1987–88 in English football

The 1987–88 season was the 108th season of competitive football in England.


First Division

Liverpool won the league title with a comfortable nine-point margin and just two defeats all season.[1] Their key players were two new signings – winger John Barnes and forward Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge scored 26 league goals and helped defy any doubts that people might have had as to whether Liverpool could challenge for honours after Ian Rush's departure to Juventus.[2] Second in the league were Manchester United, rejuvenated under Alex Ferguson – who had bought some impressive new players including Brian McClair and Steve Bruce.

The first relegation places went to Watford and Oxford United, who both lost far too many games and picked up far too few points to have any realistic hope of avoiding relegation. Next to go down were Portsmouth, whose First Division comeback lasted just one season. Chelsea then became the first top division club in 90 years to lose their status after playoffs. They lost to Second Division Middlesbrough in the playoff final and surrendered their First Division place to the Teessiders.

Second Division

John Docherty's impressive Millwall side lifted the Second Division championship trophy and gained promotion to the First Division for the first time in their history. Runners-up were Aston Villa, managed by Graham Taylor and boasting a squad of strong players like David Platt and Martin Keown. Middlesbrough won promotion for the second season running after negotiating the relegation/promotion playoffs at the expense of Chelsea.

Huddersfield Town, who had suffered a 10–1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City in November, were the Second Division's biggest flops during 1987–1988 as they went down in bottom place. Reading followed them. The Second/Third Division relegation/promotion playoffs once again saw a Second Division club suffer relegation, this time it was Sheffield United.

Third Division

Sunderland's first season in the Third Division ended in glory as they lifted the championship and went back up to the Second Division. They were joined by runners-up Brighton & Hove Albion and playoff winners Walsall.

The Third Division relegation places were occupied by Rotherham United, Grimsby Town, York City and Doncaster Rovers due to Grimsby Town's administration entrance.

Fourth Division

Wolves ended their two-year tenure in the Fourth Division by finishing top of the table and winning promotion to the Third Division, one season after being rescued by new owner Jack Hayward and new manager Graham Turner. They completed an outstanding season by winning the Associate Members Cup final at a packed Wembley against Burnley. Earlier the campaign had begun on a sour note, when Football League newcomers Scarborough hosted Wolves on the opening day in a match that was marred by crowd trouble.

Bolton Wanderers, another fallen giant, also ensured their Fourth Division tenure was short lived by winning automatic promotion. Swansea City were promoted via the playoffs just two years after almost going out of existence, while their South Wales neighbours Cardiff City were also promoted.

After having spent several seasons as the highest placed Welsh team, financially troubled Newport County were relegated for the second successive season. This time they lost their Football League status after 60 consecutive seasons in the Football League. Lincoln City won the Conference title to take their place. Less than a year later Newport were to go out of business before reforming.

Scunthorpe United left the Old Showground and moved into Glanford Park, thus becoming the first English club in more than 30 years to move to a new stadium.

FA Cup

Wimbledon caused one of the biggest footballing upsets of the 20th century by defeating champions Liverpool 1–0 in the FA Cup final. The winners had only been league members for 11 years and First Division members for two years, while the losers had just wrapped up their 17th league championship. Lawrie Sanchez headed the only goal from a Dennis Wise free kick in the first half of the final, while Dave Beasant became the first player to save a penalty in an FA Cup final (saving from John Aldridge, who had scored all 11 other penalties he had taken that season) and the first goalkeeper to captain an FA Cup-winning side.

Other Trophies

Ray Harford's Luton Town achieved a shock 3–2 win over Arsenal in the League Cup final to win the first major trophy of their history. Harford had only been promoted to the manager's seat from assistant manager a year earlier as successor to John Moore.

Luton also appeared Wembley in the final of the Full Members Cup, but were surprisingly beaten 4–1 by Reading.

In April 1988, Nottingham Forest won the Football League Centenary Tournament, a competition played over two days between 16 clubs at Wembley. They beat Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the final after a goalless draw in the 60-minute match.

Star players

The PFA voted Liverpool's high scoring winger John Barnes Player of the Year in his first season at Anfield.

Newcastle United's midfielder Paul Gascoigne was voted Young Player of the Year before being transferred to Tottenham Hotspur.

Brian McClair scored 25 First Division goals for runners-up Manchester United in his first season at Old Trafford following his move from Celtic.

Liverpool striker John Aldridge was top scorer in the league and collected a championship medal in his first full season at the club, but missed the penalty in the FA Cup final that cost his side the chance of a unique second double.

West Ham striker Tony Cottee had another high scoring season before being transferred to Everton.

Steve Bull scored 52 goals in all competitions (37 in the league) for Fourth Division champions Wolves.

Young midfielder David Platt had an excellent first season for Aston Villa, establishing himself as a competent goalscorer as well as gaining promotion to the First Division.

Star managers

Famous debutants

Top goalscorers

First Division

Second Division

Third Division

Fourth Division

National team

England were eliminated from Euro 88 after losing all three group games in West Germany. The Netherlands went on to win the tournament. In spite of continued calls from the tabloids for a new manager to be installed, the FA kept faith in Bobby Robson once more.


Liverpool paid an English club record fee of £1.9million for Newcastle United's 26-year-old striker Peter Beardsley. They also spent £900,000 on Watford winger John Barnes.

Diary of the season

July 1987

3 July 1987 – Chelsea sign defender Tony Dorigo from Aston Villa for £475,000.[4]

6 July 1987 – Nottingham Forest's Dutch midfielder Johnny Metgod signs for Tottenham Hotspur in a £250,000 deal.

7 July 1987 – England goalkeeper Peter Shilton moves to Derby County from Southampton for £90,000.[5]

9 July 1987 – Manchester United sign Arsenal defender Viv Anderson for £250,000.[6] Former Queens Park Rangers and England forward Gerry Francis, 36, is appointed player-manager of Third Division side Bristol Rovers as successor to Bobby Gould who moved to Wimbledon last month.

15 July 1987 – Ray Harford, first-team coach, is promoted to the manager's seat at Luton Town following the resignation of John Moore. Coventry City more than double their record transfer outlay with a £750,000 move for Chelsea striker David Speedie.

17 July 1987 – Portsmouth prepare for their return to the First Division with a £60,000 move for Wrexham midfielder Barry Horne.[7]

21 July 1987 – Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Glenn Hoddle moves to AS Monaco for £800,000 on a three-year contract. Manchester United get a £300,000 insurance payout from The Football Association following the injury enforced retirement of 29-year-old goalkeeper Gary Bailey.

22 July 1987 - Scunthorpe United announce that they will leave the Old Showground at the end of the season and move to a new stadium in the town's suburbs - the first relocation of a Football League club since Southend United moved to Roots Hall in 1955.

24 July 1987 – Manchester City are reported to have made an approach for out of favour Liverpool midfielder John Wark. Watford sign prolific Reading striker Trevor Senior for £325,000.

29 July 1987 – Wimbledon sign defenders Terry Phelan from Swansea City for £100,000[8] and Eric Young from Brighton & Hove Albion for £70,000.[9] Chelsea striker Kerry Dixon withdraws his transfer request.

30 July 1987 – Manchester United complete the signing of striker Brian McClair after a tribunal orders them to pay £850,000 for the striker, originally valued at £2million by Celtic.

August 1987

1 August 1987 – Everton defeat Coventry City 1–0 in the FA Charity Shield at Wembley Stadium, with Wayne Clarke scoring the only goal of the game.

3 August 1987 – Today cancel their sponsorship of the Football League after just one year, and less than two weeks before the new season is due to begin.[10]

6 August 1987 – Peter Beardsley becomes the most expensive player to move between British clubs when he joins Liverpool in a £1.9 million deal from Newcastle United. Britain's first million-pound player, Trevor Francis, returns to Britain when Graeme Souness signs him for Rangers in a £70,000 deal from Atalanta of Italy.

7 August 1987 - Portsmouth midfielder Mick Kennedy is fined £5,000 for claiming in a national newspaper that he was "the hardest man in football and proud of my reputation".[11]

8 August 1987 – The Football League begins its centenary celebrations by hosting a match against a Rest of the World XI at Wembley. Diego Maradona and Gary Lineker are in side beaten by a Football League XI.

11 August 1987 – Former Leeds United and England manager Don Revie, 60, announces that he is suffering from Motor neurone disease, which was diagnosed in May this year.

12 August 1987 – Barclays Bank become the Football League's new sponsors in a three-year deal worth in the region of £5million, while Portsmouth prepare for their first top division campaign since the 1950s by paying Leeds United £285,000 for striker Ian Baird.

15 August 1987 - The Football League season begins. In the First Division, Queens Park Rangers record the biggest win of the day by beating West Ham United 3-0. Champions Everton beat Norwich City 1-0, and Liverpool win 2-1 away to Arsenal.[12] Scarborough, new members after their promotion to the Fourth Division from the GM Vauxhall Conference, hold fallen giants Wolverhampton Wanderers to a 2-2 draw, but crowd trouble results in 56 arrests.

18 August 1987 - Newly promoted First Division side Derby County pay a club record £760,000 for Southampton defender Mark Wright. UEFA announce that if the ban on English clubs in Europe is lifted in time for the 1988–89 UEFA Cup, there will only be two slots available for clubs in England due to their UEFA coefficient falling.[13]

22 August 1987 – Brian McClair scores his first goal for Manchester United in their 2–0 home league win over Watford. In the first top flight South Coast derby, newly promoted Portsmouth draw 2-2 with Southampton at Fratton Park.[14]

24 August 1987 – Striker Terry Gibson ends his unsuccessful 18-month spell at Manchester United and joins Wimbledon for £200,000.

25 August 1987 - Luton Town lift their ban on away fans and are allowed to compete in the League Cup, from which they were banned last season.

31 August 1987 – Manchester United finish August as First Division leaders, two points ahead of Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest. At the bottom of the table, Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town remain without a League win so far this season.[12] In the Second Division, Plymouth Argyle and Barnsley lead the way on goal difference, but fancied Aston Villa are fourth from bottom.[15]

September 1987

3 September 1987 – Ten months after being sacked by Manchester United, Ron Atkinson returns to football for a second spell as manager of West Bromwich Albion.

4 September 1987 – Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas hands in a transfer request after manager George Graham dropped him in favour of Perry Groves as strike-partner to new signing Alan Smith.

5 September 1987 - Gillingham score a club record 10-0 victory over Chesterfield, a week after defeating Southend 8-1.[16]

9 September 1987 – 25 Liverpool fans are extradited to Belgium on manslaughter charges in connection to the Heysel disaster in which 39 spectators (most of them Italian) were crushed to death at the European Cup final on 29 May 1985.[17] Oxford United's £400,000 bid for Derby County winger Nigel Callaghan is accepted, but the player turns down the chance to move – less than a year after he joined the East Midlands club for barely a third of that amount.

12 September 1987 – Brazilian international striker Mirandinha gets his first goals for Newcastle, scoring twice in a 2–2 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

16 September 1987 – Manager Bryan Hamilton brings Mike Newell to Leicester City from Luton Town for £350,000.

18 September 1987 – Defender David Bardsley moves between First Division strugglers Watford and Oxford United for £265,000. Charlton Athletic sign Wales striker Andy Jones from Third Division side Port Vale.

20 September 1987 – Everton sign Scotland midfielder Ian Wilson from Leicester City for £300,000. Liverpool defender Steve Nicol scores a hat-trick in a 4–1 away league win over Newcastle United.[18]

23 September 1987 – Terry Venables, former manager of Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers, is sacked after three years as manager of Spanish giants FC Barcelona.

28 September 1987 – Tommy Docherty is appointed manager of GM Vauxhall Conference side Altrincham.

29 September 1987 – John Aldridge reaches the 10-goal margin in the league for Liverpool after just seven games, scoring a hat-trick in their 4–0 home win over Derby County.

30 September 1987 – Queens Park Rangers, without a top division league title to their name, finish the month as leaders of the First Division, three points ahead of Liverpool, who have two games in hand. Charlton Athletic are bottom, with four points from eight matches.[12] Bradford City top the Second Division, with Hull City second. Crystal Palace and newly promoted Middlesbrough and Swindon Town occupy the play-off places.[19]

October 1987

2 October 1987 – Tottenham Hotspur sell defender Richard Gough to Rangers for £1.5million – a record fee for a British defender.

10 October 1987 - Everton's Graeme Sharp and Adrian Heath bag braces as Chelsea are beaten 4–1 at Goodison Park.[20] Elsewhere, Paul Wilkinson scores the only goal of the game as Nottingham Forest beat Derby County in the first East Midlands derby of the season.[21]

12 October 1987 - More than three years after leaving Fulham, Malcolm Macdonald makes a management comeback with Second Division strugglers Huddersfield Town.

14 October 1987 – England beat Turkey 8–0 in a European Championship qualifier at Wembley, repeating the scoreline of a match between the teams in the 1984–85 season.[22]

15 October 1987 - Newcastle United sign 18-year-old striker Michael O'Neill from Coleraine of Ireland for £55,000.

16 October 1987 – Sheffield Wednesday sign defender Nigel Pearson from Shrewsbury Town for £250,000.

17 October 1987 - Liverpool move to the top of the First Division by thrashing previous leaders Queens Park Rangers 4-0 at Anfield.[12]

19 October 1987 – Liverpool sign Oxford United and Republic of Ireland winger Ray Houghton for £825,000.[23]

23 October 1987 – David Pleat resigns after 15 months as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, following allegations that he was involved in kerb crawling.

27 October 1987 – Tottenham Hotspur appoint Terry Venables as their new manager.

28 October 1987 - Everton knock Liverpool out of the League Cup with a 1-0 win at Anfield in the third round.[24]

31 October 1987 – Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers share leadership of the First Division, but Liverpool, just one point behind, have three games in hand. Charlton Athletic remain bottom of the table, and are joined by Watford and Norwich City in the relegation zone.[12] Bradford City now have a six-point lead at the top of the Second Division, their nearest rivals being Middlesbrough and Hull City. Aston Villa now stand fourth, with Ipswich Town and Birmingham City close behind.[25]

November 1987

1 November 1987 – Liverpool move back to the top of the First Division table by beating Everton 2-0 in the Merseyside derby.[12] 31-year-old England midfielder Ray Wilkins returns to Britain after more than three years away when he signs for Rangers in a £250,000 move from Paris St Germain.

7 November 1987 – Second Division promotion chasers Manchester City beat struggling Huddersfield Town 10–1 at Maine Road. Three players - Paul Stewart, David White and Tony Adcock - score hat-tricks.

10 November 1987 - 21-year-old Walsall striker David Kelly scores a hat-trick on his debut for the Republic of Ireland in their 5-0 win over Israel in Dublin.

11 November 1987 – England seal European Championship qualification with a 4–1 win over Yugoslavia in Belgrade.[26] A Gary McKay goal gives Scotland a 1–0 win in Bulgaria, a result that allows the Republic of Ireland, managed by former 1966 world cup winner Jack Charlton, to qualify for their first major tournament.

19 November 1987 – Liverpool reject an offer from Bayern Munich for Danish midfielder Jan Molby. Aston Villa boost their Second Division promotion quest with a £150,000 move for Crystal Palace midfielder Andy Gray.

20 November 1987 – Elton John agrees to sell Watford to Robert Maxwell's British Printing and Communication Corporation for £2million.

26 November 1987 – The takeover of Watford falls through after the High Court vetoes it due to Robert Maxwell already being the owner of Derby County.

30 November 1987 – Liverpool lead the First Division by five points from Arsenal. Charlton Athletic, Norwich City and Watford continue to occupy the relegation places.[12] Middlesbrough and Bradford City are level at the top of the Second Division on 43 points. Aston Villa, Hull City and Crystal Palace occupy the play-off places.[27]

December 1987

7 December 1987 - Queens Park Rangers sign striker Mark Falco from Rangers for £350,000.

9 December 1987 – Eight football hooligans, all either Manchester United or West Ham United supporters, receive prison sentences totalling 51 years at Chelmsford Crown Court after being found guilty of public order offences on a Sealink ferry bound for Amsterdam on 8 August 1986.[28] Meanwhile, Chelsea look to the future with the acquisition of Jersey-born defender Graeme Le Saux, 19.

13 December 1987 - Nigel Clough scores a hat-trick in less than five minutes as Nottingham Forest beat Queens Park Rangers 4-0 in the First Division game at the City Ground.[29]

16 December 1987 – Manchester United pay £900,000 for Norwich City central defender Steve Bruce, with his old club using £580,000 of the transfer to sign Robert Fleck from Rangers.

26 December 1987 - Boxing Day sees Nottingham Forest win 2–0 at Highbury to overtake Arsenal into second place, while in a London derby Wimbledon beat West Ham 2–1, and David Pleat's tenure as Leicester manager starts with defeat to A.F.C. Bournemouth.[30]

29 December 1987 – Queens Park Rangers defender Terry Fenwick completes a £550,000 transfer to Tottenham Hotspur.

31 December 1987 – The year draws to a close with Liverpool holding a commanding ten-point lead over second-placed Nottingham Forest. Watford have slipped to the foot of the table, level on points with Charlton Athletic. Portsmouth occupy the final automatic relegation place.[12] Graeme Souness signs Aston Villa midfielder Mark Walters for Rangers for £550,000 in the latest of several moves for English players. In the Second Division, Middlesbrough lead with a one-point margin over Bradford City. A four-point margin separates their nearest six challengers – Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Millwall, Hull City, Manchester City and Ipswich Town.[31]

January 1988

1 January 1988 – Out of favour Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas returns to his native Scotland in a £500,000 move to Aberdeen. Billy Bonds of West Ham United, the oldest Football League player at 41, is awarded an MBE.

4 January 1988 – John Wark returns to Ipswich Town from Liverpool in a £100,000 deal.

11 January 1988 – Dave Bassett is sacked after just six months in charge of Watford, who are currently bottom of the First Division. He is succeeded by Aston Villa assistant manager Steve Harrison.

16 January 1988 – John Aldridge becomes the first player to reach the 20-goal margin in the First Division when he scores in Liverpool's 2–0 home win over Arsenal.

20 January 1988 – Oxford United, winners of the 1986 League Cup, reach the semi-finals of this season's competition with a surprise 2–0 win over Manchester United in the quarter-finals.[24]

22 January 1988 – Manchester City boost their Second Division promotion challenge with a £175,000 move for Northampton Town striker Trevor Morley.[32]

24 January 1988 – Arsenal pay Stoke City £400,000 for 23-year-old right-back Lee Dixon.

26 January 1988 – Aston Villa boost their Second Division promotion challenge with the £200,000 acquisition of highly rated Crewe Alexandra midfielder David Platt, 21.

30 January 1988 - FA Cup holders Coventry City are knocked out by Watford in the fourth round. Last year's defeated finalists Tottenham Hotspur are also eliminated, losing 2-1 at Third Division Port Vale.[33]

31 January 1988 – Liverpool remain top of the First Division as January draws to a close, now 16 points ahead of second-placed Manchester United. Charlton Athletic, Watford and Oxford United make up the bottom three.[12] Aston Villa have crept to the top of the Second Division, while Crystal Palace have risen to second place. Middlesbrough, Millwall and Blackburn Rovers occupy the playoff zone, while Bradford City have slid from second to sixth place in the space of a few weeks. Leicester City, relegated from the First Division last season, are now in the Second Division relegation play-off places.[34]

February 1988

3 February 1988 - Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Keith Burkinshaw is sacked by Sporting Lisbon of Portugal.

4 February 1988 – Tommy Docherty is sacked after just over four months in charge of GM Vauxhall Conference side Altrincham.

5 February 1988 – A UEFA referrendum decides that all English clubs will be banned from European competition for a fourth successive season. Derby County since midfielder Ted McMinn from Seville of Spain for £300,000.[35]

12 February 1988 – 18 of the 25 Liverpool fans charged with manslaughter in connection with the Heysel disaster return home after being cleared of the charges.

16 February 1988 – Liverpool sell striker Paul Walsh to Tottenham Hotspur for £500,000.[36]

20 February 1988 – Shrewsbury Town striker Jim Melrose, on loan from Leeds United, suffers a broken cheekbone in a clash with Swindon Town midfielder Chris Kamara at the end of Shrewbury's 2–1 win over Swindon in the Second Division at Gay Meadow.[37] In a heavyweight clash in the FA Cup fifth round, Arsenal beat Manchester United 2-1 at Highbury.[33]

21 February 1988 - Liverpool avenge their League Cup defeat earlier in the season by beating Everton 1-0 in the FA Cup fifth round at Goodison Park.[24]

25 February 1988 – Tottenham Hotspur sign goalkeeper Bobby Mimms from Everton for £325,000.[38] Swindon Town fine midfielder Chris Kamara £1,000 and ban him from playing for a month following the incident with Jim Melrose.

28 February 1988 - Luton Town reach the League Cup final with a 3-1 aggregate win over Oxford United.[24]

29 February 1988 – February draws to a close with Liverpool still top of the league having stretched their unbeaten start to the season to 27 games, and with a 14-point lead over Manchester United with two games in hand.[12] The Second Division promotion race sees Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers level at the top of the table, with Millwall, Middlesbrough and Bradford City occupying the play-off places.[39]

March 1988

3 March 1988 - Norwich City sign defender Andy Linighan from Oldham Athletic for £300,000.

4 March 1988 – After seven months at Portsmouth, Ian Baird returns to Leeds United for £120,000.

12 March 1988 – Luton Town edge closer to a remarkable cup double by defeating Portsmouth 3–1 in the FA Cup quarter-final at Kenilworth Road, while Wimbledon's hopes of a first-ever cup final appearance move closer to reality with a 2–1 win over Watford. Arsenal blow their hopes of a cup double by losing 2–1 at home to Nottingham Forest.[33] Maurice Evans resigns as manager of struggling Oxford United.

13 March 1988 – Liverpool move closer to a unique second double by thrashing Manchester City 4–0 in the FA Cup quarter-final at Maine Road.[33]

18 March 1988 - West Ham United sign Fulham striker Leroy Rosenior for £275,000.

20 March 1988 – Liverpool's unbeaten start to the league season is ended when they lose 1-0 in their 30th match to neighbours Everton.[12]

22 March 1988 – John Hollins resigns as Chelsea manager and is replaced by his assistant Bobby Campbell.

23 March 1988 - Arsenal sign winger Brian Marwood from Sheffield Wednesday for £600,000, while Trevor Francis ends his brief spell with Glasgow Rangers to join Queens Park Rangers on a free transfer.

24 March 1988 – Nottingham Forest pay Preston North End £150,000 for 18-year-old striker Nigel Jemson. Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson retires from playing after an injury at the age of 30 and is appointed manager of Oxford United.

25 March 1988 – Chelsea sign goalkeeper Kevin Hitchcock from Mansfield Town for £250,000.[40]

27 March 1988 - Luton Town's hopes of a cup treble are ended when they are beaten 4-1 by Second Division strugglers Reading in the Full Members Cup final at Wembley.[41]

31 March 1988 – Liverpool finish March with a 14-point margin over second-placed Manchester United at the top of the First Division. At the bottom, Watford are eight points from safety with eight matches left, and Oxford United and Portsmouth are also struggling in the relegation zone.[12] Aston Villa remain top of the Second Division with a two-point margin over Blackburn Rovers, with the play-off places being occupied by Middlesbrough, Millwall and Bradford City. Leeds United, Crystal Palace and Stoke City remain in strong contention for promotion as well.[42]

April 1988

2 April 1988 – Brian McClair scores a hat-trick to bring his league tally for the season to 19 goals in Manchester United's 4–1 home win over Derby County.

4 April 1988 – Manchester United draw 3–3 with Liverpool at Anfield after being 3–1 down, but remain eleven points behind the Merseysiders in the League table.[12][43]

9 April 1988 – Liverpool move closer to an unprecedented second double by beating Nottingham Forest 2–1 in the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough.[44] Wimbledon end Luton Town's cup double hopes with a 2–1 win at White Hart Lane to reach the final for the first time. In the league, 17-year-old Alan Shearer becomes the youngest hat-trick scorer in the First Division in Southampton's 4–2 home win over Arsenal.[45]

13 April 1988 - Hull City sack manager Brian Horton. Liverpool and Nottingham Forest do battle for the third time in twelve days, and just as four days ago, the Merseysiders come out on top, as they win 5–0.[46]

16–17 April 1988 – The Football League programme is put on hold for a week as the Football League Centenary Tournament is staged at Wembley Stadium between 16 clubs on the 100th anniversary of the league's foundation. Nottingham Forest are the winners of the two-day event.[47]

18 April 1988 – Torquay United winger Lee Sharpe, who turns 17 next month, agrees to sign for Manchester United at the end of the season in a £30,000 deal. Hearts striker John Robertson agrees to join Newcastle United for a club record £750,000 at the end of the season. The Football Association suspends Chris Kamara for the rest of the season.[48]

23 April 1988 - Liverpool's 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur confirms the Reds as League champions. Watford are relegated thanks to Charlton Athletic's 2-0 win over Newcastle United.[12]

24 April 1988 – Holders Arsenal are beaten 3-2 by Luton Town in a dramatic League Cup final at Wembley. It is Luton's first ever major trophy.[24]

30 April 1988 – Oxford United are relegated after defeat against Newcastle United. Portsmouth are favourites for the last automatic relegation place, trailing West Ham United by four points with two matches left.[12] The promotion issues in the Second Division have yet to be confirmed, with just four points separating the top five clubs – Millwall, Aston Villa, Bradford City, Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers.[49] Derby County goalkeeper Peter Shilton, 38, sets a new Football League appearance record when he makes his 825th league appearance since his debut 21 years ago in his side's 1-1 draw at Watford.

May 1988

1 May 1988 – Sunderland win promotion back to the Second Division at the first attempt with a 1-0 win over Port Vale at Vale Park.

2 May 1988 – Portsmouth lose 2-1 at home to Newcastle United and are relegated from the First Division after just one season.[12] Millwall, meanwhile, clinch the Second Division title with a 1-0 win over Hull City at Boothferry Park and reach the First Division for the first time in their history.

7 May 1988 - On the final full day of the First Division season, Charlton Athletic stay up with a 1-1 draw at Chelsea, a result that sends their opponents into the relegation play-offs.[12]

9 May 1988 – Liverpool finish their League campaign with a 1-1 draw against Luton Town. John Aldridge finishes the season as the First Division's top scorer with 27 league strikes for Liverpool, and 30 in all competitions.[50] Brian McClair of Manchester United, the division's next highest scorer, scores twice against Wimbledon to take his league tally to 24.[51]

10 May 1988 – Tottenham Hotspur sell striker Clive Allen to Bordeaux of France for £1 million. 75-year-old Portsmouth chairman John Deacon sells the club to Jim Gregory for £2million.

11 May 1988 – Aberdeen goalkeeper Jim Leighton links up with his former manager Alex Ferguson by signing for Manchester United in a £500,000 deal.

14 May 1988 – Wimbledon pull off a major upset by beating Liverpool 1–0 in the FA Cup final. They have been First Division members for just two seasons and have only been a Football League side for the last eleven years. Lawrie Sanchez is Wimbledon's goalscoring hero, while Liverpool have a goal from Peter Beardsley disallowed and a penalty from John Aldridge saved by Wimbledon goalkeeper and captain Dave Beasant.[52]

20 May 1988 – Kevin Clarke, 30, is sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of being the ring leader of a notorious gang of Oxford United hooligans who were involved in running battles with rivals fans, often in busy shopping areas.[53]

22 May 1988 – Argentine midfielder Ossie Ardiles is given a free transfer by Tottenham Hotspur after 10 years at the club.

26 May 1988 - Aston Villa prepare for their First Division comeback by signing Derek Mountfield from Everton for £425,000 and Chris Price from Blackburn Rovers for £150,000.

28 May 1988 - Middlesbrough are promoted to the First Division, taking the place of Chelsea, whom they beat 2-1 on aggregate in the play-off final.

29 May 1988 - Wolverhampton Wanderers lift the Associate Members Cup with a 2-0 win over Burnley in front of more than 80,000 fans at Wembley.

June 1988

1 June 1988 – Sheffield Wednesday sell striker Lee Chapman to Niort of France for £350,000.[54]

6 June 1988 – Arthur Albiston, Manchester United's longest serving player, links up with former United boss Ron Atkinson at West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer after 15 years at Old Trafford.

8 June 1988 – Dave Beasant completes a £750,000 transfer from Wimbledon to Newcastle United, making him the costliest goalkeeper in English football.

10 June 1988 – Tottenham Hotspur sign Paul Stewart from Manchester City for £1.5 million – a record fee for a Second Division player.

12 June 1988 – England's European Championship campaign begins with a 1–0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland.[55]

15 June 1988 – England's chances of progressing to the semi-finals of the European Championships are ended by a 3–1 defeat to the Netherlands.[56] Everton sign Bradford City midfielder Stuart McCall for £850,000.[57]

17 June 1988 – Newcastle United bolster their attack with a £500,000 move for Bradford City striker John Hendrie.[58]

18 June 1988 – England's final group match at the European Championship Finals ends in a third defeat, 3–1 to the USSR.[56]

23 June 1988 – Eighteen Scarborough hooligans receive prison sentences of up to 12 months for their part in clashes with Wolverhampton Wanderers fans at the club's very first Football League game in August.

24 June 1988 – Watford striker Luther Blissett agrees to stay with the club for at least one more season despite their relegation to the Second Division.

29 June 1988 – Millwall prepare for their first season as a top division club by re-signing defender Neil Ruddock from Tottenham Hotspur for £300,000.[59]



First DivisionLiverpool (17*)Manchester United
Second DivisionMillwallAston Villa
Third DivisionSunderlandBrighton & Hove Albion
Fourth DivisionWolverhampton WanderersCardiff City
FA CupWimbledon (1)Liverpool
League CupLuton Town (1)Arsenal
Full Members CupReadingLuton Town
Associate Members CupWolverhampton WanderersBurnley
Football League Centenary TournamentNottingham ForestSheffield Wednesday
FA Charity ShieldEvertonCoventry City

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

League table

First Division

Liverpool won their 17th First Division title with just two league defeats all season and enjoying a record 29-match unbeaten start to the league season, which had seen them looking uncatchable since before Christmas. They finished nine points ahead of their nearest rivals Manchester United, who made impressive progress in their first full season under the management of Alex Ferguson. Nottingham Forest enjoyed their best season for four years as they finished third, while Everton and QPR completed the top five and Arsenal finished sixth, suffering a shock defeat to Luton Town in the League Cup final.

Seventh placed Wimbledon, in their second season in the First Division and their 11th in the league, beat Liverpool 1-0 in the FA Cup final to deny the Merseysiders a unique second double.

Oxford United's three-year stay in the First Division came to an end with relegation in bottom place, while Watford failed miserably in the aftermath of Graham Taylor's departure and went down after six years among the elite. Portsmouth's first top flight season since the 1950s ended in relegation, while Chelsea went down after losing to Middlesbrough in the playoffs.

1Liverpool (C)40261228724+6390
2Manchester United40231257138+3381
3Nottingham Forest40201376739+2873
5Queens Park Rangers401910114838+1067
8Newcastle United401414125553+256
9Luton Town401411155758−153
10Coventry City401314134653−753
11Sheffield Wednesday40158175266−1453
13Tottenham Hotspur401211173848−1047
14Norwich City40129194052−1245
15Derby County401013173545−1043
16West Ham United40915164052−1242
17Charlton Athletic40915163852−1442
18Chelsea (R)40915165068−1842
19Portsmouth (R)40714193666−3035
20Watford (R)40711222751−2432
21Oxford United (R)40613214480−3631

Second Division

A tight Second Division promotion race ended with Millwall as champions and promoted to the First Division for the first time in their history. Aston Villa were promoted on goals scored ahead of Middlesbrough, who triumphed in the playoffs to secure a second successive promotion a mere two years after they had almost gone out of business. Bradford City, another club faced with closure a few years earlier, also qualified for the playoffs, as did Blackburn Rovers.

Huddersfield Town's catastrophic season ended in relegation after a mere six wins and 28 points. They were joined by Reading, whose consolation came in the form of Full Members Cup victory. Sheffield United went down in the playoffs, while West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City narrowly avoided their second relegation in three seasons.

1Millwall (C, P)44257127252+2082
2Aston Villa (P)442212106841+2778
3Middlesbrough (P)442212106336+2778
4Bradford City442211117454+2077
5Blackburn Rovers44211496852+1677
6Crystal Palace44229138659+2775
7Leeds United441912136151+1069
8Ipswich Town44199166152+966
9Manchester City44198178060+2065
10Oldham Athletic441811157264+865
11Stoke City441711165057−762
12Swindon Town441611177360+1359
13Leicester City441611176261+159
15Hull City441415155460−657
16Plymouth Argyle44168206567−256
18Shrewsbury Town441116174254−1249
19Birmingham City441115184166−2548
20West Bromwich Albion441211215069−1947
21Sheffield United (R)44137244574−2946
22Reading (R)441012224470−2642
23Huddersfield Town (R)446102841100−5928

Third Division

Sunderland sealed the Third Division title by a comfortable margin in their first season at this level to secure an instant return to the Second Division. Runners-up Brighton also secured an instant return to the Second Division, while the third promotion place was taken by playoff winners Walsall.

Doncaster Rovers and York City propped up the Third Division to suffer relegation after four seasons at this level, while debt-ridden Grimsby Town suffered a second successive relegation. Rotherham United went down in the playoffs. Newly promoted Aldershot narrowly survived their first season at this level for over a decade.

1Sunderland (C, P)46271279248+4493
2Brighton & Hove Albion (P)46231586947+2284
3Walsall (P)462313106850+1882
4Notts County462312118249+3381
5Bristol City462112137762+1575
6Northampton Town46181997051+1973
7Wigan Athletic462012147061+972
8Bristol Rovers461812166856+1266
11Port Vale461811175856+265
15Chester City461416165162−1158
16Preston North End461513184859−1158
17Southend United461413196583−1855
19Mansfield Town461412204859−1154
21Rotherham United (R)461216185066−1652
22Grimsby Town (R)461214204858−1050
23York City (R)4689294891−4333
24Doncaster Rovers (R)4689294084−4433

Administration entrance= Grimsby Town

Fourth Division

Wolverhampton Wanderers clinched the Fourth Division title, the Football League Trophy and promotion to the Third Division at the end of a thrilling season where striker Steve Bull found the net 52 times in all competitions. They were joined in promotion by Cardiff City and Swansea City as well as another fallen giant, Bolton Wanderers, who enjoyed their first successful season for a decade.

Debt-ridden Newport County moved closer to oblivion, losing their league status with just 25 points to suffer a second successive relegation and find themselves being forced into non-league football a mere five years after being on the brink of the Second Division and seven years after playing in the European Cup Winners' Cup.

1Wolverhampton Wanderers (C, P)46279108243+3990
2Cardiff City (P)46241396641+2585
3Bolton Wanderers (P)462212126642+2478
4Scunthorpe United46201797651+2577
5Torquay United462114116641+2577
6Swansea City (P)462010166256+670
7Peterborough United462010165253−170
8Leyton Orient461912158563+2269
9Colchester United461910174751−467
14Tranmere Rovers46199186153+864
15Cambridge United461613175052−261
16Hartlepool United461514175057−759
17Crewe Alexandra461319145753+458
18Halifax Town461414185459−555
19Hereford United461412204159−1854
20Stockport County461215194458−1451
22Exeter City461113225368−1546
23Carlisle United46128265786−2944
24Newport County (R)46673335105−7025

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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