Derby, Cardiff And England's Clubs In Sustained Decline

Rochdale's drop has seen them slip into non-league football
08:00, 10 May 2023

Defeat at Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the season consigned Derby County to a second consecutive season in League One and assured the Rams finished in the lowest league position in their long history. As a result, Paul Warne’s side are at risk of continuing a decline which is as bad as any other in the entirety of the professional game in this country.

Derby’s gradual slide has seen them drop progressively lower down the pyramid in the last four seasons, and they are not the only ones suffering such a run as The Sportsman’s guide to England’s most continuously falling clubs shows…

Rochdale – 4 seasons of decline (5th guaranteed)

2018/19: 16th in League One

2019/20: 18th in League One

2020/21: 21st in League One

2021/22: 18th in League Two

2022/23: 24th in League One

(2023/24: Lower finish guaranteed)

Over a century of Football League history was ended this season when the Dale were relegated from the fourth tier for the first time, bringing a gloomy end to a stretch which has seen them fall unabated from their position as a comfortable mid-table League One side of seven years’ standing. Even an immediate bounce-back from the National League would see a fifth drop on the ladder, but that may be wishful thinking amid behind-the-scenes concerns.

Cardiff City – 4 seasons

2018/19: 18th in Premier League

2019/20: 5th in Championship

2020/21: 8th in Championship

2021/22: 18th in Championship

2022/23: 21st in Championship

Cardiff’s spell in the Premier League under Neil Warnock now feels a million years ago following the Bluebirds’ steady slip down the Championship table which very nearly led to demotion to League One this term.


Derby County – 4 seasons

2018/19: 6th in Championship

2019/20: 10th in Championship

2020/21: 21st in Championship

2021/22: 23rd in Championship

2022/23: 7th in League One

Since their play-off final loss to Aston Villa in 2019 under Frank Lampard, the triumvirate of Phillip Cocu, Wayne Rooney, Liam Rosenior and Paul Warne have overseen the most difficult spell in the Rams’ history.

Doncaster Rovers – 4 seasons

2018/19: 6th in League One

2019/20: 9th in League One

2020/21: 14th in League One

2021/22: 22nd in League One

2022/23: 18th in League Two

Doncaster have been through a host of bosses since they reached the League One play-offs under Grant McCann four seasons ago, and their poor return to League Two this season has led to another change with the news on Monday that Danny Schofield has been sacked after just 10 wins in 33 matches at the helm.

Oxford United – 3 seasons

2019/20: 4th in League One

2020/21: 6th in League One

2021/22: 8th in League One

2022/23: 19th in League One

From a regular contender in the play-off shake-up to a side hovering over the drop zone, Oxford reacted to a steep drop in 2022-23 by sacking Karl Robinson and replacing him with former Milton Keynes Dons boss Liam Manning. Another step backwards next season could see them slip back into the fourth tier.


Burnley – 3 seasons (run will end in 2023/24)

2019/20: 10th in Premier League

2020/21: 17th in Premier League

2021/22: 18th in Premier League

2022/23: 1st in Championship

(2023/24: Premier League)

Vincent Kompany’s wonderful first season in charge has guaranteed Burnley a climb on the ladder next season after a three-year period of regression. Sean Dyche’s former golden touch had started to wear off ahead of the Clarets’ relegation from the top flight last term, but now the club is bouncing back.

Teams with two seasons of decline…

Reading – 7th in Champ > 21st in Champ > 22nd in Champ (guaranteed 3rd season in 2023/24)

Accrington Stanley – 11th in League One > 12th in League One > 23rd in League One  (guaranteed 3rd season in 2023/24)

West Ham United – 6th in Prem > 7th in Prem > No higher than 11th in Prem

Leicester City – 5th in Prem > 8th in Prem > No higher than 14th in Prem

Queens Park Rangers – 9th in Champ > 11th in Champ > 20th in Champ

Barnsley – 5th in Champ > 24th in Champ > 4th in League One

Wycombe Wanderers – 22nd in Champ > 6th in League One > 9th in League One

Swindon Town – 23rd in League One > 6th in League Two > 10th in League Two

Crewe Alexandra – 12th in League One > 24th in League One > 13th in League Two

Newport County – 5th in League Two > 11th in League Two > 15th in League Two

Gillingham – 10th in League One > 21st in League One > 17th in League Two

AFC Wimbledon – 19th in League One > 23rd in League One > 21st in League Two


*18+ | BeGambleAware

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