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Five English sleeping giants

Following reports that Newcastle are set to be taken over by a mega-rich and morally dubious Saudi Arabian consortium, they could finally be set to justify their often-used tag as one of English football’s sleeping giants. But what exactly is a sleeping giant and which other English clubs meet the criteria?


What are sleeping giants?

To answer this question we first need to work out exactly what we mean by ‘sleeping’. In football terms, most would define it as a continued lack of success. Perhaps it is a recent lack of success after former glory years, or perhaps it is a club who have never achieved their supposed potential.

Success isn’t necessarily quantified as silverware either. Tottenham, for example, haven’t added to their trophy cabinet for years but, having finished runner up in the Premier League and Champions League, you could hardly accuse them of being unsuccessful.

Possibly even more ambiguous though is what makes a ‘giant’. Is it a single characteristic or a combination of many? There are several factors to take into account.

Stadium capacity. The amount of fans you can fit into your stadium on a matchday means more revenue and, arguably, a larger fanbase. Currently five of the 15 biggest club stadiums in England are playing their football outside the Premier League

Fan base. A difficult one to quantify. Plenty of clubs have fan bases that largely outstrip their stadium capacity. One modern identifier could be social media followers, although even that isn’t a true reflection of a club’s fanbase as plenty of their older members wouldn’t have their own accounts.

History. Not a requirement but many sleeping giants would likely be clubs who have experienced significant past success and have an array of trophies to prove it.

Wealth. Again, a difficult category to define. Are you talking annual revenue or how loaded their owners are? Clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City have emerged as two of the biggest in the country after extended periods of comparative averageness after obtaining rich owners.

With that in mind, here are our five sleeping giants in English football.



Division: Premier League

Stadium: St. James Park – 52,000 (7th largest club ground in England)

History: The only Premier League side on this list, they had to be really as they were the reason for writing it. Newcastle are 4x league champions of England and 6x FA Cup winners. Unfortunately for them, their last league title came in 1927 and they haven’t won the FA Cup since 1955.

Wealth: Money isn’t a problem for their current owner, the billionaire Mike Ashley, it’s more his reluctance to part with it. However, should their prospective new owners, the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, take over then Newcastle’s wealth will be frightening. They are estimated to be worth £260 billion as a group. To put that in perspective, it is over ten times more than Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour, a relative pauper with just £23 billion to his name.

Twitter followers: 1.5m

Ambitions: If the takeover goes through and Newcastle start splashing the cash, then the sky really is the limit. They could quite quickly emulate Manchester City and begin challenging for the Premier League, thus pushing Arsenal even close to mid-table mediocrity.



Division: Championship

Stadium: Elland Road – 37,000+ (13th)

History: 3x English league champions and 5x runners up. Their most recent win came in the 91/92 season, the final season before it was rebranded as the Premier League. They’ve also won the FA Cup and League Cup once apiece.

Wealth: Leeds current owners are worth an estimated £360m, a relatively modest amount in the current climate. However, with a rich history and a large and passionate fanbase, they could be ripe for a takeover if they finally return to the promised land of the Premier League.

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Twitter followers: 477k

Ambitions: First and foremost, to secure promotion. Having taken part in the first 12 seasons of the Premier League, regularly qualifying for European competition throughout, Leeds were relegated at the end of 2003/04 and have spend the following 15 campaigns outside the top division. They even spent 3 years in League One, once unfathomable for a club of their size. If Liverpool fans are bitter about their eternal quest to win the Premier League being halted at the last minute, try talking to promotion chasing Leeds fans. They will want to regain their place in the elite and start challenging the top half.


Sheffield Wednesday

Division: Championship

Stadium: Hillsborough – 39,000 (11th)

History: One of the oldest football clubs in the world, Wednesday have won the league four times, the FA Cup on three occasions and the League Cup once. However, they haven’t tasted success since the 30s.

Wealth: Wednesday are owned by Thai businessman Dejphon Chansiri whose family are the world’s largest providers of canned tuna. Their family fortune is estimated to be around £650 million, though plenty of Sheffield Wednesday fans, including Chris Waddle, are hoping he sells up.

Twitter followers: 309k

Ambitions: 15th in the Championship and 8 points shy of the playoffs, Wednesday would desperately take promotion by any means. One of the oldest and most famous clubs in the world, a season in the Premier League is all they ask for. Need new owners.



Division: League One

Stadium: Stadium of Light – 49,000 (8th)

History: The Mackems are 6x league champions and 2x FA Cup winners. Though, typically for this list, it’s been a long time.

Wealth: Currently owned by Stewart Donald, a businessman and administrator, Sunderland have been a shambles for years. Donald himself isn’t particularly wealthy and is keen to sell the club, ideally to a similar consortium to those purchasing hated rivals Newcastle.

Twitter followers: 932k

Ambitions: The only club currently in the third tier on this list, Sunderland are the quintessential sleeping giant. They have a huge ground and a massively passionate fanbase but the club has been criminally mismanaged for years. With the right owners behind them it wouldn’t be inconceivable to see them become a top half Premier League side fairly quickly. They also have their own documentary, Sunderland ‘Til I die. Unquestionably one of the biggest English football clubs below the Premier League, let alone the Championship as well.


Nottingham Forest

Division: Championship

Stadium: City Ground – 30,000 (3rd)

History: League champions in 1977/78, 2x FA Cup winners, 4x League Cup winners, 2x European Cup winners and in consecutive years (1978/79 & 79/80)

Wealth: Evangelos Marinakis is worth roughly half a billion pounds, putting Forest about halfway up the Championship rich list.

Twitter followers: 349k

Ambitions: They make the list of sleeping giants based on their history more than any other club. Forest were a huge part of England’s European dominance in the 70s and 80s, along with the likes of Liverpool. Their most iconic figure is the manager who made it happen, Brian Clough, who remains one of the greatest of all time. Having last played in the Premier League in 1999, Forest haven’t been in the top flight this century. They would bite your hand off for promotion and, currently fifth in the league, it’s not totally beyond the realms of possibility should the season resume.



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