5 biggest English football clubs outside the Premier League

The Premier League is often described as the best in the world and for the biggest football clubs stuck outside the English top flight, it is the promised land. Leeds showed how hard it can be to climb back into the Premier League, spending 16 long years outside the elite, but they are far from the only massive clubs to have struggled after suffering relegation from the top flight. Here are the five biggest clubs currently playing their football outside the Premier League.

Biggest English football clubs outside the Premier League

Nottingham Forest

Forest are currently making Leeds’ time outside the Premier League look like nothing more than a brief weekend break. It is already more than 20 years since Forest dropped out of the elite and they could even slide into League One if their form does not pick up this term.

On most metrics, Forest remain one of the biggest English football clubs in the country. While the City Ground is a little dated and is in need of modernisation, it holds more than 30,000 fans and has a history that few clubs can match.

Back-to-back European Cup titles under the late, great Brian Clough was a phenomenal achievement and they also won the 1989 and 1990 League Cups during his time in charge.

Forest finished in the 1994-95 Premier League season but it feels like it could be many more years until they finally change their status as one of the biggest clubs outside the Premier League


If Forest are relegated, they could find themselves facing off another sleeping giant of the game in Sunderland, who are languishing in the third tier though remaining in with a shot of winning promotion back to the Championship.

Mismanagement on an incredible scale led to Sunderland slipping down the leagues, with the chaotic running of the club detailed in two series of a Netflix documentary, Sunderland ‘Til I Die, which fans of the Black Cats had to watch through their fingers.

The 40,000-capacity Stadium of Light is one of the UK’s most impressive modern stadiums but in recent years it has been half-empty as the club’s famously passionate fans understandably lost their enthusiasm for seeing low-quality sides go through the motions.

Champions on six occasions and two-time FA Cup winners to boot, Sunderland’s honours list could soon see the Papa John’s Trophy added after they booked a return to Wembley by inching past Lincoln City on penalties. A recent takeover has also led to renewed hope on Wearside.

Sheffield Wednesday

Among the oldest clubs in the world, Wednesday’s time away from the Premier League has not always been miserable. They won the League Cup in 1991, beating Manchester United in the final, while in the second tier.

But, more recently, fortune has not favoured the Owls. Like many of the other clubs on this list, they have been badly managed and have struggled financially in recent times, making it harder to compete for a return to the Premier League.

They are currently in even more danger than Forest of suffering relegation to League One, which would be another sad chapter in the story of this famous club.

Champions of England four times and winners of the FA Cup on three occasions, Hillsborough has not hosted Premier League football for 20 years. It has been far too long for one of the biggest English football clubs outside the Premier League.

Blackburn Rovers

Not traditionally considered one of the biggest English football clubs, Rovers’ heavy spending catapulted them into playing with the big boys in the early days of the Premier League. Jack Walker’s millions funded a thrilling side led by the prolific Alan Shearer and marshalled by Kenny Dalglish, leading Rovers to lift the Premier League title in the 1994-95 season, one of the closest title races ever.

Only six clubs have won the Premier League since Rovers, showing what a magnificent achievement it was for them to break through among the established elite. Manager Tony Mowbray has Rovers trending upwards, though, with the club’s fans hoping a decade out of the top flight could soon come to an end.

Birmingham City

Wrapping up our selection of the biggest clubs outside the Premier League are the Blues, who pip the likes of Derby County, Stoke City and Middlesbrough for the spot.

Birmingham’s League Cup title in 2011 means they have lifted major silverware more recently than a lot of clubs currently playing in the Premier League, even if they have been outside of the top flight since the same year.

Along with Forest and Wednesday, City are battling relegation from the Championship, so their chances of returning to the Premier League any time soon appear to be fairly remote.

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