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The 1985-86 season was the 106th season of competitive football in Englandmarker.


First Division

The championship crown went to Liverpool for the 16th time in their history at the end of their first season under the management of Kenny Dalglish, but they had to fight off some very stiff competition to get the big prize. Neighbours Everton came second, having been first for nearly the entire campaign and looked favourites to win a second successive title, however a monumental finish from Liverpool which saw them win 8 out of their last 9 games, to eventually win the title, while West Ham United came third and Manchester United finished in fourth place. Ron Atkinson's United side had looked set for title glory after winning their first 10 games of the season, but a slump in form during the second half of the season ruined their title hopes.

Going down from the First Division were Ipswich Town, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion. Ipswich, who had been league runners-up and UEFA Cup winners just a few seasons earlier, had never been the same since the departure of Bobby Robson for the England job in 1982 and had gradually faded away under his successor Bobby Ferguson. Birmingham had only won promotion the year before, but had struggled on their comeback to the First Division and relegation had looked certain throughout the season, though the Blues did accrue 16 points from their first 9 matches. Albion had suffered badly since manager Ron Atkinson had moved to Manchester United and taken key players Bryan Robson and Remi Moses with him, and their luck finally ran out as they ended the 1985-86 season bottom of the First Division with just four wins from 42 league games. Despite only winning four matches all season, the Albion still managed to do the 'double' over local rivals Birmingham. Very much the highlight of Albion fans' season.

George Graham, who had played in Arsenal's 1970-71 Double-winning side, returned to the club as their new manager after Don Howe had resigned. By the time Graham returned to Arsenal, the club had gone 15 years without a league title and seven years without a major trophy. Graham's task was to bring some success to the Gunners who had been increasingly eclipsed by rivals Tottenham Hotspur during the 1980s.

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.

Second Division

League Cup holders Norwich City were most people's favourites for an instant return to the First Division, and Ken Brown's men proved the observers correct by gaining promotion. But the two other promotion places went to two of the least fancied sides. Charlton, managed by Lennie Lawrence, had narrowly escaped closure three years earlier and just after the start of the 1985-86 had been forced to ground-share with Crystal Palace because their own stadium was condemned by safety officials. But Lawrence and his players made a huge effort to push for promotion and they succeeded. The third and final promotion place went to Dave Bassett's Wimbledon, who were only in their ninth season as a league club.

Carlisle United, whose fortunes had slumped dramatically since their one-year stay in the top flight during the 1970s, were relegated to the Third Division having been in the upper half of the league for well over a decade. Harry Gregg, the former Manchester United goalkeeper who helped rescue passengers at the Munich air disastermarker, was appointed Carlisle's manager at the end of the season. Following them down were Fulham and financially-troubled Middlesbrough.

Third Division

The Third Division promotion places in 1985-86 went to Reading, Plymouth Argyle and Derby County - the beginning of the return to the top for the Rams under Arthur Cox.

The relegation places went to Lincoln City, Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Swansea City. Just a few seasons earlier, Wolves and Swansea had been enjoying good fortunes in the First Division - Wolves as League Cup winners in 1980 and Swansea as sixth-placed in the First Division. But financial problems had caught up with both clubs and pushed them into a downward spiral. Wolves nevertheless would be the last English League winner to fall into the fourth tier since then.

Fourth Division

Swindon Town, Chester City, Mansfield Town and Port Vale occupied the Fourth Division promotion places in 1985-86. Credit to Swindon manager Lou Macari for beginning the reversal of decline for a club who had been League Cup winners in 1969. And to Harry McNally for guiding Chester to only the second promotion in their 55-year league career.

In the Fourth Division for the first time were two of Englandmarker's oldest and most famous clubs - Burnley and Preston North End. 1985-86 was the last season of re-election before the introduction of automatic relegation from the Fourth Division. Preston finished second from bottom, just above Torquay United, and only avoided losing their league status because the league's other members voted for them in favour of Gola League champions Enfield. Burnley's fortunes were not quite so bad, but a mid-table finish wasn't anywhere near good enough for promotion. Another Fourth Division struggling side, Tranmere Rovers, almost went out of business during the season but were saved at the eleventh hour by a new chairman.

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 - managed by former Oxford boss Jim Smith - in the League Cup final.

Star players

  • Everton's new signing Gary Lineker scored more than 30 competitive goals for his team as they pursued the domestic honours all season long before being beaten to both the league title and FA Cup by neighbours Liverpool. Lineker was voted Player of the Year by both the PFA and FWA.
  • West Ham's club record third-place finish was mainly down to the prolific goalscoring of young striker Tony Cottee who was credited with the PFA Young Player of the Year award for his strong performances.
  • Liverpool's double glory was achieved thanks to the efforts of their whole playing squad, but the driving force in their triumph was undoubtedly striker Ian Rush who had yet another great season.
  • Manchester United's ever-improving striker Mark Hughes had another brilliant season but was unable to halt his side's late-season slump, which cost them the league title.
  • Northern Irelandmarker goalkeeper Pat Jennings hung up his gloves at the age of 41 to draw the curtain on a 25-year career which had seen him turn out for Watford, Tottenham and Arsenal. He famously scored for Tottenham against Manchester United with a goal-line clearance in the 1967 Charity Shield.

Star managers

  • Liverpool's Kenny Dalglish kicked off his management career with the league championship and FA Cup double.
  • Maurice Evans began his career as Oxford manager by winning them the League Cup in their first season as a top division club.
  • Howard Kendall inspired Everton to another strong season but they were unable to beat neighbours Liverpool to the coveted double.
  • John Lyall built a stylish West Ham side which came close to winning the club's first-ever league championship trophy but still did well to finish a club record third in the final table.
  • Dave Bassett continued to make the most of Wimbledon's limited resources by guiding his unfancied side to promotion to the First Division at the end of only their ninth season as a league club.
  • Lennie Lawrence took Charlton Athletic back in the First Division after an exile of nearly 30 years.
  • Ken Brown guided Norwich City to the Second Division title in order to restore their top flight status at the first time of asking.
  • Ian Branfoot guided Reading to their second promotion in three seasons after they won the Third Division title.
  • Lou Macari's Swindon Town were Fourth Division champions and the first Football League team to record 100 points in a league season.
  • Harry McNally took Chester City to their second promotion in 55 years of Football League membership by guiding them to runners-up spot in the Fourth Division in his first season in charge.

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 Parkmarker in the Second Division soon after joining the club from non-league Greenwich Boroughmarker. [247590]

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 Highburymarker. [247591]

23 November 1985 - Martin Keown, 19-year-old defender, makes his debut for Arsenal in goalless draw with West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthornsmarker. [247592]

National team

England reached the 1986 FIFA World Cup quarter finals where they lost 2-1 to eventual winners Argentina, whose first goal by Diego Maradona was allowed despite being an obvious handball. Maradona later referred to his controversial goal as "The Hand of God".


Terry Venables signed two British strikers for FC Barcelona - Mark Hughes from Manchester United and Gary Lineker from Everton - in hope of lifting some of the pressure building up on him after Barcelona's European Cup final defeat.

Diary of the season

1 July 1985 - Gordon Cowans, long-serving Aston Villa midfielder, leaves the club to join Barimarker of Italymarker 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.

2 August 1985 - Crystal Palace sign 21-year-old striker Ian Wright from Isthmian League side Greenwich Borough.

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.

15 August 1985 - Leicester City use £125,000 of the windfall from Gary Lineker's transfer to sign 20-year-old Motherwell and Scotland midfielder Gary McAllister, while West Ham United bolster their midfield with a £125,000 move for 22-year-old Oldham Athletic midfielder Mark Ward.

17 August 1985 - The Football League season kicks off with some significant results. Oxford United begin their First Division life with a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion, while resurgent sides Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday battle it out for the same scoreline at Hillsboroughmarker.

27 August 1985: Aston Villa pay £450,000 for Nottingham Forest midfielder Steve Hodge.

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 occupy the next two highest places under their respective new managers John Hollins and Willie McFaul. [247593] In the Second Division, Portsmouth head the promotion race, joined in the top three by Blackburn Roversmarker and Oldham Athletic. Pre-season promotion favourites Sunderland prop up the table with defeats from all of their five opening games, while Leeds United (another side tipped for promotion this season) occupy 20th place with two draws and three defeats so far.

10 September 1985 - Jock Stein collapses and dies from a heart attack at the end of the Scotland team's 1-1 draw with Wales that secures their place in the World Cup qualifying play-off against Australia. On the same day the battle against football hooliganism is hit with a blow when a magistrates' sitting in Manchestermarker gives Manchester United permission to sell alcohol at 19 outlets at Old Traffordmarker.

11 September 1985 - England's World Cup qualification is confirmed with a 1-1 draw against Romania at Wembleymarker.

12 September 1985 - Liverpool pay Aston Villa £375,000 for winger Steve McMahon.

28 September 1985 - Charlton Athletic depart from their Valleymarker stadium following a damning inspection report by safety officials, and begin a groundshare with Crystal Palace. It is not yet known whether the groundshare will be a permanent arrangement or just a temporary measure until Charlton Athletic rebuild The Valley or relocate to a new site.

30 September 1985 - September ends with Manchester United still top of the First Division with a 100% record after 10 games. Pre-season favourites Liverpool and Everton are also in contention, as are surprise contenders Chelsea and Newcastle United. [247594] 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 have made a significant improvement this month, hinting that there is still time for promotion that most observers had tipped them for following the high profile appointment of manager Lawrie McMenemy, but they still stand 20th in the division with eight points. [247595]

1 October 1985 - Manchester United, still with a 100% record in the First Division, enter October with a 10-point lead in the league.

11 October 1985 - Leeds United (14th in the Second Division [247596]) sack manager Eddie Gray and replace him with another former player - Billy Bremner, from Doncaster Rovers.

16 October 1985 - England beat Turkey 5-0 in their penultimate World Cup qualifier in Istanbulmarker.

19 October 1985 - England goalkeeper Peter Shilton endures one of the most miserable games of his career when he concedes seven goals for Southampton in their 7-0 First Division defeat at the hands of Luton Town.

25 October 1985 - Liverpool sign 21-year-old Wrexham goalkeeper Mike Hooper for £40,000.

31 October 1985: Manchester United are still top of the First Division as October ends, with 12 wins and 2 draws from their opening 14 games, and a 10-point lead over their nearest rivals Liverpool. [247597] 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. Wimbledon, in only their ninth season as a Football League team and their second in this division, are emerging as surprise contenders for promotion. [247598]

8 November 1985 - Kevin Whitton, a Chelsea supporter, is sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of some of the most serious incidents of football hooliganism ever witnessed in Englandmarker, including the violent assault of a police officer. On the transfer side of football, Everton sign promising 21-year-old defender Neil Pointon from Scunthorpe United for £75,000.

13 November 1985 - England complete their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 0-0 draw with Northern Ireland at Wembley.

23 November 1985 - Frank McAvennie continues his prolific goalscoring run for West Ham United, who are looking like surprise contenders for their first ever league title. McAvennie, 24, is the top scorer in the Football League having scored 17 times so far this season.

29 November 1985 - Manchester United sign Aston Villa defensive midfielder Colin Gibson for £275,000.

30 November 1985 - November ends with Manchester United's lead cut from 10 points to two, with Liverpool still their nearest contenders, while third place is occupied by a West Ham United side which are in the hunt for their first-ever top division title. [247599] 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. Sunderland continue to recover as they now occupy 12th place. [247600]

20 December 1985 - Swansea City, struggling in the Third Division just four years after finishing sixth in the First Division, go into receivership with huge debts and appear to be in real danger of closing down and being forced out of the Football League.

28 December 1985 - Chelsea are starting to look like surprise title contenders after they move into third place in the First Division.

31 December 1985 - Manchester United finish 1985 still top of the league, with their lead increased from two points to four over the last month, with Liverpool still in second place. [247601] Norwich City are the Second Division leaders, with Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic completing the top three. Wimbledon, Barnsley and Crystal Palace are giving the top three a serious run for their money. [247602]

4 January 1986 - One of Manchester United's main shareholders, rock star Phil Lynott, dies in a Salisburymarker hospital at the age of 36 after suffering multiple organ failure resulting from alcoholism and drug abuse.

9 January 1986 - Luton Town sign striker Mike Newell from Wigan Athletic for £100,000.

14 January 1986 - Bankrupt Swansea City are given a 28-day stay of execution. Birmingham are humbled 2-1 by non-league Altrinchammarker in the F.A Cup 3rd round at home, despite taking a first half lead.

18 January 1986 - League action for the month finishes in the First Division as teams concentrate on FA Cup ties. Manchester United are still top, though now by just a two-point margin above Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea, who are bracketed together on 53 points. [247603] In the Second Division, Norwich City have built up a five-point lead over second placed Portsmouth, with Wimbledon completing the top three. Charlton Athletic are the closest threat for the promotion race leaders, with Brighton and Hull City emerging as surprise promotion contenders. Blackburn Rovers, meanwhile, have fallen to 11th place in the table after a dismal run of results.

1 February 1986 - Manchester United fall off the top of the First Division for the first time this season and their place is taken by Everton. Meanwhile, Second Division leaders Norwich City sell winger Louie Donowa to Deportivo La Coruna for £400,000.

9 February 1986 - 22 people, including a 12-year-old boy, are injured at the Liverpool-Manchester United game after hooligans sprayed a noxious substance at spectators on their way into the stadium.

28 February 1986 - Everton finish February as league leaders, ending Manchester United's lengthy dominance, while Luton Town are surprisingly putting pressure on the top five and Aston Villa (just four years after winning the European Cup and five years after being league champions) have slipping into the relegation zone. [247604] Norwich City, Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic head the Second Division promotion race. [247605]

9 March 1986 - Manchester United's hopes of retaining the FA Cup are ended with a 2-0 defeat against West Ham United in the fifth round replay at Old Traffordmarker three weeks after they drew the first game 1-1 at Upton Parkmarker.

22 March 1986 - Don Howe resigns as manager of Arsenal after reports that Terry Venables was about to take his job. Long-serving coach Steve Burtenshaw takes charge of first-team affairs until the end of the season.Birmingham City beat rivals Aston Villa 3-0 at Villa Park in a heated relegation battle. Wayne Clarke bags a brace.

29 March 1986 - Two of the surprise title-contenders Chelsea and West Ham meet at Stamford Bridgemarker. West Ham destroy Chelsea 4-0 to get themselves right back in the title race. This effectively ends Chelsea's hopes as they suffer their second heavy defeat in a matter of days over the Easter period.Manchester United's title assault is put in further jeopardy, drawing 1-1 with Birmingham City at St Andrew's. Bryan Robson scoring a late equaliser to salvage a point.

31 March 1986 - March ends with Liverpool leading the table on goal difference over an Everton side who have a game in hand, while a Manchester United side which not so long ago looked all set for title glory are now five points off the top in third place. Meanwhile, it is still looking like a relegation treble for the West Midlands as Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion occupy the bottom three places. [247606] 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. Charlton Athletic are still a very real threat to the top three, while the challenge from the likes of Brighton, Hull City and Crystal Palace is diminishing. [247607]

5 April 1986 - Liverpool beat Southampton 2-0 in the FA Cup semi-final at White Hart Lanemarker to keep their double hopes alive, and end Southampton's hopes of gaining silverware in the first season under Chris Nicholl's management. On the same day, Everton keep their own double bid on track with a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday (trophyless for 50 years) in the other semi-final at Villa Parkmarker.

12 April 1986 - West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City are relegated from the First Division as the first of possibly four victims of a rapid decline in midlands football which has accelerated in the last five years. Albion were UEFA Cup participants just four seasons ago, and their manager Ron Saunders was ironically recruited from Birmingham just three months ago.

20 April 1986 - Oxford United beat Queens Park Rangers 3-0 in the League Cup Final, to win their first major piece of silverware.

26 April 1986 - Wolverhampton Wanderers become the third midlands club to be relegated this season, but become only the second English club ever to suffer three successive relegations after their descent into the Fourth Division is confirmed. The debt-ridden club were one of Europe's top clubs during the 1950s, winning the league three times, and were highly successful as recently as the start of this decade, having won the Football League Cup in 1980.

30 April 1986 - April finishes with Liverpool as leaders and with only second placed Everton still in contention for the title. Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion, on the other hand, have had their inevitable relegation confirmed during the month. Their close rivals Aston Villa, however, are almost certain of survival after a good run of form, while Ipswich Town, Coventry City, Leicester City and Oxford United are also in the relegation battle. [247608] 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, who had looked set for promotion earlier in the season, now stand 19th and are only above the relegation zone on goal difference. [247609]

3 May 1986 - Liverpool are confirmed champions of the First Division, while the final relegation place will be occupied by either Oxford United or Ipswich Town. On the same day, Charlton Athletic seal promotion from the Second Division with a 3-2 win at relegation-threatened Carlisle United, who could still beat the drop thanks to a recent turnaround in form which saw their survival chances revived after looking almost completely dead.

4 May 1986 - Oxford United, in their first season as a top division club and only their 24th as Football League members, win their final game of the First Division campaign to relegate an Ipswich Town side that were league runners-up four years ago and UEFA Cup winners five years ago.

4 May 1986 - Wimbledon seal promotion to the First Division just nine years after being elected to the Football League.

10 May 1986 - Liverpool beat Everton 3-1 in the first-ever all-Merseyside FA Cup final. This success means that Liverpool are only the fifth club in history to win the league championship and FA Cup double, making a dream debut in management for their 35-year-old player-manager Kenny Dalglish.

20 May 1986 - Controversial plans are unveiled for Chelsea's Stamford Bridgemarker stadium to be sold and redeveloped for housing, and for the team to ground-share with Fulham at Craven Cottagemarker.

3 June 1986 - England lose 1-0 to Portugal in their opening World Cup game.

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.

9 June 1986 - Martin Keown, 20-year-old defender, joins Aston Villa from Arsenal for £200,000.

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.

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.


Competition Winner Runner-up
First Division Liverpool Everton
Second Division Norwich City Charlton Athletic
Third Division Reading Plymouth Argyle
Fourth Division Swindon Town Chester City
FA Cup Liverpool Everton
League Cup Oxford United Queens Park Rangers
Charity Shield Everton Manchester United

League tables



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