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1988–89 in English football

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Title: 1988–89 in English football  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 1989–90 in English football, 1988–89 in English football, Alan Shearer, Lee Chapman, Luton Town F.C.
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

1988–89 in English football

The 1988–89 season was the 109th season of competitive football in England.

The season saw Arsenal win their first league title for 18 years, in dramatic fashion, as they beat defending champions Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield to clinch the title on amount of goals scored. Liverpool had won the FA Cup six days earlier and for the second season running missed out on a unique second double. Third placed Nottingham Forest lifted both the Football League Cup and Full Members Cup. The ban on English clubs was now in its fourth season and UEFA then voted for it to continue for a fifth season.

The season was overshadowed by the Hillsborough disaster on 15 April 1989, which resulted in the death of 94 Liverpool fans (the death total eventually reached 96) in a crowd crush at the FA Cup semi-final.


Hillsborough disaster

On 15 April, a crowd crush at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough killed 94 people and injured more than 300. A 95th Liverpool supporter died in hospital shortly after. The final death toll became 96 in March 1993, when Tony Bland died after being in a coma for nearly four years. A subsequent inquiry into the tragedy led to the Taylor Report, in which Lord Justice Taylor of Gosforth ordered that all top division clubs should have all-seater stadiums from the 1994–95 season onwards.

Changes to football on television

One of the biggest changes in the history of football on television began in this season, as ITV gained exclusive rights to show Football League matches, both in live and highlights form. Most of their coverage was of live matches on Sunday afternoons of top-flight games. They would hold the exclusive rights until 1992, when they lost coverage of the newly formed Premier League to Sky Television.

It ended a long-term partnership with the BBC, who in turn struck up a partnership with the FA for exclusive coverage of the FA Cup. The BBC did not show another live English league match until 2009.

Scunthorpe's new stadium

Scunthorpe United relocated from the Old Showground to Glanford Park in the first relocation of a Football League team since Southend United moved to Roots Hall in 1955.[1]

First Division

Arsenal won the league title with a goal scored in the last minute of the last game of the season, as they beat Liverpool 2–0 at Anfield to claim the championship trophy and deny Kenny Dalglish's men a unique second double, with goals from Alan Smith and Michael Thomas. Third place in the league was occupied by League Cup and Full Members Cup winners Nottingham Forest. In their second season back in the top flight, Derby County beat eventual champions Arsenal home and away on their way to achieving an impressive fifth place finish, while Dave Stringer's Norwich made the most of their limited resources by finishing fourth.

Ian Rush returned to Liverpool after a season with Juventus and was once again a prolific goalscorer. Mark Hughes returned to Manchester United after two seasons with Barcelona and his brilliance earned him the PFA Player of the Year award – although he couldn't help his side finish any higher than a disappointing 11th in the First Division.

Newcastle United endured a disastrous season and succumbed to relegation after finishing bottom of the First Division. They were joined by West Ham United, who later sacked long-serving manager John Lyall; he was replaced by the Swindon Town manager Lou Macari. The other relegated side was Middlesbrough.

Second Division

Chelsea returned to the First Division at the first time of asking by totalling 99 points as Second Division champions. Manchester City ended their two-year exile from the top flight by finishing runners-up in the Second Division. The third promotion place went to Steve Coppell's stylish Crystal Palace side.

A disastrous season saw Walsall slip out of the Second Division after just one season. They were then joined by Birmingham City, who fell into the league's third tier for the first time in their history. Shrewsbury Town's luck finally ran out as they occupied the final relegation spot and fell back into the league's third tier after 10 years.

Third Division

The prolific goalscoring of striker Steve Bull and expertise of manager Graham Turner saw Wolves promoted for the second season running as Third Division champions. Dave Bassett's Sheffield United followed Wolves up in second place. The Third Division playoffs were won by John Rudge's hard working Port Vale side.

The Third Division relegation spots were filled by Gillingham, Chesterfield, Southend United and Aldershot.

Fourth Division

Rotherham United were crowned Champions. 22 points from their final 8 games saw Frank Clark's Leyton Orient make a late run into the Fourth Division playoffs and win the final to gain promotion. The automatic promotion places went to Tranmere Rovers and Crewe Alexandra.

At the bottom end of the table, Darlington struggled all season long and not even the arrival of enthusiastic young manager Brian Little could save them from losing their league place – which was gained by Conference champions Maidstone United.


In their first season after relegation from the Football League, Newport County went out of business on 27 February. They were then expelled from the Conference for failing to fulfill their fixtures but reformed three months later.

Change in playoff format

The play-off system was slightly altered, they were now contested by the four sides just missing out on promotion, with one extra team automatically relegated. The system has stayed in place since then (although it was not until the following season that Wembley Stadium began hosting finals).

FA Cup

Liverpool won the FA Cup by beating Everton 3–2 at Wembley. Ian Rush, who had returned to Anfield after a year at Juventus the previous summer, scored twice. This year's FA Cup featured a famous upset as First Division Coventry City, who had won the competition two years earlier, sunk to a 2–1 loss in the third round at lowly Sutton United. The joy of the non-leaguers was ended emphatically though in the next round as they were thumped 8–0 by Norwich City. Also, Third Division Brentford went on an impressive run to the quarter-finals before losing to Liverpool at Anfield.

League Cup and Full Members Cup

Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest ended their nine-year trophy drought by beating holders Luton Town 3–1 in the final to win the League Cup. Nottingham Forest also won the Full Members Cup, beating Everton 4–3 in the final after extra time, having come twice from behind. Garry Parker scored a brilliant goal for Nottingham Forest, running nearly the full length of the Wembley pitch, before beating Neville Southall in the Everton Goal. This is arguably one of the best goals scored in a Wembley final.

Like Wolverhampton Wanderers the previous season, Bolton Wanderers announced their intentions to return to the big time by winning the Associate Members Cup at Wembley against Torquay United 4–1.

Star players

PFA Player of the Year went to Mark Hughes, who had returned to Manchester United after two unhappy seasons with Barcelona in Spain & Bayern Munich in Germany. PFA Young Player of the Year award went to Arsenal's winger Paul Merson, who helped his side win their first league title for 18 years.

FWA Footballer of the Year was Liverpool captain Steve Nicol, while a special award was credited to the Liverpool players for their compassion shown to families bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster.

In the Third Division, 24-year-old Wolves striker Steve Bull scored 53 goals in all competitions and made a scoring debut for the England national football team.

Star managers

  • Kenny Dalglish compensated for Liverpool's title disappointment with victory over neighbours Everton in the F.A Cup final.
  • Brian Clough guided Nottingham Forest to a hard-earned League Cup triumph and also victory in the Full Members Cup after they had gone nine years without a trophy.
  • Dave Stringer pulled off one of the shocks of the season by taking unfancied Norwich City to fourth place in the First Division.
  • Steve Coppell's five years of outstanding effort at Crystal Palace paid off as he got them promoted to the First Division as playoff winners.
  • Graham Turner's rejuventated Wolves side reached the Second Division with a second successive championship and promotion triumph.
  • Dave Bassett celebrated his first full season as Sheffield United manager by winning promotion to the Second Division.
  • John Rudge took Port Vale to their highest point in decades by guiding them to success in the Third Division promotion playoffs.
  • Dario Gradi took Crewe Alexandra to third place in the Fourth Division and earned them promotion after years in the league's lowest division.
  • Frank Clark inspired a late run of excellent form for his Leyton Orient side who won promotion to the Third Division as Fourth Division playoff winners.

Famous debutants

24 September 1988: Russell Beardsmore, 19-year-old midfielder, makes his debut for Manchester United in their First Division 2–0 home win over West Ham United.

15 October 1988: Ian Olney, 18-year-old winger, makes his debut for Aston Villa in their 2–2 draw with Charlton Athletic at Selhurst Park.

22 October 1988: Mark Robins, 18-year-old striker, makes his debut for Manchester United as a substitute in their First Division 1–1 draw with Wimbledon at Plough Lane.

26 October 1988: Mark Crossley, 19-year-old goalkeeper, makes his debut for Nottingham Forest in 2–1 home win over Liverpool in First Division at the City Ground.

6 November 1988: Gary Charles, 18-year-old defender, makes his debut for Nottingham Forest in their 4–1 home defeat by Arsenal in the First Division at the City Ground.

4 February 1989: John Ebbrell, 19-year-old midfielder, makes his debut for Everton in their First Division 1–1 draw with Wimbledon at Plough Lane.

1 April 1989: David May, 18-year-old defender, makes his debut for Blackburn Rovers in a 1–1 Second Division draw with fellow promotion rivals Swindon Town at the County Ground.

6 May 1989: Gary Speed, 19-year-old Welsh midfielder, makes his debut for Leeds United in 0–0 Second Division draw with Oldham Athletic at Elland Road.

13 May 1989: Steve Howey, 17-year-old defender, makes his debut as a substitute for relegated Newcastle United on the final day of the First Division season, when they lose 2–0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Graeme Le Saux, 20-year-old Jersey born defender, makes his debut for Second Division champions Chelsea in 3–2 win against Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

Top goalscorers

First Division

Second Division

Third Division

  • Steve Bull (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – 37 goals

Fourth Division

Diary of the season

June 1988

15 June 1988 – Everton pay £850,000 for Bradford City and Scotland midfielder Stuart McCall.[3]

17 June 1988 – Newcastle United buy Scottish striker John Hendrie from Bradford City for £500,000.[4]

21 June 1988 – Tottenham Hotspur pay a club record £1.7 million for Manchester City striker Paul Stewart.[5]

July 1988

4 July 1988 – Uruguayan Danny Bergara, 46, becomes the first foreign manager in English football when he takes over at Fourth Division club Rochdale.[6]

5 July 1988 – After three years in Italy with Bari, former Aston Villa striker Paul Rideout returns to England in a £430,000 move to Southampton.[7]

7 July 1988 – Tottenham Hotspur complete a British transfer record £2 million deal for 21-year-old Newcastle United midfielder Paul Gascoigne. Gascoigne signs a contract at White Hart Lane until the end of the 1992–93 season.[8]

12 July 1988 – The long hunt for a new Wales national football team manager ends when Swansea City manager Terry Yorath is appointed on a part-time basis.[9]

13 July 1988 – Gordon Cowans ends his three-year spell at Bari to rejoin Aston Villa in a £250,000 deal,[10] while Everton strengthen their midfield in a £925,000 move for Chelsea and Scotland midfielder Pat Nevin.[11]

19 July 1988 – England defender Gary Stevens moves to Scotland in a £1 million move from Everton to Rangers in the costliest transfer involving a British defender.[12] He is replaced at Goodison Park by Newcastle United's Neil McDonald.[13]

20 July 1988 – After two seasons at Barcelona, Mark Hughes returns to Manchester United for a club record £1.8 million, breaking the previous record of £1.75million that the club paid for Bryan Robson seven years ago.[14]

25 July 1988 – Less than three weeks after Tottenham broke the national transfer record, a new record is set when Everton complete the signing of West Ham United's 23-year-old striker Tony Cottee for £2.2 million.[15]

28 July 1988 – Billy Bonds, the oldest player in the Football League at 41, announces his retirement as a player but will remain with West Ham United as youth team coach.

August 1988

1 August 1988 – West Ham United sign striker David Kelly from Walsall for £600,000.[16] Newcastle United sign defender Andy Thorn from FA Cup winners Wimbledon for a club record £850,000.[17]

8 August 1988 – Graham Roberts returns to England in a £470,000 move to Chelsea from Rangers.

17 August 1988 – Nottingham Forest sign England midfielder Steve Hodge from Tottenham Hotspur for £550,000.[18]

18 August 1988 – After an unhappy season at Juventus, Ian Rush returns to Liverpool for £2.8million. It is the third time in two months that the national transfer fee record has been broken.[19]

20 August 1988 - Liverpool gain revenge for their FA Cup final defeat by Wimbledon in May by beating them 2-1 in the Charity Shield.[20]

23 August 1988 – Kevin Moran leaves Manchester United on a free transfer after 10 years and joins Spanish side Sporting Gijón on a free transfer.

26 August 1988 – Alan Ball prepares Portsmouth's challenge for an immediate return to the First Division by paying Aston Villa £315,000 for striker Warren Aspinall.[21]

27 August 1988 – Millwall F.C. begin their life as a First Division side by drawing 2–2 at Aston Villa. Arsenal move to top position by thrashing FA Cup holders Wimbledon 5–1, while Liverpool beat Charlton Athletic 3-0 and Everton thump Newcastle United 4-0.[22]

31 August 1988 – Norwich City sign Irish midfielder Andy Townsend from Southampton for £300,000.[23] Chelsea defender Steve Wicks retires from playing due to a back injury.

September 1988

1 September 1988 – Brighton & Hove Albion, newly promoted back to the Second Division, sign Barnet defender Nicky Bissett for £115,000, a record fee for a non league player. Richard Thompson, 24, becomes the youngest chairman in the Football League when he takes over at Queens Park Rangers in place of David Bulstrode.

12 September 1988 – David Rocastle, Paul Gascoigne and Tony Cottee win their first international caps for England in a 1-0 friendly win over Denmark at Wembley.[24] Nearly a decade after leaving them for Sunderland, goalkeeper Chris Turner returns to Sheffield Wednesday in a £175,000 move from Manchester United.

16 September 1988 – Andy Gray returns to his native Scotland after 13 years to sign for Rangers.

18 September 1988 – Southampton midfielder Glenn Cockerill suffers a broken jaw in a clash with Arsenal midfielder Paul Davis in a First Division match at Highbury which ends in a 2–2 draw. Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar is hospitalised with meningitis and is expected to be out of action until the new year.

28 September 1988 – Wimbledon sign Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Hans Segers for £180,000.[25] Leeds United, fourth from bottom in the Second Division, sack manager Billy Bremner after three years at the helm.[26]

29 September 1988 – Paul Davis is fined a record £3,000 and banned for nine matches.[27] 30 September 1988 – The month ends with Norwich City as surprise leaders of the First Division, two points ahead of Liverpool and newly promoted Millwall. FA Cup holders Wimbledon occupy bottom place.[22] The Second Division promotion race is headed by Blackburn Rovers and Watford. Ipswich Town, Portsmouth, Bradford City and Oldham Athletic occupy the promotion play-off places, while pre-season promotion favourites Leeds United occupy a lowly 18th place.[28]

October 1988

1 October 1988 – Millwall go top of the league for the first time in their history with a 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers.[22]

2 October 1988 – Aston Villa sell defender Neale Cooper to Rangers for £300,000.[29]

7 October 1988 – Derby County manager Arthur Cox dismisses speculation that he will take over at Leeds United.

10 October 1988 – Howard Wilkinson ends six years as Sheffield Wednesday manager by agreeing to drop down a division to join Leeds United,[30] while Willie McFaul ends his 22-year association with Newcastle United when he is sacked as manager.[31] Reserve team coach Colin Suggett is put in charge, with the club's board saying that he will stay in the role until the end of the season.[32]

13 October 1988 – Ron Atkinson steps down as West Bromwich Albion manager for the second time, taking over at Atlético Madrid in Spain, in a contract worth £250,000 per year.[33]

17 October 1988 – Liverpool midfielder Jan Molby is found guilty of reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol, and is sentenced to three months in prison.

19 October 1988 – England begin their World Cup qualifying campaign with a goalless draw against Sweden at Wembley.[24]

20 October 1988 – Liverpool sign 20-year-old defender David Burrows from West Bromwich Albion for £550,000.[34]

21 October 1988 – Wimbledon pay a club record £500,000 for Reading defender Keith Curle.[35]

22 October 1988 – Southampton make history by fielding three brothers in the same team in their 2-1 league defeat to Sheffield Wednesday: 24-year-old Danny Wallace lines up alongside twin brothers Rod and Ray.

27 October 1988 – Manchester United pay Luton Town £650,000 for 31-year-old full-back Mal Donaghy.

28 October 1988 – Derby County pay a club record £1million for Oxford United and Wales striker Dean Saunders.[36]

29 October 1988 – Mark Lawrenson is sacked as Oxford United manager after a dispute with the club's board over the sale of Dean Saunders.[37] His assistant Brian Horton, the former Hull City manager, is appointed as his successor.[38]

31 October 1988 – Norwich City are back at the top of the First Division table at the end of the month, now with a six-point lead over nearest rivals Arsenal, who have a game in hand, while Millwall are still third. The bottom three places are occupied by Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. Middlesbrough, who two seasons ago were in the Third Division and threatened with closure due to financial problems, finish the month in a creditable seventh place.[22] Watford lead the Second Division by five points over Blackburn Rovers. The playoff zone is occupied by West Bromwich Albion, Portsmouth, Chelsea and Manchester City. Leeds United continue to struggle, only being out of the relegation zone on goal difference.[39]

November 1988

1 November 1988 – Out-of-favour Manchester United striker Peter Davenport becomes Middlesbrough's record signing in a £750,000 deal.[40] Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Keith Burkinshaw takes over as manager of Third Division strugglers Gillingham.[41]

15 November 1988 – Everton midfielder Adrian Heath is sold to Espanyol of Spain for £600,000.[42]

16 November 1988 – England draw 1-1 with Saudi Arabia in a friendly in Riyadh, with goalkeeper David Seaman making his international debut.[43] Manchester United sell winger Jesper Olsen to Bordeaux of France for £400,000,[44] where he links up with former Tottenham Hotspur striker Clive Allen.

18 November 1988 – Oxford United captain Tommy Caton returns to the First Division in a £100,000 move to Charlton Athletic.

25 November 1988 – Wimbledon defender Terry Phelan is omitted from tomorrow's squad for the First Division fixture against Liverpool due to a court appearance he faces on a charge of cannabis possession.

30 November 1988 – The month ends with Norwich City still top of the First Division, with Arsenal, Millwall, Liverpool, Coventry City and Southampton all in close contention. Newcastle United and West Ham United are level on points at the bottom.[22] Watford and Blackburn Rovers lead the way in the Second Division, level on 33 points. Manchester City, Chelsea, Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion occupy the play-off zone.[45]

December 1988

1 December 1988 – Jan Molby is released from prison after serving 45 days of his three-month prison sentence for motoring offences.

4 December 1988 – Newcastle United's search for a manager ends when they recruit Jim Smith from Queens Park Rangers,[46] who put coach Peter Shreeves in temporary charge of the first team.

7 December 1988 – Striker John Robertson returns to his native Scotland to rejoin Hearts in a £750,000 deal after just seven months at Newcastle United.[47]

14 December 1988 – Luton Town sign 23-year-old Northern Irish striker Iain Dowie from Isthmian League side Hendon for £30,000.[48] Queens Park Rangers appoint their 34-year-old former England striker Trevor Francis as player-manager.[49]

22 December 1988 – Kenny Sansom ends eight years at Arsenal by making a £300,000 move to Newcastle United.

24 December 1988 – Aston Villa sell striker Garry Thompson to Watford for £325,000.[50]

27 December 1988 – Walsall, bottom of the Second Division, sack manager Tommy Coakley, their manager for two-and-a-half years, after an 11th successive league defeat.[51]

31 December 1988 – Arsenal move to the top the First Division on goal difference from Norwich City after beating Aston Villa 3-0. West Ham United are now bottom, and Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic are also in the relegation zone.[22] Chelsea have climbed to the top of the Second Division, level on 40 points with West Bromwich Albion. The play-off zone is now occupied by Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Portsmouth, while AFC Bournemouth are just one point short of the playoff zone.[52]

January 1989

1 January 1989 - Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford to leave the Merseysiders nine points behind leaders Arsenal.[22]

2 January 1989 - Luton Town thrash Southampton 6-1 in the biggest win of the First Division season.[22]

5 January 1989 – Neil Warnock leaves Scarborough to become manager of Notts County, to replace John Barnwell, sacked a month ago.[53][54]

6 January 1989 – Manchester City boost their Second Division promotion push with a £250,000 move for Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Gary Megson.[55]

7 January 1989 – Sutton United, of the GM Vauxhall Conference, knock Coventry City out of the FA Cup with a shock 2–1 win in the third round. Middlesbrough lose 2-1 at home to Fourth Division Grimsby Town.[56]

11 January 1989 – Struggling West Ham United surprisingly beat Arsenal 1-0 in an FA Cup third round replay at Highbury.[56]

12 January 1989 – After just seven months at Newcastle United, goalkeeper Dave Beasant signs for Second Division leaders Chelsea in a £725,000 deal which contracts him to the Stamford Bridge club until 1994.[57]

28 January 1989 – Sutton United's FA Cup adventure ends in the Fourth Round when they are hammered 8–0 by Norwich City. Brentford beat Manchester City 3-1.[56]

31 January 1989 – Arsenal remain top of the First Division, three points ahead of Norwich City. Coventry City are third, but Millwall have slipped to seventh. Newcastle United are back in bottom place after failing to gain a single league point this month, and are level on points with West Ham United.[22] Chelsea continue to lead the way in the Second Division, while Watford now stand second, level on points with third placed Manchester City. West Bromwich Albion, Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland complete the top six.[58]

February 1989

2 February 1989 – Liverpool sell midfielder Nigel Spackman to Queens Park Rangers for £500,000.[59]

8 February 1989 – Midfielder Peter Reid moves from Everton to Queens Park Rangers on a free transfer.[60] Watford boost their Second Division promotion challenge with a £175,000 move for Halifax Town's 19-year-old winger Lee Richardson.[61]

9 February 1989 – Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough is fined £5,000 and banned from the touchline for the rest of the season for punching supporters who invaded the pitch in the recent Football League Cup quarter-final victory over Queens Park Rangers.[62]

14 February 1989 – Just three months after quitting West Bromwich Albion to take over at Spanish side Atlético Madrid, Ron Atkinson returns to England to succeed Peter Eustace as manager of First Division strugglers Sheffield Wednesday.[63][64]

18 February 1989 – Liverpool come from behind to beat Hull City 3-2 in the FA Cup fifth round. Everton win 1-0 at Barnsley, and Third Division Brentford continue their good run by beating Blackburn Rovers.[56]

23 February 1989 – Midfielder Carlton Palmer follows Ron Atkinson to Sheffield Wednesday from West Bromwich Albion for a club record fee of £750,000.[65]

24 February 1989 – Roy Hattersley, deputy Labour Party leader, warns that the Conservative government's proposed ID card scheme will increase violence outside football grounds.[66]

27 February 1989 – Newport County, relegated from the Football League last season, are wound up in the High Court with huge debts.[67] 28 February 1989 – Arsenal remain top of the First Division as February ends, with Norwich City still second, and Millwall back up to third. Liverpool are eighth, 19 points behind Arsenal, but with four games in hand. West Ham United are now bottom of the division, and Newcastle United and Sheffield Wednesday complete the relegation zone.[22] Manchester City have overtaken Chelsea as Second Division leaders. The play-off zone is occupied by Blackburn Rovers, Watford, West Bromwich Albion and AFC Bournemouth.[68]

March 1989

2 March 1989 – Chelsea sign Dutch defender Ken Monkou from Feyenoord for £100,000.[69]

3 March 1989 – Rangers sign defender Mel Sterland from Sheffield Wednesday on a free.[70]

8 March 1989 – England achieve their first win of the World Cup qualifying series with a 2–0 win over Albania in Tirana.[43]

9 March 1989 – Queens Park Rangers set a club record transfer by paying Southampton £800,000 for striker Colin Clarke.

14 March 1989 – Manchester City, pushing for promotion from the Second Division, pay £600,000 for Luton Town midfielder David Oldfield.[71]

15 March 1989 – Southampton sign 18-year-old defender Jason Dodd from GM Vauxhall Conference side Bath City for £50,000.[72]

18 March 1989 – Brentford's FA Cup dream ends in the quarter-finals when they lose 4–0 to Liverpool at Anfield. Nottingham Forest defeat Manchester United 1–0 at Old Trafford. West Ham United and Norwich City draw 0–0 at Upton Park.[56]

19 March 1989 – Wimbledon's defence of the FA Cup ends in a 1–0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park.[56]

21 March 1989 – Fourth Division strugglers Stockport County sack player-manager Asa Hartford and replace him with Rochdale manager Danny Bergera.[73][74]

22 March 1989 – Norwich City move closer to their first-ever FA Cup final by defeating West Ham United 3–1 in the quarter-final replay at Carrow Road.[56] while Southampton pay a club record £700,000 for Portsmouth midfielder Barry Horne.[75] West Ham United also break their transfer fee record by paying £1.1million to bring striker Frank McAvennie back to the club after 18 months at Celtic.[76]

23 March 1989 – Gordon Strachan leaves Manchester United after nearly five years to join Leeds United for £300,000.[77] Trevor Francis bolsters the Queens Park Rangers midfield with a £350,000 move for Brentford's Andy Sinton.[78]

27 March 1989 – Referee Kelvin Morton awards five penalties in just 27 minutes during the Crystal Palace versus Brighton & Hove Albion match. Crystal Palace miss three of their four penalties, while Brighton and Hove Albion score from their only penalty. Palace eventually won the match 2-1.[79]

31 March 1989 – Arsenal remain top of the league, three points ahead of Norwich City, while Liverpool, who won six League games this month, have moved into third place with a game in hand and a five-point deficit behind the leaders. West Ham United occupy bottom place with 22 points from 27 games, but Newcastle United are now just one point adrift of safety. Southampton have slipped into the bottom three.[22] Chelsea have returned to the top of the Second Division, exchanging places with Manchester City, while the play-off zone is occupied by West Bromwich Albion, Blackburn Rovers, Ipswich Town and AFC Bournemouth.[80]

April 1989

4 April 1989 - Liverpool play Scottish champions Celtic in the last ever Dubai Champions Cup, an unofficial 'British Championship'. John Aldridge scored for Liverpool to equalise an earlier Mark McGhee goal for Celtic, and the game finished 1-1. Liverpool lost 4-2 on penalty kicks.[81]

5 April 1989 – Newport County lose a final appeal against their closure in the High Court more than a month ago; they are expelled from the GM Vauxhall Conference and their record for the season is expunged.

9 April 1989 – Nottingham Forest win the League Cup with a 3-1 win over holders Luton Town in the final at Wembley.[82]

10 April 1989 – Walsall announce the sale of Fellows Park, their home since 1903, and will relocate to a new stadium at Bescot from the start of the 1990-91 season.

15 April 1989 – English football endures its greatest ever tragedy with the death of 94 Liverpool supporters, and injury of an estimated 300 others, at the FA Cup semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough. Some of the injured are in a serious condition and there are fears that the death toll could rise even higher.[83] The match is abandoned, while the other semi-final sees Everton beat Norwich City 1–0 at Villa Park.[22]

17 April 1989 – Within 48 hours of the tragedy at Hillsborough, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd promises to pass new legislation which will force all Football League teams to remove standing accommodation from their stadiums. The Football Association gives the go-ahead for the FA Cup to continue, with the re-staged match to take place at Old Trafford on 7 May.

18 April 1989 – The Hillsborough disaster death toll reaches 95 when 14-year-old Lee Nichol dies in hospital from his injuries.[84] Many more of the injured are still in hospital, and there are fears that six spectators who had to be resuscitated have suffered brain damage.

19 April 1989 – The Sun newspaper sparks controversy over an article about the Hillsborough disaster, that carries the front page headline "The Truth". It contains allegations, supported by sources including Conservative MP Irvine Patnick, that Liverpool fans robbed the injured and dead, and assaulted and urinated on police officers who were attending to injured fans.

26 April 1989 – England beat Albania 5–0 at Wembley in their third World Cup qualifying game. Substitute Paul Gascoigne scores his first international goal.[85]

28 April 1989 – Of the 25 Liverpool fans who were extradited in connection with the Heysel disaster of May 1985, in which 39 spectators died at the European Cup final, 14 are found guilty of voluntary manslaughter; they went on to serve one year in prison.[86]

30 April 1989 – Arsenal remain top of the league as April draws to a close, but are now just three points ahead of a Liverpool side who have superior goal difference and a game in hand. Norwich City are now eight points behind the leaders. At the other end of the table West Ham United are ten points from safety, and occupy the relegation zone with Newcastle United and Luton Town.[22] Chelsea have sealed an immediate return to the First Division as Second Division champions, while Manchester City are just five points away from returning as runners-up after a two-year exile. Watford and Crystal Palace are now the only other teams who can go up automatically, while Blackburn Rovers and Swindon Town complete the top six.[87] Nottingham Forest beat Everton 4-3 in the Full Members Cup final at Wembley to become the first club in English football to win two domestic cups in the same season. Liverpool travelled to Glasgow to play their first game since the Hillsborough disaster. 60,000 attended at Parkhead to watch Livepool beat Celtic 4–0 in a match arranged to raise money for the disaster fund. An estimated £500,000 was raised.

May 1989

1 May 1989 – Arsenal thrash Norwich City 5-0 at Highbury to effectively end the Canaries' title challenge.[22] Maidstone United clinch the GM Vauxhall Conference title and are promoted to the Football League, giving them a clash next season with fellow Kent club Gillingham, who are relegated to the Fourth Division on the same day.

2 May 1989 – Manchester United beat Wimbledon 1-0 in a league game at Old Trafford which is watched by 23,2368 - the club's lowest home crowd in the league since August 1971.

3 May 1989 – Liverpool play their first match since the Hillsborough tragedy, a 0-0 draw with Everton. Newcastle United are relegated from the First Division after losing 2-1 to West Ham United, whose victory keeps their own slim survival hopes alive.[22]

6 May 1989 – Darlington are relegated from the Football League after 68 years when they lose 5-1 to Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park.

7 May 1989 – Three weeks after the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest is replayed at Old Trafford. Liverpool win 3–1 to keep their dream of a second double alive.[56]

10 May 1989 – England striker Gary Lineker collects a European Cup Winners' Cup medal as Barcelona beat Sampdoria 2-0 in the final.

13 May 1989 – Middlesbrough join Newcastle United in being relegated from the First Division after they lose a relegation showdown 1-0 away to Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town beat Norwich City 1-0. The result ensures Wednesday's survival, and West Ham United must now win their last two games to stay up at the expense of Aston Villa. At the top, Arsenal suffer a 2-1 defeat at home to Derby County, while Liverpool beat Wimbledon 2-1 to move within two points of the Gunners with a game in hand.[22]

16 May 1989 - Liverpool move to the top of the First Division for the first time this season after beating Queens Park Rangers 2-0.[22]

17 May 1989 - Arsenal draw 2-2 with Wimbledon in their last home League game of the season. They are level on points with Liverpool having played one game more.[22]

20 May 1989 – Liverpool lift the FA Cup with a 3–2 win over Everton after extra time. Ian Rush scores twice for Liverpool while John Aldridge scores the other goal, and Stuart McCall scores twice for Everton.[88]

23 May 1989 – West Ham United are relegated after eight successive seasons of First Division football as they lose 5-1 to Liverpool at Anfield. The result moves Liverpool three points clear of Arsenal at the top of the table with one game remaining.[22]

26 May 1989 – Arsenal win the league title in the final moments of the season thanks to a late goal from Michael Thomas against Liverpool which gives them a 2–0 away win. First Division top scorer Alan Smith had put Arsenal ahead earlier in the second half.[89] Their triumph gives them their first league championship trophy for 18 years, having scored more goals than their rivals, their points tallies and goal differences being identical.[22] Former Leeds United and England manager Don Revie dies of Motor Neurone Disease at the age of 61.

27 May 1989 – Steve Bull, who scored 52 goals in all competitions for Third Division Wolverhampton Wanderers this season, scores on his debut for England against Scotland at Hampden Park. England win 2-0 to take the Rous Cup.[90]

28 May 1989 – Bolton Wanderers claim their first major trophy since the 1958 FA Cup by beating Torquay United 4–1 in the Associate Members Cup final.

June 1989

1 June 1989 – Trevor Steven, the Everton winger, becomes the latest Englishman to sign for Rangers when he agrees terms for a £1.5million transfer. Kenny Sansom leaves Newcastle United to return to London in an exchange deal to Queens Park Rangers, with Wayne Fereday moving in the opposite direction.

3 June 1989 – England make it three wins from their opening four World Cup qualifying games with a 3–0 win over Poland at Wembley.[91] The domestic season draws to a close when Crystal Palace overhaul a 3–1 deficit to defeat Blackburn Rovers 4–3 on aggregate to win promotion to the First Division after an eight-year exile.[92] 5 June 1989 – John Lyall, the longest-serving manager currently employed in the Football League, is sacked after 15 years in charge of relegated West Ham United. He had been with the club for 34 years, since joining them as an apprentice on leaving school in 1955 at the age of 15.

7 June 1989 – Sheffield Wednesday sign 20-year-old striker Dalian Atkinson from Ipswich Town for £450,000.[93]

20 June 1989 – Leeds United sign midfielder Vinnie Jones from Wimbledon for £650,000.[94]

21 June 1989 – Gary Lineker ends three years in Spain with Barcelona to return to England in a £2million move to Tottenham Hotspur.[95]

30 June 1989 – Billy Bremner is appointed manager of Doncaster Rovers for the second time succeeding caretaker manager Joe Kinnear.[96]


  • 24 July 1988 – John Harris, 71, born in Glasgow, was Chelsea's centre-half in their league championship winning side of 1955. Later managed Sheffield United and took them into the First Division in 1971.
  • 1 August 1988 – Steve Mills, 34, who died after a two-year battle against leukaemia, starting his playing career with Notts County and later playing for Southampton. His career was ended by injury at the age of 23.
  • 3 August 1988 - Vic Watson, 90, was West Ham United's all time leading goalscorer with 326 goals between 1920 and 1935.
  • 21 August 1988 – Stuart Leary, 55, played a total of nearly 500 competitive games for Charlton Athletic and Queens Park Rangers and was also a first-cricketer for Kent between 1951 and 1971.
  • 16 September 1988 - Dick Pym, 95, kept goal more than 300 times for Bolton Wanderers between 1921 and 1931 as well as three times for the England team. He collected three FA Cup winner's medals with Bolton and was the last surviving member of the team which won the first FA Cup final at Wembley in 1923.
  • 7 October 1988 - Brighton, Norwich City and Southampton during the interwar years.
  • 9 October 1988 – Jackie Milburn, 64, legendary goalscorer for Newcastle United and England during the 1950s. Was a cousin of England World Cup winners Bobby and Jack Charlton. Died of cancer.
  • 19 December 1988 – Lady Jean Busby, 80, wife of Manchester United's former manager and current president Sir Matt Busby.[97]
  • 11 January 1989 - Len Dunderdale, 73, was a centre forward for clubs including Sheffield Wednesday, Walsall, Watford and Leeds United during the 1930s and 1940s.
  • 13 January 1989 - Stan Cribb, 83, played 125 league games during the interwar years for Southampton, QPR and Cardiff City.
  • 1 April 1989 – Ted Robledo.
  • 2 April 1989 - Les Bruton, 86, played for clubs including Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool during the interwar years.
  • 15 April 1989 – The 94 Liverpool supporters who died in Hillsborough disaster, on the day of the tragedy at the FA Cup semi-final either at the stadium, on their journey to hospital, or shortly after arrival. These included the tragedy's youngest victim, 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley,[98] and the oldest victim, 67-year-old Gerard Baron,[99] whose late brother Kevin had played for Liverpool in the 1950 FA Cup Final.
  • 18 April 1989 – Lee Nicol, 14, the 95th victim of the Hillsborough disaster, died in hospital from his injuries having never regained consciousness.[84]
  • 26 May 1989 – Don Revie, 61, manager of the great Leeds United side of the late 1960s and early 1970s who were league champions twice, F.A Cup winners once, League Cup winners once and European Fairs Cup winners twice. Managed England from 1974 to 1977 but walked out on them to gain a lucrative four-year deal as national coach of the United Arab Emirates. Returned to his homeland in 1985, four years before his death from motor neurone disease.
  • 7 June 1989 - World War II, and was Exeter City's first postwar manager, later taking charge of Southampton.


Tottenham midfielder Chris Waddle was sold to Olympique Marseille of France in a £4.25 million deal,[100] in the latest of big money deals which saw players desert English clubs for foreign clubs who were prepared to pay higher wages. Gary Lineker ended his three-year spell at FC Barcelona to join Tottenham.[95] He had played under Tottenham manager Terry Venables during his first season at Barcelona.

Lineker's strike partner Mark Hughes also left Barcelona and returned to his old club Manchester United in a £1.8 million deal.[14] Hughes had been a disappointment in his first season at Barcelona but had recaptured his form during a successful season-long loan deal at Bayern Munich.


Competition Winner Runner-up
First Division Arsenal (9) Liverpool
Second Division Chelsea Manchester City
Third Division Wolverhampton Wanderers Sheffield United
Fourth Division Rotherham United Tranmere Rovers
FA Cup Liverpool (4) Everton
League Cup Nottingham Forest (3) Luton Town
Full Members Cup Nottingham Forest Everton
Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy Arsenal Manchester United
Associate Members Cup Bolton Wanderers Torquay United
FA Charity Shield Liverpool Wimbledon

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

League table

First Division

An exciting title was eventually won by Arsenal, who clinched the title on amount of goals scored with a late goal from midfielder Michael Thomas on the final day of the season at Liverpool, six weeks after the death of more than 90 fans at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, which delayed the end of the league season by two weeks and meant that the last league games were played six days after the FA Cup final, in which Liverpool beat Merseyside rivals Everton 3-2. It was Arsenal's first league title for 18 years.

Nottingham Forest's title challenge was over by the end of April, by which time it was a two-horse race between Arsenal and Liverpool, but compensated for this by winning the Football League Cup and Full Members Cup to end nine years without a major trophy. Fourth placed Norwich City mounted the first serious top flight title challenge of their history and although their challenge was over some weeks before the season's end, their final position was still the best to date, and they also reached the FA Cup semi-finals for only the second time ever. Derby County completed the top five to secure their best finish since winning the league title in 1975.

Everton's eighth place finish was their lowest since 1981, while newly promoted Millwall's 10th place finish was the lowest standing they had occupied at any stage during their first season in the top flight. As well as Everton, another big club to endure a disappointing season was Manchester United, who finished 11th a year after finishing second.

A disastrous season for Newcastle United saw them relegated in bottom place after five years back in the First Division. They were relegated along with local rivals Middlesbrough, as well as a West Ham United side who had almost won the league title three years earlier, and who then sacked their manager John Lyall after 15 years in charge. Aston Villa, Luton Town, Sheffield Wednesday (who went through three managers in the season) and Charlton Athletic all had narrow escapes from relegation.

P W D L F A GD Pts
C 1 Arsenal 38 22 10 6 73 36 +37 76
  2 Liverpool 38 22 10 6 65 28 +37 76
  3 Nottingham Forest 38 17 13 8 64 43 +21 64
  4 Norwich City 38 17 11 10 48 45 +3 62
  5 Derby County 38 17 7 14 40 38 +2 58
  6 Tottenham Hotspur 38 15 12 11 60 46 +14 57
  7 Coventry City 38 14 13 11 47 42 +5 55
  8 Everton 38 14 12 12 50 45 +5 54
  9 Queens Park Rangers 38 14 11 13 43 37 +6 53
  10 Millwall 38 14 11 13 47 52 −5 53
  11 Manchester United 38 13 12 13 45 35 +10 51
  12 Wimbledon 38 14 9 15 50 46 +4 51
  13 Southampton 38 10 15 13 52 66 −14 45
  14 Charlton Athletic 38 10 12 16 44 58 −14 42
  15 Sheffield Wednesday 38 10 12 16 34 51 −17 42
  16 Luton Town 38 10 11 17 42 52 −10 41
  17 Aston Villa 38 9 13 16 45 56 −11 40
R 18 Middlesbrough 38 9 12 17 44 61 −17 39
R 19 West Ham United 38 10 8 20 37 62 −25 38
R 20 Newcastle United 38 7 10 21 32 63 −31 31

Second Division

Chelsea sealed an instant return to the First Division by topping the Second Division with 99 points, giving them a 17-point lead of second-placed Manchester City. The final promotion place went to Crystal Palace, whose manager Steve Coppell had gradually rebuilt the club since taking over as manager five years earlier. They overcame Blackburn Rovers in the two-legged final by overhauling a two-goal deficit and prolonging the Lancashire club's absence from the First Division into its 24th season. West Bromwich had looked all set for promotion as late as February, only for a late season collapse to drag them down to ninth in the final table - not even enough for a playoff place.

Walsall suffered an instant return to the Third Division after winning just five league games all season, while Birmingham City's decline continued as they fell into the Third Division for the first time. The last club to go down were Shrewsbury Town, whose luck finally ran out after defying the odds at this season for a whole decade, while some of the game's most illustrious clubs had gone down before them.

Pos Club P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Chelsea 46 29 12 5 96 50 +46 99
2 Manchester City 46 23 13 10 77 53 +24 82
3 Crystal Palace 46 23 12 11 71 49 +22 81
4 Watford 46 22 12 12 74 48 +26 78
5 Blackburn Rovers 46 22 11 13 74 59 +15 77
6 Swindon Town 46 20 16 10 68 53 +15 76
7 Barnsley 46 20 14 12 66 58 +8 74
8 Ipswich Town 46 22 7 17 71 61 +10 73
9 West Bromwich Albion 46 18 18 10 65 41 +24 72
10 Leeds United 46 17 16 13 59 50 +9 67
11 Sunderland 46 16 15 15 60 60 +0 63
12 Bournemouth 46 18 8 20 53 62 −9 62
13 Stoke City 46 15 14 17 57 72 −15 59
14 Bradford City 46 13 17 16 52 59 −7 56
15 Leicester City 46 13 16 17 56 63 −7 55
16 Oldham Athletic 46 11 21 14 75 72 +3 54
17 Oxford United 46 14 12 20 62 70 −8 54
18 Plymouth Argyle 46 14 12 20 55 66 −11 54
19 Brighton & Hove Albion 46 14 9 23 57 66 −9 51
20 Portsmouth 46 13 12 21 53 62 −9 51
21 Hull City 46 11 14 21 52 68 −16 47
22 Shrewsbury Town 46 8 18 20 40 67 −27 42
23 Birmingham City 46 8 11 27 31 76 −45 35
24 Walsall 46 5 16 25 41 80 −39 31

Third Division

Wolverhampton Wanderers continued to thrive after a traumatic few seasons which had almost put the club out of business, as they sealed a second successive promotion and a second successive title thanks largely to prolific striker Steve Bull, who became the first player in senior football to reach the 50-goal mark in consecutive seasons. They were joined in the Second Division by runners-up Sheffield United, whose manager Dave Bassett secured his fifth promotion in nine seasons as a manager. Port Vale compensated for missing out on automatic promotion on goal difference by winning the playoffs.

Northampton Town, promotion contenders the previous season, only survived on goal difference. Southend United were relegated instead, on 54 points - more than any other Football League team ever to have been relegated, until Peterborough United were relegated from the Championship in 2012-13 having also finished the season with 54 points. Gillingham, Chesterfield and Aldershot completed the bottom four.

Pos Club P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 46 26 14 6 96 49 +47 92
2 Sheffield United 46 25 9 12 93 54 +39 84
3 Port Vale 46 24 12 10 78 48 +30 84
4 Fulham 46 22 9 15 69 67 +2 75
5 Bristol Rovers 46 19 17 10 67 51 +16 74
6 Preston North End 46 19 15 12 79 60 +19 72
7 Brentford 46 18 14 14 66 61 +5 68
8 Chester City 46 19 11 16 64 61 +3 68
9 Notts County 46 18 13 15 64 54 +10 67
10 Bolton Wanderers 46 16 16 14 58 54 +4 64
11 Bristol City 46 18 9 19 53 55 −2 63
12 Swansea City 46 15 16 15 51 53 −2 61
13 Bury 46 16 13 17 55 67 −12 61
14 Huddersfield Town 46 17 9 20 63 73 −10 60
15 Mansfield Town 46 14 17 15 48 52 −4 59
16 Cardiff City 46 14 15 17 44 56 −12 57
17 Wigan Athletic 46 14 14 18 55 53 +2 56
18 Reading 46 15 11 20 68 72 −4 56
19 Blackpool 46 14 13 19 56 59 −3 55
20 Northampton Town 46 16 6 24 66 76 −10 54
21 Southend United 46 13 15 18 56 75 −19 54
22 Chesterfield 46 14 7 25 51 86 −35 49
23 Gillingham 46 12 4 30 47 81 −34 40
24 Aldershot 46 8 13 25 48 78 −30 37

Fourth Division

Rotherham United secured an instant return to the Third Division as Fourth Division champions. Tranmere Rovers finished runners-up to end the decade on a high by winning promotion from a division where they had spent most of the decade. Crewe Alexandra finally made it out of the Fourth Division at the right end after being there continuously for over 20 years. Leyton Orient triumphed in the playoffs less than three months after they had been 15th in the league and seemingly out of the promotion race.

Darlington slipped out of the Football League after a late rally by Colchester United under Jock Wallace.

Pos Club P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Rotherham United 46 22 16 8 76 35 +41 82
2 Tranmere Rovers 46 21 17 8 62 43 +19 80
3 Crewe Alexandra 46 21 15 10 67 48 +19 78
4 Scunthorpe United 46 21 14 11 77 57 +20 77
5 Scarborough 46 21 14 11 67 52 +15 77
6 Leyton Orient 46 21 12 13 86 50 +36 75
7 Wrexham 46 19 14 13 77 63 +14 71
8 Cambridge United 46 18 14 14 71 62 +9 68
9 Grimsby Town 46 17 15 14 65 59 +6 66
10 Lincoln City 46 18 10 18 64 60 +4 64
11 York City 46 17 13 16 62 63 −1 64
12 Carlisle United 46 15 15 16 53 52 +1 60
13 Exeter City 46 18 6 22 65 68 −3 60
14 Torquay United 46 17 8 21 45 60 −15 59
15 Hereford United 46 14 16 16 66 72 −6 58
16 Burnley 46 14 13 19 52 61 −9 55
17 Peterborough United 46 14 12 20 52 74 −22 54
18 Rochdale 46 13 14 19 56 82 −26 53
19 Hartlepool United 46 14 10 22 50 78 −28 52
20 Stockport County 46 10 21 15 54 52 +2 51
21 Halifax Town 46 13 11 22 69 75 −6 50
22 Colchester United 46 12 14 20 60 78 −18 50
23 Doncaster Rovers 46 13 10 23 49 78 −29 49
24 Darlington 46 8 18 20 53 76 −23 42

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

Football League Playoffs

Division Two playoff

Semi-Final   Final
5th  Blackburn Rovers 1a  
4th  Watford 1     5th  Blackburn Rovers 3
6th  Swindon Town 1   3rd  Crystal Palace 4
3rd  Crystal Palace 2  

aBlackburn won on away goals after Extra Time.

Division Three playoff

Semi-Final   Final
5th  Bristol Rovers 5  
4th  Fulham FC 0     5th  Bristol Rovers 1
6th  Preston North End 2   3rd  Port Vale 2
3rd  Port Vale 4  

Division Four playoff

Semi-Final   Final
7th  Wrexham 5  
4th  Scunthorpe United 1     7th  Wrexham 1
6th  Leyton Orient 2   6th  Leyton Orient 2
5th  Scarborough 1  


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