The English Football League was founded in 1888. It was the oldest such competition in world football. It was the top-level football league in England from its foundation until 1992 when Premier League was formed. Since 1992, Premier League has been the top division football league of England. In this article, we will rank the top 20 clubs in the all-time league point table combining the old first division to the current Premier League. Only the top division league table from 1888 to 2020 is considered.
This table is adjusted to 3 points per victory, 1 point for a draw.
20. Leeds United [Matches- 2060, Won- 846, Lost- 691, Points- 3061]
Leeds United was formed in 1919 following the disbanding of Leeds City F.C. by the Football League and took over their Elland Road stadium. They have a huge and loyal fan base. Leeds is one of the biggest clubs in England.
They have won three English league titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup, two Charity/Community Shields, and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups. The club also reached the 1975 European Cup Final, losing to Bayern Munich. Leeds also reached the semi-finals of the tournament’s successor, the Champions League in 2001.
19. Middlesbrough FC [M- 2438, W- 818, L- 1006, P- 3065]
Middlesbrough FC was formed in 1876, turning professional in 1889. They have played at the Riverside Stadium since 1995, their third ground. The club played at the Linthorpe Road ground from 1882 to 1903 and at Ayresome Park for 92 years, from 1903 to 1995.
The club’s achievements include winning the League Cup in 2004, their first and to date only major trophy, and they also reached the 2006 UEFA Cup Final, losing to Spanish club Sevilla. Their highest league finish to date was third place in the top flight in the 1913–14 season and the club has only spent two seasons outside the top two divisions of English football.
18. West Ham United [M- 2501, W- 846, L- 1033, P- 3160]
West Ham was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks and reformed in 1900 as West Ham United. They moved to the Boleyn Ground in 1904, which remained their home ground for more than a century. In 2016, the club moved to the London stadium. The club have a passionate fan base, that can be deemed as one of the best in the country.
They have been winners of the FA Cup three times; in 1964, 1975 and 1980, and have also been runners-up twice; in 1923 and 2006. The club have reached two major European finals, winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 and finishing runners-up in the same competition in 1976. West Ham also won the Intertoto Cup in 1999. The club’s highest league position to date came in 1985–86, when they achieved third place in the then First Division.
17. Sheffield United [M- 2384, W- 882, L- 932, P- 3216]
Sheffield United was formed in 1889 as an offshoot of Sheffield United Cricket Club, and are nicknamed The Blades due to Sheffield’s history of steel production. The club have played their home games at Bramall Lane since their formation in 1889.
Sheffield United won the original Football League in 1898 and the FA Cup in 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925. They were also the first club in English football to achieve promotion from the newly formed Second Division to the First Division in 1892-93.
The club was also a founder member of the Premier League in the 1992–93 season, during which they scored the first-ever goal of the Premier League era. Brian Deane was the scorer of the first goal in a 2-1 win at Bramall Lane, against the eventual champions, Manchester United.
16. Derby County [M- 2468, W- 906, L- 977, P- 3303]
Derby County was founded in 1884 by William Morley, as an offshoot of the Derbyshire County Cricket Club. Its competitive peak came in the 1970s when it twice won the First Division and competed in major European competitions on four separate occasions, reaching the European Cup semi-finals as well as winning several minor trophies. Additionally, the club was a strong force in the interwar years, winning the 1945–46 FA Cup.
They are notable for being one of the 12 founder members of the Football League in 1888. Derby County is one of only 10 clubs to have competed in every season of the English football league system, with all but four of those being in the top two divisions.
15. Wolverhampton Wanderers [M- 2489, W- 969, L-952, P- 3475]
Wolves was formed as St. Luke’s FC in 1877 and has played at Molineux Stadium since 1889. Wolves was one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888. The club in 2019–20 is enjoying its 65th season of top flight football; Wolves’s longest continuous period in the top tier was 26 consecutive seasons in the 33 years between 1932 and 1965.
In the 1950s, Wolves were English League champions three times (1953–54, 1957–58 and 1958–59), under the management of Stan Cullis. Wolves have also finished League runners-up on five occasions, most recently in 1959–60. Wolves have won the FA Cup four times, most recently in 1960, and finished runners-up on a further four occasions. The club has also won the Football League Cup twice, in 1974 and 1980.
14. Sheffield Wednesday [M- 2582, W- 980, L- 990, P- 3552]
Sheffield Wednesday was formed in 1867 as an offshoot of The Wednesday Cricket Club. Until 1929, they were called by the name of the Wednesday Football Club. They were founding members and inaugural champions of the Football Alliance in 1889, before joining The Football League three years later. In 1992, they became founder members of the Premier League.
The Owls, as they are nicknamed, have won four league titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and one FA Community Shield. Wednesday have also competed in UEFA cup competitions on four occasions, reaching the quarter-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1963. The team has spent most of its league history in English football’s top flight, but they have not played at that level since being relegated in 2000.
13. Bolton Wanderers [M- 2802, W- 1017, L- 1144, P- 3692]
Its quite surprising to see Bolton in this list, given the fact that they have never won the league title and are currently in the third division of English football. The club was formed as Christ Church Football Club in 1874 and adopted its current name in 1877. Bolton was a founder member of the Football League in 1888. The club played at Burnden Park for 102 years from 1895. In 1997, Bolton moved to the Reebok Stadium (as it was then known). The stadium was renamed the Macron Stadium in 2014 and the University of Bolton Stadium in 2018.
Bolton have spent more seasons, 73, than any other club in the top flight without winning the title. They finished third in the First Division in 1891–92, 1920–21 and 1924–25. Bolton won the FA Cup three times in the 1920s, and again in 1958. The club spent a season in the Fourth Division in 1987–88, before regaining top-flight status in 1995 and qualifying for the UEFA Cup twice.