Rise Up The Divisions – The Fairytale Stories

Bournemouth’s virtual promotion to the Premier League, just six years since finishing 19th 21st in League Two following a 17 point deduction, is the stuff football fans – and players of Football Manager – dream of.

Their meteoric rise is the story of the season in English football but they’re not the first club to climb from the fourth tier to the top flight in a relatively short period of time.

We take a look at other sides that rose three divisions and how they fared:

Swindon Town, 1986-1993

The Robins were crowned Fourth Division champions in 1986 under Lou Macari, charting the beginning of a rapid ascent to the nascent Premiership.

They won a Third Division play-off the following year to clinch a second consecutive promotion before Ossie Ardiles took over. He guided them to another play-off triumph but they were denied a place in the top tier due to multiple breaches of league rules.

Under Glenn Hoddle, they finally reached the promised land, beating Leicester City 4-3 in a thrilling play-off final in 1993. However Hoddle left to manage Chelsea, and under John Gorman the club were relegated following their solitary season in the Premiership with just five wins and a record 100 goals conceded.

Wimbledon, 1981-1986

The Crazy Gang’s story has been well-documented but loses none of its charm in its re-telling. A non-league club as recently as 1977, the Dons achieved Third Division status in 1981 before Dave Bassett took over as manager.

He guided them to the Second Division in 1984 and secured a place in the top division two years later – just four seasons after playing in the Fourth Division and nine years after entering the Football League.

Many tipped Wimbledon to go straight back down but they finished sixth in their debut season – topping the table in September – and remained in the Premier League until 2000.

Watford, 1978-1982


Elton John became Chairman of the Hornets in 1976 citing an ambitious aim of taking the club to the First Division. It seemed impossible for a club then languishing in the Fourth Division – until Graham Taylor took over.

The future England boss won the title in his first season and promotion to the Second Division followed in 1979. A period of consolidation followed for two seasons before they secured an improbable place in the top division in 1982.

Amazingly, the fairytale didn’t end there. Taylor’s side finished their inaugural season in the top flight in second place behind Liverpool, securing a place in the UEFA Cup. They became mainstays of the division until their relegation in 1988.

Wigan Athletic, 1997-2005


In 1994 Wigan Athletic finished fourth from bottom in the lowest tier with average crowds of under 2,000. Just over ten years later they would take their place in the Premier League due in no small part to one man – Dave Whelan – and a series of astute managerial appointments.

Whelan took over the Latics in 1995 with ambitious plans of a Premier League place. They were crowned champions in the fourth tier in 1997 but it took them six further seasons to secure another promotion, under Paul Jewell.

Jewell clinched a place in the Premier League at the second attempt, where they remained for eight seasons. However, they were relegated under Roberto Martinez two seasons ago, despite winning the FA Cup.