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..

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, Charlton Athletic, and Wimbledon were promoted to the First Division.

Carlisle United, Fulham and Middlesbrough were relegated to the Third Division.

Third Division

The Third Division promotion places in 1985–86 went to Reading, Plymouth Argyle and Derby County.

Lincoln City, Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Swansea City were relegated.

Fourth Division

Swindon Town, Chester City, Mansfield Town and Port Vale occupied the Fourth Division promotion places in 1985–86.

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 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".


First DivisionLiverpool (16*)Everton
Second DivisionNorwich CityCharlton Athletic
Third DivisionReadingPlymouth Argyle
Fourth DivisionSwindon TownChester City
FA CupLiverpool (3)Everton
League CupOxford United (1)Queens Park Rangers
Charity ShieldEvertonManchester United

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

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.

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 move to the brink of World Cup qualification 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]

16 October 1985 – England ensure qualification for the World Cup. They beat Turkey 5-0 after Northern Ireland defeat Romania 1-0.

17 October 1985 – Southampton sign midfielder Glenn 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]

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]

22 December 1985 - Division One strugglers West Bromwich Albion pick up a rare victory, winning 3–1 against Watford. In the Second Division, a 1–0 win for Portsmouth (over Carlisle United) is enough for them to go level on points with Norwich at the top of the table, while victories for Derby and Blackpool put them into second and third respectively in Division Three. In the bottom tier, Halifax score three inside 37 minutes against Scunthorpe United, only for Iron forward John Hawley to bag a hat-trick and win his side a point.[21]

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.[22] Norwich City are the Second Division leaders, with Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic completing the top three.[23]

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[24] in the game against Northampton Town at London Road on 12 October.[25]

4 January 1986 - In the FA Cup third round, Leicester City are beaten 3–1 by Third Division Bristol Rovers.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] Norwich City, Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic head the Second Division promotion race.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31] In the First Division, the beleaguered bottom two from the West Midlands, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion, both concede five away from home, to Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham respectively.[32]

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.[33]

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.[34]

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.[33]

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.[35] 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.[36]

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.[33]

12 April 1986 – West Bromwich Albion are relegated from the First Division after losing 1–0 at Queens Park Rangers.[37]

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.[38]

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.[39]

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.[33]

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.[40]

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.[41] 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.[42]

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. Everton win Southampton 6-1, which was 4-0 after 20 minutes. 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.[43]

6 May 1986 – Everton manager Howard Kendall dismisses speculation that top scorer Gary Lineker will sign for Barcelona.[44]

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.[45]

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 – George Graham, the Millwall manager who was part of Arsenal's double winning team in 1971, returns to Highbury as manager.

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

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.[46]

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.


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 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge at the end of his first season in charge of the Reds, 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 in the race for the 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, in a thrilling match where they held onto their lead to beat Manchester City 5-4 after being 5-1 ahead going into the final 10 minutes of the game.

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 Don Howe resigned after it was reported that Terry Venables had been offered his job, leaving coach Steve Burtenshaw in charge of the first team until the end of the season, when former player George Graham returned to 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.

Luton recorded their highest ever league finish by finishing ninth. Southampton, meanwhile, dipped from fifth to 14th place in their first season under new manager Chris Nicholl, but did reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they lost to Liverpool.

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.

3West Ham United42266107440+3484
4Manchester United422210107036+3476
5Sheffield Wednesday422110116354+973
8Nottingham Forest421911126953+1668
9Luton Town421812126144+1766
10Tottenham Hotspur42198157452+2265
11Newcastle United421712136772−563
13Queens Park Rangers42157205364−1152
15Manchester City421112194357−1445
16Aston Villa421014185167−1644
17Coventry City421110214871−2343
18Oxford United421012206280−1842
19Leicester City421012205476−2242
20Ipswich Town42118233255−2341
21Birmingham City4285293073−4329
22West Bromwich Albion42412263589−5424
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.

1Norwich City4225988437+4784
2Charlton Athletic42221197845+3377
5Crystal Palace42199145752+566
6Hull City421713126555+1064
7Sheffield United421711146463+162
8Oldham Athletic42179166261+160
10Stoke City421415134850−257
11Brighton & Hove Albion42168186464+056
13Bradford City42166205163−1254
14Leeds United42158195672−1653
15Grimsby Town421410185862−452
16Huddersfield Town421410185167−1652
17Shrewsbury Town42149195264−1251
19Blackburn Rovers421213175362−949
20Carlisle United42137224771−2446
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.

2Plymouth Argyle46269118853+3587
3Derby County46231588041+3984
4Wigan Athletic46231498248+3483
7York City462011157758+1971
8Notts County461914137160+1171
9Bristol City461814146960+968
11Doncaster Rovers461616144552−764
14Rotherham United461512196159+257
16Bristol Rovers461412205175−2454
18Bolton Wanderers46158235468−1453
19Newport County461118175265−1351
21Lincoln City461016205577−2246
22Cardiff City46129255383−3045
23Wolverhampton Wanderers461110255798−4143
24Swansea City461110254387−4443
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.

1Swindon Town4632688243+39102
2Chester City46231588350+3384
3Mansfield Town462312117447+2781
4Port Vale46211696737+3079
6Colchester United461913148863+2570
7Hartlepool United462010166867+170
8Northampton Town461810187958+2164
9Southend United461810186967+264
10Hereford United461810187473+164
11Stockport County461713166371−864
12Crewe Alexandra46189195461−763
15Scunthorpe United461514175055−559
17Peterborough United461317165264−1256
19Tranmere Rovers46159227473+154
20Halifax Town461412206071−1154
21Exeter City461315184759−1254
22Cambridge United46159226580−1554
23Preston North End461110255489−3543
24Torquay United46910274388−4537
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

Further information: The Football League 1985–86


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