Every squad gets relegated from time to time; it’s an inevitable part of the game. But not every player on a team always deserves that fate. It’s often the sad fact that a sole great player can’t save a bad line-up. So today, let’s look at the five players who, whilst their teams were relegated, perhaps didn’t deserve to go down alongside them.
Roy Keane (Nottingham Forest 1992/1993)
Long before his career as a manager, Keane was a rising star who had attracted attention from various quarters. As good as he was, he was unable to save the Reds from relegation during the 1992-93 season, but Blackburn Rovers decided that they wanted him anyway. Unfortunately, a mistake with their paperwork meant that the transfer was delayed, and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson took the opportunity to swoop in and poached him. Dastardly!
Jermain Defoe (Sunderland 2016/2017)
- Defoe’s record was consistently excellent. Unfortunately, the rest of his squad dragged him down. It was an uncharacteristically poor season for the Black Cats and they never managed to escape from the bottom half of the table. Defoe’s goal-scoring record is nothing short of magnificent – but it turned out that his teammates just couldn’t keep up.
Charlie Austin (QPR 2014/2015)
Queens Park Rangers had a disastrous season in 2014-15, managing to win a paltry eight matches. Of all the players on the squad, the only one to shine was Charlie Austin. A notoriously hard-working and dogged player, Austin scored nearly half of the team’s goals during the season. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. He went on to better things with Southampton a couple of years later, though.
Craig Bellamy (Coventry City 2000/2001)
Long known as a stellar team, Coventry always put in a great performance. Unfortunately the record broke in 2001. Bellamy was a player with an excellent record, having been bought for a cool £6 million, but never seemed to find his feet during his tenure at Coventry. His shaky performance contributed to a poor season overall. Bellamy even later confessed that he “never once enjoyed” his time with the club, saying that it demoralised him and made him feel as though he had regressed.
Gareth Southgate (Crystal Palace 1994/1995)
Hard as it might be for some to imagine now, Southgate had a pretty shaky playing career. While he later shaped up and even ended up captaining the Glaziers, he couldn’t stop them being relegated during the 1994-95 season. That wasn’t even the most notable balls-up during his playing career, though: remember that fateful penalty against Germany in ‘96? Even Prime Minister John Major felt bad enough to offer the player a sympathetic hug. Goes to show that a single mistake can mark you – but as we know, things eventually got better.