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Apr 24, 2012

Successive drops, European woes

Norman Hubbard is ESPNsoccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to asknorman@hotmail.com and he'll try to answer as many as possible.

My question has two parts: 1) Which player(s) has been relegated from the Premier League the most number of times? and 2) What is the most number of consecutive relegations from the Premier League that a player has suffered? (for example, with Wolves getting relegated this season, Roger Johnson has suffered two consecutive relegations - with Birmingham last season). And so will Scott Dann of Blackburn if they go down Pheroze M asked

The record is shared by Marcus Bent and Hermann Hreidarsson, who have both been relegated from the Premier League five times. Indeed, they were team-mates on three of those occasions - for Crystal Palace in 1998, Ipswich in 2002 and Charlton in 2007. Bent also went down with Leicester in 2004 and, without playing and having spent much of the season out on loan, with Birmingham last season. It can be argued that actually only gives him four relegations, but Hreidarsson, also demoted with Wimbledon in 2000 and Portsmouth in 2010, definitely has five.

Johnson and Dann are not alone in facing the threat of consecutive relegations; their Birmingham team-mate Jean Beausejour has since joined Wigan while DJ Campbell, who went down with Blackpool 11 months ago, is now at QPR, along with Kieron Dyer and Danny Gabbidon, two of the relegated West Ham squad.

So far, no one has been relegated from the Premier League in three successive seasons. There are several others with two in a row, including Nigel Quashie (Southampton in 2005, West Brom in 2006), Ashley Ward (Barnsley in 1998, Blackburn in 1999), Nathan Blake (Bolton in 1998, Blackburn in 1999), Claude Davis (Sheffield United in 2007, Derby in 2008) and Rory Delap (Southampton in 2005, Sunderland in 2006).

The closest to an unfortunate hat-trick is Neil Redfearn, relegated with Barnsley in 1998 and Charlton in 1999, having spent most of the 1999-2000 season at Bradford, who stayed up by beating Liverpool on the final day of the season. The key to their survival, perhaps, was letting the jinxed Redfearn move on to Wigan before the end of the season.

There is, however, a player who has achieved a hat-trick of relegations, two from the Premier League. Tal Ben Haim went down with Portsmouth two years ago, then West Ham, where he was on loan for the first half of the campaign, last season and, now back at Fratton Park, he has gone down from the Championship.

Manchester United are in pole position for the Premier League title, but were eliminated from continental competition at a very early stage. Normally the reverse occurs - teams may fail in the domestic league but shine in a cup competition. Are there other recent champions (England, Spain, Italy, Germany) who have performed so poorly in continental competition during the same season? Andrew Pollen, from USA but living in Barcelona, asked.

If United do win the league, they will be the English champions with the poorest performance in Europe since the Arsenal side of 1997-98, who exited the UEFA Cup at the first stage, beaten 2-1 on aggregate by PAOK Salonika. By doing so, they emulated the Blackburn team of 1994-95, who were defeated by Trelleborg in the UEFA Cup first round. No United side, however, has gone on to win the Premier League after being knocked out of the Champions League before Christmas since the side of 1993-94. Then the group stage did not begin until the last eight and United were beaten on away goals by Galatasaray in the second round.

The last English team to win the title in a year when they did not compete in Europe were Leeds in 1991-92, though it was a more regular occurrence before then, partly because of English clubs' five-year ban from continental competitions between 1985 and 1990.

Valencia won La Liga in 2002 and 2004 having not competed in the Champions League that season but, as UEFA Cup quarter-finalists in 2002 and winners two years later, it is hard to argue they underperformed in Europe. So for a Spanish counterpart to the current United side, we probably have to go back to 1999-2000 when Deportivo la Coruna, the eventual champions, were knocked out of the UEFA Cup in the last 16 by Arsenal (United, after dropping out of the Champions League this season, then fell out of the Europa League at the last-16 stage), or 1998-99 when Barcelona failed to get out of a Champions League group that included both finalists: winners United and runners-up Bayern Munich.

Serie A could be won by a side who were not even in Europe this season if Juventus lift the Scudetto. At the moment, however, the last champions who did not reach the last 16 of the Champions League that season were the Roma team of 2000-01, knocked out of the UEFA Cup in the last 16 by the eventual winners, Liverpool.

However, no side that went on to win Serie A that season have exited the Champions League or European Cup as early as United did since Giovanni Trapattoni's Juventus were beaten by Anderlecht in the second round in 1981-82. That said, it is worth remembering that, with only one European Cup place per country at the time, many eventual champions were not in the competition to begin with.

To Germany, anyway, and a rather simpler answer. Borussia Dortmund have been crowned Bundesliga champions and they have both emulated and surpassed United in terms of European failure. Jurgen Klopp's side also failed to qualify from this season's group stages but, unlike Sir Alex Ferguson's team, propped up their pool.

Last season, meanwhile, they also failed to qualify from a group stage - in the Europa League - while going on to win their domestic title. In addition, the 2006-07 champions, Stuttgart, did not compete in Europe that season.

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