Second Season Syndrome – Does it Exist?

Does second season syndrome actually exist? We've looked at which sides traditionally struggled in their second outing at Premier League level...


The phrase ‘second-season syndrome’ is often whispered in hushed tones among fans of clubs who outperformed expectations in their first campaigns in the Premier League.

But is it really all that common?

We decided to find out…

Second Season Syndrome – Is It A Thing?

Here are five cases of teams tailing off badly after the initial euphoria of surviving once in the Premier League wears off…

Middlesbrough – 1996/1997

Boro were on the crest of the wave in 1996 after finishing a respectable 12th in the previous Premier League season. Chairman Steve Gibson showed a real statement of intent in the transfer market, backing manager Bryan Robson by sealing the shock signing of Italian star Fabrizio Ravanelli in a bid to power the Teeside club to greater heights.


However the ‘galactico’ approach backfired badly for Boro, who finished in 19th place. To add insult to injury, it was a needless relegation – with the club being deducted the three points that would have been enough to survive after calling off a fixture earlier that season.

Bradford City – 2000/2001

It’s still one of the most famous last day escapes in history, as Paul Jewell’s unfancied Bradford City side pulled off a major shock by surviving on the final day of the 1999/2000 season with a gritty 1-0 win against Liverpool.

The Bantams fell back to earth in the following campaign as Jewell departed for Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday and a gamble on star signing Benito Carbone failed to pay off.

Reading – 2007/2008

The Royals showed just how influential momentum can be for any Premier League newcomer by finishing 8th in their maiden season after winning the EFL Championship the previous campaign with a record 106 points.

Things would prove a lot harder second time round as Steve Coppell’s side got stuck in a rut and slipped back to the second tier in 18th place.

Hull City – 2009/2010

Pundits didn’t give Phil Brown’s Hull City side a prayer of surviving in the Premier League after a surprising run to play-off glory in the Championship during the previous season, but they confounded all expectations with a rampant start to 2007-2008, finding themselves joint top of the table at the end of October.

Phil Brown

A huge slump in form saw them slip to 17th place by the end of that season and Brown failed to halt the slide the following campaign as the Tigers meekly surrendered their top-flight status.

Birmingham City – 2010/2011

It was a season of mixed fortunes for the Blues in 2010/2011 as a stunning 2-1 League Cup Final victory against Arsenal was quickly followed by the pain of relegation on the final day of the season.

The future had looked bright for Alex McLeish’s side in the previous campaign after an impressive 9th-place finish, but they have yet to scale those same heights again in the Premier League era.

Alex McCleish

Biggest Cases of Second Season Syndrome

  • Middlesbrough – 1996/1997
  • Bradford City – 2000/2001
  • Reading – 2007/2008
  • Hull City – 2009/2010
  • Birmingham City – 2010/2011

Image sources from PA Images

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