Drew Heatley dips into the history books to see how quickly we’ve achieved survival – and how we built on it.
We finally bloody did it.
It’s true what they say – 40 in the Premier League really is the magic number.
In our 15 full Premier League seasons to date, we’ve passed the 40-point mark 10 times. The only seasons we failed to – and still stayed up – were the dodgy 2006/07 campaign and the great escape of 2007/08.
It’s obvious to say, but I’ll say it anyway: the faster you hit 40 points, the earlier you can start looking up the table to greater things.
Our 3-1 win against Everton means that finally hit 40 points, four league games – and nearly two months – after reaching 39 with a draw against Wolves in February. And yet we’ve still achieved it in the (joint) fastest time ever, just 30 games. That means that we are – in theory – capable of equalling our highest-ever Premier League points tally of 53 points in 2008/09. But can we beat our best-ever finish of seventh, achieved in the same season?
I’ve looked at the five previous fastest times we’ve hit the magic survival mark in the Premier League – and how we capitalised on it.
6. 2010/11 – 34 games (27 April 2011)
Final points and position: 49 (8th)
The 2010/11 campaign was the first after our Europa League heartache and our first without Roy Hodgson, who departed for Liverpool in the summer. But instead of moping, the Whites continued to show their class under new boss Mark Hughes.
We crossed the threshold with a 3-0 midweek win over Bolton Wanderers under the lights at the Cottage. Clint Dempsey bagged a brace and Hangeland finished off the rout. The win took us to 42 points and placed us in ninth. We’d bag seven more points in our final four games, thanks to wins at Sunderland and Birmingham, before rounding off the campaign with an impressive 2-2 draw with fourth-placed Arsenal.
5. 2002/03 – 34 games (19 April 2003)
Final points and position: 48 (14th)
It’s mad to think that 48 points only got you a 14th-placed finish back in 2003, but that was how competitive the Premier League was in the early noughties – just ask West Ham.
This was our second season in the top flight, and despite what looks like a respectable finish, amazingly we announced Jean Tigana’s contract wouldn’t be renewed in the summer, with Mohamed Al-Fayed saying in an open letter: “Obviously, our position in the Premier League both this year and last year has been disappointing, particularly given the degree of investment and resources provided, and I am sure you would be the first to agree”.
Tigana’s position quickly became untenable and he left in April 2003, with Chris Coleman taking temporary charge. We passed 40 points in Cookie’s first game, thanks to a 2-1 win against Newcastle at our then-temporary home of Loftus Road. Alan Shearer put the Magpies ahead, but the dismissal of Newcastle full-back Andy Griffin gave us a way back into the game, and we triumphed with goals from Sylvain Legwinksi and former Newcastle hero Lee Clark.
The Whites would pick up seven more points in their last four games under Coleman, including a 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, ensuring Cookie got the job permanently.
4. 2011/12 – 32 games (7 April 2012)
Final points and position: 52 (9th)
This was Martin Jol’s first season in charge of the Whites, as he looked to build on the eighth-placed finish Hughes achieved before he left citing a “lack of ambition”.
He ended up hitting 40 points earlier and achieving a higher points tally, albeit finishing a place lower. We passed the marker thanks – coincidentally – to another 3-0 win against Bolton, this time at the then-University of Bolton Stadium. And it was thanks to another Clint Dempsey brace, this time with Mahamadou Diarra adding the third.
We’d win 10 more points out of a possible 18 in our last six games, including a point against Chelsea and a win at Anfield, but it was only enough to move us up one place to ninth.
3. 2009/10 – 32 games (4 April 2010)
Final points and position: 46 (12th)
This is a classic case of being distracted by bigger things.
This is, of course, the campaign that saw us playing in four competitions, and reaching the Europa League final. We’d end up playing 63 games, and started in July – so it’s little surprise something had to give. And it was our league form at the end of the season.
We cruised to 40 points by early April, beating Wigan 2-1 at the Cottage, thanks to goals from Stefano Okaka and Brede Hangeland. The game was sandwiched between our two wins against Wolfsburg in the Europa League quarter-finals. We’d win just once more in the league – a 3-2 home win against West Ham – as we battled Hamburg in the semis and ultimately looked ahead to the biggest game in our history.
2. 2003/04 – 30 games (27 March 2004)
Final points and position: 52 (9th)
Having been awarded the gig full-time, this was Cookie’s first full campaign. We hit 40 points with eight games to go, but at Christmas it looked like so much more was possible. After a 2-0 win over Southampton on Boxing Day, the Whites sat in the Champions League places, thanks to the 12 goals from Louis Saha. But a January swoop from Manchester United put paid to any European dreams.
We picked up Brian McBride in the same window, who while not fully filling our Saha-shaped hole, helped us to a respectable ninth place – which was then our highest-ever finish. We hit 40 points after a 0-0 draw with Manchester City at the then-titled City of Manchester Stadium. We ended that day in ninth, and despite picking up an average of two points a game in our final eight matches, we were unable to move any higher.
1. 2008/09 – 30 games (21 March 2009)
Final points and position: 53 (7th)
Ah yes – our best-ever Premier League campaign (so far).
It’s still hard to fully appreciate the transformation under Roy Hodgson, from seemingly relegation certainties in 2007/08 to seventh-placed Europa League qualifiers the very next season. But that’s exactly what happened.
We hit 40 after a 2-0 win against Manchester United at the Cottage – a game that saw both Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney get their marching orders. Danny Murphy dispatched a penalty after Scholes played goalkeeper in the box, and Gera sealed the win in the second half.
We won four and drew one of our remaining eight games, which was enough to secure European qualification despite a 2-0 home defeat against Everton on the final day, thanks to Spurs performing their annual final day capitulation, losing 3-1 to Liverpool. Turnaround complete.
It’s so exciting to think of what’s possible in these final eight games now we’ve all-but-secured safety. Sit back and enjoy the ride.