Watching the FA Cup you often here lower league clubs described as Premier League clubs, not in current league status but in historical context. This got me to thinking, who are the biggest and most historic clubs in England who would be considered as Premier League club as presumably there can only be 20. Obviously there is going to be debate as to who these clubs should be, so to start that debate I have my 20 who I would consider to be those who ‘deserve’ to be in the Premier League. I think it is important to note that I have considered Premier League as top flight and as such have taken into consideration achievements prior to 1992.
I believe there are 10 clubs currently in the Premier League who based on their following and history would be considered by the vast majority to be Premier League clubs. These clubs are the seven never to be relegated from the Premier League, Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool. In addition, Newcastle, Manchester City and West Ham would be considered by most as among the top 20 English clubs, so I will not try to justify what I consider to be obvious inclusions.
So this leaves 10 spots to be filled that may be considered up for debate.
Blackburn: sensationally won the Premier League in the 1990′s and a member of the top flight more often than not in recent times. Not one of the 20 biggest clubs in England, but performances on the field get Blackburn into the top 20 clubs.
Fulham: not the biggest club, nor a club of particular historical success. However, after over a decade in the Premier League and being an established top flight club must now be considered in England’s top 20 clubs.
Ipswich Town: any club to have employed Alf Ramsey and Bobby Robson as manager in their history has got to be in the top 20 clubs in England. European success in 1981 along with domestic success throughout the clubs history confirm Ipswich in my top 20 clubs.
Leeds United: not a current Premier League club, but have spent most of recent history in the top flight before very public and devastating financial problems. They were also champions of England as recently as 1992 and Champions League semi-finalists in 2001. Current league status aside an obvious inclusion.
Nottingham Forest: two-time European Champions means Forest must be considered among England’s top 20 teams. The club still enjoy a good following, and while top flight football has not been a regular occurrence, the Clough years mean Forest is still to be considered a top 20 club.
Sheffield Wednesday: a consent in the English top flight and battling at the sharp end of the table until relegation in the late 1990′s. Playing in arguably the most historic ground in English football, Hillsborough, they are without a doubt in my mind a top 20 English club.
Sheffield United: A well supported club who flirted with the Premier League. A very historic club from a very historic football city in England. It is this history that sneaks them in ahead of some of the current Premier League clubs into this list. Plus, I couldn’t include just one of the Sheffield teams, could I?
Southampton: Great contributors to the Premier League drama in the 1990′s with their dramatic escapes from relegation. A well supported club and have a new stadium which enables this support to help the club build financially. The decisive factor for the Saints getting into my top 20 was Matt Le Tissier, what a legend!
Sunderland: A top flight team for most of the Premier League era and a big following in the north-east are enough to make Sunderland a top 20 club in England.
West Bromich Albion: a yo-yo club in recent history but now appear to have consolidated their top flight status. Another well supported club with a long history, five FA Cups get them into the top 20 just ahead of a few other clubs.
So there you have it, the 20 ‘Premier League’ clubs. A few honourable mentions to Norwich, Wolves, Middlesbrough, Stoke and Derby that just missed the cut. Let the debate begin!