THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Graham Forshaw decribes the season which saw champions Fulham accumulate 101 points

The long-term significance
The three promoted clubs all stayed up the following season – the only time this has happened since the Premier League started. Indeed, none of the three has been relegated since. Fulham's Jean Tigana was the only black manager in the League at the time and the first foreigner to take a team up to the top level – Ossie Ardiles had won promotion through the play-offs with Swindon Town ten years earlier but they were then demoted for financial irregularities.

Story of the season
Brought in from Monaco, Tigana got off to a sensational start at Fulham, winning his first 11 matches. His side were top for all but two weeks of the season. Key to their success was the strike partnership of Louis Saha and Barry Hayles, usually supplied by Luís Boa Morte who also contributed 18 goals from the wing. A resolute defence hinged on the central pairing of Andy Melville and Chris Coleman, the latter being replaced after an injury-ending car crash in January 2001 by Welsh international colleague Kit Symons. Other important players were Steve Finnan at right-back and Lee Clark in midfield. Tigana also set great store by toothpicks which he chewed throughout each game. Fulham returned to the top level after a 33-year absence with a 2-1 win at Huddersfield in their 41st fixture; owner Mohamed Fayed was to reward each player with a hamper worth £5,000.

For the first three months Fulham were run close by Watford who won 12 of their first 15 games. But Graham Taylor's side then slumped badly, a run of eight matches without a win taking them out of contention. Graeme Souness's Blackburn didn't get into the top six until Christmas but they lost only one of their last 16 games, to Fulham, and clinched promotion with a derby win at Preston in their penultimate match. Their squad was packed with Premier League experience, including Norwegian defenders Henning Berg and Stig-Inge Bjornebye, Jason McAteer and Eyal Berkovic in midfield, and 37-year-old Mark Hughes up front. The play-off final pitched Sam Allardyce against David Moyes, with the former's Bolton side winning 3-0. Birmingham missed out in two penalty shoot-outs, to Preston in the play-off semi-finals and against Liverpool in the League Cup final.

Crewe were bottom at the start of the year but six wins in ten matches then lifted them out of danger. Huddersfield had looked doomed after winning only one of their first 17 but they rallied and only went down on the last day, losing to Birmingham while rivals Crystal Palace won at Stockport with a goal from their current caretaker manager Dougie Freedman. Tranmere piled up games in hand during a run to the FA Cup quarter-finals but they managed only one victory in their last 15 matches.

For the record books
Louis Saha was the top scorer with 27 goals, four ahead of Blackburn's Matt Jansen with Lee Hughes of West Brom a further two goals behind in third. Birmingham City were the best supported club with an average of 21,283; at the other end, Grimsby drew 5,646.

Same place today
Ten of these clubs are in the Championship this season. Preston are the only ones to have stayed put since, though that may soon change.

Moved furthest away
Wimbledon were controversially relocated to Milton Keynes in 2004; their successor club is now in the Blue Square Premier, alongside Grimsby. Tranmere have spent the past decade at the third level, while Stockport County, Crewe and Gillingham are now in League Two.

From WSC 289 March 2011

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