Manchester City’s jet-propelled start to the domestic season, comprising of eleven wins and a single draw, leaves them on 34 points and on course to achieve a milestone yet to be achieved in the Premier League era. No team has finished a season with 100 points or more in the top division’s history. In this week’s Midweek Muse, Tom Simmonds looks at some of the teams down the leagues who’ve managed to achieve this feat in recent years.
City’s relentless start follows on from Chelsea, last season’s champions, collecting 93 points from their efforts in 2016-17 — a result of Antonio Conte attaching electrodes to the torpid squad which downed tools on Jose Mourinho the previous season. The Portuguese himself has the Premier League/First Division points record, after his Chelsea side of 2004-05 amassed 95 points on their way to winning the title.
While the three-figure barrier has not been breached in the top flight, nine lower division teams have managed it in the three points for a win era. Having 46 (a possible 138 points) games to garner the points, opposed to the Premier League’s 38 (a possible 114), means teams from the Championship and below have more margin for error to bring up their tons. Nevertheless, it is still a significant achievement for any team who manages it. Any side who wants to join the ton-up club needs to win around 30 of those 46 games to be in with a shout.
The first team to manage this were York City in 1983-84. Their procession to the Fourth Division title saw them win the league by a full 16 points above second-placed Doncaster. Their strike force of future Irish international John Byrne and the late Keith Walwyn scored 52 goals between them, feeding off the service provided by diminutive winger Brian Pollard and enabled by the solid defensive base presided over by the tough Scot, John MacPhail.
This was the first major trophy in the Minstermen’s history and provided a springboard for some further exciting times. A close-run League Cup tie with QPR in 1984 led to Byrne being spirited away to West London for £100,000. The most famous moment in the club’s history was to follow in early 1985 when York, courtesy of Keith Houchen’s goal, knocked Arsenal out of the cup in the fourth round. This earned them a tie with Liverpool, who they held to a 1-1 draw at Bootham Crescent before losing the replay 7-0 at Anfield.
Another cup run in 1985-86 and another 1-1 draw at home led them to Anfield again, where they lost 3-1 in extra time. The deeds of manager Denis Smith did not go unnoticed, and he was appointed Sunderland manager in May 1987, after they had just been relegated to the third tier for the first time in their history. Smith took MacPhail, Marco Gabbiadini and his coaching staff with him and eventually brought Byrne to Roker Park. Byrne would facilitate the crowning moment of Smith’s fine managerial career in 1991-92, when he scored in every round of the FA Cup barring the final, which they lost 2-0 to Liverpool.
It only took another two seasons for another team to break 100 points, when Swindon Town beat York’s total of 101 by one point, 18 clear of runners up Chester. They managed this despite a dreadful start where they only won twice before the end of September. It all clicked into gear from October onwards and the Robins, powered by the goals of Charlie Henry, Colin Gordon, Peter Coyne and Dave Bamber (all of whom hit double figures) stormed to the title. Lou Macari’s team did not stop there, using that momentum to win the Third Division play-offs the following season.
The period was the Wiltshire club’s greatest period of sustained success (denial of promotion to the top tier in 1990 after a betting scandal notwithstanding), as first Ossie Ardiles then Glenn Hoddle assumed the manager’s chair — Hoddle leading them to promotion to the Premier League in 1993 after winning an epic play-off final against Leicester 4-3.
Swindon’s record stood until the end of the 1998-99 season, when Peter Reid’s Sunderland, aggrieved by losing the previous season’s play-off final to Charlton on penalties after a breathless 4-4 draw, hoovered up an enormous 105 points to seal promotion to the Premier League, losing only three times in the process. The Black Cats ripped the division asunder as the famous partnership of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips plundered 41 goals between them. The squad that so convincingly won the title — also reaching the semi-finals of the League Cup that season — was to form the base of the side which enjoyed a few successful seasons in the Premier League, before relegation in 2003 began an era of Sunderland being first a yo-yo club, then perennial top-level strugglers, culminating in the full-blown crisis they’re now in.
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Fulham were the next team to break the ton, doing it twice in three seasons, first in the third tier in 1998-99 and then securing promotion to the Premier League in 2000-01. On both occasions, the Cottagers took a haul of 101 points as, enabled by Mohamed Al-Fayed’s limitless reserves of money, a squad whose quality was far in excess of what the divisions required was assembled.
Geoff Horsfield and Barry Hayles provided the goals in their march to the third-tier title, before Fulham went to the next level in what is now the Championship; acquiring Louis Saha, Luis Boa Morte and John Collins to add to the likes of Hayles, Chris Coleman, Kit Symons and Lee Clark. With players of this calibre in their ranks, it was no surprise Fulham managed to easily survive in their first season in the Premier League, finishing 13th and staying until relegation in 2014.
The magic 100 was broken twice more in the next two seasons. Plymouth Argyle roared out of the basement in 2001-02 with 102 points, with Wigan Athletic then gaining promotion to the second tier in 2002-03 after failed attempts over the previous four seasons (some narrow) to turn Dave Whelan’s money into results. The fruits of this first success were to come years later, in the shape of several seasons in the Premier League and, of course, the 2013 FA Cup.
The Argyle team of 01-02 was not a free-scoring outfit. In an unusual quirk, centre-back Graham Coughlan was their top scorer with 11 and they won 10 games 1-0, as Paul Sturrock fashioned a side built on an exceptionally mean defence which conceded only 28 league goals all season. This Plymouth side went on to do quite well, as Sturrock took them up to the Championship the following season. They stabilised in the division until relegation in 2006 which led, in turn to a spiral of decreasing playing fortunes and financial strife, culminating in administration in 2011, from which they were rescued by current owner James Brent.
The current standing league points record was set in 2006, by Steve Coppell’s Reading side who took an iron grip on the Championship from day one, losing just twice and stockpiling 106 points from August to May — 14 clear of Sheffield United who managed to rack 92 points up and finish nine points clear of third. A run of 10 straight wins from November to New Year’s Eve provided the backbone for this record-breaking total. While wealthy owner John Madejski backed Coppell in the transfer market, shelling out a million pounds for striker Leroy Lita, clever low-cost signings such as Dave Kitson, Kevin Doyle and Shane Long from the League of Ireland were made to augment what was already a very good squad made up of cast-offs from top clubs (Steve Sidwell, James Harper) and solid old pros such as goalkeeper Marcus Hanhemann and right back Graeme Murty.
Reading finished an impressive eighth in the 2006-07 Premier League, but were relegated the following season when they hit a catastrophic run of form at the wrong time. A return in 2012-13 under Brian McDermott after a couple of near misses lasted only a single season and, after another near miss in last season’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Huddersfield at Wembley, they find themselves stuck in that peloton of clubs in the Championship throwing their parachute payments around trying to secure a return to the top 20.
The last team to have a 100-point season was the 2011/12 Charlton Athletic side who won the League One title under Chris Powell with three games to spare. The denizens of the Valley might look back on this development slightly misty-eyed, as this was the last major success the club had before their controversial owner Roland Duchatelet bought the club in early 2014. Thus began a period of ownership which brought the Addicks faithful an almost unrelenting diet of misery on and off the pitch, though their promising start to this season could hint at a change in fortunes.
Bradley Wright-Phillips (aka Ian Wright Jr) shouldered the main goal scoring burden with 22 goals, but the team was built on a rock-solid foundation of a defence in which keeper Ben Hamer, Michael Morrison, Chris Solly and Rhoys Wiggins were virtually ever present. They complimented a dynamic midfield containing current Brighton player Dale Stephens, workhorse Danny Hollands and goal scoring skipper Johnnie Jackson.
It is too early to say whether City and Chelsea’s greedy collection of points in the last two seasons is the beginning of a wider trend, i.e. the beginning of one horse races in the Premier League. However, it is pretty safe to say City will win the league this season unless something apocalyptic befalls them. They have another 78 points to play for between now and May, giving them a maximum possible total of 112 points. While Pep Guardiola will never say this out loud, it is likely he has this figure in his head as an ultimate target which he would like his team to achieve.
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