Football’s Finest Fairytales


This article was first published on 28th April 2015

AFC Bournemouth v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship

Ryan Fraser of Bournemouth after last night’s win over Bolton. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

AFC Bournemouth’s recent financial troubles have been well documented today and yesterday after they all but clinched promotion to the Premier League by beating Bolton Wanderers last night. They began the 2008/09 season on -17 points at the bottom of League Two. On the brink of going under, the Cherries instead regrouped and fought back in the face of adversity and have somehow now found themselves in the promised land.

Stories like Bournemouth’s are why everyone loves football, a true underdog victory. Whether they finish bottom of the table next season or manage to survive again, the fact will remain that they made it to the top tier of English football – for the first time in their history – and became the 47th team to play in the Premier League, something unimaginable when they were five minutes from liquidation in 2008.

Here, we take a look at some of the other best romance stories that football has gifted us.

Blackpool – Promoted to Premier League 2010

Blackpool, under the guidance of eccentric manager Ian Holloway, stunned the football world by their valiant performances in 2009/2010. They played nothing but attacking football, earning praise from across the league, and were promoted to the big time via the playoffs, beating Cardiff City in the final. They were widely tipped for relegation from the Championship the year they went up, but they made up for their shoestring budget by playing with as much heart and guile as they could muster. Their top flight stint was to prove ill-fated, as a collapse in form in the second half of the season saw them relegated on the final day.

In only 2000/01, Blackpool were playing in the fourth tier of the English football pyramid. They had something of a meteoric rise to the top, capturing the hearts and minds of fans up and down the country. These days however, Blackpool fans are constantly protesting about the failures of the Oystons, who have spearheaded the club’s demise down to the third tier once more.

Eibar – Promoted to La Liga 2014

Girona FC v SD Eibar - Spanish Segunda Division

Eibar celebrate a win in their promotion campaign last season. Photo: Getty Images

Eibar are still in the middle of their fairytale, after winning promotion in the unlikeliest of circumstances last season. Everything was against them – even the league itself. From a town of less than 30,000 inhabitants, the tiny club bounced between the fourth and second tiers for most of its history. Two seasons ago they weren’t expected to make much of a splash in the third tier, but earned promotion. Last year they were widely expected to go straight back down, but ended up winning the league, and by the half way point of their only top flight campaign to date, they sat in 8th place.

Eibar had to struggle through much more than on-pitch adversaries to reach Spain’s top flight. For some bizarre reason, teams in the second tier in Spain had to have a certain amount of expenditure corresponding to the average of the league. Eibar’s financial policy has always been about not spending more than they have, therefore not getting into any debt. Eibar are one of very few Spanish teams with absolutely no debt for this reason. It was this financial policy that meant they didn’t spend much money, resulting in the league threatening to relegate them to the third tier after they won Segunda just last summer, prompting in fans and romantics across the world pitching in to buy shares in the club, helping them achieve their goal of playing in the top tier – something they had fairly earned by their on-pitch endeavours.

Montpellier – Ligue 1 winners 2012 

Since 2012, PSG have since grown and grown to the point of French and European powerhouses, given the backing they have from their new owners. The summer before the season, they splashed over €100 million on a new playing staff, not to mention bringing in veteran Italian manager Carlo Ancelotti, who was made the highest paid manager in French football history. Montpellier on the other hand, broke their highest transfer fee paid with the signature of Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud for a whopping £1.7 million.

Montpellier HSC v Olympique Lyonnais

Montpellier celebrate winning the title in 2012. Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Giroud went on to score 21 goals for Montpellier that season, as they stormed to a hugely unlikely championship title by pipping PSG on the final day of the season. Their first ever title was seen by an average crowd of only 17,492, and led to their first ever campaign in the Champions League. The following season, the dream was over, as the capital club stormed to the title and finished 30 points ahead of Montpellier.

Atletico Madrid – La Liga winners 2014

For such a long time it seemed like the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid may never be broken again in Spain, as the big two looked miles ahead of the chasing pack not only in terms of quality but finances as well, which should in theory maintain the quality gap. Atletico Madrid had finished 9th and 7th before Simeone took over mid way through the 2011/12 season, and once the Argentinian entered the fray, things changed.

Last season, Atleti displayed incredible consistency, beating teams week in week out with magnificent efficiency. Diego Costa took on more responsibility to find the goals once Falcao left, and ended up scoring for fun. Throughout the year, he was asked whether his team could win the title, and throughout the season he answered no, but they were taking things one week at a time. Simeone transformed a group of players – largely the same squad finishing 9th and 7th – and made them champions, finishing ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid and Leo Messi’s Barcelona. More than that, they almost capped things off with a Champions League title, but suffered unimaginable heartbreak at the hands of their city rivals in the final after leading until the 93rd minute.

Swansea City – League Two 2005 to Premier League 2011 

The Swans have already achieved the best ever Premier League points tally/finish, and are setting that club record higher with every result they get between now and the end of the season. One of their biggest achievements has to be the fact that they are now Premier League mainstays, rising from humble beginnings to one of the most established teams in the league.

Reading v Swansea City - npower Championship Playoff Final

Swansea players celebrate winning promotion in 2011. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Eleven years ago, Swansea finished level on points with Boston United, now playing in the Conference North. They even finished below Oxford United in the 2003/04 League Two season. Excellent management of the club has allowed them to grow step by step, were promoted in 2004/05, 2007/08, and to the Premier League in 2010/11, and even featured in the Europa League last season after winning their first ever trophy in English football the season before.

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