1981–82 in English football
Three points for a win was introduced for the first time in England. Liverpool made up for the previous season's slip in league form by winning the league championship for the 13th time in their history, fighting off competition from Ipswich Town, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Their season of triumph was overshadowed, however, by the death of former manager Bill Shankly in late September. Shankly had suffered a heart attack. He was 68.
Swansea City competed in the First Division for the first time in their history, and led the league at several stages during the early months of the season before finishing sixth in the final table.
Luton Town won promotion from the Second Division. Luton's local rivals Watford were runners-up and would begin 1982–83 as First Division members for the first time in their history. Also promoted were third placed Norwich City, who ensured an instant return to the First Division. Cardiff City, Wrexham and Orient were the three clubs to lose their Second Division status at the end of the 1981–82 season.
Crewe Alexandra finished bottom of the league with 27 points.
Tottenham Hotspur retained the trophy, drawing 1–1 with Queens Park Rangers, managed by former Tottenham player Terry Venables, in the final before winning the replay 1–0. Venables would however eventually win the trophy himself with Tottenham in 1991.
- Southampton striker Kevin Keegan marked his return to English football by scoring more goals than any other player in the Football League and being voted Player of the Year by the PFA.
- Tottenham's Steve Perryman added to his FA Cup winners medal with the FWA Player of the Year award.
- Southampton's Steve Moran was elected Young Player of the Year by the PFA.
- Bob Paisley retained the League Cup and won the league title for Liverpool.
- Tony Barton won the European Cup with Aston Villa.
- Keith Burkinshaw helped Tottenham win the FA Cup for the second year running.
- David Pleat ended Luton Town's absence from the top flight by guiding them to the Second Division title.
- Graham Taylor took Watford into the First Division for the first time in their history.
- David Webb took Bournemouth into the Third Division after they finished fourth in the Fourth Division.
- Kevin Keegan (Southampton) – 26 goals
- Ronnie Moore (Rotherham United) – 22 goals
- Gordon Davies (Fulham) – 24 goals
- Keith Edwards (Hull City/Sheffield United) – 36 goals
Diary of the season
29 August 1981: The first Football League games of the season are played. Swansea City begin life as a First Division side on a high note by beating Leeds United 5–1. Promoted Notts County win 1–0 at Villa Park against defending champions Aston Villa. Howard Kendall begins his career as Everton manager by guiding them to a 3–1 win over Birmingham City. Liverpool lose 1–0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
29 September 1981: Legendary former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, 68, dies from a heart attack three days after being admitted to hospital.
30 September 1981: The month ends with Ipswich Town leading the First Division. Newly promoted West Ham United and Swansea City are their nearest challengers, with Nottingham Forest completing the top four, but champions Aston Villa are struggling with just one win from seven games. Leeds United are already adrift at the bottom of the table following a horrific start to the season, with Sunderland and, surprisingly, West Bromwich Albion also in the bottom three. The race for a place in next season's First Division is headed by Sheffield Wednesday, Luton Town and Norwich City. In the UEFA Cup, Liverpool beat Finnish league champions Oulun Palloseura 7–0 at Anfield to complete an 8–0 aggregate first leg triumph, with 19-year-old striker Ian Rush scoring his first senior goal for the club.
27 October 1981: First Division clubs Notts County and Swansea City are eliminated from the League Cup by lower league opposition: Division Three's Lincoln City despatch the Nottingham club while the Welsh were beaten by Barnsley of the Second Division.
31 October 1981: Manchester United finish October as First Division leaders, although Ipswich Town are level on points with them, and have two games in hand. Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City, Nottingham Forest and West Ham United are also amonsgt the front-runners. Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Middlesbrough occupy the relegation places. Luton Town's recent excellent form has taken them to the top of the Second Division, heading a promotion race in which Watford stand second and Sheffield Wednesday are third.
30 November 1981: November draws to a close with Manchester United still top of the First Division, though Swansea City are two points behind them with a game in hand. Ipswich Town and Tottenham Hotspur are still pushing them hard, as are Southampton, Nottingham Forest and West Ham United. Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Birmingham City occupy the relegation places, while defending champions Aston Villa are 13th in the league and Liverpool are 10th. Luton Town continue to head the Second Division promotion race, with Watford and Queens Park Rangers completing the top three.
31 December 1981: The year draws to a close with Manchester City top of the First Division. However, just two points separate the top five places, with Southampton, Swansea City, Manchester United and Ipswich Town in close pursuit. Luton Town remain the runaway leaders of the Second Division, while Oldham Athletic have muscled into second place, with Watford third.
2 January 1982: Holders Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal 1-0 in the North London derby in the FA Cup third round. Liverpool beat Swansea City 4-0, while Manchester United are beaten 1-0 by Second Division Watford.
8 January 1982: John Barnwell resigns as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers, whose fortunes have declined sharply in the two years since he took them to sixth place in the First Division and a League Cup victory.
23 January 1982: Third Division Oxford United cause the shock of the FA Cup fourth round with a 3-0 win away to Brighton & Hove Albion. Watford claim another First Division victim, beating West Ham United 2-0.
31 January 1982: January ends with Southampton top of the First Division. Manchester United are a point behind, while Ipswich Town are two points off the top but still have three games in hand. Manchester City occupy fourth place, two points behind the leaders. Liverpool's resurgence has seen them climb into fifth place. Brighton & Hove Albion, in only their third season as a top flight club, are in seventh position. Defending champions Aston Villa, meanwhile, are struggling in 17th place. Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers occupy the relegation places. Luton Town, Oldham Athletic and Watford head the Second Division promotion race, followed closely behind by Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.
2 February 1982: Wolverhampton Wanderers appoint Oxford United's Ian Greaves as their new manager.
13 February 1982: Chelsea shock Liverpool 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup fifth round. Shrewsbury Town surprisingly beat Ipswich Town 2-1, Watford's run ends with a 2-0 defeat to Leicester City, and Tottenham Hotspur beat troubled Aston Villa 1-0.
15 February 1982: Birmingham City sack manager Jim Smith, following a run of just one win since the beginning of October, which has left the club only a single place outside the relegation zone.
18 February 1982: Nine days after walking out on Aston Villa, Ron Saunders makes a surprise return to management with their local rivals Birmingham City.
28 February 1982: February ends with Southampton still top of the First Division, with Swansea City's challenge back on track as they occupy second place. Manchester United are six points off the top with two games in hand, and Liverpool now stand fourth, eight points off top place with three games in hand. Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers remain in the bottom three. Luton Town, Watford and Oldham Athletic continue to head the Second Division promotion race, with their nearest challenge now coming from Rotherham United, who have yet to play top division football.
1 March 1982: Jim Smith makes a swift return to management at Oxford United, who had been managerless since the departure of Ian Greaves the previous month.
6 March 1982: Shrewsbury Town's impressive FA Cup run comes to an end when they lose 5–2 to Second Division rivals Leicester City at Filbert Street in the sixth round. In two London derbies, Tottenham Hotspur beat Chelsea 3-2 and Queens Park Rangers win 1-0 at home to Crystal Palace. West Bromwich Albion take the remaining semi-final place with a 2-0 win over Coventry City.
16 March 1982: York City, who have been bottom of the Fourth Division for much of the last few months, sack Kevin Randall. Former captain Barry Swallow is appointed as the third manager of the season at the club, who are considered highly likely to be voted out of the Football League if they finish bottom for the second year in a row.
31 March 1982: Southampton remain the leaders of the First Division, but Liverpool and Ipswich Town are closing in, a point behind with three games in hand. Swansea City and Manchester United complete the top five. The bottom three of Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers remains unchanged. Watford have overhauled Luton Town as Second Division leaders, with Sheffield Wednesday now completing the top three. Rotherham United, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United are close behind in the promotion race. Fulham defender Dave Clement, who was capped five times by England and spent the first 14 years of his career at Queens Park Rangers, commits suicide.
3 April 1982: FA Cup holders Tottenham Hotspur reach the final for the second reason running with a 2–0 semi-final win over surprise contestants Leicester City at Villa Park, while Second Division Queens Park Rangers overcome West Bromwich Albion 1-0 at Highbury to reach the final for the first time in their history. Tottenham's victory is marred by Leicester fans booing Argentine midfielder Ossie Ardiles amid hostility over the Falklands War.
7 April 1982: Liverpool achieve a vital 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford to move two points ahead of Ipswich Town at the top of the First Division.
30 April 1982: Liverpool are now clear at the top of the First Division, four points ahead of Ipswich Town with a game in hand. Swansea City are third. Manchester City, who led the league four months ago, are now 10th. Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Wanderers remain in the relegation zone, but Sunderland have climbed out of the bottom three at the expense of West Bromwich Albion. Luton Town's promotion is now almost certain, while Watford are also looking likely to reach the First Division for the first time in their history. Sheffield Wednesday currently occupy the final promotion place, but Leicester City, Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers remain in contention.
4 May 1982: Southampton and Coventry City draw 5-5 in the highest-scoring match of the First Division season. A brace from Ross Jenkins in Watford's Second Division win over Wrexham seals their promotion into the First Division for the first time in their history; Jenkins himself was playing for the Hertfordshire club in Division Four five years previously.
15 May 1982: Liverpool win the Football League championship for the 13th time after they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 and Ipswich Town lose 3-1 at home to Nottingham Forest. Wolverhampton Wanderers are relegated despite beating West Ham United 2-1 in their last match of the season. The other two relegation places are still to be decided, with Middlesbrough, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United all still in danger.
18 May 1982: Middlesbrough draw 0-0 with Liverpool and are relegated to the Second Division, finishing bottom of the First Division table. West Bromwich Albion guarantee safety by beating Leeds United 2-0.
22 May 1982: The FA Cup final between Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers ends in a 1–1 draw after extra time. Tottenham's line-up does not include Argentinians Ricardo Villa and Ossie Ardiles, who have withdrawn from first-team action owing to the Falklands War.
27 May 1982: Tottenham Hotspur retain the FA Cup thanks to a penalty from Glenn Hoddle in the replay against Queens Park Rangers.
16 June 1982: England open their World Cup campaign with a 3–1 win over France.
20 June 1982: England seal qualification to the next stage of the World Cup by defeating Czechoslovakia 2–0.
25 June 1982: England complete the first stage of the World Cup with a 1–0 win over Kuwait.
29 June 1982: England draw 0–0 with West Germany in the first game of the second round of the World Cup.
5 July 1982: England are eliminated from the World Cup after only managing a goalless draw with host nation Spain in a match they needed to win. Ron Greenwood retires as national team manager, and is succeeded by Ipswich's Bobby Robson.
24 April 1982: Norman Whiteside, 16-year-old Northern Irish forward, makes his debut for Manchester United in their 1–0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion at the Goldstone Ground 13 days before his 17th birthday.
- 29 September 1981 – Bill Shankly, 68, former Liverpool manager who transformed the Reds into one of Europe's top footballing sides. Shankly had taken Liverpool into the First Division in 1962, and over the next 12 years they were league champions three times, FA Cup winners twice and UEFA Cup winners once.
- 8 December 1981 - Bob Lord, 73, chairman of Burnley F.C. for 26 years until three months before his death, died of cancer.
- 31 March 1982 – Dave Clement, 34, former QPR and England full-back who committed suicide after breaking his leg.
- 13 May 1982 - Billy Steel, 59, became the most expensive player in Britain in 1947 when he left Morton in his native Scotland to move south of the border to Derby County.
Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition
The First Division title race brought many different challengers. But in the end, however, Liverpool overcame a dismal first half of the season which saw them climb from mid-table at Christmas to clinching the title on the final day of the season, having lifted the Football League Cup weeks earlier for the second successive season. Ipswich (runners-up), Manchester United (third), Swansea (sixth) and Southampton (seventh) all managed good finishes in the league despite being unable to win the title, but Manchester City finished a disappointing 10th after briefly taking the lead of the First Division just after Christmas. Tottenham retained the FA Cup to match Aston Villa's record of seven wins in the competition.
By contrast, Villa had a disappointing defence of the league title and could only finish 11th, with manager Ron Saunders stepping down in February and being replaced by his assistant Tony Barton, who enjoyed instant success in his first managerial job by guiding Villa to glory in the European Cup, while Saunders made a quick return to management at local rivals Birmingham City, achieving First Division survival by a comfortable margin.
Middlesbrough finished bottom of the First Division and went down after eight years among the elite. Wolves, faced with huge debts and the possibility of bankruptcy, went down too. Leeds United, who had rarely challenged for honours since Don Revie left for the England job in 1974, ended their 18-year stay in the First Division with relegation.
||Pts||Qualification or relegation|
|1||Liverpool (C)||42||26||9||7||80||32||+48||87||1982–83 European Cup first round|
|2||Ipswich Town||42||26||5||11||75||53||+22||83||1982–83 UEFA Cup first round|
|4||Tottenham Hotspur||42||20||11||11||67||48||+19||71||1982–83 Cup Winners' Cup first round 1|
|5||Arsenal||42||20||11||11||48||37||+11||71||1982–83 UEFA Cup first round|
|6||Swansea City||42||21||6||15||58||51||+7||69||1982–83 Cup Winners' Cup preliminary round 2|
|7||Southampton||42||19||9||14||72||67||+5||66||1982–83 UEFA Cup first round|
|9||West Ham United||42||14||16||12||66||57||+9||58|
|11||Aston Villa||42||15||12||15||55||53||+2||57||1982–83 European Cup first round 3|
|13||Brighton & Hove Albion||42||13||13||16||43||52||−9||52|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||42||11||11||20||46||57||−11||44|
|20||Leeds United (R)||42||10||12||20||39||61||−22||42||1982–83 Football League Second Division|
|21||Wolverhampton Wanderers (R)||42||10||10||22||32||63||−31||40|
Rules for classification: 1) points; 2) goal difference; 3) number of goals scored
1Tottenham Hotspur won the 1981-82 FA Cup and thus qualified for the first round of the 1982–83 European Cup Winners' Cup.
2Swansea City won the 1981-82 Welsh Cup and thus qualified for the preliminary round of the 1982–83 European Cup Winners' Cup.
3Aston Villa won the 1981–82 European Cup and thus qualified for the first round of the 1982–83 European Cup
(C) = Champion; (R) = Relegated; (P) = Promoted; (E) = Eliminated; (O) = Play-off winner; (A) = Advances to a further round.
Only applicable when the season is not finished:
(Q) = Qualified to the phase of tournament indicated; (TQ) = Qualified to tournament, but not yet to the particular phase indicated; (RQ) = Qualified to the relegation tournament indicated; (DQ) = Disqualified from tournament.
Leading goalscorer: Kevin Keegan (Southampton) – 26
Luton Town clinched the Second Division title and a place in the top flight in their fourth season under the management of David Pleat, while their local rivals Watford reached the First Division for the first time in their history by finishing runners-up. The final promotion place went to Norwich City, who went from mid table to third place in the final quarter of the season with a storming run of form. Sheffield Wednesday missed out on promotion by a single point, while FA Cup finalists QPR were just two points short of promotion. Barnsley's success under Norman Hunter continued when they finished sixth, the closest they had come in decades to winning the First Division place that had eluded them since their formation in 1896. Emlyn Hughes, the former England captain, enjoyed a promising start to his managerial career as his Rotherham United side emerged as unlikely contenders for a First Division place, before they finished seventh.
Orient, Wrexham and Cardiff City were relegated to the Third Division.
|5||Queens Park Rangers||42||21||6||15||65||43||+22||69|
Burnley clinched the Third Division title on goal difference ahead of Carlisle United in a tight promotion race, with the final promotion place going to Fulham. Lincoln City missed out on a Second Division place by a single point, while Oxford United's turnaround under new owner Robert Maxwell and new manager Jim Smith wasn't quite enough for promotion as they had to settle for fifth place in the final table.
Bristol City, faced with closure as a result of huge debts, became the first English league club to suffer three successive relegations. Chester's seven-year stay in the Third Division came to an end as they finished bottom of the table and 21 points adrift of safety. Also relegated were Swindon Town and Wimbledon.
|14||Preston North End||46||16||13||17||50||56||−6||61|
Sheffield United's ambitious revival under new manager Ian Porterfield began with the Fourth Division title. They went up with Bradford City, Wigan Athletic and Bournemouth.
There was no movement between the Football League and the Alliance Premier League this season.
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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