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The best EFL teams to have failed reaching the Premier League

Who are the best EFL teams to have failed reaching the Premier League? We cast our minds back and find out who it includes.

BBC Sport have listed the best teams to have fallen at the final hurdle and not reached the Premier League since its inception in 1992.

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There have been eight sides to have missed out after picking up over 86 points.

The article comes a year on from Leeds missing out on the top two with 83 points, but then lost to Derby (who had 74 points) in the semis, who then got beat by Aston Villa.

BBC Sport assess some of the second-tier outfits who came the closest to glory but fell agonisingly short…

Sunderland in 1997-98

After losing their Premier League place in the 1996-97 season, the Black Cats wanted an immediate return the following campaign.

Kevin Phillips was their main man in getting Sunderland close to automatic promotion, however they were beaten to it by Middlesbrough who finished just a point ahead.

Sunderland, who remain the only club to achieve 90 points or more in the second tier’s current format without going up, beating Sheffield United in the semis, and then were in if not the best play-off finals of all time, taking on Charlton at the old Wembley, it finish 4-4, but agonisingly for the Black Cats, they lost 7-6, Michael Gray missing the crucial spot-kick.

They kept their stunning form the following season, and smashed it in achieving the title with a then-record 105 points.

Wolves in 1994-95 and 2001-02

In 1994, Graham Taylor was handed the task of achieving what he described as “the holy grail” of promotion from Division One.

“When you get a manager of his calibre saying things like that, you know they mean to do it,” Wolves all-time leading scorer Steve Bull told BBC Sport.

“Graham was unbelievable. He was a top bloke. He knew what players he wanted in his side and he was a very good tactician.”

Molineux was redeveloped and Sir Jack Hayward pumped money to bring in much better quality of players, like Tony Daley, Steve Froggatt and John de Wolf, who all suffered injuries.

Bull added: “We spent £5m, which these days is not even a leg of a player, but in those days it was a lot of money.

“We brought in the right players and we actually thought we were going to do it that year, but Bolton came from behind us and took it out of our hands.”

There was just one automatic promotion place due to the league restructure. Wolves finished fourth, just six points behind champions Middlesbrough, but went into the playoffs having won one of their last nine matches.

Wolves  were 2-1 up in the second leg against Bolton, however John McGinlay took it to extra time, before punching David Kelly in the face, which he only got a yellow for, then scored again to send Bolton to Wembley, where they beat Reading.

“Bolton and John McGinlay were a thorn in our side,” said Bull. “It was one of the saddest days in my career. I thought: ‘The Premiership is not going to elude Steve Bull, we’re going to get there.’ Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

“Graham must have been as gutted as everyone else around the club when we didn’t do it. If he’d have stayed at the club another year, I think he would have got us up.”

Six seasons on and still in the First Division, Wolves spent another £11m and got themselves in the automatic promotion spots for majority of the 2001-02 campaign.

Though, Dave Jones’ team flopped in the final weeks of the season and West Brom went above them.

Bull added: “It’s one of those things. You do worry about rivalry but you don’t worry about who goes up – as long as it’s you. It doesn’t matter about anyone else.

“We’ve learned over the years to say: ‘When you do go up, you have to spend a lot of money.’ I think now we’re in a position, with the chairman we have now, that we want to stop in the Premier League.”

Brighton in 2015-16

It went down to the final day of the 15/16 season for Brighton to battle out with Middlesbrough for an automatic promotion place. Second placed Boro were level on 88 points with third-placed Brighton, but had a much better goal difference. Chris Hughton’s side needed to win.

Cristhian Stuani put Middlesbrough ahead before Dale Stephens got an equaliser, but Stephens got himself sent off four minutes later and it finished a draw, forcing Brighton to participate in the playoffs.

The side got heavily injury, causing them to lose 2-0 to Sheffield Wednesday in the first leg of the semi-final, before drawing 1-1 in the return leg.

Hughton stayed and did the job the following season in guiding the club to a second place finish in the Championship and have been in the Premier League ever since. Hughton did you could say harshly get the sack after just about avoiding the drop in the 2018/19 season.

We continue our look at the best EFL teams to have failed reaching the Premier League…

Portsmouth in 1992-93

Portsmouth were one of the favourites for promotion to the Premier League, and came very close with thanks to Guy Whittingham who that season scored 42 of Pompey’s 80 goals.

Jim Smith’s side finished on 88 points with West Ham, but league places for teams finishing level that season were decided on goals scored and not goal difference. Eek.

Portsmouth had scored just one goal fewer than the Hammers, so that forced them to the playoffs, which they ended up losing to Leicester in the semi. Swindon, who finished fifth with 12 fewer points went up instead.

Years later, the club battled to avoid relegation to the third tier, before coming away from that and eventually reached the Premier League under Harry Redknapp in 2002-03.

Trevor Francis’ Birmingham City

Former player Trevor Francis took over at Birmingham as manager and guided them to the playoff semi-finals in three consecutive seasons between 1998-99 and 2000-01, but lost two of them on penalties.

The first of those failures came in 1999 after finishing fourth with 81 points, losing 7-6 to Watford in a penalty shootout, then again in 2000 they finished fifth before were hammered by Barnsley in the first leg, losing 4-0 at St Andrew’s then won 2-1 in the second leg but lost 5-2 on aggregate.

Birmingham suffered penalties heartbreak in 2001 after conceding a last-minute equaliser in a second leg tie away at Preston, then losing 4-2 in the shootout.

Blues also reached the 2001 League Cup final, but again lost on penalties, this time to Liverpool.

They would finally be promoted through the play-offs in the following campaign at the fourth time of asking, but it was new manager Steve Bruce who took them there, after Francis had left the club in October 2001 by mutual consent.

Ipswich Town 1997-98 & 1998-99

Ipswich won promotion to the Premier League via a fourth attempt at the playoffs in 2000.

George Burley’s side finished seventh, fourth and fifth in consecutive campaigns, before back-to-back third-placed finishes in 1999.

The 98/99 season saw them missed out on an automatic spot by a point despite looking strong contenders to go up. The bad luck continued after they went out on the away goals rule after a 4-4 aggregate draw with Bolton, despite winning a dramatic second leg 4-3 after extra time at home.

It was away goals that knocked out Burley’s men after extra time two years before against Sheffield United, but it was the squads of 1997-98 and 1998-99 season that will feel more hard done by, achieving 83 and 86 points respectively.

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