Wed. Oct 28th, 2020

Ranking London’s Football League Clubs Based on Their Current State & Expectations

9 min read

​The capital.

Home to Big Ben, a long-standing bagel rivalry, being kicked and elbowed on the Central Line but, most importantly, football.

Plenty of it, as well.

Yes, the second biggest city in Europe is home to countless clubs, 12 of which feature in the top four tiers of English football. There are rivalries galore, clubs steeped in history, stories of financial pain and financial gain, dodgy owners, successful owners but nevertheless a healthy dose of entertainment to get your teeth sunk into every glorious week. This, is a football city like no other.

Brentford v Fulham - Sky Bet Championship

Where do they all rank among this, I hear you ask? Well, simply ranking them in terms of how good they are right now would be a straightforward list of their league positions. That’s not the end game here.

No, instead let’s try to rank them accordingly based on the current state of the team and club relative to their status and their likely expectations, not whether they’re in a top four battle or have history on their side. Let us try something different.


12. Leyton Orient

Leyton Orient v Northampton Town - Sky Bet League Two

Division: League Two

Manager: Ross Embleton

Home Ground: Brisbane Road

Capacity: 9,271

A League One side for no less than nine seasons, the collapse of Leyton Orient has been both worrying and substantial for the east London side.

At the end of the 2013/14 season, the club ended the season finishing third, getting all the way to Wembley Stadium for the League One playoff final only to be beaten on penalties by Rotherham after a 2-2 draw.

Those missed spot-kicks proved to be more costly than initially expected, and the following season they finished 23rd in the league, dropping to the fourth tier. They dropped out of the Football League two seasons after before clawing their way back up, but the second oldest club in London are not in a good way and feasibly won’t be returning to the upper echelons any time soon.


11. Queens Park Rangers

Queens Park Rangers v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship

Division: Championship

Manager: Mark Warburton

Home Ground: Loftus Road

Capacity: 18,439

​QPR have found themselves in the top two tiers since 2004, where they’ve managed to avoid relegation back into League One and made it up into the Premier League for three seasons after winning promotion twice.

That said, financial issues have troubled the club over the past few seasons. And while their dispute with the EFL was eventually solved, it left the club cash-strapped and heavily reliant on academy players to see them through.

Since then they’ve been languishing around the lower parts of the Championship, and their fortunes don’t appear to be turning any time soon – despite a plethora of managers bidding to be the one to return them to glory.


10. West Ham

David Moyes

Division: Premier League

Manager: David Moyes

Home Ground: London Stadium

Capacity: 66,000​

​West Ham are a huge football club. A massive, claret and blue juggernaut who’ve won one European Cup Winners Cup and three FA Cups in their history. 

Yet, where they are now after the masses of money they’ve thrown about means they’re falling by the wayside based on the current state of London clubs.

Sure, they took up the tenancy at a big and fancy stadium, but they’ve only finished above the top ten once in the last seven seasons and seem incapable of appointing either the right manager or signing the right players.

One appearance in a Carabao Cup semi-final is all they have to show since they came back up from the Championship, with trophies discarded in place of trying to climb up the league table. Sure, they’re rarely in threat of really being relegated, but mid-table mediocrity every season isn’t the right reflection for a club of this stature. It’s all a bit ‘meh’ in east London.


9. AFC Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon v Milton Keynes Dons - Carabao Cup First Round

Division: League One

Manager: Glyn Hodges

Home Ground: Kingsmeadow

Capacity: 4,850

There are so many things to appreciate about AFC Wimbledon. Formed by fans of Wimbledon FC in protest after the club announced plans to relocate to Milton Keynes, what they’ve managed to achieve since then is hugely commendable.

Starting at the ninth level of the football pyramid, they won promotion to the Football League in just nine seasons. They’re now up in League One and currently building a new home ground.

Sure, they’re a struggling third tier side, but to be where they are having only been formed in 2002, that deserves credit. If they can get a few things right transfer wise and appoint a manager with the necessary credentials to see them climb the table, then there are things to get excited about in south London. 


8. Millwall

Millwall FC v Newport County AFC - FA Cup Third Round

Division: Championship

Manager: Gary Rowett

Home Ground: The Den

Capacity: 20,146

This is arguably one of ​Millwall‘s better seasons in recent memory.

They’ve appointed a pragmatic coach who knows what it takes to win football matches – albeit not in the most beautiful manner – but Millwall are not a beautiful club. Which, by the way, is in no way a disrespect. They’re one of the most hated sides in England alongside Leeds United, but that’s something they themselves couldn’t care tuppence about.

At present, they’re on course to secure a Championship playoff berth, but historically they’ve never been able to sustain any meaningful run of form beyond one season. Being there or thereabouts, normally a good finish in the league is followed by a miserable one. But heck, give them the benefit of the doubt, they’re a decent second tier side at the moment.


7. Arsenal

Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League

Division: Premier League

Manager: Mikel Arteta

Home Ground: Emirates Stadium

Capacity: 60,260

It’s bleak at the moment. Very, very bleak.

​Arsenal look more like becoming an established mid-table side than they do returning to the Champions League conversation. Fans of the club haven’t seen their side be this atrocious for over 40 years. They are, indeed, in crisis. 

However, is there light at the end of the tunnel? You have to say, yes. The process will be long, but there are some talented players in the squad. Get in some decent defenders to fix a shambolic backline and they won’t be far off the European spots. 

Maybe, that is. Just maybe. Because this part of north London is riddled with issues from the top down. Owned by someone with little to no interest in the club and taking a huge risk by appointing a rookie manager to oversee the rebuild is a combination that could go either way. Oh, and they can’t win a football match to save their lives at the moment.


6. Tottenham Hotspur

FBL-ENG-PR-WATFORD-TOTTENHAM

Division: Premier League

Manager: Jose Mourinho

Home Ground: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Capacity: 62,062

It might be hard to fathom why ​Spurs are as high as sixth in this standing but, despite the ongoing issues at the club, you have to say they’re in a healthier situation than…well, Arsenal.

The reasons for that are clear. Firstly, they have a magnificent new stadium that is going to rake money in and help them in the transfer market, and they have a manager in the dugout who will attract players all on his own, by sheer force of personality.

All that said though, they’re in dire straits at the moment. Jose Mourinho’s appointment has not had the desired effect (yet), with a leaky defence now coupled with a striker-less attack. One win in six Premier League matches is a torrid run, and an ageing squad needs plenty of work before it’s able to fight on four fronts once again. But they’re in a transition at the moment, and patience is needed.


5. Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace v Leicester City - Premier League

Division: Premier League

Manager: Roy Hodgson

Home Ground: Selhurst Park

Capacity: 25,456

A plucky south London side who’ve flirted with relegation once or twice since getting promoted to the Premier League, there is a lot to of praise to be sent the Eagles’ way for them now properly establishing themselves as a top-flight side. Throw in some superb supporters for good measure and you’ve got yourself a club that’s going places.

It’s not all rosy, though. Their best player is itching to leave the club at the next given opportunity and Roy Hodgson is not getting any younger. He’s made them stable, united the fans, and has the experience necessary to mastermind the odd shock result against a big side. But when he goes, will there be anyone capable of replacing him?

​Palace had a stab at new ideas, but Frank de Boer’s reign is best left unmentioned. At present they’re doing brilliantly, but where they will go after Zaha and Hodgson depart is a genuine concern. 


4. Charlton Athletic

Charlton Athletic v West Bromwich Albion - FA Cup Third Round

Division: Championship

Manager: Lee Bowyer

Home Ground: The Valley

Capacity: 27,111

The wait is finally over. Years of pain and anguish were finally ended in on 2nd January when ​Charlton confirmed Roland Duchatelet’s ill-fated tenure as owner was over.

This is a man – in no soft terms – who was despised by supporters. He took over in January 2014, making five managerial changes in his first two years of ownership and seeing Charlton relegated from the Championship at the end of the 2015/16 season.

Fast forward and the club are now back up in the second tier under Lee Bowyer, with the new ownership vowing to spend money at the club and return them to their former glories. The Addicks were a Premier League side not 13 years ago, and the renewed optimism around the club has fans dreaming of a return once more. It’s all positive and joyous in south east London, for a set of supporters who’ve been through suffering.


3. Fulham

Fulham v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship

Division: Championship

Manager: Scott Parker

Home Ground: Craven Cottage

Capacity: 25,700

Little ol’ ​Fulham. That quaint west London, Thames-overlooking and pleasant club that in most ways are just a nice club. They’ve got plenty going for them: a solid academy, an owner he genuinely cares about them, a club favourite at the helm and a more than decent squad that is flying high in the Championship.

There is every possibility they could become the new West Brom, though. Yo-yoing up and down the first and second division, never quite having enough to sustain their top-flight status but equally too good for the Championship. But the expectations and early signs suggest that won’t be the case. They’re building for the future, and doing it the right way.

This is a club willing to invest time into youth, play attractive, attacking football, boast a neat ground and are situated in a posh part of London. You go, Fulham.​


2. Chelsea

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-BURNLEY

Division: Premier League

Manager: Frank Lampard

Home Ground: Stamford Bridge

Capacity: 41,631

Chelsea are a top four club. Simple as that, it’s what they are. While there are plenty of holes to poke into Frank Lampard’s first season in charge of the club, immense credit must be given to the rookie coach for what he’s managed to achieve given the circumstances.

Unable to make any signings over the summer, he was forced to field youth on his Stamford Bridge voyage. While the ship has veered off course once or twice, they’ve kept their focus and have surprised plenty of onlookers with how they’ve fared this season.

There are young prospects in that side who are on the cusp of starting for England when the European Championships come around. In Europe, the Champions League looks like being Chelsea’s home for the long run, and with money in the bank, the names being linked to the Blues will have Chelsea fans purring. By London standards, they’re doing alright.


1. Brentford

Brentford team huddle

Division: Championship

Manager: Thomas Frank

Home Ground: Griffin Park

Capacity: 12,763

My oh my, how astonishingly well are ​Brentford doing? 

They’ve lived a nomadic existence after playing at five different grounds, while their current home is the humble Griffin Park with its 12,763-seater capacity. The Bees are, by all accounts, a small club.

Which is why it’s incredible to see them flying high in the Championship and with Premier League football in their sights. Financially they are no heavyweight either, with all seven of their record signings coming over the most recent summer – £5.85m their record ever.

This is a club punching so far above their weight right now. Under Thomas Frank they play an expansive style of football that is both entertaining and effective, with a loyal fanbase whose expectations have been surpassed ten-fold. 

A new stadium is on the horizon as well as the club bid to continue building on their success. I mean, really, is there anything not to like about Brentford right now? They recruit brilliantly, have a great academy and play enticing football. This is a club on the up, an ‘up’ they shouldn’t even be on, but one they fully deserve.


For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!  

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