The 11 best goalscoring seasons from newly-promoted PL players
Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa will have a decision to make ahead of their Premier League returns – spend big, or stick with the players who took them up.
We’ve seen some smart purchases from clubs in their first season back in the big time, not least Wolves’ move for Raul Jiménez and Brighton’s move for Pascal Groß in the last two summers alone.
An effective front-line is key – each of the last four promoted teams to go straight back down has averaged less than a goal a game – but it’s not always about who you bring in.
We’ve taken a look back at the 11 newly-promoted players with the most goals in their debut season, and that means players who came up through the Championship – so there’s no room for Alan Shearer, despite his 16-goal season for newly-promoted Blackburn, but there are plenty of others who took the bull by the horns at the first time of asking.
Marlon Harewood – 14 goals
West Ham shared the goals around in their promotion season, with Harewood’s 17 goals putting him second behind Teddy Sheringham, but the former Nottingham Forest striker took centre-stage in the top flight in 2005-06.
A hat-trick against Aston Villa set the Londoner on his way, though the highlight of his season came in April with a rocket of a shot to end Middlesbrough’s resistance in the FA Cup semi-final.
That was as good as it got for Harewood, as he failed to reach 14 goals in the next four years combined, but there was a mini-renaissance with Blackpool in 2010-11 before he finished his career in non-league via a brief spell in China.
Grant Holt – 15 goals
Holt wasn’t just a Championship product – he was a man who had spent almost all of his career playing even lower than that.
The Englishman took until the age of 22 to play in the Football League for the first time and was 30 when he eventually got to the Premier League off the back of a 21-goal Championship season with Norwich City.
It felt as though he was a man on a mission, scoring against Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in his debut campaign and coming close to an England call-up for Euro 2012.
He top-scored for Norwich the next season, too, but can now be found *checks notes* in the wrestling ring.
Rickie Lambert – 15 goals
Another player who worked his way up through the pyramid, Lambert had banged in 27 goals in his first ever Championship season before finding the Premier League relatively straightforward too.
Fifteen goals arrived in the Liverpudlian’s first season in the top flight with Southampton, and he added 13 in his second to prove it was no fluke, thriving under both Nigel Adkins and Mauricio Pochettino.
In an example of the ‘never too late’ mentality, Lambert’s form was enough to propel him into the England set-up for the 2014 World Cup and earn him a dream move to Liverpool, though sadly he was unable to show anything like the same goalscoring form at Anfield.
Odion Ighalo – 16 goals
Ighalo might not have been Watford’s main man in their promotion season, with Troy Deeney and Matěj Vydra both starting more games, but he chipped in with plenty of goals – not least the four he scored in 34 minutes as the Hornets overcame a 2-0 half-time deficit to beat Blackpool 7-2.
Following promotion, though, the Nigerian leapfrogged Vydra as he swiftly introduced the Premier League to his trademark ‘Iggy Chop’.
He struggled for goals after Quique Sánchez Flores’ departure as manager, though, scoring just once under Walter Mazzarri, but got his goalscoring touch back after moving to China in January 2017.
Yakubu – 16 goals
Another Nigerian international, Yakubu reportedly turned down Premier League interest to help take Pompey up from the second tier with seven goals in 14 games after joining midway through 2002-03.
He had plenty more to offer after moving up a level, though: 16 goals in his first season, followed by further double-figure campaigns for Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn – the latter a very impressive 17 goals for a relegated team in 2012.
With 95 Premier League goals, the former Maccabi Haifa striker is the highest-scoring Nigerian in Premier League history, and it all started when he came up from the Championship.
Charlie Austin – 18 goals
QPR’s 2014-15 campaign wasn’t much to write home about, but at least Charlie Austin was able to enjoy himself a bit.
The former Burnley striker, who was still playing in the Wessex League in his early twenties, surprisingly one-upped his Championship tally of 17 regular season goals despite the Rs spending most of the season in the bottom three.
QPR picked up 20 points when Austin scored and just 10 when he didn’t. A match-winning hat-trick against West Brom was the obvious highlight, but he’ll also have fond memories of an acrobatic effort in the defeat to Southampton, where he now plays his football.
Marcus Stewart – 19 goals
It’s still weird to think Ipswich have a top-six Premier League finish this century, but they – and Stewart above all others – earned it.
Huddersfield fans were furious when the striker was sold to Ipswich during the 1999-2000 run-in, and rightly so – Town missed out on the play-offs by just two points, and Stewart’s goals in the semi and final helped the third-placed Tractor Boys come up.
It got even better after that, with his 19 goals (only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored more that season) helping Ipswich finish fifth. It all got a bit too much in 2001-02, though, and George Burley’s team were relegated with just 41 goals scored, Stewart contributing six towards that total.
Andrew Johnson – 21 goals
Crystal Palace had come up through the play-offs and were widely tipped to go straight back down. That they still had a shot at survival going into the final weekend of the season was largely down to Johnson.
Yes, a fair few of the Englishman’s 21 goals were penalties, but he won a lot of them himself, and his spot-kick at Charlton on the final day briefly looked like it would be enough to secure safety.
Johnson graciously stuck around for a full season after relegation, adding 15 more goals in the Championship, before returning to the Premier League with Everton, Fulham and QPR.
Stan Collymore – 22 goals
A third-place finish from a newly-promoted team is unheard of these days, but Nottingham Forest achieved the feat in 1995 thanks to Collymore’s goals.
The former Southend striker had scored 19 league goals to help secure automatic promotion under Frank Clark, and he got even more against nominally tougher opponents.
An England call-up was his reward, followed by a move to Liverpool and a relatively healthy Premier League goalscoring record away from the City Ground. Forest, meanwhile, dropped back down two years later.
Kevin Phillips – 30 goals
The best return from a newly-promoted striker in a 38-game season is Phillips’ 30, enough to earn him the European Golden Shoe ahead of the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Sonny Anderson.
Phillips had scored 23 goals as Sunderland raced to the First Division title, as it was then known, but his partnership with Niall Quinn went from strength to strength one rung up.
Impressively, his huge tally included just one hat-trick, against Derby in September. Even more impressively, he was still a Premier League player 13 years later, playing his final top-flight game for Crystal Palace at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium, a ground that hadn’t even been built when he was at Sunderland.
Andy Cole – 34 goals
Pipping Phillips, however, is former Newcastle United striker Cole.
Twelve goals in 12 second-tier games demonstrated his quality, but he was undaunted by the prospect of Premier League football, and his huge tally included hat-tricks in home victories over both Liverpool and Coventry City.
Manchester United would come calling the following season, with Cole going on to win five Premier League titles with the Red Devils, and he would ultimately hit double figures for Premier League goals on eight different occasions. Not too shabby at all.