, there are a few teams that tick many of these highly unwanted boxes!

Teams with Lowest Points Totals in Premier League History

Derby County
Derby County (Chris Barnes / Flickr.com)

Let’s kick things off with the most obvious metric to use when assessing how poorly teams have performed in the Premier League: the ones who’ve earned the fewest points over the course of a season. However well a team plays, however much they entertain their fans and dominate games, ultimately whether they are successful in any league depends on getting points on the board. Here are the biggest failures when it comes to amassing points in the Premier League over the years.

Derby County – 11 Points – 2007/08

Straight off the bat, we bring you a serious contender for the title of the Worst Premier League Team in History. While Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal were battling it out for the title (United won with 87 points on the board), at the other end of the table Derby were having a truly horrendous time of things. Under the stewardship of Billy Davies, the Rams had been promoted through the play-offs, but after the high of promotion they didn’t exactly hit the ground running in the top flight when the action got underway.

Having said that, they started life in the Premier League with a reasonable 2-2 home draw against Portsmouth. But four defeats followed, including a 6-0 walloping at the hands of Liverpool. There was some hope for Derby and Davies after their 1-0 win over Newcastle on a Monday night in mid-September, but little did the Rams’ fans realise that would be their side’s only league victory of the whole campaign! In fact, Derby would only pick up just seven more points from their remaining 32 matches, despite Davies being replaced by Paul Jewel in the November.

Thus, Derby ended the season at the foot of the table on just 11 points (the lowest in Premier League history), some 24 points behind 19th-placed Birmingham, a huge margin. The Rams only scored 20 goals, itself an unwanted record (held jointly with Sheffield United) and conceded a mammoth 89. Oh, and in addition they went out of the League Cup in the second round and the FA Cup in the fourth, barely bolstering their seasonal win tally at all!

Sunderland – 15 Points – 2005/06

Sunderland are a side who are generally a bit rubbish when they make it to the top flight (though it may surprise some to learn that they have, at the time of writing, only spent one fewer season in the top flight than either Spurs or Chelsea). They were particularly poor during the 2005/06 season when they only managed to earn 15 points from their 38 games, half as many as the next-worst side (West Bromwich Albion). Mick McCarthy was the man in the dugout for the Black Cats… at least until he got the boot not long after a humiliating 3-0 home defeat to local rivals Middlesbrough.

To be fair to Sunderland, they won more games (three), scored more goals (26) and conceded fewer (69) than Derby would a couple of years later; but given that Sunderland had performed almost as bad in the Premier League just two season before (see below), many people would suggest Sunderland are indeed the worst of the worst. Even the January signing of Rory Delap with the not-so-secret weapon of his long throw-ins couldn’t save the Balck Cats from finishing bottom of the pile.

Huddersfield Town – 16 Points – 2018/19

For a side of Huddersfield’s stature (at least in modern times), making it into the Premier League in the first place was a massive achievement. But given that they managed to avoid relegation in their first season after promotion (when they finished 16th on a creditable 37 points), their fans had reasonably high hopes for another impressive showing during the 2018/19 campaign. Alas, it was not to be and the Terriers finished on just 16 points from their 38 games, 20 points behind the safety of 17th position.

They mustered just three league wins (home and away against Wolves and at home against Fulham), and one of the main reasons for Huddersfield’s lack of success was their inability to score goals: they notched just 22 times. But having survived in the top flight in the 2017/18 season on a tiny budget compared to their rivals, Huddersfield can still hold their heads up high, despite the disappointment of this campaign.

Aston Villa – 17 Points – 2015/16

At the time of writing, Aston Villa have spent more seasons in the Premier League than Manchester City. But the Villans certainly didn’t show their top-flight credentials during the 2015/16 campaign. In the season when East Midlands side Leicester shocked the world of football by winning the Premier League title, in the West Midlands, Villa were having a torrid time of things.

When the season began, Tim Sherwood was the manager, but by the time it finished, Eric Black was in charge (albeit on an interim basis), with Kevin McDonald and Remi Garde also having stints in the dugout. None of the four men was able to remedy Villa’s poor form and with just three league victories to their name, it was inevitable they would finish rock bottom. Scoring just 27 goals in their 38 games while conceding 76, the Villans ended up on 17 points, half as many as Norwich who finished a place above them.

Sunderland – 19 Points – 2002/03

Here we have another entry on this dismal chart for Sunderland who had an appalling season in 2002/03 in which they managed to secure just four victories. Although two of those triumphs came against very decent sides (Tottenham and Liverpool), the writing was on the wall from Boxing Day, after which they managed just a single draw, a run that included a run of 15 consecutive defeats! Imagine being a Sunderland fan enduring that!

Most Defeats in a Premier League Season

Sunderland vs Arsenal
Sunderland vs Arsenal (wonder / Flickr.com)

Nobody likes to lose and nobody likes to see their team lose over and over and over again. But that was the fate of the supporters of these teams who had few occasions to cheer.

Derby County – 29 Defeats From 38 Matches – 2007/08

As we saw above, Derby had the season from hell during the 2007/08 campaign and it should come as no surprise to anyone that they hold the joint record for the most defeats in a Premier League season with 29 losses from 38 matches, a loss rate of over 76%.

Sheffield United – 29 Defeats From 38 Matches – 2020/21

What is perhaps more surprising is that the team that shares this unedifying record, Sheffield United, does not feature in the above list for the teams with the lowest points totals in a season. In fact, despite finishing at the bottom of the table, the Blades managed to amass an almost-respectable total of 23 points, largely on account of their seven victories (they only drew two of their games). Rather unbelievably, amongst those triumphs was an impressive 2-1 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford and a slightly less amazing but still decent 1-0 win at Everton.

As well as the most defeats in a season, United also matched Derby’s other unwanted record for the fewest goals scored in a Premier League season, with 20. Their leading scorer in the league was David McGoldrick with a whopping eight goals to his name, followed by Billy Sharp with three and Jayden Bogle with two.

Sunderland – 29 Defeats From 38 Matches – 2005/06

A truly abject season for Sunderland (and their fans!) saw them equal the unwanted record for the most defeats in a Premier League campaign. But the misery didn’t stop there. They also equalled the record for the most home defeats in a Premier League season (14, also held by Huddersfield Town and Watford… and Sunderland themselves from the 2002/03 season!) and they completed the longest run of consecutive Premier League defeats after suffering 20 in a row (which were spread over the period from 18 January 2003 to 10 September 2005, with a season in the second tier in the middle!).

Ipswich Town – 29 Defeats From 42 Matches – 1994/95

Although Ipswich Town also suffered 29 defeats over a single season in 1994/95, back then the division contained more teams and hence more games, so their loss rate was slightly less rubbish at just 69%. Still, they’re worth a mention, not least because they conceded a whopping 93 goals over the season, including 59 on home soil, a Premier League record.

Teams Who Conceded the Most Goals in a Premier League Season

Swindon Town vs Hartlepool United
Swindon Town vs Hartlepool United (Yaffa Phillips / Flickr.com)

Of course, scoring goals is essential, but stopping teams from scoring against you is pretty darn important too. The following teams clearly didn’t read the memo about keeping things tight at the back.

Swindon Town – 100 Goals Conceded in 42 Matches (2.38 Goals Per Game) – 1993/94

The only side to concede 100 goals in a single Premier League season, it is perhaps a testament to Swindon’s have-a-go spirit that they managed to get 30 points on the board (and thus stay well clear of the teams with the lowest ever Premier League points totals mentioned above). Still, it’s hard to find too many positives in a season in which a team concedes five goals or more on six separate occasions, including a 6-2 battering at Everton and a 7-1 humiliation at Newcastle.

Okay, the ton was only reached on the 42nd game of the season (yet another tough one to take: a 5-0 home defeat to Leeds!) but the goals conceded per game figure Swindon “achieved” will be hard to beat, especially with sides now playing four matches fewer.

Derby County – 89 Goals Conceded in 38 Matches (2.34 Goals Per Game) – 2007/08

Derby certainly gave Swindon’s record a run for its money in their season from Hell when they conceded 89 goals from their 38 matches. Given their rather pathetic scoring record that season, Derby earned the record for the worst goal difference in a Premier League season at -69.

That equates to losing every single game by not far short of two goals on average! They also matched the record for the fewest clean sheets in a season with just three (also “achieved” by Birmingham City in the same season, and Blackburn Rovers and Norwich City in the 2011/12 campaign).

Fulham – 85 Goals Conceded In 38 Matches (2.24 Goals Per Game) – 2013/14

Not far behind Derby, we have Fulham who let in 85 goals in the 2013/14 on their way to relegation. They didn’t finish bottom though, that honour went to Cardiff City.

Ipswich Town – 93 Goals Conceded In 42 Matches (2.21 Goals Per Game) – 1994/95

As mentioned above, Ipswich Town’s appalling 1994/95 campaign saw them ship 93 goals in total and a record 59 at home. It is as amusing as it is puzzling that both the club’s Player of the Year award and the Players’ Player of the Year award went to Craig Forrest… the Ipswich goalkeeper! Just imagine what might have happened without him! Canadian Forrest was certainly a busy man; simply picking the ball out of the net against Man United when they lost 9-0 was a task in itself (though he also made five saves in the game!).

Teams with Fewest Seasons in the Premier League

Barnsley vs Cardiff City
Barnsley vs Cardiff City (Jon Candy / Flickr.com)

Clearly, there are many teams – most teams in fact – that have spent a grand total of zero seasons in the Premier League since its inception. But here we will cast our eyes on those teams who have done the hard work of battling their way into the top flight, only for them to fail to stick around at the top table of English football for very long. At the time of writing, there are three sides that have completed a single full season in the Premier League, been relegated and then never returned.

Barnsley – 1997/98

As with all these sides, it was a surprise that Barnsley made it to the top flight at all, but they gave a decent enough account of themselves and earned 35 points, just five shy of 17th-placed Everton. Some of Barnsley’s highlights in their single Premier League season include their 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield and… well, truth be told, that’s about it! They won many fans though, with their swashbuckling football frequently accompanied by chants of “like watching Brazil”!

Blackpool – 2010/11

Blackpool were predicted to be the whipping boys of the 2010/11 season, but they showed themselves to be full of fight and were very close to avoiding relegation. In fact, had they won on the final day against Man United instead of losing 4-2, they would have been safe. As it was, despite being in eighth position in the table in late December, a poor second half of the campaign cost Blackpool dear and despite ending up on a very respectable 39 points, they finished 19th and their Premier League adventure came to an abrupt end.

There was no consolation in the fact that 39 points would have been enough to keep them in the top flight in many other seasons, but there’s no doubt that Ian Holloway’s men gave it an excellent go. Like Barnsley, they played attacking, exciting football and, again, be it no consolation, won many fans thanks to their verve.

Swindon Town – 1993/94

As mentioned it was letting goals in that cost John Gorman’s Swindon during this campaign, their only season in the Premier League to date. No one will ever know how Swindon might have fared if they had kept hold of player-manager Glenn Hoddle (who jumped ship to take the Chelsea job before the season began), but a single campaign at the top of the tree is better than none at all, even if they were a bit pants!

Make Your Mind Up!

At the time of writing, Fulham have recently secured promotion to the Premier League (again!) with Norwich also being demoted to the Championship (again!). One more way to look at the argument about who is the worst Premier League side ever is to consider those clubs that keep dipping their toes in the top-flight waters but repeatedly keep failing.

To enjoy one season at the top table and find yourself outclassed by sides with vastly bigger budgets is one thing. To keep coming up and going down, over and over again is quite another and for failing to learn the lessons of the past, there is a very reasonable argument that such clubs are among the worst ever. Afterall, what’s the point of coming up if you’re only going to go down without even a whimper a few months later?

With that in mind, let us look at some of the Premier League repeat offenders when it comes to toing and froing between the divisions. There really is no other place to start than the two teams we have already mentioned.

Norwich were part of the Premier League’s first ever season in 1992/93 and believe it or not finished third. By the end of the 1994/95 campaign they were relegated, setting the tone for the years ahead, though they even dropped down into the third tier in 2009. Overall the Canaries have had six separate stabs at the Premier League, with the most recent of those (2021/22) almost certain to see them finish rock bottom, as they did in 2019/20.

As for Fulham, they first made their Premier League debut in the summer of 2001, a varied attacking triumvirate of Steed Malbranque, Louis Saha and Barry Hayles all scoring eight goals each to fire the Cottagers to 13th. They played 13 top flight campaigns in a row before finishing 19th in 2013/14 to drop down into the Championship.

It is since then that the yo-yoing has begun, and after numerous dismal attempts at the Premier League, Fulham will be giving it a try for the fourth time in 2022/23, following a fifth consecutive promotion or relegation. Make your mind up Fulham!

Conclusion: The Worst Team in Premier League History

Derby County FC logo
Derby County FC logo

After considering the various stats and circumstances discussed above, the battle to be (or avoid being) the worst team in Premier League history really has two contenders: Derby County and Sunderland. On the face of it, Derby should be awarded the title for the lowest points total, most defeats and the worst goal difference in Premier League history.

But Sunderland’s two seasons of abjectness in quick succession (albeit with the relative success of promotion from the Championship in between) certainly puts the Black Cats well in the mix too. Overall though, we think Derby County’s almost laughably bad 2007/08 campaign takes it. So, apologies to Derby fans out there, it’s (just about) official: Derby County are the worst Premier League football team in history!