1990–91 in English football
The 1990–91 season was the 111th season of competitive football in England.
At the bottom of the table, Derby County went down in last place with just five wins all season despite the 17 league goals of Welsh striker Dean Saunders, who was then sold to Liverpool. The other relegation place went to Sunderland.
Joe Royle's Oldham Athletic side won the Second Division championship ahead of West Ham United, who were promoted as runners-up. Joining them in promotion were League Cup winners Sheffield Wednesday, who finished in third place. Neil Warnock guided Notts County to a second successive victory in the promotion play-offs.
Champions Cambridge United, runners-up Southend United and third-placed Grimsby Town occupied the automatic promotion places and all achieved second successive promotions. The fourth promotion place went to play-off winners Tranmere Rovers.
Brian Little's Darlington won the Fourth Division championship to earn a second successive promotion, while the other four promotion places went to Stockport County, Hartlepool United, Peterborough United and Torquay United. Torquay were the play-off winners, beating Blackpool in a penalty shoot-out in the final.
Wrexham finished bottom of the league, but avoided relegation into the Conference.
Tottenham Hotspur beat Nottingham Forest 2–1 after extra time in the FA Cup final. The decisive goal was an own goal by Forest defender Des Walker. Tottenham's triumph was overshadowed by a knee injury to star midfielder Paul Gascoigne in the opening 15 minutes.
Diary of the season
1 August 1990 – The Football League confirms that it will revert to a 22-club First Division for the 1991–92 season, while total league membership will be increased to 94 clubs for the 1992–93 season, with the Second, Third and Fourth Divisions each having 24 clubs.
7 August 1990 – Aldershot are saved from closure by a £200,000 rescue package put together by 19-year-old property developer Spencer Trethewy.
18 August 1990 – Liverpool and Manchester United share the Charity Shield after a 1–1 draw at Wembley.
23 August 1990 – Oldham Athletic pay a club record £460,000 for Nottingham Forest striker David Currie. Leeds United are warned that they face expulsion from the Football League if measures aimed by the Football Association at curbing incidents of hooliganism involving the clubs fans fail.
25 August 1990 – Liverpool begin the new First Division season with a 3–1 away win against recently promoted Sheffield United. Walsall move into their new Bescot Stadium and draw 2–2 with Torquay United in the Fourth Division in their first competitive game at the new stadium.
26 September 1990 – Paul Gascoigne scores four goals for Tottenham in their 5–0 win over Hartlepool United (managed by former Tottenham defender Cyril Knowles) in the League Cup second round first leg at White Hart Lane.
30 September 1990 – Liverpool, with a 100% record after seven games, are First Division leaders by six points at the end of September. The bottom two places are occupied by Sheffield United and Derby County, who have both yet to win a league game this season. In the Second Division, Oldham Athletic lead the way with 20 points from their opening eight games. The other two automatic promotion places are occupied by Sheffield Wednesday and Notts County, and the playoff zone is occupied by West Ham United, Bristol City (in contention for a second successive promotion), Swindon Town and Brighton.
20 October 1990 – 21 of the 22 players on the pitch brawl in Arsenal's 1–0 league win over Manchester United at Old Trafford. In their ninth league game of the season, Liverpool drop points for the first time when Norwich City hold them to a 1–1 draw at Carrow Road.
31 October 1990 – Everton sack manager Colin Harvey after their worst start to a league season leaves them third from bottom in the First Division. Below them are Derby County and winless Sheffield United, while Liverpool remain top with nine wins from their opening 10 games. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace are their nearest contenders, and the top four are all still undefeated in the league. The Second Division promotion race is heating up, with Oldham Athletic still top of the table and West Ham United having crept up to second place. Sheffield Wednesday occupy the third and final automatic promotion place. Millwall, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Barnsley and Middlesbrough have all climbed into the relegation zone this month. Charlton Athletic's hopes of an immediate return to the First Division appear to be over as they occupy second from bottom place in the Second Division with eight defeats from their opening 13 games.
1 November 1990 – Spencer Trethewy is dismissed from the Aldershot board of directors just three months after saving the club from closure, after it is revealed that he was unable to pay back the £200,000 he borrowed to keep the Hampshire based club afloat.
12 November 1990 – Arsenal are deducted two points and Manchester United lose one point as punishment for last month's player brawl.
30 November 1990 – Liverpool remain unbeaten and top of the First Division as November draws to a close, four points ahead of an Arsenal side who are also unbeaten. Sheffield United are still looking for their first league win of the season after 14 games, while Derby County have climbed out of the relegation zone at the expense of Queens Park Rangers. In the Second Division, West Ham United have taken over from Oldham Athletic as Second Division leaders, while Sheffield Wednesday occupy third place. The playoff zone is occupied by Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Millwall and Notts County. Newly promoted Bristol Rovers stand just two points outside the playoff zone in 10th place, sparking hopes that manager Gerry Francis could soon deliver First Division football to the club for the first time ever.
2 December 1990 – Arsenal end Liverpool's unbeaten League run by beating them 3–0 at Highbury.
4 December 1990 – Luton Town win the Soccer Six at the G-Mex Centre, beating Liverpool 4–0 in the final.
22 December 1990 – Sheffield United beat Nottingham Forest to win their first First Division game of the season at the seventeenth attempt, but remain bottom of the table.
31 December 1990 – The year ends with Arsenal, still unbeaten but having had two points deducted, one point behind of Liverpool at the top of the First Division. Crystal Palace and Leeds United occupy third and fourth respectively, while Sheffield United remain bottom of the table and Sunderland have slipped into the bottom two. West Ham United stand top of the Second Division, followed in second place by Oldham Athletic and in third place by Sheffield Wednesday. Middlesbrough, Notts County, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bristol City occupy the playoff zone. Newcastle United, who began the season among the favourites for promotion, occupy a lowly 16th place and are just four points above the relegation zone that threatens them with Third Division football for the first time.
10 January 1991 – Viv Anderson joins Second Division promotion chasers Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer from Manchester United.
17 January 1991 – Sheffield United pay a club record £450,000 for Crystal Palace midfielder Glyn Hodges.
27 January 1991 – Woking's FA Cup dream comes to an end in the fourth round when they lose 1–0 to Everton at Goodison Park.
29 January 1991 – David Pleat is sacked after three years as manager of Leicester City, the Second Division strugglers. His assistant Gordon Lee, the former Everton manager, is placed in temporary charge.
31 January 1991 – Arsenal are one point ahead of Liverpool, who have a game in hand, at the top of the First Division. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace are still in contention for a first-ever league title, six points off the top, while Sheffield United remain bottom. West Ham United, Oldham Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday continue to occupy the top three places in the Second Division. Notts County, Middlesbrough, Brighton and Millwall occupy the playoff zone.
2 February 1991 – Arsenal suffer their first league defeat of the season in their 24th game, going down 2–1 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
28 February 1991 – February draws to a close with Arsenal now ahead of Liverpool at the top of the First Division on goal difference, while Crystal Palace are five points behind. At the other end of the table, a splendid run of form has moved Sheffield United six points clear of bottom-placed Derby County. The Blades are level on goal difference with Coventry City, Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers. West Ham United, Oldham Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday continue to lead the way in the Second Division. Middlesbrough, Notts County, Brighton and Millwall occupy the playoff zone, with Bristol City continuing to turn up the heat on them in their bid for a second successive promotion.
3 March 1991 – Arsenal move three points clear at the top of the First Division by beating Liverpool 1–0 at Anfield thanks to a goal by Paul Merson.
20 March 1991 – Swindon Town sell defender Paul Bodin to Crystal Palace for £550,000.
23 March 1991 – Liverpool beat Derby County 7–1 at the Baseball Ground. It is the first time an away team has scored as many as seven goals in a First Division match since 1963.
28 March 1991 – The 90-day inquest into the Hillsborough disaster records a verdict of accidental death on the 95 Liverpool fans who died as a result of their injuries at the FA Cup semi-final on 15 April 1989.
30 March 1991 – Manchester United centre-back Steve Bruce scores twice in a 3–0 away league win over his old club Norwich City, becoming the first defender to score ten league goals this season.
31 March 1991 – March draws to a close with Arsenal leading Liverpool by two points. Sheffield United's incredible revival has continued as they now stand 12th in the table, but Derby County are twelve points adrift of safety, and Sunderland occupy the other relegation place. Oldham Athletic and West Ham United lead the Second Division level on 70 points, with Brighton, Middlesbrough, Millwall and Bristol City occupying the playoff zone. Ossie Ardiles becomes manager of Newcastle United, who are just six points outside the playoff zone with two games in hand.
7 April 1991 – Crystal Palace win the Full Members Cup after a 4-1 victory over Everton in the Wembley final.
14 April 1991 – Tottenham Hotspur end Arsenal's hopes of the double and boost their own hopes of an eighth FA Cup triumph with a 3–1 win in the first FA Cup semi-final to be played at Wembley. Nottingham Forest win the other semi-final, crushing West Ham United 4–0 at Villa Park.
20 April 1991 – Nottingham Forest record the biggest First Division win of the season by beating Chelsea 7–0 at the City Ground. Derby County lose to Manchester City and are relegated.
21 April 1991 – Sheffield Wednesday, chasing promotion to the First Division, achieve a 1–0 win over Manchester United in the League Cup final to end a 56-year trophy drought.
30 April 1991 – April draws to a close with Arsenal three points ahead of Liverpool with three matches left, while Crystal Palace's title dreams have ended. Sunderland, Luton Town and last season's runners-up Aston Villa still fighting to avoid relegation alongside Derby County.
6 May 1991 – Liverpool are beaten 2–1 by Nottingham Forest, handing the title to Arsenal, who beat Manchester United 3–1. Alan Smith scores a hat-trick.
11 May 1991 – Sunderland are relegated to the Second Division as they lose to Manchester City and Luton Town beat Derby County 2–0. It is the second season running that Luton have survived on the last day of the season with victory over Derby. Arsenal end their championship campaign with a 6–1 demolition of Coventry City at Highbury, with Anders Limpar scoring a hat-trick.
The Second Division campaign ended with Oldham Athletic, already promoted to the First Division for the first time since 1923, crowned as champions thanks to an injury-time final-day Neil Redfearn penalty earning them a 3-2 comeback victory over Sheffield Wednesday. West Ham United, last day losers to 4th-place Notts County, had to settle for second. Sheffield Wednesday took the third automatic promotion spot. Hull City's relegation was confirmed 2 weeks ago, while West Bromwich Albion are relegated alongside them to fall into the Third Division for the first time in their history.
18 May 1991 – Tottenham Hotspur win the FA Cup for the eighth time, beating Nottingham Forest 2–1 after extra time in the final. Paul Gascoigne suffers cruciate knee ligament damage, causing his proposed £8.5million move to Lazio to be put on hold.
2 June 1991 – Notts County beat Brighton & Hove Albion 3–1 in the Second Division play-off final to earn a return to the First Division.
Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition
|12||Queens Park Rangers||38||12||10||16||44||53||–9||46|
|20||Derby County (R)||38||5||9||24||37||75||–38||24|
Note: Arsenal deducted two points for on-field brawl and Manchester United deducted one point also for on-field brawl in a league match between the two teams at Old Trafford on 20 October 1990.
|1||Oldham Athletic (C, P)||46||25||13||8||83||53||+30||88|
|2||West Ham United (P)||46||24||15||7||60||34||+26||87|
|3||Sheffield Wednesday (P)||46||22||16||8||80||51||+29||82|
|4||Notts County (P)||46||23||11||12||76||55||+21||80|
|6||Brighton & Hove Albion||46||21||7||18||63||69||–6||70|
|23||West Bromwich Albion (R)||46||10||18||18||52||61||–9||48|
|24||Hull City (R)||46||10||15||21||57||85||–28||45|
|1||Cambridge United (C, P)||46||25||11||10||75||45||+25||86|
|2||Southend United (P)||46||26||7||13||67||51||+16||85|
|3||Grimsby Town (P)||46||24||11||11||66||34||+32||83|
|5||Tranmere Rovers (P)||46||23||9||14||64||46||+18||78|
|17||Preston North End||46||15||11||20||54||67||–13||56|
|22||Crewe Alexandra (R)||46||11||11||24||62||80||–18||44|
|23||Rotherham United (R)||46||10||12||24||50||87||–37||42|
|24||Mansfield Town (R)||46||8||14||24||42||63||–21||38|
|1||Darlington (C, P)||46||22||17||7||68||38||+30||83|
|2||Stockport County (P)||46||23||13||10||84||47||+37||82|
|3||Hartlepool United (P)||46||24||10||12||67||48||+19||82|
|4||Peterborough United (P)||46||21||17||8||67||45||+22||80|
|7||Torquay United (P)||46||18||18||10||64||47||+17||72|
- Tommy Hutchison, 43-year-old midfielder with one of the highest appearance records of any player in English football, played his final game for Swansea City on 12 March 1991 against Southend United in the Third Division.
- Jim Beglin, 27-year-old Leeds United and Republic of Ireland left-back formerly with Liverpool, retires after failing to overcome a long-term knee injury.
- Alan Hansen, 35-year-old Liverpool captain and former Scotland international, retires after a year out of action with injury.
- Norman Whiteside, 26-year-old Everton and Northern Ireland attacking midfielder, formerly of Manchester United, retires due to a knee injury.
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