Revealed: The extent of relegation from the Premier League

Jamie Braidwood goes on a journey to investigate the extent of relegation from the Premier League – leading to a shocking discovery. 

For the past few weeks I have been holding onto a secret, a piece of information about the English Premier League that until now, I don’t think anyone else knew.

What I have discovered is so mad that I almost don’t believe it myself. A part of me remains convinced I am wrong, but it is now time to share this secret with you all.

Relegation is a bad thing, right? It’s something I’ve never experienced myself and I hope I never do. When a team gets relegated you are guaranteed to see a few things: players slumped on the pitch, loss, confusion, and fans, often grown men incapable of emotion in everyday life, in tears.

It’s also unpreventable. There will be at least 15 teams relegated from in the top fours divisions of England and Wales this year and with it, countless stories of heartache.

The subject of relegation has interested me for a number of years because of these emotions. Watching a team go down on the final day of the season is tragic, but you just can’t look away.

I wanted to write about it so, focussing on the Premier League, I started to do my research, seeking to find the best (i.e the most tragic) relegation stories from the past 25 years.

In particular, I was interested by a certain select group of individuals who have suffered relegation time and time again.

Well, it’s a little bigger than a select group. In total I’ve counted 337 players to have been relegated from the Premier League more than twice. Of that, 50 of them have been relegated three times and 10 four times. Finally, there are the only two players in the history to have been relegated twice – but more on them later.

Of the 10, Nigel Quashie is probably my favourite member of the ‘4x’ relegation club. Quashie was a respected Premier League player, and he represented Scotland 14 times between 2004 and 2006, but he also absolutely loved getting relegated

He is also a rare example of the back-to-back Premier League relegation, a feat Quashie achieved in 2005 with Southampton and in 2006 with West Brom.

In both years he joined halfway through the season but was relegated six months later. Quashie was so close to completing the hat-trick with West Ham the following year. Again, he moved back to the Premier League in January, but this time he helped his team stay up by a point on the final day of the season.

However impressive Quashie’s achievement is, he managed to steer clear of the that fifth Premier League relegation and an unwanted record currently held by two men; Nathan Blake and Hermann Hreidarsson.

Blake and Hreidarsson are heroes in my eyes. They were both relegated with every Premier League team they played with. People will laugh but I respect them.

The thing is that they were good players, they just ended up playing for bad teams. Blake represented Wales 29 times, but he never actually managed to survive a season in the top flight.

Hreidarsson was slightly different. After immediate relegations with Crystal Palace and Wimbledon early in his career, Hreidarsson was part of the Ipswich team that finish 5th in 2001, the Charlton team that finished 7th in 2004 and the Portsmouth team that finished 8th in 2008.

But relegation always came to him eventually. It was like the clubs fate was effectively sealed from the moment they signed him.

It just so happens that these guys are the only Premier League players to have relegated five times, because when it comes to experiencing the drop, they certainly aren’t alone.

Some of the Premier League’s greatest players have been relegated. There are Champions League winners (Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane), there are Ballon D’Or winners (Michael Owen). There are players who played in World Cups and at the highest level for the majority of their careers.  

I have counted 1,636 players to have been relegated from the Premier League, a figure I got by taking the squad lists from relegated teams, taking away the players who didn’t play a minute, left before the end of the season, or had been relegated before.

At the time I thought the number was a lot, but I didn’t really think anything of it. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when I was reading an article on the BBC, that something struck me.

The article was published before the start of the 2017/18 season (the 25th season of the Premier League) and was listing some of the numbers and statistics accumulated from when the league started in 1992. This included the overall number of players to have played in the league.

3,835, it read.

3,835.

1,636.

Until then, I had never considered what percentage of Premier League players had been relegated, I had only been interested in how many. But as I looked at the two numbers, I suddenly realised it was actually a lot more than I could possibly have ever imagined.

To be sure, I typed the numbers into my phone calculator and there it was.

42.7%.

42.7% of players to have played in the Premier League have been relegated.

I didn’t believe it when I first saw it and I still don’t now. It just seems way too much but, the numbers don’t lie. I’ve been through the squads, discarded the players who didn’t play or who left, taken into account those who had been relegated before.

The scariest thing for me is I haven’t seen anything which suggests or acknowledges this figure to be anywhere near this high. It’s almost half and I don’t think anyone knows.

It’s ridiculous. We collectively place so much emphasis on the battle to avoid relegation year after year, completely oblivious to the fact that it’s happened to almost half the players to have ever played in the league.

Only three teams can be relegated a season and yet, the drop eventually catches you. For almost half of the players in the league, it’s unavoidable.

So what does this tell us, if anything at all? What do we think about the fact that more than 2/5ths of Premier League players have been relegated?

Well, without getting too existential, I think this shows that we should worry less and enjoy it more. Evidently, relegation happens. A lot, to lots of clubs and lots of players. It has to happen, and it almost certainly will to the majority of clubs eventually.

So accept it, and enjoy the ride. Take the rough with the smooth and enjoy the ups while remembering the downs.

That’s what I’d like to think.

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