By Ben Somerford
Newly-promoted Kashiwa Reysol are on the verge of a rare feat, as they head into the penultimate round of the 2011 Japanese J-League season this weekend, three points clear of their nearest rival Nagoya Grampus. On Saturday, should Kashiwa win at home to Cerezo Osaka and Nagoya fail to defeat Montedio Yamagata, then the newly-promoted club will be crowned Japanese champions.
It's been an astonishing rise from a second division club to national champions and it is an achievement seldom achieved. However, there are few examples from around the globe, so Goal.com has collated the top 10 clubs to become national champions in the season following promotion.
10. Always Ready (Bolivia) - Promoted 1956, Champions 1957
The La Paz club's story of resurgence in the mid-50s may be impressive enough, however what makes this outfit stand out from the crowd is their aptly-titled name for such an achievement. Always Ready became Bolivian champions in 1957, however only years earlier they were struggling as they found it difficult to retain key players. In 1957, having won promotion the season prior, they lived up to their name.
9. Chicago Fire (USA) - Admitted 1997, Champions 1998
While it may not be your typical promotion-to-champions story, Chicago Fire's MLS Cup triumph in their first year of existence in 1998 is still no less impressive. The Fire, coached by a certain Bob Bradley (pictured), defied all expectations, finishing second in the Western Conference, before knocking off Colorado Rapids, LA Galaxy and champions DC United as they became the first and only ever expansion club to win the MLS Cup at their first attempt.
8. Muang Thong United (Thailand) - Promoted 2008, Champions 2009
It's funny what a bit of money can do for a club. Indeed, since Siam Sport Syndicate became owners of Muang Thong they've come a long way, with successive promotions in 2007 and 2008, before becoming Thai champions in 2009. The club's finances and links with Europe helped it greatly, calling on top players like ex-Manchester City striker Teerasil Dangda. They haven't stopped there, winning the Thai league in 2010 although a hat-trick appears unlikely this term.
7. Aduana Stars (Ghana) - Promoted 2009, Champions 2010
Aduana are another one of the modern stories of glory, with Herbert Addo guiding them to the domestic crown in their debut season in the top flight. However, Aduana's biggest claim to fame was the fact they became the world's fewest-scoring side to become champions. The Stars scored 19 goals in 30 games on their way to the title, conceding only 10 times. Needless to say, Aduana weren't the most riveting side to watch, with one-nils the order of the day.
6. Guangzhou Evergrande (China) - Promoted 2010, Champions 2011
Like Muang Thong in Thailand, a wealthy backer has created a new benchmark in China, with Guangzhou who made headlines in their championship year by signing Argentine Dario Conca (pictured) on a deal where he reportedly became the world's third-highest paid player. Evergrande Real Estate Group took over ownership of the club in February last year, before spending big on the playing squad as they became League One champions in 2010, losing just once, before winning the Chinese Super League by some 15 points in 2011.
5. Rosario Central (Argentina) - Promoted 1986, Champions 1987
The three-time Argentine champions endured a barren period during the early 1980s before their relegation in 1985. However, the Scoundrels learned their lesson and bounced back the following season, winning promotion in 1986, before prolific marksman Omar Palma fired them to the Argentine title in 1987. They may have only narrowly squeezed past runners-up Newell's Old Boys by a point, but it was a first in Argentine football.
4. Monaco (France) - Promoted 1977, Champions 1978
When Monaco chairman Jean-Louis Campora brought former hero Lucien Leduc, who had guided the club to several trophies from 1958 to 1963, back to the club in 1977, he produced a masterstroke. The signing of the prolific forward Delio Onnis helped too, as under Leduc's guidance, the principality club won promotion in 1977 and then the French title in 1978, with Onnis bagging 29 goals on the way as they edged out Nantes by one point.
3. Ipswich Town (England) - Promoted 1961, Champions 1962
Under the guidance of Alf Ramsey, who as a player won promotion and then the league championship with Tottenham in 1951, the Tractor Boys produced a truly incredible achievement in 1962. The miracles Ramsey worked at Ipswich shouldn't be understated, with most pundits predicting them for relegation early in the season, before a remarkable campaign where they eventually edged Burnley by three points with Ray Crawford netting 33 goals.
2. Kaiserslautern (Germany) - Promoted 1997, Champions 1998
Step aside Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, Otto Rehhagel's Kaiserslautern arrived in the Bundesliga in 1998 and did so in emphatic style. Rehhagel (pictured), who would go on to lead Greece to an against-all-odds Euro 2004 triumph, made history when his Red Devils became the first-ever German club to win the Bundesliga after being promoted. And they did it in style, never being headed after the fourth week of the season with striker Olaf Marschall banging in the goals as they clinched glory by two points from Bayern.
1. Nottingham Forest (England) - Promoted 1977, Champions 1978
Nottingham Forest are one of five English clubs to achieve this feat, however Brian Clough's side and their ensuing achievements will be remembered for some time. Having claimed promotion after finishing third in the old second division, Clough took the Reds to a new level as they surged into the box seat early on and never let it slip despite being written off. There was a memorable 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United along the way as they cruised to the title by seven points, also winning that League Cup that season, before becoming European champions a year later.
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