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1985–86 in English football

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Title: 1985–86 in English football  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Howard Kendall, Gary Lineker, 1985–86 Football League, 1984–85 in English football, History of Manchester United F.C. (1969–86)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

1985–86 in English football

The 1985–86 season was the 106th season of competitive football in England.


First Division

The championship went to Liverpool for the 16th time in their history, with neighbours Everton finishing second. West Ham United came third and Manchester United finished in fourth place.

Going down from the First Division were Ipswich Town, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion. Ipswich had been league runners-up and UEFA Cup winners just a few seasons earlier.

Arsenal's 1970–71 Double-winning side, returned to the club as their new manager after Don Howe had resigned.

The first half of the season was witnessed only in the flesh, as a dispute over the television rights meant no Football League action was seen by TV viewers until January 1986.[1]

Second Division

League Cup holders Norwich City were most people's favourites for an instant return to the First Division, and Ken Brown's men proved the observers correct by gaining promotion. But the two other promotion places went to two of the least fancied sides. Charlton, managed by Lennie Lawrence, had narrowly escaped closure three years earlier and just after the start of the 1985–86 had been forced to ground-share with Crystal Palace because their own stadium was condemned by safety officials. But Lawrence and his players made a huge effort to push for promotion and they succeeded. The third and final promotion place went to Dave Bassett's Wimbledon, who were only in their ninth season as a league club.

Carlisle United and Fulham were both relegated to the Third Division just four years after winning promotion, the latter having to sell off players to pay the club's debts. Joining them were Middlesbrough who were suffering from a financial crisis which nearly put the club out of business.

Third Division

The Third Division promotion places in 1985–86 went to Reading, Plymouth Argyle and Derby County – the beginning of the return to the top for the Rams under Arthur Cox.

The relegation places went to Lincoln City, Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Swansea City. Just a few seasons earlier, Wolves and Swansea had been enjoying good fortunes in the First Division – Wolves as League Cup winners in 1980 and Swansea as sixth-placed in the First Division.

Fourth Division

Swindon Town, Chester City, Mansfield Town and Port Vale occupied the Fourth Division promotion places in 1985–86. Credit to Swindon manager Lou Macari for beginning the reversal of decline for a club who had been League Cup winners in 1969. And to Harry McNally for guiding Chester to only the second promotion in their 55-year league career.

1985–86 was the last season of re-election before the introduction of automatic relegation from the Fourth Division.

FA Cup

Liverpool beat neighbours Everton 3–1 in the final to complete only the third league championship and FA Cup double of the 20th century. Key player in the triumph was striker Ian Rush, who scored twice.

League Cup

Oxford United marked their First Division debut season with an impressive 3–0 victory over QPR – managed by former Oxford boss Jim Smith – in the League Cup final.[2]

National team

England reached the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals where they lost 2–1 to eventual winners Argentina, whose first goal by Diego Maradona, scored with his hand, was described as "The Hand of God".


Competition Winner Runner-up
First Division Liverpool (16*) Everton
Second Division Norwich City Charlton Athletic
Third Division Reading Plymouth Argyle
Fourth Division Swindon Town Chester City
FA Cup Liverpool (3) Everton
League Cup Oxford United (1) Queens Park Rangers
Charity Shield Everton Manchester United

Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition

Star players

  • Everton's new signing Gary Lineker scored 40 competitive goals for his team as they pursued the domestic honours all season long before being beaten to both the league title and FA Cup by neighbours Liverpool. Lineker was voted Player of the Year by both the PFA and FWA, but then left Merseyside for Spain to join FC Barcelona.
  • West Ham's club record third-place finish was mainly down to the prolific goalscoring of strikers Tony Cottee, who was credited with the PFA Young Player of the Year award for his strong performances, and new signing Frank McAvennie who was the First Division's second highest scorer with 26 goals.
  • Ian Rush was Liverpool's top scorer for the fourth time in five seasons and scored twice in the FA Cup final as Liverpool became only the third team of the century and the fifth of all time to win the double.
  • Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings retired at the age of 41 to bring to an end a 25-year career which had seen him turn out for Watford, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
  • Mark Hughes scored 17 league goals for Manchester United this season before signing for FC Barcelona, to form a partnership with Gary Lineker for the 1986-87 season.
  • Peter Shilton remained as the choice as England's regular goalkeeper into his 37th year, continuing to play well for club and country, as Southampton reached an FA Cup semi-final and England reached the last eight of the World Cup for the first time since 1970.
  • Teenage midfielder Paul Gascoigne scored nine league goals in his first full season as a first team player for Newcastle United.
  • Striker David Speedie scored a hat-trick in the Wembley final to win the Full Members Cup for Chelsea.
  • Midfielder Neil Webb excelled in his first season as a First Division player after joining Nottingham Forest from Reading.

Successful managers

  • Kenny Dalglish guided Liverpool to the league title and FA Cup double in his first season as player-manager, also scoring the winning goal at Chelsea on the final day of the season to clinch Liverpool's 16th First Division title.
  • Howard Kendall's success with Everton continued for a third season; although they failed to win any more silverware, they finished runners-up behind their Merseyside neighbours in the First Division and the FA Cup.
  • Maurice Evans guided Oxford United to League Cup glory in their first season in the First Division, where they achieved survival.
  • John Lyall guided West Ham United to third place in the league, the highest finish in their history, just four points off what would have been the club's first ever top division title.
  • John Hollins, in his first season as Chelsea manager, guided the West London club to sixth place in the First Division and glory in the new Full Members Cup, in what was easily the club's most successful season for 15 years.
  • Ken Brown achieved an instant return to the First Division with Norwich City.
  • Lennie Lawrence guided Charlton Athletic to the First Division after 29 years away, after they began the season having to leave their outdated Valley ground and become tenants at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park.
  • Dave Bassett took Wimbledon into the First Division in only their ninth season in the Football League, equalling the record rise from the Fourth Division to the First in four seasons set by Swansea City in 1981.
  • Ian Branfoot took Reading to the Third Division title after a Football League record of 13 consecutive wins from the start of the season.
  • Lou Macari, who won honours with Celtic and Manchester United as a player, achieved his first major success as a manager by taking Swindon Town to the Fourth Division title with a Football League record of 102 points.

Famous debutants

31 August 1985 – Ian Wright, 21-year-old striker, makes his debut for Crystal Palace in 3–2 defeat by Huddersfield Town at Selhurst Park in the Second Division soon after joining the club from non-league Greenwich Borough.[3]

28 September 1985 – David Rocastle, 18-year-old midfielder, makes his debut for Arsenal in 1–1 draw with Newcastle United in the First Division at Highbury.[4]

23 November 1985 – Martin Keown, 19-year-old defender, makes his debut for Arsenal in a goalless draw with West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.[5]

Top goalscorers

First Division

Second Division

Third Division

Fourth Division

Diary of the season

1 July 1985 – Gordon Cowans leaves Aston Villa to join Bari of Italy for £500,000, along with striker Paul Rideout for £400,000, while Tottenham Hotspur sign Newcastle United winger Chris Waddle for £590,000.

1 August 1985 – Everton sign 24-year-old Leicester City and England striker Gary Lineker for a club record fee of £900,000.

2 August 1985 – Crystal Palace sign 21-year-old striker Ian Wright from Isthmian League side Greenwich Borough.

11 August 1985 – Jack Charlton resigns as Newcastle United manager six days before the start of the First Division campaign, and is replaced by Willie McFaul.

12 August 1985 – Sheffield Wednesday sign striker Garry Thompson from West Bromwich Albion for £450,000.[7]

17 August 1985 – On the first day of the Football League, newly promoted Oxford United (in the First Division for the first time in their history, just 23 years after joining the Football League) gain a 1–1 draw at West Bromwich Albion, while Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday battle it out for the same scoreline at Hillsborough. Liverpool beat Arsenal 2–0 at Anfield, but the season begins on a disappointing note for defending champions Everton, who lose 3–1 at Leicester City.

31 August 1985: The first month of the season ends with Manchester United as leaders after five straight wins. Sheffield Wednesday's renaissance continues as they occupy second place, while Chelsea and Newcastle United fill the next two places, under their respective new managers John Hollins and Willie McFaul. After a poor start, Everton climb to fifth as Gary Lineker scores a hat-trick in a 4–1 win over Birmingham City at Goodison Park.[8] In the Second Division, Portsmouth head the promotion race, joined in the top three by Blackburn Rovers and Oldham Athletic. Pre-season promotion favourites Sunderland prop up the table after losing their first five matches of the season without scoring, while Leeds United occupy 20th place with two draws and three defeats so far.[9]

10 September 1985 – Jock Stein collapses and dies from a heart attack at the end of Scotland's 1–1 draw with Wales that secures their place in the World Cup qualifying play-off against Australia.

11 September 1985 – England's World Cup qualification is confirmed with a 1–1 draw against Romania at Wembley.

13 September 1985 – Sheffield Wednesday sign midfielder Mark Chamberlain from Stoke City for £300,000.[7]

28 September 1985 – Charlton Athletic depart from their Valley stadium following a damning inspection report by safety officials, and begin a groundshare with Crystal Palace.

30 September 1985 – The month ends with Manchester United already nine points clear of second-placed Liverpool.[10] Chelsea and Newcastle United are a further three points adrift.[11] In the Second Division, Portsmouth lead the way with 23 points from their opening 10 games, with Oldham Athletic and Blackburn Rovers once again completing the top three. Sunderland improve to 20th in the division, with eight points.[12]

5 October 1985 – Manchester United's 100% start to the season ends as they draw 1–1 at Luton Town, leaving them one game short of the record 11-match winning start set by Tottenham Hotspur 25 years ago. However, they extend their lead at the top of the table to ten points as Liverpool lose 2-1 at Queens Park Rangers.[13]

11 October 1985 – Leeds United sack manager Eddie Gray and replace him with another former player – Billy Bremner, from Doncaster Rovers.

17 October 1985 – Southampton sign midfielder Glen Cockerill from Sheffield United for £225,000.[7]

23 October 1985 – After starting the season with a record 13 successive league wins, Third Division leaders Reading finally drop points with a 2–2 home draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are struggling in the Third Division after two consecutive relegations.[14] However, they still have a 15-point lead over their nearest rivals Derby County. Wolves, in contrast, are second from bottom of the table and are in danger of becoming only the second club in Football League history to suffer three successive relegations. Also struggling are Swansea City, who finished sixth in the First Division in 1982 and now occupy 21st place in the Third Division. Both Wolves and Swansea are reported to be in serious financial trouble.[15]

31 October 1985: Manchester United are still top of the First Division as October ends, with twelve wins and two draws from their opening fourteen games, and a ten-point lead over Liverpool. West Bromwich Albion, Ipswich Town and Manchester City lie in the relegation zone.[16] Portsmouth now lead the Second Division with a seven-point advantage over second placed Blackburn Rovers, while Charlton Athletic have crept into third place, forcing Oldham Athletic out of the top three on goal difference. If the current top three clubs are promoted this season, it will mark the end of their First Division absences which have lasted for between 20 and 30 years. Wimbledon, in only their ninth season as a Football League team and their second in this division, are emerging as surprise contenders for promotion.[17]

9 November 1985 – Everton thrash Arsenal 6–1 at Goodison Park. Manchester United suffer their first League defeat of the season as they lose 1–0 at Sheffield Wednesday.

30 November 1985 – The ends with Manchester United, who have taken just two points from their last four matches, now only two points ahead of Liverpool. West Ham United and Sheffield Wednesday lead the chasing pack. Gary Lineker scores his 10th league goal of the season in a 3–2 win for Everton at Southampton. At the bottom of the table, West Bromwich Albion are already eleven points from safety, with Ipswich Town and Birmingham City also in the relegation zone.[18] The Second Division promotion race is wide open, with the top six clubs – Portsmouth, Sheffield United, Charlton Athletic, Norwich City, Wimbledon and Crystal Palace – separated by a margin of just four points.[19]

14 December 1985 - Manchester United move five points ahead at the top of the First Division with a 3–1 win at struggling Aston Villa, who are in danger of relegation four seasons after winning the European Cup and five years after being league champions. Liverpool's title hopes are hit by a 2–0 away defeat against Arsenal, whose 19-year-old Irish striker Niall Quinn scores on his debut. West Ham United are level on points with second-placed Liverpool, after a 2–0 win over relegation-threatened Birmingham City.[20]

31 December 1985 – Manchester United finish the year still top of the league, two points ahead of Chelsea and three clear of Everton and Liverpool. With just two wins so far, West Bromwich Albion remain bottom, and Ipswich Town and Birmingham City also remain in the relegation zone.[21] Norwich City are the Second Division leaders, with Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic completing the top three.[22]

2 January 1986 – Second Division strugglers Middlesbrough are reported to be £1million in debt. Peterborough United fan Barry Fox, 22, is jailed for three years for punching a policeman unconscious[23] in the game against Northampton Town at London Road on 12 October.[24]

4 January 1986 - In the FA Cup third round, Leicester City are beaten 3–1 by Third Division Bristol Rovers.[25] Leeds United lose 1–0 to Fourth Division Peterborough United.

14 January 1986 – Birmingham City are humbled 2–1 at home by non-league Altrincham in the FA Cup 3rd round, despite taking a first half lead.

18 January 1986 – Manchester United are still top of the First Division, but now hold just a two-point margin over Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea. Gary Lineker reaches the 20-goal mark in the First Division by scoring twice for Everton in their 2–0 away win over struggling Birmingham City.[26] In the Second Division, Norwich City have built up a five-point lead over second placed Portsmouth, with Wimbledon completing the top three. Charlton Athletic are the closest threat for the top three, with Brighton and Hull City are emerging as surprise promotion contenders. Blackburn Rovers, meanwhile, have fallen to 11th place in the table after a dismal run of results.

29 January 1986 - Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup after convincing replay victories over Sunderland and Notts County respectively. Aston Villa slump to a 1–0 defeat at Second Division Millwall.

1 February 1986 – Manchester United fall off the top of the First Division for the first time this season, overtaken by Everton, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 1–0. Second Division leaders Norwich City sell winger Louie Donowa to Deportivo La Coruna of Spain for £400,000.

4 February 1986 – Everton sign striker Warren Aspinall from Wigan Athletic for £150,000.[7]

15 February 1986 - All four FA Cup fifth round ties end in draws. York City hold Liverpool to a 1–1 draw for the second season running at this stage in the competition.

22 February 1986 - Everton take a significant step towards a second successive title as goals from Kevin Ratcliffe and Gary Lineker give them a 2–0 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

28 February 1986 – Leaders Everton are three points ahead of Manchester United, who have a game in hand, at the end of the month. Liverpool are now eight points behind, level with Chelsea, but the London club have played three matches fewer. Aston Villa, just five years after being league champions, have slipped into the relegation zone alongside West Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City.[27] Norwich City, Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic head the Second Division promotion race.[28]

1 March 1986 – Gary Lineker scores his 25th league goal of the season as Everton beat Aston Villa 2–0 at Goodison Park.

4 March 1986 - Everton become the only team not to require a replay to reach the FA Cup sixth round when they win 2–1 away to Tottenham Hotspur.[29]

5 March 1986 - QPR beat Liverpool 3–2 on aggregate to reach the final of the League Cup, ending Liverpool's hopes of a unique domestic treble. Luton Town beat Arsenal 3–0 at Kenilworth Road in the second replay of their FA Cup fifth round tie.

8 March 1986 - Everton come from two goals down to draw 2–2 with Luton Town in the FA Cup sixth round.[30]

9 March 1986 – Manchester United's double hopes – and their hopes of retaining the FA Cup – end with a 2–0 defeat against West Ham United in the fifth round replay at Old Trafford.

12 March 1986 – Oxford United reach the League Cup final for the first time after beating Aston Villa 4–3 on aggregate. Manchester United sign striker Peter Davenport from Nottingham Forest for £750,000.[7] The England U-21 national side defeats Denmark 1–0 in the European Championship quarter-final first leg in Copenhagen, with the only goal of the game coming from Coventry City midfielder Nick Pickering.[31]

17 March 1986 - Liverpool beat Watford 2–1 in their FA Cup sixth round replay to join Everton, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-finals.

19 March 1986 – Bradford City announce that the Valley Parade stadium, closed since the fatal fire 10 months ago, is due to be comprehensively rebuilt and re-opened next season.

21 March 1986 – Manchester United announce that striker Mark Hughes is to join Barcelona, managed by former QPR and Crystal Palace boss Terry Venables, for a fee of £2million at the end of the season.

23 March 1986 – The first final of the Full Members Cup is played at Wembley Stadium, with Chelsea defeating Manchester City 5–4 with a hat-trick from David Speedie and two goals from Colin Lee. They had been 5–1 up after 85 minutes before three City goals saw their lead cut to a single goal.[32]

25 March 1986 – Steve Perryman, 34, ends his 17-year spell at Tottenham Hotspur and signs for Oxford United on a free transfer.[7]

26 March 1986 – The return leg of the under-21 European Championship quarter-final sees England reach the next stage by drawing 1–1 with Denmark at Maine Road, with Aston Villa defender Paul Elliott equalising after the Danes took a 1–0 lead in the first half.[31]

27 March 1986 – Wimbledon pay a club record £125,000 for Millwall striker John Fashanu, the younger brother of former Norwich City and Nottingham Forest striker Justin Fashanu.

28 March 1986 – Don Howe resigns after just over two years as manager of Arsenal, after it is reported that the club had offered Terry Venables his job.

31 March 1986 – After five wins and a draw in March, Liverpool now lead the table on goal difference over an Everton side who have a game in hand, while Manchester United are now five points off the top in third place and their hopes of a first top division title since 1967 are fading fast. Chelsea, whose only previous top division title was in 1955, remain in contention, eight points behind Liverpool with three games in hand. Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion still occupy the bottom three places.[33] Norwich City are looking all set for an immediate return to the First Division as runaway leaders of the Second Division, joined in the top three by Portsmouth and Wimbledon.[34]

5 April 1986 – Liverpool beat Southampton 2–0 in the FA Cup semi-final at White Hart Lane to keep their double hopes alive, and end Southampton's hopes of gaining silverware in the first season under Chris Nicholl's management. Everton keep their own double bid on track with a 2–1 win over Sheffield Wednesday in the other semi-final at Villa Park, setting the scene for the first all Merseyside FA Cup final. The two clubs met for the League Cup final two years earlier, with Liverpool winning after a replay.

9 April 1986 – England's hopes of European Championship glory at under-21 level are dealt with a huge blow when they lose 2–0 to Italy in Pisa in the semi-final first leg.[31]

12 April 1986 – West Bromwich Albion are relegated from the First Division after losing 1–0 at Queens Park Rangers.[35]

14 April 1986 – Tottenham Hotspur agree a £50,000 fee with Millwall for 18-year-old defender Neil Ruddock.[7]

19 April 1986 - Birmingham City lose 2–0 at home to Southampton and are relegated from the First Division just one season after promotion.[36]

20 April 1986 – Oxford United beat QPR 3–0 in the League Cup final at Wembley, to win the first major piece of silverware in their history.[2]

21 April 1986 – West Ham United beat Newcastle United 8–1 in the league at Upton Park, with defender Alvin Martin scoring a hat-trick.[37]

23 April 1986 – England's under-21 European dream is over as they can only manage a 1–1 draw with Italy at the County Ground in Swindon, with Arsenal midfielder Stewart Robson scoring their only goal.[31]

26 April 1986 – Wolverhampton Wanderers become the third West Midlands club to be relegated this season, and become only the second English league club ever to suffer three successive relegations, after their descent into the Fourth Division is confirmed. Their slump echoes that of Bristol City four years earlier. Liverpool defender Gary Gillespie of Liverpool scores a hat-trick in a 5–0 league win over relegated Birmingham City at Anfield, while Everton are held 0-0 by Nottingham Forest.[38]

30 April 1986 – Everton suffer a shock 1–0 defeat to Oxford United, and control of the title race passes to Liverpool, who beat Leicester City 2–0. Liverpool, with one match remaining, are four points ahead of West Ham United and five ahead of Everton, who both have two games left. After three home wins in April, Aston Villa have improved to 16th position, but Ipswich Town, Coventry City, Leicester City and Oxford United remain in the relegation battle.[39] Norwich City's return to the First Division has been confirmed after one season as Second Division champions, while Charlton Athletic only need a draw from their next fixture to confirm promotion back to the top flight after nearly 30 years away. Wimbledon and Portsmouth are the only other teams still contending for promotion. Blackburn Rovers have slumped to 19th and are only above the relegation zone on goal difference.[40]

1 May 1986 – Chelsea agree a fee of £400,000 for Hibernian striker Gordon Durie.[7]

3 May 1986 – Player-manager Kenny Dalglish scores the only goal as Liverpool beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to win the First Division title. Ipswich Town lose their last match 1–0 to Sheffield Wednesday, and are two points ahead of 20th-place Oxford United, who still have one match remaining. Coventry City and Leicester City secure survival with home wins. Charlton Athletic seal promotion from the Second Division with a 3–2 win at relegation-threatened Carlisle United, and Wimbledon seal promotion to the First Division just nine years after being elected to the Football League.

5 May 1986 – Oxford United beat Arsenal 3–0 in their final game to avoid relegation, and send Ipswich Town down to the Second Division. Everton clinch the runners-up spot in the First Division after a 3–1 home win over third-placed West Ham United, with two goals from Gary Lineker meaning that he finishes as the First Division's leading scorer on 30 goals. Chelsea end the season with their fourth consecutive defeat, losing 5–1 at home to Watford.[41]

6 May 1986 – Everton manager Howard Kendall dismisses speculation that top scorer Gary Lineker will sign for Barcelona.[42]

10 May 1986 – Ian Rush scores twice as Liverpool come from behind to beat Everton 3–1 in the first-ever all-Merseyside FA Cup final. Liverpool become the fifth club in history to win the league championship and FA Cup double. Rush, however, could soon be on his way to Italy to sign for Juventus, according to media reports.[43]

13 May 1986 – Peter Shreeves is sacked after two years as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, who finished third in his first season but slumped to 10th this season.

14 May 1986 – Highbury as manager.

16 May 1986 – David Pleat leaves Luton Town after eight years as manager to take over at Tottenham Hotspur.

20 May 1986 – Controversial plans are unveiled for Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium to be sold and redeveloped for housing, and for the team to ground-share with Fulham at Craven Cottage.

21 May 1986 – Middlesbrough, recently relegated to the Third Division for the second time in their history, are reported to be faced with the threat of losing their Football League status and going out of business after going into liquidation.

22 May 1986 – 20-year-old defender Denis Irwin joins Oldham Athletic on a free transfer from Leeds United.[7]

3 June 1986 – England lose 1–0 to Portugal in their opening World Cup game.

5 June 1986 – Coventry City sign winger David Phillips from Manchester City for £150,000.[7]

6 June 1986 – A goalless draw with Morocco leaves England needing to win their final group game in order to qualify for the second round of the World Cup.

8 June 1986 - Ian Rush agrees to sign for Juventus for a fee of £3million, but could be loaned back to Liverpool for the 1986-87 season.[44]

11 June 1986 – Gary Lineker scores a hat-trick in England's 3–0 victory over Poland which sends them through to the second round of the World Cup.

13 June 1986 – Southampton sign 19-year-old goalkeeper Tim Flowers from Wolverhampton Wanderers for £70,000, while 23-year-old midfielder Ian Crook joins Norwich City from Tottenham Hotspur for £80,000.[7]

18 June 1986 – England beat Paraguay 3–0 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1970.

22 June 1986 – England's World Cup challenge is ended in the quarter-finals when they lose 2–1 to Argentina. Diego Maradona scores both goals for Argentina, his first goal being the controversial "Hand of God" goal which was allowed despite being an obvious handball.


  • 28 July 1985: Tommy Priestley, 74, played 23 league games for Chelsea in the 1930s in a career which was mostly spent in his native Ireland. He was also capped twice at senior level for his country.
  • August 1985: Bill Richardson, 77, played more than 300 games at wing-half for West Bromwich Albion between 1926 and 1937 and was in the team that won the FA Cup and promotion to the First Division in 1931. He completed his professional career at Swindon Town, where his league career was cut short in 1939 by the outbreak of war, although he continued to play amateur footballer for another two years.
  • 10 September 1985: Jock Stein, 62, best remembered for his achievements with Celtic and Scotland, but who briefly worked in the English game with a short spell as Leeds United manager in 1978, collapsed and died at the end of Scotland's World Cup qualifying game with Wales at Ninian Park, Cardiff.
  • 23 September 1985: Phil O'Connor, 31, who was born in England but represented Australia in 20 internationals, played six league games for English clubs Luton Town and Lincoln City between 1972 and 1975 during a career which was mostly spent in his adopted homeland. He was killed in a car crash in his adopted homeland.
  • October 1985: Fred Briggs, 77, played 137 league games as a forward during the 1930s for Rotherham United, Reading and Southampton before the war cut his playing career short, although he guested for a number of other clubs during the war.
  • 8 December 1985: Jimmy Rudd, 66, Dublin born winger who played 227 league games between 1938 and 1952 for Manchester City, York City, Leeds United, Rotherham United, Scunthorpe United and Workington.
  • 10 December 1985: New Zealand, had won two Scottish league titles and a Scottish Cup with Celtic over a spell of 14 years before he moved south of the border in 1946 to sign for Brentford, where he played 62 league games in defence for the west London club.
  • 28 December 1985: Ernie Thompson, 76, scored 92 league goals during the interwar years, 82 of them for Blackburn Rovers between 1931 and 1936 and a single goal during a two-year spell at Manchester United where he managed just three appearances.
  • 9 January 1986: Wilson Jones, 71, scored once in two pre-war appearances for Wales as a forward, and scored 71 league goals (63 of them for Birmingham City) in a professional career which spanned from 1932 and 1948 and was disrupted by the war.
  • February (undated): Abe Rosenthal, 64, had three spells with both Tranmere Rovers and Bradford City as a forward between 1938 and 1956, playing 225 league games and scoring 78 goals. He collapsed and died after chasing two intruders from his home in Woolton, Liverpool.
  • 27 February 1986: Pat Beasley, 72, played 79 league games at wing-half for Arsenal between 1931 and 1937, collecting a First Division title medal in 1934. He then signed for Huddersfield Town and was on the losing side in the FA Cup final of 1938. He was capped once for England in 1939. After the war he signed for Fulham before becoming player-manager of Bristol City in 1950, remaining in charge at Ashton Gate for eight years. He then had a year in charge of Birmingham City and then three years as manager of non-league Dover Athletic.
  • 6 March 1986: Derby County as a right-winger during the interwar years and was capped four times for England in the mid 1920s, scoring once.
  • 8 March 1986: Jackie Morton, 72, scored on his only appearance for England in 1937. He scored 57 goals as a forward for West Ham United between 1931 and 1939, but the outbreak of war contributed to him playing his last senior game at the age of 25.
  • 13 March 1986: Jack Bruton, 82, was capped three times as a winger for England in the late 1920s and had a successful career at club level, entering league football at the age of 22 in 1925 with Burnley after several years in amateur football while working as a coal miner. He scored 42 goals in 167 league games over the next four years before a £6,500 move to Blackburn Rovers in 1929. He spent a decade at Ewood Park, scoring well over 100 goals, before joining Preston North End, only for his career to be ended by World War II. He returned to Blackburn as manager from 1947 to 1949 and then managed Bournemouth from 1950 to 1956.
  • 9 May 1986: Colin Lyman, 72, scored 54 goals in 188 league games as a forward for Southend United, Northampton Town, Port Vale, Nottingham Forest and Notts County between 1933 and 1947. Later managed non-league Long Eaton Town.
  • 22 May 1986: Lol Hamlett, 69, played 181 league games at right-back for Bolton Wanderers and Port Vale between 1938 and 1952. He then served Port Vale's coaching staff from 1958 to 1983.
  • 25 June 1986: Laurie Fishlock, 79, first-class cricketer who also played professional football for Crystal Palace, Southampton, Aldershot, Gillingham and Millwall.

League tables

First Division

Liverpool clinched their 16th First Division title on the final day of the season, with player-manager Kenny Dalglish scoring the only goal of the final game of the season against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge at the end of his first season in charge of Liverpool, who finished two points ahead of Merseyside rivals Everton. A week later, they beat Everton 3-1 in the FA Cup final to become only the third team of the 20th century (and the fifth of all time) to win the double of the league title and FA Cup.

Manchester United had led the First Division for most of the season, winning their first 10 games and being unbeaten from their first 15, which had left them looking uncatchable before the end of autumn 1985 in the race for the First Division title, which they had last won in 1967. However, their form dipped dramatically in the second half of the season and they finished fourth, 12 points behind champions Liverpool. Third place went to West Ham United, the East London club's best ever league finish, putting them just four points short of their first ever league title.

Chelsea spent much of the season in contention for the First Division title but ended up finishing sixth, consolation coming in the form of victory in the first ever Full Members Cup.

Arsenal's recent run of mediocrity continued as they finished seventh in the First Division and failed to make an impact in the cups, extended their wait for a major trophy into its eighth season. Less than two months before the end of the season, manager Highbury as manager from Millwall. It was a disappointing season for Arsenal's North London rivals Tottenham, who finished 10th in the league a year after finishing third, and sacked their manager Peter Shreeves in favour of Luton's David Pleat.

West Bromwich Albion's decade-long stay in the First Division ended after a terrible season which saw two managerial changes and a mere four league wins. Their local rivals Birmingham City, whose manager Ron Saunders resigned halfway through the season before making a swift managerial comeback at Albion, fared little better, being relegated just one season after promotion with just 29 points to their name after a bad first half of the season was followed by a worse second half. The final relegation place went to Ipswich Town, who had steadily declined in the four years since Bobby Robson left for the England job, and finally lost their status after some impressive late season results by Aston Villa and Oxford United.

Pos Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts Notes
1 Liverpool 42 26 10 6 89 37 +52 88 Excluded from the European Cup 1986–87[45][46]
2 Everton 42 26 8 8 87 41 +46 86
3 West Ham United 42 26 6 10 74 40 +34 84
4 Manchester United 42 22 10 10 70 36 +34 76
5 Sheffield Wednesday 42 21 10 11 63 54 +9 73
6 Chelsea 42 20 11 11 57 56 +1 71
7 Arsenal 42 20 9 13 49 47 +2 69
8 Nottingham Forest 42 19 11 12 69 53 +16 68
9 Luton Town 42 18 12 12 61 44 +17 66
10 Tottenham Hotspur 42 19 8 15 74 52 +22 65
11 Newcastle United 42 17 12 13 67 72 −5 63
12 Watford 42 16 11 15 69 62 +7 59
13 Queens Park Rangers 42 15 7 20 53 64 −11 52
14 Southampton 42 12 10 20 51 62 −11 46
15 Manchester City 42 11 12 19 43 57 −14 45
16 Aston Villa 42 10 14 18 51 67 −16 44
17 Coventry City 42 11 10 21 48 71 −23 43
18 Oxford United 42 10 12 20 62 80 −18 42 League Cup winners
19 Leicester City 42 10 12 20 54 76 −22 42
20 Ipswich Town 42 11 8 23 32 55 −23 41
21 Birmingham City 42 8 5 29 30 73 −43 29
22 West Bromwich Albion 42 4 12 26 35 89 −54 24
Qualified for the promotion/relegation playoffs
Relegated to Division Two

P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points

Second Division

Having been relegated from the First Division with 49 points and a League Cup victory to their name, Norwich City began the season as favourites for a swift return to the First Division, and did so with a comfortable lead at the top of the Second Division. Runners-up spot went to Charlton Athletic, who last played First Division football in 1957 and whose success was made all the more remarkable by the fact that they had been forced to leave their stadium early in the season and ground-share with Crystal Palace, who enjoyed considerable progress in their second season under manager Steve Coppell but just missed out on promotion. An even more remarkable success story in the Second Division came when Wimbledon sealed the final promotion place, a mere nine years after being elected to the Football League - an unmatched achievement in modern football. Their four-season rise from the Fourth Division to the First was only previously matched by Swansea City in 1981.

For a second successive season, Portsmouth missed out on promotion on the final day of the season.

Financial problems and a need to sell players to stay afloat helped bring about the demise of Middlesbrough, Carlisle United and Fulham in the Second Division. Blackburn Rovers narrowly avoided going down thanks largely to a much better first half of the season where they had been genuine promotion contenders. It was a similar close shave for Sunderland, who had been widely tipped to challenge for promotion after the pre-season appointment of Lawrie McMenemy as manager, but were soon written off by most observers after losing their first five games.

Pos Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts
1 Norwich City 42 25 9 8 84 37 +47 84
2 Charlton Athletic 42 22 11 9 78 45 +33 77
3 Wimbledon 42 21 13 8 58 37 +21 76
4 Portsmouth 42 22 7 13 69 41 +28 73
5 Crystal Palace 42 19 9 14 57 52 +5 66
6 Hull City 42 17 13 12 65 55 +10 64
7 Sheffield United 42 17 11 14 64 63 +1 62
8 Oldham Athletic 42 17 9 16 62 61 +1 60
9 Millwall 42 17 8 17 64 65 −1 59
10 Stoke City 42 14 15 13 48 50 −2 57
11 Brighton & Hove Albion 42 16 8 18 64 64 +0 56
12 Barnsley 42 14 14 14 47 50 −3 56
13 Bradford City 42 16 6 20 51 63 −12 54
14 Leeds United 42 15 8 19 56 72 −16 53
15 Grimsby Town 42 14 10 18 58 62 −4 52
16 Huddersfield Town 42 14 10 18 51 67 −16 52
17 Shrewsbury Town 42 14 9 19 52 64 −12 51
18 Sunderland 42 13 11 18 47 61 −14 50
19 Blackburn Rovers 42 12 13 17 53 62 −9 49
20 Carlisle United 42 13 7 22 47 71 −24 46
21 Middlesbrough 42 12 9 21 44 53 −9 45
22 Fulham 42 10 6 26 45 69 −24 36
Promoted to Division One
Qualified for the promotion/relegation playoffs
Relegated to Division Three

P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points

Third Division

Reading took the Third Division title by a comfortable margin to secure their second promotion in three seasons. Plymouth Argyle, FA Cup semi-finalists two seasons earlier, finally translated their cup form into league success as they won promotion as runners-up. The final promotion place went to Derby County, twice league champions during the 1970s before a terrible decline that began with First Division relegation in 1980. The East Midlanders finished a single point ahead of Wigan Athletic, who enjoyed their best-ever league finish and came so close to reaching the Second Division just eight years after joining the Football League.

Debt-ridden Wolverhampton Wanderers became only the second team in Football League history to suffer three consecutive relegations, while Swansea City suffered a third relegation in four seasons as they too were blighted by financial problems. Lincoln City and Cardiff City occupied the remaining relegation places. Bolton Wanderers, four times FA Cup winners, endured the lowest league finish of their history so far, but at least managed to avoid relegation by two places.

Pos Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts
1 Reading 46 29 7 10 67 51 +16 94
2 Plymouth Argyle 46 26 9 11 88 53 +35 87
3 Derby County 46 23 15 8 80 41 +39 84
4 Wigan Athletic 46 23 14 9 82 48 +34 83
5 Gillingham 46 22 13 11 81 54 +27 79
6 Walsall 46 22 9 15 90 64 +26 75
7 York City 46 20 11 15 77 58 +19 71
8 Notts County 46 19 14 13 71 60 +11 71
9 Bristol City 46 18 14 14 69 60 +9 68
10 Brentford 46 18 12 16 58 61 −3 66
11 Doncaster Rovers 46 16 16 14 45 52 −7 64
12 Blackpool 46 17 12 17 66 55 +11 63
13 Darlington 46 15 13 18 61 78 −17 58
14 Rotherham United 46 15 12 19 61 59 +2 57
15 Bournemouth 46 15 9 22 65 72 −7 54
16 Bristol Rovers 46 14 12 20 51 75 −24 54
17 Chesterfield 46 13 14 19 61 64 −3 53
18 Bolton Wanderers 46 15 8 23 54 68 −14 53
19 Newport County 46 11 18 17 52 65 −13 51
20 Bury 46 12 13 21 63 67 −4 49
21 Lincoln City 46 10 16 20 55 77 −22 46
22 Cardiff City 46 12 9 25 53 83 −30 45
23 Wolverhampton Wanderers 46 11 10 25 57 98 −41 43
24 Swansea City 46 11 10 25 43 87 −44 43
Promoted to Division Two
Relegated to Division Four

P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points

Fourth Division

Lou Macari, who achieved great success as a player with Celtic and Manchester United, achieved the first success of his managerial career by winning the Fourth Division title for Swindon Town with a league record of 102 points and ending their four-year wait for promotion back to the Third Division. Harry McNally celebrated his first season as Chester City manager by guiding the club to promotion for only the second time in their 55-year league membership. Ian Greaves, who took Bolton Wanderers into the First Division in 1978, took Mansfield Town into the Third Division, while the last promotion place was secured by Port Vale.

In the last season of the re-election system for the league's bottom four clubs before the introduction of a single automatic relegation place, Torquay United propped up the Fourth Division and had to make the all too familiar move of applying to keep their league status. The second bottom place went to the illustrious Preston North End, who were the winners of the first two league titles nearly a century earlier and with an FA Cup triumph as recently as 1938 to their name. Cambridge United, fresh from two successive relegations, also finished in a position where they were in danger of losing their league status, as did an Exeter City side who were no strangers to the league's lowest reaches. In the event, all four clubs held onto their status.

Pos Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts Notes
1 Swindon Town 46 32 6 8 82 43 +39 102
2 Chester City 46 23 15 8 83 50 +33 84
3 Mansfield Town 46 23 12 11 74 47 +27 81
4 Port Vale 46 21 16 9 67 37 +30 79
5 Orient 46 20 12 14 79 64 +15 72
6 Colchester United 46 19 13 14 88 63 +25 70
7 Hartlepool United 46 20 10 16 68 67 +1 70
8 Northampton Town 46 18 10 18 79 58 +21 64
9 Southend United 46 18 10 18 69 67 +2 64
10 Hereford United 46 18 10 18 74 73 +1 64
11 Stockport County 46 17 13 16 63 71 −8 64
12 Crewe Alexandra 46 18 9 19 54 61 −7 63
13 Wrexham 46 17 9 20 68 80 −12 60 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1986–87
First round
14 Burnley 46 16 11 19 60 65 −5 59
15 Scunthorpe United 46 15 14 17 50 55 −5 59
16 Aldershot 46 17 7 22 66 74 −8 58
17 Peterborough United 46 13 17 16 52 64 −12 56
18 Rochdale 46 14 13 19 57 77 −20 55
19 Tranmere Rovers 46 15 9 22 74 73 +1 54
20 Halifax Town 46 14 12 20 60 71 −11 54
21 Exeter City 46 13 15 18 47 59 −12 54
22 Cambridge United 46 15 9 22 65 80 −15 54
23 Preston North End 46 11 10 25 54 89 −35 43
24 Torquay United 46 9 10 27 43 88 −45 37
Promoted to Division Three

P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points


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  14. ^ Results 2009/10 – Reading FC – Royals Mad. Retrieved on 2011-03-23.
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  46. ^ Liverpool won the 1986 FA Cup as well.
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    participated in the competition, unlike the English sides.
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