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Ten examples of opening day nightmares

The new football season has started and there was opening day doom and gloom for the fans of Norwich City, QPR and Liverpool.

The Reds recorded their worst league result on the first weekend since 1937, losing meekly 3-0 at the Hawthorns.

Norwich caved in at Craven Cottage as they surrendered 5-0 at Fulham and QPR’s 5-0 home defeat to Swansea surprised many and left Mark Hughes shell-shocked.

However, just because a team lost by three goals or more on the opening weekend doesn’t mean that a season of misery is upon these clubs.

This has happened in the first 20 seasons of Premier League football on a number of occasions and in these 10 examples, 80 per cent of the time, it will end with smiles come May.

1. Arsenal

DATE: August 14, 1993

SCORELINE: Arsenal 0-3 Coventry City

OUTCOME: Arsenal finished 4th

George Graham’s Arsenal had a disastrous opening to the 1993-94 campaign, as they lost 3-0 at home to relegation favourites Coventry City.

Mick Quinn scored a stunning hat-trick for the Sky Blues, as the famous Gunners backline looked like amateurs.

The North Londoners were smiling come the end of the season though, as they finished with the best defence in the division, won the European Cup Winners Cup and ended up in fourth position in the final table.

2. Crystal Palace

DATE: August 19, 1994

SCORELINE: Crystal Palace 1-6 Liverpool

OUTCOME: Crystal Palace were RELEGATED

Crystal Palace arrived back in the FA Carling Premiership as champions of the first division but they got a rude awakening on the opening weekend, of what was to come.

A rampant Liverpool side stormed to a 6-1 victory at Selhurst Park with two goals apiece for Steve McManaman and Ian Rush.

Palace’s season crumbled as Chris Armstrong failed a drugs test and battles in the boardroom meant Alan Smith was under pressure all season.

They did reach two cup semi-finals but were relegated on the final day of the season and Smith resigned as manager.

3. Coventry City

DATE: August 17, 1996

SCORELINE: Coventry City 0-3 Nottingham Forest

OUTCOME: Coventry survived on the final day

Traditionally, Coventry City made very slow starts in the Premier League if they weren’t playing a London side on the opening weekend.

Midlands’s rivals Nottingham Forest gave Ron Atkinson food for thought, as a Kevin Campbell hat-trick at Highfield Road, saw them go top on day one.

Atkinson moved into a director of football position in November and his assistant Gordon Strachan took charge. He signed Darren Huckerby and together with Dion Dublin they provided the goals to keep them up.

A 2-1 victory on the final day at Tottenham was enough to preserve their top flight status, although if Middlesbrough hadn’t had three points deducted for failing to fulfil a fixture at Blackburn in December 1996, Coventry would have gone down.

4. Leicester City

DATE: August 18, 2001

SCORELINE: Leicester City 0-5 Bolton Wanderers

OUTCOME: Leicester City were RELEGATED

Newly promoted Bolton caused a real shock on the first day of the 2001-02 season, crushing Leicester City at Filbert Street.

Kevin Nolan and Per Frandsen both scored twice as the Trotters coasted into a 4-0 half-time lead before Michael Ricketts completed the scoring.

Peter Taylor was dismissed as Foxes manager at the end of September and they were relegated in early April, despite the valiant efforts of Dave Bassett and Micky Adams.

5. Middlesbrough

DATE: August 18, 2001

SCORELINE: Middlesbrough 0-4 Arsenal

OUTCOME: Middlesbrough finished mid-table

On the same day of Bolton’s annihilation of Leicester, Steve McLaren’s first game as Middlesbrough manager after leaving the Manchester United assistant post ended in a thrashing.

A late double from Dennis Bergkamp helped Arsenal cruise to an emphatic 4-0 victory at the Riverside.

Although Boro fans had to wait until mid-September for their first victory, they improved gradually as the season improved and finished in a comfortable mid-table position of 12th.

6. Manchester City

DATE: August 17, 2002

SCORELINE: Leeds United 3-0 Manchester City

OUTCOME: A top ten finish for Kevin Keegan’s Citizens

Two former England bosses went into combat on the opening weekend in 2002-03, as Terry Venables got the better of Kevin Keegan.

Leeds comfortably defeated Manchester City 3-0 with Robbie Keane scoring his final goal as an Elland Road player, before moving to Spurs a fortnight later.

As Leeds’s season disintegrated into financial meltdown, City improved from a sluggish start, helped by impressive home wins over Newcastle and Manchester United along the way.

Keegan’s side finished a creditable ninth in their first season back in the top flight.

7. Bolton Wanderers

DATE: August 16, 2003

SCORELINE: Manchester United 4-0 Bolton Wanderers

OUTCOME: A cup final and a top eight finish for Bolton

Bolton arrived at Old Trafford looking for a hat-trick of victories at the Theatre of Dreams.

Despite Ruud van Nistelrooy missing a penalty, Sam Allardyce’s side were on the wrong end of a 4-0 drubbing, with Ryan Giggs scoring a brace.

Although there were heavier losses to come, including a 6-2 defeat to Manchester City, Bolton had a great run in mid-season, reached the Carling Cup final and recorded a brilliant eighth placed Premier League finish.

8. Everton

DATE: August 15, 2009

SCORELINE: Everton 1-6 Arsenal

OUTCOME: Another season of consolidation for the Toffees, in the top half

With constant speculation over the future of defender Joleon Lescott, Everton were woeful on the opening day of the 2009-10 campaign, hammered 6-1 at home by Arsenal.

New signing Thomas Vermaelen was on target and there were two goals for Cesc Fabregas.

Lescott did eventually leave for Manchester City but on a limited budget the Toffees did well to recover from being only one point above the drop zone on Christmas Day to finish eighth.

9. West Brom

DATE: August 14, 2010

SCORELINE: Chelsea 6-0 West Brom

OUTCOME: Mid-table comfort for the Baggies

Roberto di Matteo’s newly promoted West Brom got demolished at Stamford Bridge on the first weekend of the 2010-11 campaign.

A hat-trick from Didier Drogba and two goals for Florent Malouda helped the champions to a fantastic 6-0 victory.

Albion steadied the ship drawing at Old Trafford and winning 3-2 at the Emirates to reach sixth in late October.

A cataclysmic run of 13 defeats in 18 cost di Matteo his job in early February, but Liverpool exile Roy Hodgson steadied the leaky defence and with just one loss in their last nine games, steered the Baggies to mid-table comfort of 11th.

10. QPR

DATE: August 13, 2011

SCORELINE: QPR 0-4 Bolton Wanderers

OUTCOME: QPR survived on the final day, at Bolton’s expense

It was deja vu for QPR fans as their return to the top flight ended in a heavy 4-0 home defeat to Bolton.

Gary Cahill opened the scoring and there was also a rare goal for the popular Fabrice Muamba. The Hoops also had Clint Hill sent off.

On the final day, it was QPR fans celebrating as despite their dramatic late loss at Manchester City, Bolton’s failure to beat Stoke at the Britannia Stadium, meant Rangers stayed up and Wanderers went down.

So for QPR, Liverpool and Norwich supporters chin up. The first day didn’t go to plan and it was a major setback.

However, as you can see from 80 per cent of these examples, an opening weekend humiliation doesn’t mean the campaign will end in tears and frustration. It’s a long season and there are still 37 games to play.

By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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