Home Football CHOKED! The Premier League Leaders Who Threw It All Away…

CHOKED! The Premier League Leaders Who Threw It All Away…


There are fourteen games left of the 2016/17 Premier League season and Chelsea lead by a full nine points. Most football fans, bookmakers and clubs are poised to write off the title as the West Londoners’ after this weekend. If Spurs leave Anfield on Saturday evening without three points, it’s game over, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Well, maybe not…

Tony Conte’s high-flyers in blue would do well to piddle it up the wall with an advantage as big as eleven or twelve points. But it’s not outside of the realms of possibility. We’ve seen teams choke before. Tottenham do it every year, after all. But even teams sitting pretty at the summit of the league have been known to take their eye off the (foot)ball and conspire to lose out on the big prize come the final day of the season. Here are our top four examples, in chronological order:

Manchester United, 1992

  • Led from? 31st March to 18th April
  • Their biggest lead? Six points
  • Points gained from their final ten games? Thirteen (1.3 per game)
  • Ending up finishing? Second

Okay, okay… So this first entry wasn’t technically the Premier League. But, hey, it was only a year out. 1991/92 saw the end of the First Division and one of the few times Manchester United ever bottled it in what most football fans know as ‘The Alex Ferguson Era’. An unexpected meltdown at the finishing line saw Fergie’s boys surrender and hand over the title to Howard Wilkinson’s wily old veteran Leeds United side. A fluke goal in a 1-0 reverse against an already relegated West Ham saw them on the back foot in the penultimate game of the season. Then, in a humiliating turn, the Red Devils had to fully concede title race defeat at Anfield.

When the Premier League started the following season, Man United began to dominate things and did so for the next few years (if you ignore that one title win by Jack Walker’s cash-rich Blackburn Rovers side – which you probably shouldn’t). United were cruising every year. Until a certain Kevin Keegan decided to (nearly) crash the party…

Newcastle United, 1996

  • Led from? 19th August to 23rd March
  • Their biggest lead? Twelve points
  • Points gained from their final ten games? Seventeen (1.7 per game)
  • Ending up finishing? Second

A good few years into red dominance in the Premier League and non-United fans were getting a little tired of it. So when King Kev and his open style of play set the league alight, we were treated to the most exciting top flight season in decades. A twelve point lead was accrued by Newcastle United and – as we know now – frittered away. Beardsley, Les Ferdinand and Ginola ran away with things until ‘The Meltdown’. It’s widely thought of as being orchestrated by the mind games of the devious Scot in the Old Trafford dugout. But the reality? Nerves got the better of the Magpies.

As much as ‘I’d LOVE it if we beat them!’ has gone down in history as proof of Ferguson’s Machiavellian psyche-out, Manchester United won thirteen of their final fifteen matches. Without that imperious form, Keegan’s lot would have done it. Shame, eh?

Arsenal, 2008

  • Led from? 15th September to 15th March
  • Their biggest lead? Five points
  • Points gained from their final ten games? Eighteen (1.8 per game)
  • Ending up finishing? Third

Modern-era Arsenal are a side known for their strong captains. At least, up until one fateful February afternoon at St. Andrews, back in 2008. Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams would have been distraught to see the woeful lack of leadership shown by William Gallas, as the Frenchman sulked after his side threw away a two goal lead. He sat on the pitch after the final whistle and refused to leave the pitch. Had the Gunners thrown away the title? Nope. They were still leading! Like they had for a good four months…

Admittedly, this was also the game where ‘That Tackle’ by Martin Taylor broke Eduardo da Silva’s leg in the most horrific way, so maybe there was a little shock in the system still. But it all fell away from here. Damn that last minute Gael Clichy-conceded penalty.

Liverpool, 2014

  • Led from? 30th March to 5th May
  • Their biggest lead? Five points
  • Points gained from their final ten games? Twenty six (2.6 per game)
  • Ending up finishing? Second

Liverpool’s 2013/14 season was surreal. And not in a good way for the Reds. An ordinary start turned mad towards the end of the season when Brendan Rodgers’ men won eleven games on the spin and looked set to snatch the title from Manchester City in unbelievably stunning fashion. Steven Gerrard would finally get his hands on a Premier League trophy and all would be well in the red half of Merseyside. But it wasn’t to be. Why not? Well, they slipped up. Well, Stevey G slipped up…

Going into the game at Anfield against Chelsea, they’d not lost in sixteen. But Gerrard soon lost his footing to allow Demba Ba in to score. Willian doubled the pain and Liverpool lost 2-0. They also lost control of the title race. They later drew with Palace, squandering a three goal lead and City wrapped things up. Heartbreaking.

Will Chelsea keep their nerve this weekend? Will Spurs slip a la Gerrard and gift the title away? We’ll have to wait and see…

Steve Charnock A freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card. Follow him on Twitter or follow him into the pub and buy him a drink.