“What is the biggest difference in points between the first and last placed team? Has a team ever finished a season 100 or more points ahead? asks Tom Solan.
The inequality of modern football means that the gap between first and last is becoming more and more common. This was rare in the past, and not just because two points were awarded for a win, until Jimmy Hill got one of his best brainwaves. In general, the leagues were closer, which makes Everton’s achievement in 1984-85 all the more remarkable. They rushed to the title with 90 points which put them 73 points ahead of Stoke (17). And it would have been even more if they hadn’t lost three of their last four games since winning the title with time to spare.
Real Madrid (100 points) equaled that La Liga lead in 2011–12, with Racing Santander (27) in last place. It was the height of the era of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, when, according to our Sid Low, draws were new defeats. The rivalry created standards and points totals unprecedented in Spanish football.
If you need high standards, Antonio Conte is your man. Was gap of 77 points between his Juventus (102) and Livorno in Serie A in 2013–14, with Liverpool (99) finishing 78 points ahead from Norwich City (21) when they finally won the Premier League in 2019–20. As with Everton in 1984–85, the lead could have been bigger, with the previously runaway Liverpool dropping eight points in their last seven games after winning the title.
The year before, Liverpool pushed champions Manchester City so hard that City scored 98 points – 82 more than Huddersfield (16). The same difference was in Scotland in 2001/02 when Celtic won the title with 103 points and St Johnstone finished bottom with 21.
But the biggest point difference we could find was in Wales. In 1996-97 Barry Town (105 points) won the Welsh League canter and finished spectacular 89 points ahead lower club Briton Ferry Athletic.
The following season they saw a lead of 89 points and extended it. Barry became the champion with 104 points in 38 games without losing. This put them 95 points clear from Cemaes Ynys Mon (now known we think as Cemaes Bay) who finished with nine points. Really neat.
Record winning streak
“Seeing Wout van Aert finish second three times in a row at the Tour de France stages this year, I immediately thought: what is the record for a top division team that finished second several years in a row? Or losing back-to-back cup finals?” Joran Lamiss asks.
It’s hard to give a definitive answer to this question, unless some of you want to look through all the league tables and cup finals in the history of football associations, but Chris Rowe, a regular at Knowledge, has covered the top English division.
“There are four instances where a team has been runner-up for three consecutive seasons,” writes Chris. Preston North End (1890/91-1892/93), Manchester United (1946/47-1948/49), Leeds United (1969/70-1971/72) and Arsenal (1998/99- 2000/01)”.
It is worth dwelling on some of them, and not only because we need to fill in the number of words. For starters, they were booked with undefeated seasons. Preston won two titles from 1888 to 1890, going undefeated in the first of those campaigns, and Arsenal followed their silver medal hat-trick with two gold medals in three years. In the second of these, as anyone older than the fruit knows, they were invincible all through.
Don Revie’s Leeds were almost as famous for not winning as they were for winning. They were runners-up five times in eight seasons from 1964 to 1972, although titles improved somewhat in 1968-69 and 1973-74. Matt Busby’s Manchester United finished second in four of the first five post-war seasons, from 1946 to 1951, before winning the league the following season.
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea are hoping for a similar happy ending, having become the first team to lose three consecutive FA Cup finals last season. Borussia Dortmund experienced a similar streak in the DFB-Pokal from 2013-14 to 2015-16. But at least they beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the final and won the competition in the 2016–17 season.
Vale of Leven lost three Scottish Cup finals between 1882-83 and 1884-85, although the second of these was a loss when they did not show up for the final against Queen’s Park due to what is commonly referred to as “bereavement, illness and injury”.
In Spain, Valencia lost three consecutive Copa del Rey finals twice, from 1944 to 1946 and from 1969-70 to 1971-72. Finally, think about Torino. Not only did they lose three consecutive Coppa Italia finals from 1979-80 to 1981-82, but the first two were on penalties. The following season, the team from Turin finally won the cup. Alas, it was Juventus.
More hot dates in club names
In last week’s Knowledge we looked at clubs that were named after days or dates. Turns out we were only scratching the surface.
“There are three Brazilian clubs named after November 15: Esporte Clube XV de Novembro de Jaú, Esporte Clube XV de Novembro de Piracicaba and Clube 15 de Novembro from the southern city of Campo Bom,” writes André Leme López. “November 15 is the date of the military coup that overthrew the monarchy and established the Brazilian Republic (in 1889); one of our most important civic holidays. But all three clubs were founded on November 15, so I just can’t tell if the clubs were named after the civil date or the dates they were founded. Probably both.”
Nigel Stapley has another example from Southeast Europe. “In 1947, the Hoxha regime forcibly renamed KF Tiranë in Albania “17 Nëntori” (November 17) to commemorate the liberation of the capital from Nazi occupation on that day in 1944,” he writes. “The club returned to its original name after the fall of communism in Albania in 1991.”
“We were always told that friendly matches don’t matter, especially when we lose them. wrote Ryan Hart in July 2014. “But is it? Has any team won a Premier League title after being beaten in pre-season?
Of the last eight Premier League champions, only one team – Manchester City last season (42.9%) – had a pre-season winning percentage below 50%. On average, league winners boast a 68% win rate throughout the entire closed season.
Conversely, Alex Ferguson led the Red Devils to an 11-point lead over second-placed City in his last year in office (2012-13), despite only winning three of his six preliminaries. Similarly, the 2010-11 Scots contingent only won 57% of their summer fixtures but took the Premier League crown by nine points.
So a string of poor pre-season performances doesn’t necessarily herald a shaky start to the season – as City showed last year when they beat Newcastle United 4-0 on opening day, losing weeks to two South African teams. before.
You can help?
“In the 1960s, when I was growing up as a football fan, I don’t remember meeting the term “forward”. Can anyone identify when and where this description of the scorer was first used? Simon Warner asks.
“Pre-season friendlies always have weird matches,” begins Jez Orbell. “It’s hard to get a definitive answer, but what notable differences were there between successive opponents. For example, did the club play Real Madrid in one match and the Guernsey pub team in the next?
“All the scorers at East Fife, who beat Bucky Thistle 3-2, were called Scott,” Gerard Flanagan notes. “Was it before? Were there ever four scorers in a match with the same name?