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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Guardian sport

Which football clubs have won the league title in their centenary year?

LDU Quito of Ecuador celebrate winning the league title in 2018, 100 years after they were founded.
LDU Quito of Ecuador celebrate winning the league title in 2018, 100 years after they were founded. Photograph: NurPhoto/Getty Images

“How many clubs worldwide have won the league title in their centenary year and which was the first?” asks Masai Graham.

Quite a few clubs have celebrated the big 100 with a league title, Masai. Alan Gomes gets the ball rolling with an example in Portugal. “Porto’s official date of foundation is September 1893. And Porto won the Portuguese title for the 1992-93 season. There is, however, some controversy about when Porto were founded. The club recognises 1893 as its official foundation year, however, the club’s founder, António Nicolau de Almeida, was persuaded in the late-1890s by his English wife to abandon football, which she apparently deemed “too violent”. The club lay dormant until 1906, when it was “refounded”. But if you want to use 1906 as the starting point instead of 1893, well, Porto won the 2005-06 Portuguese league as well.”

Peter Collins gets symmetrical. “Chelsea won their first league title in 1954-55, 50 years after being founded, and their second in 2004-05, 100 years after being founded.” From there, Richard Wilson takes us to the former Yugoslavia. “There are a few centenary champions but some of their claims are more disputed than others,” he writes. “Dinamo Zagreb were formed in 1911 as HSK Gradanski and won a league and cup double in 2010-11. However, given Gradanski were disbanded after World War Two, owing to the perception of the club by the Partizans as collaborationist (as so many clubs in Yugoslavia were), there’s a fair argument to make that the club were only formed out of their ashes in 1945 and, as such, we’ll need to wait to see if they pull a centenary title off. The club would definitely claim heritage back to Gradanski’s start.

Inter’s captain Javier Zanetti lifts the the Scudetto trophy in 2008, the club’s centenary year.
Inter’s captain Javier Zanetti lifts the the Scudetto trophy in 2008, the club’s centenary year. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) could also be accused of similar – while the club state they were formed in 1945, their origin is similar to Dinamo’s in being formed from the ashes of another club in SK Jugoslavija and, if that lineage is accepted, then Zvezda’s 2013-14 title win would have been during their centenary season. The club would definitely not claim heritage back to Jugoslavija’s start. But beating both of these would be Zrinjski Mostar who were founded in 1905 as Dacki, before becoming Zrinjski in 1912. They were then banned from existence during the first world war, came back, banned after the second world war for being explicitly nationalist and then came back in 1992. Zrinjski won the title in their centenary year of 2005 and, to top things off, have won the title this season, which marks 100 years since the reappearance of the Zrinjski name after their ban.

“And finally, if you want an unarguably uninterrupted centenary champion, look to Slovenia’s Celje. Formed in December 1919 they won their only national title in their centenary year of 2019-20 under Dusan Kosic, courtesy of a final-day draw against Olimpija – the first of what is three successive seasons on which the Prva Liga has been decided on the final day.”

And Dirk Maas has handily collated all the examples he could find and thinks Linfield may be the first team to have achieved a centenary-year title victory. It’s limited to Europe, South America and North America. Have a look at the full list below.

Trading places

“Fulham and Norwich last played each other in the league in 2017-18, and have avoided each other by swapping divisions at the end of each of the four seasons since. What is the longest such continuous sequence?” asks Iain Mew.

Proudly anal trivia-based weekly feature that we are, we checked the precise terms of this question with Iain. He was referring to teams who criss-cross every season, rather than those who go up or down simultaneously – like Fulham and Rotherham, who have avoided each other in the last few years by yo-yoing between the Premier League and the Championship, in Fulham’s case, and the Championship and League One, in Rotherham’s.

So, to the actual question. Knowledge regular Chris Roe was all over this like a cheap statto, and tells us that the Fulham/Norwich switcheroo – which will enter its fifth season in 2022-23 – is an English league record.

Fulham are back up.
Fulham are back up. Photograph: Javier García/Shutterstock

Norwich and Burnley yo-yoed in different directions for four seasons between 2013-17 but, unlike Fulham and Norwich, weren’t in the same division in the seasons that preceded or followed those ups and downs. They probably don’t qualify as an answer to the actual question, but climate-conscious feature that we are, we couldn’t bring ourselves to waste good research.

Chris has highlighted a number of teams who avoided each other for three seasons, having been in the same division immediately before and after they started the cycle of promotion and relegation. Leicester and Bolton (1994-97), Birmingham and West Brom (2006-09), Norwich and QPR (2013-16) and Norwich and Hull (2014-17) all fit that particular statistical bill. We don’t yet know whether Fulham and Norwich will end up back in the same division in 2023-24, 2024-25 or whenever their current sequence ends.

“Around two-thirds of teams yo-yoing for at least three seasons have happened in the last 30 years,” adds Chris. “Does this mean that the standard gap between divisions is getting bigger (ie a team is too good for tier two, but not strong enough for tier one)?” Questions like that are way beyond our pay grade, and intelligence. But yes, yes it does.

Statues of bookable offences

“I suspect you will get loads of these, but obviously the most famous statue of a bookable offence [only bookable? – Knowledge Ed] is the five-metre high statue of Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi. It was initially placed outside the Pompidou centre in Paris.”

The statue was bought by Qatar Museums and displayed in Doha, above.
The statue was bought by Qatar Museums and displayed in Doha, above. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

Knowledge archive

“Which English top-flight match holds the record for having the most footballers/coaches/managers who went on to become regular pundits/commentators on TV involved?” wondered Patrick McGorman back in 2005.

Well Patrick, you’d do well to find more than the 16 media ‘authorities’ who featured in Arsenal’s famous last-minute, 2-0 title-winning triumph at Liverpool on 26 May 1989. While the Reds boasted seven players (Ronnie Whelan, Alan Hansen, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge, Ian Rush, John Barnes and Steve McMahon), their manager Kenny Dalglish and their coach Roy Evans, who all honed their TV/radio/newspaper skills in later years, Arsenal had six (Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Paul Merson, David O’Leary, Alan Smith and Nigel Winterburn), plus their manager George Graham.

Can you help?

“Liverpool’s parade route is 13.5km long whereas Manchester City’s is an environmentally friendly 1km and limited to the city centre,” notes George Jones. “What’s the longest parade route and has a parade bus ever provocatively passed by a rival’s stadium so players can flash their silverware?”

“Which is the highest-ranked English team to have never played at Wembley?” asks Tom Solan.

“The combined age of Watford’s managers in the 2021-22 season was 185,” writes Owen Powell. “Anyone ever had higher, in a top-flight league?”

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