1990–91 in English football

The 1990–91 season was the 111th season of competitive football in England.


First Division

Arsenal won the First Division after losing just one of their league matches all season. Liverpool finished runners-up. Third place went to Crystal Palace.

Newly promoted Leeds United had a good season back in the First Division as they finished fourth, and also reached the semi-finals of the League Cup.

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.

Second Division

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.

Hull City and West Bromwich Albion were relegated.

Third Division

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.

Going down to the Fourth Division were Crewe Alexandra, Rotherham United and Mansfield Town.

Fourth Division

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.

FA Cup

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.

League Cup

Sheffield Wednesday earned a shock 1–0 victory over their manager Ron Atkinson's old club Manchester United in the final thanks to a goal from John Sheridan.

Top goalscorers

First Division

Second Division

Third Division

Fourth Division

Diary of the season

20 July 1990 – Manchester City pay a club record £1 million for Watford goalkeeper Tony Coton.[2]

31 July 1990 – Aldershot are wound up in the High Court.

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.[3]

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.[4]

25 August 1990 – Liverpool begin the new First Division season with a 3–1 away win against recently promoted Sheffield United.[5] 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.

31 August 1990 – The first month of the English league season ends with Arsenal and Liverpool sharing the lead in the First Division after two games.[5] The Second Division leaders are Oldham Athletic.[6]

1 September 1990 – Newly promoted First Division side Sunderland achieve a shock 2–1 league win over FA Cup holders Manchester United at Roker Park.[5]

12 September 1990 – England beat Hungary 1–0 in a friendly at Wembley, the first game under Graham Taylor's management.

16 September 1990 – Peter Beardsley scores a hat-trick for Liverpool in their 4–0 league win over Manchester United at Anfield.[7]

25 September 1990 – Ian Wright and Mark Bright both score hat-tricks for Crystal Palace in their 8–0 home win over Southend United in the League Cup second round first leg at Selhurst Park.[8]

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.[9]

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.[5] 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.[10]

5 October 1990 – Peter Taylor, former managerial partner of Brian Clough, dies in the Canary Islands aged 62 after a long illness.

6 October 1990 – In the biggest Second Division win of the season, West Ham United beat Hull City 7–1 at Upton Park.[11]

12 October 1990 – West Ham United strengthen their promotion bid with a £600,000 move for Luton Town defender Tim Breacker.[12]

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.[13] 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.[5]

27 October 1990 – The Manchester derby at Maine Road ends in a 3–3 draw between City and United.[5]

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.[5] 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.[14]

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.[3]

7 November 1990 – Howard Kendall leaves Manchester City to begin his second spell as Everton manager.[15] 34-year-old midfielder Peter Reid is put in temporary charge of Manchester City.

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.[5] 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.[16]

2 December 1990 – Arsenal end Liverpool's unbeaten League run by beating them 3–0 at Highbury.[5]

4 December 1990 – Luton Town win the Soccer Six at the G-Mex Centre, beating Liverpool 4–0 in the final.[17]

13 December 1990 – Southampton pay £1million for a player for the first time in their history by signing midfielder Alan McLoughlin from Swindon Town.[18]

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.[5]

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.[5] 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.[19]

10 January 1991 – Viv Anderson joins Second Division promotion chasers Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer from Manchester United.[20]

17 January 1991 – Sheffield United pay a club record £450,000 for Crystal Palace midfielder Glyn Hodges.[12]

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.[21] His assistant Gordon Lee, the former Everton manager, is placed in temporary charge.[22]

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.[5] 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.[23]

1 February 1991 – Paul Birch leaves Aston Villa after 10 years to join Wolverhampton Wanderers for £400,000.[18]

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.[5]

12 February 1991 – Aston Villa sign defender Neil Cox from Scunthorpe United for £400,000, a record fee for a Fourth Division player.[24]

20 February 1991 – Sheffield Wednesday]sign 19-year-old striker Gordon Watson from Charlton Athletic for £250,000.[24]

22 February 1991 – Kenny Dalglish announces his resignation as Liverpool manager. Long-serving coach Ronnie Moran is appointed caretaker manager.

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.[5] 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.[25]

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.[26]

20 March 1991 – Swindon Town sell defender Paul Bodin to Crystal Palace for £550,000.[18]

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.[5]

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.[27]

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.[28]

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.[5] 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.[29]

1 April 1991 – Liverpool's hopes of retaining their league title are damaged by a 1–0 away defeat to Southampton.[5]

7 April 1991 – Crystal Palace win the Full Members Cup after a 4-1 victory over Everton in the Wembley final.[30]

13 April 1991 – Liverpool's title challenge is kept alive with a thrilling 5–4 away win over Leeds United, but the Reds are five points behind Arsenal with five games left.[5][31]

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.

16 April 1991 – Graeme Souness is named as Liverpool's new manager, departing from Rangers, where he is succeeded by Walter Smith.

20 April 1991 – Nottingham Forest record the biggest First Division win of the season by beating Chelsea 7–0 at the City Ground.[32] Derby County lose to Manchester City and are relegated.[5]

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.[5]

1 May 1991 – England beat Turkey 1–0 in Izmir in their fourth European Championship qualifying game.

4 May 1991 – Arsenal edge closer to the title by drawing 0–0 with Sunderland, while Liverpool are beaten 4–2 by Chelsea.[5]

6 May 1991 – Liverpool are beaten 2–1 by Nottingham Forest, handing the title to Arsenal,[5] who beat Manchester United 3–1. Alan Smith scores a hat-trick.[33]

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.[5] Arsenal end their championship campaign with a 6–1 demolition of Coventry City at Highbury, with Anders Limpar scoring a hat-trick.[33]

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.[34]

15 May 1991 – Manchester United mark the return to European football by English clubs with a 2–1 win over Barcelona in the European Cup Winners' Cup final in Rotterdam. Mark Hughes scores both goals.

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.[35]

30 May 1991 – Brian Little, whose Darlington side have just secured their second successive promotion and won the Fourth Division title, is appointed as Leicester City's new manager.[36]

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.

6 June 1991 – David Pleat is appointed Luton Town manager for the second time.[21]

27 June 1991 – Former Oldham Athletic goalkeeper Andy Goram becomes Scotland's first £1million goalkeeper after a move from Hibernian to Rangers F.C.|Rangers.[37]


First DivisionArsenal (10)Liverpool
Second DivisionOldham AthleticWest Ham United
Third DivisionCambridge UnitedSouthend United
Fourth DivisionDarlingtonStockport County
FA CupTottenham Hotspur (8*)Nottingham Forest
League CupSheffield Wednesday (1)Manchester United
Charity ShieldLiverpool (13*) & Manchester United (10)

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

Arsenal qualified for the European Cup, Liverpool for the UEFA Cup, and Tottenham Hotspur and holders Manchester United for the European Cup Winners' Cup.

League tables

First Division

1Arsenal (C)38241317418+5683
3Crystal Palace3820995041+969
4Leeds United38197126547+1864
5Manchester City381711106453+1162
6Manchester United381612105845+1359
8Nottingham Forest381412126550+1554
10Tottenham Hotspur381116115150+149
12Queens Park Rangers381210164453–946
13Sheffield United38137183655–1946
15Norwich City38136194164–2145
16Coventry City381111164249–744
17Aston Villa38914154658–1241
18Luton Town38107214261–1937
19Sunderland (R)38810203860–2234
20Derby County (R)3859243775–3824

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.

Second Division

1Oldham Athletic (C, P)46251388353+3088
2West Ham United (P)46241576034+2687
3Sheffield Wednesday (P)46221688051+2982
4Notts County (P)462311127655+2180
6Brighton & Hove Albion46217186369–670
9Bristol City46207196871–367
10Oxford United461419136966+361
11Newcastle United461417154956–759
12Wolverhampton Wanderers461319146363058
13Bristol Rovers461513185659–358
14Ipswich Town461318156068–857
15Port Vale461512195664–857
16Charlton Athletic461317165761–456
18Plymouth Argyle461217175478–2453
19Blackburn Rovers461410225166–1552
21Swindon Town461214206573–850
22Leicester City46148246083–2350
23West Bromwich Albion (R)461018185261–948
24Hull City (R)461015215785–2845

Third Division

1Cambridge United (C, P)462511107545+2586
2Southend United (P)46267136751+1685
3Grimsby Town (P)462411116634+3283
4Bolton Wanderers462411116450+1483
5Tranmere Rovers (P)46239146446+1878
8Bradford City462010166254+870
10Wigan Athletic46209176154+769
11Huddersfield Town461813155751+667
12Birmingham City461617134549–465
13Leyton Orient461810185558–364
14Stoke City461612185559–460
16Exeter City46169215852+657
17Preston North End461511205467–1356
18Shrewsbury Town461410226168–752
19Chester City46149234658–1451
20Swansea City46139244972–2348
22Crewe Alexandra (R)461111246280–1844
23Rotherham United (R)461012245087–3742
24Mansfield Town (R)46814244263–2138

Fourth Division

1Darlington (C, P)46221776838+3083
2Stockport County (P)462313108447+3782
3Hartlepool United (P)462410126748+1982
4Peterborough United (P)46211786745+2280
7Torquay United (P)461818106447+1772
8Scunthorpe United462011157162+971
10Northampton Town461813155758–167
11Doncaster Rovers461714155646+1065
13Cardiff City461515164354–1160
14Lincoln City461417155061–1159
17Hereford United461314195358–553
19Maidstone United461312216671–551
20Carlisle United46139244789–4248
21York City461113224557–1246
22Halifax Town461210245979–2046



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