1978–79 in English football

The 1978–79 season was the 99th season of competitive football in England.


First Division

Bob Paisley won his third league title as his Liverpool side fought off competition from Nottingham Forest and West Bromwich Albion to finish eight points clear at the top of the table. Their final points tally of 68 was a record under the two points for a win system, and Ray Clemence kept 28 clean sheets in a season that saw Liverpool concede only four goals at home. Reigning champions Forest finished second, a point ahead of West Brom, who were in their first season under the management of Ron Atkinson.

At the other end of the First Division table, the three relegation places went to Queens Park Rangers, Birmingham City and Chelsea. QPR had declined since the departure of Dave Sexton in 1977 and were relegated just three years after finishing second in the league. Chelsea's manager Danny Blanchflower paid for his team's shortcomings by losing his job.

Money dominated the headlines during the season: Trevor Francis became England's first million-pound footballer after joining Nottingham Forest from Birmingham City, and Liverpool became one of the first English clubs to have a shirt sponsor when they agreed a sponsorship deal with the Japanese hi-fi manufacturers Hitachi.

Second Division

Crystal Palace won the Second Division title, and were joined in promotion by Brighton & Hove Albion (going into the top division for the first time) and third-placed Stoke City. Going down were Sheffield United, Millwall and Blackburn Rovers.

Third Division

Shrewsbury Town were crowned champions of the Third Division. The other two promotion spots were occupied by Watford and Swansea City, who within a few seasons would make their mark on the First Division. Peterborough United, Walsall, Tranmere Rovers and Lincoln City were relegated to the Fourth Division.

Fourth Division

Reading, Grimsby Town, Wimbledon and Barnsley occupied the Fourth Division promotion places. The success came for Wimbledon in only their second season as a league club and within a decade they would be an established First Division club. The re-election system voted in favour of the league's bottom four clubs and there was no relegation from the Fourth Division this season.

FA Cup

Main article: 1978–79 FA Cup

Arsenal won the FA Cup after surviving a late fight-back from Manchester United in the final at Wembley. Manchester United scored twice in the last five minutes to make the score 2–2, but a last-minute goal from Alan Sunderland saw Arsenal claim the trophy with a 3–2 scoreline. It was their first trophy success since Terry Neill replaced Bertie Mee as manager.

League Cup

Nottingham Forest added the League Cup to their honours list, with a 3–2 victory over Southampton in the final.

European football

Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest added the European Cup to their League Cup victory with a 1–0 win over Malmö of Sweden in the final.

Star players

Star managers

Diary of the season

12 August 1978: League champions Nottingham Forest beat FA Cup holders Ipswich Town 5–0 in the Charity Shield at Wembley.[1]

19 August 1978: The First Division season begins with newly promoted Tottenham Hotspur holding Nottingham Forest to a 1–1 draw at the City Ground - the visitors' goal scored by new Argentine signing Ricardo Villa.[2]

31 August 1978: Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion and Everton are level on points at the top of the League at the end of August with three wins from three matches. Wolverhampton Wanderers are bottom after three consecutive defeats.[2]

2 September 1978: Liverpool thrash Tottenham Hotspur 7–0 at Anfield to take their goal tally to sixteen in four League matches at the start of the season.[2]

20 September 1978: England start their qualifying campaign for the 1980 European Championships with a narrow 4–3 victory over Denmark in Copenhagen.[3]

27 September 1978: Nottingham Forest knock holders Liverpool out of the European Cup in the first round after completing a 2–0 aggregate success with a goalless draw at Anfield.[4]

30 September 1978: Liverpool hold a two-point advantage at the top of the First Division from Merseyside rivals Everton, having dropped just one point from their first eight League games. Nottingham Forest are still unbeaten, but are five points off the pace having drawn six matches already. Birmingham City are bottom, still looking for their first win of the season.[2]

21 October 1978: Liverpool continue their tremendous start to the season by beating Chelsea 2–0. The result puts them four points clear at the top of the table - they have taken 21 points from a possible 22, scoring 35 goals and conceding just four in eleven matches so far. West Bromwich Albion continue their good start to the season by thrashing Coventry City 7–1.[2]

28 October 1978: Everton beat Liverpool for the first time for nearly seven years when Andy King scores the winning goal in a 1–0 victory at Goodison Park.[5] The result cuts Liverpool's lead over the Toffeemen to two points. Like Everton, Nottingham Forest are still unbeaten, and are a further two points behind. At the bottom, Birmingham City remain without a win, and have just three points from twelve matches.[2]

4 November 1978: Nottingham Forest and Everton draw 0–0 at the City Ground, leaving both teams still unbeaten in the League.[2]

11 November 1978: Birmingham City record their first League win of the season at the fourteenth attempt, 5–1 at home to Manchester United.[2]

29 November 1978: Viv Anderson, the 22-year-old Nottingham Forest defender, becomes England's first black full international when he appears in the 1–0 friendly win over Czechoslovakia at Wembley.[6]

30 November 1978: At the end of November, Liverpool still hold a two-point lead over Everton, with West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest a further four points adrift.[2]

9 December 1978: Nottingham Forest lose in the League for the first time for 13 months, a run covering 42 matches,[7] when they are beaten 2–0 by Liverpool at Anfield.[2]

23 December 1978: Everton lose their first League match of the season, 3–2 to Coventry City, after a sequence of 19 unbeaten games. Arsenal beat Tottenham Hotspur 5–0 at White Hart Lane in the North London derby.[2]

31 December 1978: At the end of the year, Liverpool lead Everton on goal difference at the top of the First Division, with a game in hand. West Bromwich Albion remain in contention, just two points off the top. Birmingham City are bottom with just eight points so far, and Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers are also in the relegation zone.[2]

7 January 1979: West Bromwich Albion pay a national record £516,000 for Middlesbrough defender David Mills.

10 January 1979: High-fliers Everton are beaten 2–1 by Second Division Sunderland in the FA Cup third round. Tottenham Hotspur are held to a 1–1 draw by non-league Altrincham.[8]

22 January 1979: After four draws, the FA Cup third round tie between Arsenal and Third Division Sheffield Wednesday is finally resolved when the Gunners win the fourth replay 2–0.[9]

31 January 1979: At the end of a month in which only twelve First Division matches were played, West Bromwich Albion and Everton have moved above Liverpool at the top of the table, although the Reds have played fewer games.[2]

3 February 1979: Liverpool beat West Bromwich Albion 2–1 at Anfield to reclaim top spot in the First Division table as Everton suffer just their second League defeat of the season, 1–0 at relegation-threatened Wolverhampton Wanderers.[2]

7 February 1979: England move to the top of their European Championship qualifying group with an emphatic 4–0 win over Northern Ireland at Wembley.[3]

9 February 1979: Trevor Francis becomes Britain's first £1million footballer when he is transferred from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest, doubling the British record fee set when West Bromwich Albion signed David Mills last month.[10]

26 February 1979: Arsenal beat Nottingham Forest 1–0 at the City Ground in the FA Cup fifth round. Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Manchester United and Ipswich Town are amongst the other First Division sides to progress.[9]

28 February 1979: Liverpool at now five points clear of Arsenal and Everton at the top of the First Division, with two games in hand. Birmingham City are eight points from safety at the bottom, and are joined in the relegation zone by Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.[2]

3 March 1979: Chelsea débutant goalkeeper Petar Borota picks up a clean sheet against Liverpool, while Osvaldo Ardiles and David Mills score their first goals for their clubs: the Argentine internationalist bags a brace in Tottenham's 2–0 win over Derby County while Mills contributes to West Bromwich Albion's 3–1 win over Coventry City.[11]

10 March 1979: Liverpool win 1–0 away to Ipswich Town to reach the FA Cup semi-finals. The two other ties played today end in 1–1 draws.[9]

17 March 1979: Nottingham Forest retain the Football League Cup with a 3–2 win over Southampton in the final.[12]

21 March 1979: Arsenal beat Southampton 2–0 in their FA Cup sixth round replay to join Liverpool, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United in the semi-finals.[9]

31 March 1979: Arsenal beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2–0 at Villa Park to reach the FA Cup final. In the other semi-final at Maine Road,.[9] In the league, Liverpool hold a comfortable four-point lead over Everton at the top at the end of the month. Chelsea have slipped behind Birmingham City on goal difference at the bottom, and Queens Park Rangers remain in the relegation zone.[2]

1 April 1979: Manchester United and Liverpool draw 2-2 at Maine Road in the FA Cup Semi-finals

4 April 1979: Manchester United beat Liverpool 1–0 at Goodison Park in the FA Cup semi-final replay to reach the Final.[9]

16 April 1979: Chelsea lose 5–2 away to Arsenal and are relegated to the Second Division.[2]

21 April 1979: Birmingham City become the second team to be relegated from the First Division when they lose 2–0 at home to Nottingham Forest.[2]

25 April 1979: Nottingham Forest reach the European Cup final at the first attempt when a 1–0 win away to West German side Cologne gives them a 4–3 aggregate victory.[13]

28 April 1979: Liverpool move to the brink of regaining the First Division title after they draw 0–0 away to Nottingham Forest. They are seven points ahead of Forest and West Bromwich Albion.[2]

4 May 1979: Queens Park Rangers take the last First Division relegation place when they are beaten 4–3 by Leeds United.[2]

8 May 1979: Liverpool beat Aston Villa 3–0 at Anfield to clinch the First Division title. They finish unbeaten at home this season, and have scored 51 and conceded just four goals in 19 wins and two draws.[2]

12 May 1979: Arsenal win the FA Cup to end an eight-year trophy drought, defeating Manchester United 3–2 in the final with a last-gasp goal by Alan Sunderland after United had scored two goals in the last five minutes.[14]

18 May 1979: Nottingham Forest pip West Bromwich Albion to second place in the League by beating them 1–0 at The Hawthorns. Forest finish eight points behind champions Liverpool and one ahead of Albion, who are themselves eight points ahead of fourth-placed Everton.[2]

26 May 1979: England beat Scotland 3–1 at Wembley to clinch the Home Championship.[3]

30 May 1979: Nottingham Forest's remarkable run of glory continues when they beat Malmö of Sweden 1–0 in the European Cup final. Trevor Francis scores the only goal of the game.[15]

1 June 1979: West Bromwich Albion sell winger Laurie Cunningham to Real Madrid of Spain for £995,000.

6 June 1979: England win 3–0 away to Bulgaria to move closer to next season's European Championship Finals.[3]

Famous debutants

28 April 1979 – Ian Rush, 17-year-old Welsh striker, makes his debut playing out of position (in midfield) for Chester in their 2–2 Third Division draw with Sheffield Wednesday at Sealand Road.[16] On the same day, Clive Allen, 17-year-old striker, scores a hat-trick on his debut for Queens Park Rangers in the 5–1 First Division win over Coventry City.[17]

30 April 1979 – Kevin Moran, Irish defender, makes his English league debut for Manchester United the day after his 23rd birthday in a 1–1 draw with Southampton in a First Division game at The Dell.[18]


First DivisionLiverpool (11*)Nottingham Forest
Second DivisionCrystal PalaceBrighton & Hove Albion
Third DivisionShrewsbury TownWatford
Fourth DivisionReadingGrimsby Town
FA CupArsenal (5)Manchester United
League CupNottingham Forest (2)Southampton
Charity ShieldNottingham ForestIpswich Town
Home Championship England Wales

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

Football League

First Division

Liverpool won their third First Division title under Bob Paisley, and set a new Football League record by conceding just 16 league goals. Defending champions Nottingham Forest finished second, but their amazing success story under Brian Clough continued as they won the European Cup and also retained the Football League Cup. In February 1979, they made history by signing Trevor Francis from Birmingham City in British football's first million-pound transfer. West Bromwich Albion finished third in their first full season under the management of Ron Atkinson. Everton and Leeds United completed the top five.

Arsenal, who finished seventh, compensated for a failure to challenge for the league title by winning the FA Cup, where they beat Manchester United 3-2 in a dramatic final where they had surrendered a 2-0 lead in the final few minutes before Alan Sunderland scored a last-gasp winner. It marked the end of a disappointing second season in charge for Dave Sexton, whose United team could only manage a ninth-place finish in the league.

New manager Danny Blanchflower was unable to save Chelsea from relegation to the Second Division, and with financial problems still affecting the West London club, midfielder Ray Wilkins was sold to Manchester United for £750,000. Birmingham City and QPR also went down.

2Nottingham Forest42211836126+3560
3West Bromwich Albion42241177235+3759
5Leeds United421814107052+1850
6Ipswich Town42209136349+1449
8Aston Villa421516115949+1046
9Manchester United421515126063−345
10Coventry City421416125868−1044
11Tottenham Hotspur421315144861−1341
13Bristol City421510174751−440
15Manchester City421313165856+239
16Norwich City42723125157−637
17Bolton Wanderers421211195475−2135
18Wolverhampton Wanderers42138214468−2434
19Derby County421011214471−2731
20Queens Park Rangers42613234573−2825
21Birmingham City42610263764−2722

Second Division

Crystal Palace continued to excel under Terry Venables and finished the season as Second Division champions, with their promising young side being dubbed "the team of the eighties" by the sporting press, who expected them to challenge for honours at the highest level in the coming decade. Brighton and Stoke City were also promoted, while Sunderland missed out by a single point.

Blackburn Rovers, Millwall and Sheffield United went down to the Third Division.

1Crystal Palace42191945124+2757
2Brighton & Hove Albion42231097239+3356
3Stoke City42201665831+2756
5West Ham United421814107039+3150
6Notts County421416124860−1244
7Preston North End421218125957+242
8Newcastle United42178175155−442
9Cardiff City421610165670−1442
11Leyton Orient421510175151+040
12Cambridge United421216144452−840
14Oldham Athletic421313165261−939
16Bristol Rovers421410184860−1238
17Leicester City421017154352−937
18Luton Town421310196057+336
19Charlton Athletic421113186069−935
20Sheffield United421112195269−1734
22Blackburn Rovers421010224172−3130

Third Division

Graham Turner kicked off his managerial career by delivering the Third Division title to Shrewsbury Town, who reached the Second Division for the first time in their history. They finished one point above the other two promoted sides, Watford and Swansea City, while Gillingham missed out on promotion by a single point.

Lincoln, Tranmere, Walsall and Peterborough all went down to the Fourth Division.

1Shrewsbury Town46211966141+2061
3Swansea City462412108361+2260
5Swindon Town46257147452+2257
6Carlisle United46152295342+1152
7Colchester United461717126055+551
8Hull City461911166661+549
9Exeter City461715146156+549
11Oxford United461418144450−646
13Southend United461515165149+245
14Sheffield Wednesday461319145353+045
15Plymouth Argyle461514176768−144
17Rotherham United461710194955−644
18Mansfield Town461219155152−143
21Peterborough United461114214463−1936
23Tranmere Rovers46616244578−3328
24Lincoln City46711284188−4725

Fourth Division

Reading won the Fourth Division title to clinch a return to the Third Division, while Grimsby Town, Wimbledon and Barnsley were bracketed together four points behind them to join the Berkshire club in promotion. Wigan Athletic enjoyed a strong debut in the Football League by finishing sixth.

There was no movement between the Football League and the non-league system this year.

2Grimsby Town46269118249+3361
6Wigan Athletic462113126348+1555
8Newport County462110156655+1152
9Huddersfield Town461811175753+447
10York City461811175155−447
11Torquay United46198195865−746
12Scunthorpe United461711185460−645
13Hartlepool United461318155766−944
14Hereford United461513185353+043
15Bradford City46179206268−643
16Port Vale461414185770−1342
17Stockport County461412205860−240
19Northampton Town46159226476−1239
22Doncaster Rovers461311225073−2337
23Halifax Town4698293972−3326
24Crewe Alexandra46614264390−4726

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



  1. http://www.statto.com/football/stats/england/charity-shield/1978-1979
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Smailes, Gordon (2000). The Breedon Book of Football Records. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 142. ISBN 1859832148.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Payne, Mike (1993). England: The Complete Post-War Record'. Derby: Breedon Books. ISBN 1873626398.
  4. http://www.dixies60.com/2012/04/10/60-games-that-shook-goodison-22-the-andy-king-derby
  5. West Bromwich Albion's Laurie Cunningham was the first black player to wear an England shirt at any level[2], in England under-21's friendly against Scotland at Bramall Lane on 27 April 1977 England Players – Viv Anderson. Englandfootballonline.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-23.
  6. Sky Sports Football Yearbook 2011-2012. London: Headline. 2011. p. 1025. ISBN 9780755362318.
  7. Smailes, Gordon (2000). The Breedon Book of Football Records. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 233. ISBN 1859832148.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Smailes, Gordon (2000). The Breedon Book of Football Records. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 234. ISBN 1859832148.
  9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/nottingham-forest/4560618/The-day-Trevor-Francis-broke-footballs-1m-mark.html
  10. "Totts blank Derby". The Gazette. Montreal. Associated Press. 5 March 1979. p. 27. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  11. Smailes, Gordon (2000). The Breedon Book of Football Records. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 258. ISBN 1859832148.
  12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2005/04/28/1979_facup_memories_feature.shtml
  13. English Division Three (old) 1978–1979 Results, Saturday 28 April 1979. statto.com (28 April 1979). Retrieved on 2011-03-23.
  14. QPR REPORT MESSAGEBOARD – Clive Allen's Debut Hatrick – Synopsis/Report. Qprreport.proboards.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-23.
  15. Kevin Moran – Manchester United FC – Football-Heroes.net. Sporting-heroes.net. Retrieved on 2011-03-23.
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