4. Ipswich Town (2000/2001) - 5th
Having spent five seasons out of the top flight and suffering play-off heartbreak for four straight years, Ipswich Town finally earned a spot in the Premier League after beating Barnsley 4-2 in what turned out to be the final competitive club fixture at the old Wembley. Despite having no star players and barely adding to their young squad, George Burley’s men turned in an exceptional team performance and surprised everyone by finishing fifth in their debut Premier League campaign, just four points behind second-placed Arsenal. In fact, the Tractor Boys also reached the semi-finals of the League Cup and qualified for the following season’s UEFA Cup.
The Ipswich squad was full of unheralded players to begin with, but by the end, the likes of Richard Wright, Titus Bramble, and James Scowcroft were soon being tipped for bigger things. They also found an unlikely goal-scoring hero in Marcus Stewart, who finished second behind Chelsea’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the race for the Premier League Golden Boot.
Even though they enjoyed some memorable moments the following year (beating Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup, for one) their unexpected success eventually proved to be the reason for their downfall. The stars of their successful 2000/01 campaign were all poached by the big guns and not adequately replaced, and they also failed to cope with the extra demands of European football. An unceremonious relegation followed in 2002, and they have failed to return to the Premier League ever since.Published 26 Jan 2020, 19:04 IST