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Everton: 100 Seasons of Top-Flight Football

A unique and unprecedented achievement

September 2002

David Moyes has been credited with keeping Everton in the Premiership, following his arrival and the immediate improvement in team performances after the sacking of the ultimately dreadful Walter Smith in March 2002.  But the importance of his achievement was much greater than simply avoiding relegation...

Everton's continuing presence in the Premiership ensured that the club would pass a remarkable landmark 100 seasons of competitive football in England's top-flight division.  No other club even comes close.  Season 2002-03 is the 104th for the Premiership and its predecessors the First Division of the old Football League and, from the very earliest days, simply the Football League itself.  Everton were one of the 12 original founder members, and have resided in that top division for all but four seasons of their famous history.  

The record was, until recently, backed up by superlative all-time top-flight statistics;  Evertonians could boast that the club had played and won more games in the top echelon of the most historic, most competitive league in world football.  Their achievement was even recognized by The Queen, who sent a nice letter to the Club. 

Disappointingly, the powers that be at Everton chose to celebrate this event as "100 years of top-flight football" it sounded snappier than the technically correct 100 seasons....  In his ignorance, Andrew Oldknow the Commercial Manager, even told the Everton Board he did not think this event was really worth much bother, choosing instead to focus on next year's 125th anniversary of the formation of the club, in 1878.  Thankfully, he was later relieved of his duties...

The facts are that Everton will have been in the top-flight division of English football for a total of 111 years, but are now playing in their 100th season of competitive football primarily due to the breaks forced by two World Wars.  As an interesting aside, Everton were Champions during both those breaks.  Winning the Championship nine times, including their first in 1891, Everton's League Record shows that they have been Champions for a total of 20 years out of the league's 115 years of existence more even than our arch rivals across the park!

An additional factor in the numbers game is the time Everton have spent in the old Second Division after being relegated in 1930, and again in 1951.  Four seasons in all represent the nadir of a historic record that is truly unequalled in English or World football.

Some will point to Arsenal, who have been in the top-flight continuously for 82 seasons, but their achievement will be forever tainted by the dubious circumstances under which they secured promotion from the Second Division in 1919, despite finishing 5th.  They somehow persuaded (or bribed?) the other clubs to vote them back into the newly expanded First Division at the expense of Spurs, who finished second from bottom, and were relegated despite the expansion to 22 teams.

Recent seasons have been painful for Everton fans, but their record of achievement over the years includes major trophies won during almost every decade of the Club's existence, culminating in their excellent victory over Manchester United in the 1995 FA Cup Final.  And new manager, David Moyes, has nailed his colours to the mast behind the philosophy of going out to win every game, so hopefully more trophies will not be too far away.  

Everton seem to have weathered the worst of this depressing period, and appear to be emerging in better shape just as the rest of the footballing world starts to shiver a little.  Hopefully, this will put us in good stead to continue as the pre-eminent Club in English Football, and to reclaim the higher ground by once again playing the School of Science football that brought such accolades in the 1920's, the 1960's and the 1980's. 

Michael Kenrick