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5 English clubs you probably didn't know were once top-flight league champions

General Views of UK Sporting Venues
The Crest of Sunderland AFC outside their stadium
Modified 30 Apr 2018
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The reputation of the Premier League today means riches unparalleled flowing into clubs. A season or two in the English top flight is, therefore, a prized means of getting the extra boost to the finances of clubs, as well as the reputation increase that comes with the increased media coverage.

It is, perhaps, for this reason alone, that most clubs, regardless of size in terms of their current financial health or fan following invest so much in getting to the 'Top Division'. Some clubs, however, have spent large portions of their history in the top division and are automatically recognised throughout the world and have large fan bases in both England and abroad.

It is only natural the these 'bigger' sides with big fan bases win Premier League titles. The likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool have almost exclusively been top division sides and have racked up league titles and major honours in the last century or so.

But some other clubs have faced the ignominy of relegation and have had their past glories seem irrelevant as they toiled in the lower reaches of professional football before making their way up as 'plucky little clubs' punching above their weight.

Some clubs have gone back down to the lower divisions. These include the likes of Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers, who have spent a long time out of the Premier League.

Some historically successful clubs, with their history glorious but present modest, have come and graced the top flight in recent years without most fans ever realising the impact these clubs have had on the British footballing legacy.

We take a look at 5 clubs who you probably did not know had been top-flight champions at some point in their existence:

#5 Sunderland

the first side to score 100 goals in a season

Sunderland have always had a very large fanbase to draw from with the city being a one-club area, with no rivals anywhere close to the top flight from the city. Their closest rivals, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough are themselves one-club areas and the trio form a major footballing fanbase in North-East England.

But if anyone were to consider the more recent history of Sunderland, it is very difficult to imagine that they have been anything but strugglers on the fringes of the top division. Their history, however, tells a very different story.

Sunderland's early history is glorious. They were founded in 1879 and joined the Football League in 1890/91, becoming the first non-founding team to be elected to the two-year-old competition. They replaced Stoke City on the charts and by 1891/92 had already won their first league title.

Sunderland were actually the first team to score 100 goals in a league season, achieving it in 1892/93 as they defended their title. This was significant because the Football League at that point was only five years old and a team managing to be that dominating with similar levels of talent across the league was marvellous They remained alone in the 100-goals-a-season club until till 1919/20.

They won more league titles in 1895-96 and 1901/02. Despite being unable to win another title for ten years, Sunderland were considered a top side in England. The League was suspended soon after as World War I broke out, destroying their hopes for another spell of dominance.


They tried hard to regain their massive presence for a long time but could only win the league once more in 1935-36 and were interestingly the last team to win a league title wearing a striped jersey, which is mind-boggling when you consider that eighty-two years have gone by since then.

Their only major honour since that glorious year, however, are two FA Cups in 1937 and 1973. The current Championship strugglers seem a far cry from their sides in the last two centuries!

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Published 20 Nov 2017, 19:05 IST
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