Monday, July 07, 2014

How The English Premier League Season Finished A Decade Ago!

The 2003/04 Premier League season was a unique season for many reasons!

Arsenal, Leeds United, Leicester City, Middlesbrough, Roman Abramovich, Glenn Hoddle, Arsène Wenger, Claudio Ranieri, Steve McClaren, Peter Reid, Chris Coleman, Sam Allardyce, David O’Leary, Sir Bobby Robson, Scott Parker, Rio Ferdinand, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry were all in the headlines for various reasons.

Nine of the twenty clubs that competed in the Premier League that season, a decade ago, were not plying their trade in the 2013/14 Premier League season just gone, one in particular is now a 4th tier league club!

What a difference a decade makes!

Here is a round up of where the twenty clubs that fought out the 2003/04 Premier League season finished in the league and any influencing factors or personnel that made an impression, good or bad!

20th: Wolverhampton Wanderers

Back in the top flight after 20 years away, Wolves did not win any of their opening seven Premiership fixtures and it was obvious that the season was going to be a long and hard struggle. Wolves finished bottom on 33 points, six points from safety with a goal difference of -39. They scored the fewest goals (38) during the season. They also failed to win any of their 19 away games during the season.

19th: Leeds United

Leeds was relegated in a season that saw their debts rise to £100 million and a lot of their key players sold. Peter Reid and Eddie Gray were both sacked during the season after a run of poor results, with Kevin Blackwell taking over towards the end of the season. Leeds had the dubious honour in the 2003/04 season of conceding the most goals of any club (79) combined with the most losses(21).

18th: Leicester City

Leicester finished the season in the bottom three and were relegated back to the first division after being promoted the previous season. Micky Adams failed to keep his side up in a season which saw three of his players Keith Gillespie, Frank Sinclair and Paul Dickov accused of sexual assault in La Manga, although all charges were dropped. That season Leicester won fewer games than any other side, just six out of 38 games played.

17th: Everton

The Toffees finished just above the relegation zone on 39 points after winning just nine of their 38 games throughout the season. This would be Wayne Rooney’s last season for the club, after he signed for Manchester United at the end of the season.

16th Manchester City

City finished in 16th position in their first season since leaving Maine Road, with Kevin Keegan’s side only confirming their stay in the division on the penultimate game of the season. Striker Nicolas Anelka was top scorer hitting 16 of their 55 goals scored in total that season.

15th: Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn had qualified for Europe in the two previous seasons and it was quite a surprise for Graeme Souness’ side to be batting relegation. The side managed a decent run towards the end of the season and were safe by the end of April and eventually finished 15th in the table.

14th: Tottenham Hotspur

A dismal start to the season cost Glenn Hoddle his job and he was sacked as manager on 21 September after two-and-a-half years at the helm. Director of Football David Pleat took over first team duties until the end of the season, but was unable to inspire Tottenham to a challenge for European qualification nor either of the cup competitions, and a 14th place finish in the final table was Tottenham's lowest since 1998. On the plus side Robbie Keane hit 14 goals for the North London side. Jacques Santini was appointed as the new head coach at the end of the season.

13th: Portsmouth

Portsmouth's Premiership debut was a fine one, as they finished 13th and established Fratton Park as one of the hardest Premiership grounds to get a result at. Harry Redknapp’s side had some impressive results at Fratton Park, including 1-0 wins over Liverpool and Manchester United and a 6-1 thumping of Leeds United. Only their dismal away form prevented them from finishing even higher, but it was still a very good season for the only newly promoted side to preserve their Premiership status. Yakubu Aiyegbeni hit 16 goals for Pompey, Teddy Sheringham was named 'Player of the Month' in August 2003 and Harry Redknapp won 'Manager of the Month' in April 2004.

12th: Southampton

Southampton finished 12th, the season after finishing in their highest ever position in the Premier League (8th). The Saints finished above their south coast rivals Portsmouth, but were shocked in March when Gordon Strachan handed in his resignation and was replaced by Paul Sturrock, even though former manager Glenn Hoddle was favorite. James Beattie bagged 14 goals for Southampton that season.

11th: Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough missed out on a top half finish by two points after losing 5-1 to Portsmouth on the last day of the season. However, Steve McClaren became the first Middlesbrough manager in 128 years to win a major trophy after 'Boro defeated Bolton to win the League Cup at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

10th: Birmingham City

Birmingham City had one of their best seasons in the Premier League, spending most of the season challenging for a Champions League place before a late slump saw them drop to tenth. Mikael Forssell was their top goalscorer with 17 goals.

9th: Fulham

Fulham finished in the top of the table for the first time in the Premier League, in what turned out to be a very good first season in charge for Chris Coleman who at the time of his appointment was the youngest top-flight manager ever.
Louis Saha was transferred to Manchester United for a fee of £12.4 million in January 2004 having already scored 15 goals so far that season.

8th: Bolton Wanderers

After two near misses with relegation, Sam Allardyce finally established Bolton as a Premiership team. They were League Cup runners-up and an eighth place finish was the club's highest final position for some 50 years. Jay-Jay Okocha won 'Player of the Month' in November 2003 and Sam Allardyce was named 'Manager of the Month' twice that season in November 2003 and January 2004.

7th: Charlton Athletic

The Addicks finished in their highest league position since the 1950’s, even though their late season slump cost them qualification into Europe. Midfielder Scott Parker was awarded the young player of the season award by the PFA, beating the likes of Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Glen Johnson who were also nominated.

6th: Aston Villa

Villa finished 6th in David O’Leary’s first season in charge, but this was not enough to qualify for Europe. They entered December on the brink of the relegation zone, but a great run of form beginning over Christmas took them into the top six during March. It was only defeat on the last day which saw them miss out on European qualification. Juan Pablo Ángel was Villa's top scorer with 16 goals.

5th: Newcastle United

Sir Bobby Robson guided Newcastle to 5th place on goal difference ahead of Aston Villa, and secured the Magpies a place in the UEFA Cup. Their fifth-place finish was achieved despite bad runs at both the start and the end of the season, with the club failing to win their first six and their last five league games. In fact they finished the season having drawn an astonishing 17 of their 38 league games and achieving only two away wins all season. Alan Shearer with 22 goals was the top scoring Englishman in the Premier league that season. In October 2003 Sir Bobby Robson won 'Manager of the Month' and Alan Shearer won 'Player of the Month.'

4th: Liverpool

Gerard Houllier’s side finished in the final Champions League place on 60 points, with Michael Owen finishing on 16 goals for the season. However, this was not enough for the Liverpool board with Houllier being replaced by Rafa Benitez and Michael Owen being sold to Real Madrid at the end of the season.

3rd: Manchester United

United won the FA Cup in May, but this success only partly compensated for a failure to win the Premiership title which, for at least the first half of the season, had looked likely to end up at Old Trafford. Ruud van Nistelrooy was on song as usual with more than 30 goals in all competitions, but the loss of Rio Ferdinand for the final four months of the season (part of his penalty for failing to attend a drugs test on 22 September 2003) coincided with United surrendering their Premiership crown and finishing third in the final table. The 2003/04 season was also Cristiano Ronaldo's first season at Old Trafford following his move from Sporting Lisbon in the summer. In December 2003 Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes won 'Manager of the Month' and 'Player of the Month' respectively.

2nd: Chelsea

Chelsea finished 2nd in Roman Abramovich’s first season at the club, even after spending more than £100 million on new players in the summer of 2003. In came the likes of Hernan Crespo, Damien Duff, Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole and Claude Makélélé. The side did reach the Champions League semi-finals, but none of their new signings could help them win a trophy. Claudio Ranieri was replaced by José Mourinho at the end of the season. Ranieri was named 'Manager of the Month' on two occasions that season.

1st: Arsenal

Arsenal completed an entire Premiership season without losing a single game. Their final record read 26 wins, 12 draws and 0 defeats and a total of 90 points, eleven clear of Chelsea. Striker Thierry Henry with 30 league goals was undoubtedly the finest player in a brilliant side, though the likes of Robert Pires with 14 goals from midfield and Patrick Vieira earned similar plaudits for their own excellent performances. But it had not always looked like this. Until February, Arsenal had bounced between first and third place, as the three-way race with Chelsea and Manchester United seemed unpredictable. However Arsenal got even better in the second half of the season while their rivals faltered, and the title was wrapped up before the end of April. Arsène Wenger won two 'Manager of the Month' awards that season and capped it off with the prestigious 'LMA Manager of the Year' award. Henry was named PFA Players' Player of the Year as well as being the League's top goalscorer and Arsenal scored the most goals (73) and conceded the fewest (26), in what was a truly memorable season for The Gunners!

Arsenal's 'Invincibles' celebrate winning the 2003/04 Premiership title.

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