Fulham Relegation Reunites Promotion Class of 2001

  • May 04, 2014 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/3cc81

Following Fulham's relegation to the Championship on Saturday, the Division One promotion class of 2001 will reunite in the second tier next season.

The 2000/01 campaign saw Fulham and Blackburn Rovers win promotion to the Premier League, while third-placed Bolton beat Preston North End in the play-off final to join them in the top-flight.

In their first season at that level, all three clubs managed to do something that had never been done since the inception of the Premier League. Never before had all three promoted sides avoided relegation the following year, an achievement only repeated once since - in 2011/12 - when Queens Park Rangers, Norwich City and Swansea City all retained their status at the top.

Wanderers, Rovers and Fulham all tasted relative success during their respective times in the Premier League, with top-half finishes, cup finals and European football finding their way to each club at some stage in the last 13 years.

After narrowly avoiding relegation in their first two seasons back in the division, Bolton recorded four successive top-eight finishes between 2004 and 2007 - finishing 8th, 6th, 8th and 7th year-on-year - as well as reaching the final of the League Cup in 2004. Their 6th-placed finish in 2005 and 7th-placed finish in 2007 saw them qualify for the UEFA Cup for the only times in their history.

But after narrow escapes from the drop in the years that followed, Wanderers were relegated to the Championship in 2012 after an 11-year stay amongst the elite. Ironically, Blackburn fell at the same time and the two Lancashire rivals were forced to adapt to life back in the second tier.

Back in 2001, Rovers qualified for the UEFA Cup by beating Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. A 6th-placed finish in 2002/03 saw them qualify for the competition again the following season, before they sealed a return to Europe in 2005/06 under the management of Mark Hughes.

They qualified for Europe again in 2007, before the on and off-field problems began to set in at the club. On May 7, 2012, Rovers lost at home to Wigan Athletic and dropped into the Championship, like Bolton, for the first time in 11 years.

With Bolton and Blackburn both gone, it was down to Fulham to keep the 'Class of 2001' alive in the Premier League, but their journey came to an end on Saturday as they lost 4-1 at Stoke City to see their 13-year stay in the top flight draw to a close.

Aside from close calls in 2007 and 2008, respectively, Fulham have largely been a comfortable mid-table Premier League side since their promotion, with a 7th-placed finish in 2008/09 their best return.

Their journey to the FA Cup semi-finals in 2001 hasn't been matched since, while early exits from the League Cup have become normality for the Cottagers, but they did have something to shout about in 2010 when they reached the final of the UEFA Cup - their second of three European campaigns during their stay in the Premier League.

Unfortunately for Roy Hodgson's side, they were beaten 2-1 by Atletico Madrid in the final and just four years later, in a season which has seen them play under three different managers, their lack of consistency since that night in Hamburg has seen them join Bolton and Blackburn in the 2014/15 Championship.

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