5 Most Surprising English Premier League Table Finishes

Premier league success stories

We witnessed the English Premier
League’s (EPL) new-boys Sheffield United upset the applecart in the 2019/20
campaign. Chris Wilder’s razor-sharp Blades ended up finishing in a hugely
respectable ninth place in their first season back in the top tier. This
top-half finish was all the more impressive when you consider that Norwich City
– who were promoted with United – finished 13 points adrift at the foot of the

Sheffield United’s heroics has inspired
us to look back into the history books to uncover some of the many other
underdog success stories in the EPL’s 28-year history. Below are the top-five
most impressive finishes in the EPL to date.

Leicester City (1st – 2015/16)

Some football pundits have described
Leicester City’s EPL title success in 2016 as the biggest shock in the history
of world football. It’s hard to disagree when you consider the Foxes were
5,000/1 outsiders for the championship at the start of the season. Managed by
the enigmatic Italian journeyman Claudio Ranieri, Leicester’s hotch-potch
collection of well-travelled players from second-tier level – interspersed with
the overseas flair of the likes of Riyad Mahrez – proved to be an unstoppable force.

The pace and power of Jamie Vardy
proved irresistible, with the striker also completing a true “Roy of the
Rovers”-esque journey from non-league to EPL winner. Better still, Leicester
had only been promoted into the EPL just two years prior to this title success.

Ipswich Town (5th – 2000/01)

Ipswich Town channelled the days of Sir
Alf Ramsay and Sir Bobby Robson to finally return to the EPL in May 2000,
defeating Barnsley in the playoff final. Even the most ardent Tractor Boy would
have suggested that survival was the main target for Town in 2000/01. However,
George Burley’s side played with flair and panache on the ball and demonstrated
an excellent work ethic and team unity to finish 5th and
qualify for a UEFA Cup place. Striker, Marcus Stewart also finished as joint
top scorer in the league with Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Unfortunately for Ipswich, they
suffered the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ and were promptly relegated the
following year at one of the world’s most iconic stadiums, thrashed 5-0 at Anfield. It has
been a disastrous two decades since the Tractor Boys’ relegation from the
top-flight. The Suffolk side now find themselves in the third tier of English
football. Despite a promising start to the 2020/21 League One campaign, Town’s
form has fallen off a cliff of late and the football outrights have Ipswich priced as
long as 24/1 at the time of writing to recover and win the League One title.

Norwich City (3rd – 1992/93)

Ipswich’s bitter rivals Norwich City
have also enjoyed a very impressive EPL finish too. In fact, it was the first
ever EPL campaign of 1992/93 when the Canaries improved vastly on their 18th-place
finish in 1991/92 to finish third in 1993. All of this was achieved despite
losing their top scorer Robert Fleck to Chelsea on the eve of the 1992/93

An outstanding start to the season
proved the bedrock of their success, losing just once in their opening ten
fixtures to move top of the table. Although they ended the campaign with a
negative goal difference, City finished a hugely creditable third and bagged a
place in the 1993/94 UEFA Cup.

Nottingham Forest (3rd – 1994/95)

Under the guidance of experienced boss
Frank Clark, Nottingham Forest also achieved an unlikely third-place finish in
the 1994/95 EPL campaign. It was even more impressive given that the Tricky
Trees had just been promoted back to the top-flight from Division One. A quick
glance at the Forest squad suggested they should have been nowhere near the
second tier, with powerful front men Bryan Roy and Stan Collymore doing the

Collymore was particularly hot property, scoring 22 league goals and earning
a lucrative £8.5 million switch to Liverpool in the summer of 1995. As for
Forest, they went on to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in the
following season, before losing their way yet again and succumbing to

Burnley (7th – 2017/18)

Burnley football club fan

When Burnley finished 16th in
the 2016/17 EPL season, it was heralded as a massive achievement for Sean
Dyche’s unfashionable Clarets. Despite a rugged, direct style of play, Burnley
were able to grind out results and points to buy extra time and money with the
Premier League’s elite. However, they would go much better in the following
season, buoyed by the fact that it was their first back-to-back appearance in
the top-flight since the 1970s.

Fears over a mid-season injury to star
keeper Tom Heaton were allayed by the magnificent performances from understudy
Nick Pope. Despite failing to win in any of their remaining five fixtures,
Burnley still comfortably finished seventh to earn their first taste of
European football since 1966.

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