You will often hear television and radio pundits talk about Everton as being one of the “ever-present” sides in the Premier League, the current top division in English football which launched in the 1992/93 season. But what about before that – have Everton ever been relegated from the top division?
Everton boast a proud record of the second-longest current run in the top division, having played in the best league in England every single season since 1954 – a run of consecutive top-flight seasons which is only bettered by Arsenal (who have played in the top division since 1915).
However, before that the Toffees did experience the feeling of relegation which will be familiar to fans of many other clubs – they were relegated TWICE, although both were now a long time ago.
Everton were founder members of the Football League in 1888, and so played in the First Division from its very first season, 1888/89. This could also be said to be their first relegation near-miss, as they finished just one place and three points above the relegation zone. (Although of course at the time 2 points were awarded for a league win, so this isn’t quite as close as it might look to modern eyes!)
Everton’s First Relegation – 1929/30
Everton’s first relegation came in the 1929/30 season when, after the 42-game season, the Toffees found themselves 22nd in the First Division – bottom of the table – with 35 points from 42 games. The relegation battle was incredibly close that season – just one more win during the season would have lifted Everton all the way up to 18th, above Grimsby Town on goal average (goals scored divided by goals conceded, which was used instead of the current goal difference tie-breaker at the time).
Whilst this result will have been very disappointing for Everton supporters, the club wasted no time in returning to the top division, winning the Second Division in 1930/31 to secure an immediate comeback. With that momentum behind them, they then won the First Division in 1931/32 to cap a remarkable turnaround in their fortunes.
Everton’s Second Relegation – 1950/51
Everton’s second and latest relegation came in the 1950/51 season when they again finished bottom of the First Division, in 22nd place. However this relegation was even closer than their previous one: two teams were relegated, but the bottom three all finished on 32 points, with Everton and Sheffield Wednesday dropping a division due to their inferior goal average (goals scored divided by goals conceded) when compared to Chelsea.
This time it took a little longer for Everton to bounce back: they finished 7th in the Second Division in 1951/52, 16th in 1952/53, and then in 1953/54 managed to finish as runners-up in the Second Division and return to the top flight where they have remained ever since.
Premier League Era
In 1992/93 the Premier League was launched as a new top division in English league football, with Everton being founder members. They’ve been ever-present in this new top division, although there have been a couple of occasions where it has looked like their place was in jeopardy.
In 1997/98, Everton had gone into the season full of optimism with their legendary manager Howard Kendall returning for a third spell in the dugout. However, after losing ten of their first sixteen games the club found themselves bottom of the table, and whilst a victory away to Leicester on 20th December 1997 lifted them to 19th, the club was still in the relegation zone on Christmas Day and embroiled in a real battle to survive. The loan signing of Kevin Campbell late in the season ended up being crucial as the striker grabbed nine goals in his first eight games for the Toffees. It still came right down to the wire, as Everton could only draw at home to Coventry City on the final day of the season and stayed up on goal difference ahead of Bolton Wanderers.
Having avoided coming anywhere near so close to danger since then, that season will have returned to supporters’ minds in the 2021/22 season when the club again came close to the drop. This time they had started the season well with four wins from the opening six games, but a collapse in form and a disastrous run of ten losses in twelve games between January and the beginning of April, culminating in a 3-2 loss to relegation rivals Burnley, had the fans starting to fear the worst for the first time since 1951. However, a 1-0 win over Manchester United in the next game spurred Frank Lampard’s side on to a run of four wins and two draws from the next eight games, with a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace in the penultimate match making sure that Everton’s long run in the top division would continue.