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This article describes the FA Premier League 1995-96 season.

Promoted teams

Due to the decision to reduce the number of clubs in the Premier League from 22 to 20, only two clubs were promoted this season: Middlesbrough as Football League First Division champions, and Bolton Wanderers who won the 1994-95 playoff.

Transfers

Before the season began, the English transfer record was broken for the third time in 12 months when Liverpool paid £8.4 million for the Nottingham Forest striker Stan Collymore. The record fee for a defender was broken when Newcastle United paid £4million for Wimbledon's Warren Barton. Arsenal paid a club record £7.5 million for Inter Milan's 26-year-old Dutchmarker striker Dennis Bergkamp. Newcastle spent £6 million for 28-year-old Queens Park Rangers striker Les Ferdinand.

English performance in European competition

Blackburn Roversmarker, the 1994-95 Premiership champions, finished bottom of their group in the Champions League. Manchester United were knocked out of the UEFA Cup in the first round, with Liverpool and Leeds United both being knocked out at the second round. Everton were beaten in the second round of the Cup Winners' Cup. The only Englishmarker team still in European competition after Christmas were Nottingham Forest, who reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup.

Manchester United achieve second domestic double

Manchester United and Newcastle United emerged as the primary title contenders for the 1995-96 season. The two sides played on 27 December 1995, with Newcastle 10 points ahead in the league. A 2-0 home win for Manchester United cut the gap to seven points, and two days later they beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 to reduce the gap to just four points. But Manchester United then lost 4-1 at Tottenham on New Year's Day and drew 0-0 with Aston Villa, allowing Newcastle to establish a 12-point lead in January 1996.

Manchester United and Newcastle met again in early March, and a goal by Eric Cantona gave United a 1-0 away win and cut the gap to a single point. With one game left of the season, Manchester United led the Premiership by two points. For Newcastle to win their first title since 1927, they had to win against Tottenham and hope that Middlesbrough beat their Mancunianmarker rivals. But the Premiership title went to Old Traffordmarker as Manchester United won 3-0 and Newcastle could only manage a 1-1 draw with Tottenham. A week later, Manchester United became the first team to complete a second league championship and FA Cup double when a Cantona goal gave them a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.

Relegated teams

The Premiership relegation places went to Bolton, Queens Park Rangers and Manchester City. Bolton had spent a large proportion of their first Premiership season bottom of the table. Manchester City failed to beat Liverpool on the final day of the season consigning them to the final relegation place.

Player and managerial awards



Managerial changes



Final league table

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Notes
1 Manchester United 38 25 7 6 73 35 +38 82 UEFA Champions League 1996–97

Group stage
2 Newcastle United 38 24 6 8 66 37 +29 78 UEFA Cup 1996–97

First round
3 Liverpool 38 20 11 7 70 34 +36 71 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1996–97

First round
1
4 Aston Villa 38 18 9 11 52 35 +17 63 UEFA Cup 1996–97

First round
5 Arsenal 38 17 12 9 49 32 +17 63
6 Everton 38 17 10 11 64 44 +20 61
7 Blackburn Roversmarker 38 18 7 13 61 47 +14 61
8 Tottenham Hotspur 38 16 13 9 50 38 +12 61
9 Nottingham Forest 38 15 13 10 50 54 -4 58
10 West Ham United 38 14 9 15 43 52 -9 51
11 Chelsea 38 12 14 12 46 44 +2 50
12 Middlesbrough 38 11 10 17 35 50 -15 43
13 Leeds United 38 12 7 19 40 57 -17 43
14 Wimbledon 38 10 11 17 55 70 -15 41
15 Sheffield Wednesday 38 10 10 18 48 61 -13 40
16 Coventry City 38 8 14 16 42 60 -18 38
17 Southampton 38 9 11 18 34 52 -18 38
18 Manchester City 38 9 11 18 33 58 -25 38 Relegated to Football League

Division One 1996–97
19 Queens Park Rangers 38 9 6 23 38 57 -19 33
20 Bolton Wanderers 38 8 5 25 39 71 -32 29
Pld = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points

1 Liverpool qualified for the Cup Winners' Cup as FA Cup runners-up, with winners Manchester United going into the Champions League

Season Statistics

Total Goals: 988
Average Goals per game: 2.6


Arsenal

Arsenal began their life under Bruce Rioch's management with a seven-place improvement upon last season's disappointing finish, but were never in the hunt for the title. New signings David Platt and Dennis Bergkamp came to justify their hefty price tags, while the ageing Ian Wright showed no sign of winding down thanks to a regular supply of goals. The legendary "back five" of David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Steve Bould and Tony Adams also showed little sign of their advancing years.

Arsenal blew their best chance of silverware in February after they went out of the Coca-Cola Cup to eventual winners Aston Villa in the semi-finals.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa made huge progress in their first full season under Brian Little's management, finished fourth in the league as well as matching Liverpool's record of five League Cup victories thanks to a 3-0 Wembleymarker win over Leeds United in March.

A new-look Villa side proved itself to be one of the finest in the country thanks to the likes of Gary Charles, Alan Wright, Ian Taylor and Mark Draper. Trinidadianmarker striker Dwight Yorke proved himself as one of the Premiership's most competent goalscorers, though there were some doubts regarding the suitability of Savo Milosevic as the man to replace Dean Saunders.

Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn Roversmarker held on to the bulk of their title winning squad, but had to contend with the loss of Chris Sutton and Graeme Le Saux to injury for much of the season, while Tim Sherwood no longer looked quite like the inspirational captain who had helped Rovers win their first league title for over 80 years. At least Alan Shearer was his usual prolific-scoring self, hitting 31 Premiership goals alone.

Despite these problems, coupled with dismal early season form and an early exit from the Champions' League, Blackburn entered the New Year in a far more determined mood and only narrowly missed out on a UEFA Cup place. But the close season sale of Alan Shearer to Newcastle United - in the world's first £15million transfer - left manager Ray Harford with a big gap to fill. Some of the club's own players even wrote off their side's hopes of regaining the title in the new season.

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers returned to the top flight after a 15-year exile with a new manager in Roy McFarland following Bruce Rioch's move to Arsenal. Bolton made a terrible start to the campaign and McFarland made several moves in the transfer market, but this was not enough to turn things around and he was sacked on New Year's Day with Bolton bottom of the table. His assistant Colin Todd took over, and Bolton's form improved marginally, but they could not stave off relegation. In spite of this, their form under Todd was so improved that such a good run of form all season would have kept them up in 14th place.

Chelsea

Chelsea rarely set the Premiership alight in 1995-96, finishing 11th for the third time in four seasons, but once again they enjoyed a good cup run. This time they reached the FA Cup semi-finals, taking on Manchester United - who had beaten them in the final two years earlier. One of Chelsea's players, Mark Hughes, had actually scored for United in the 1994 final.

Chelsea took an early lead, but lost 2-1 and with it went their hopes of a foray into Europe. A few weeks later, Chelsea were left shocked by manager Glenn Hoddle's decision to quit for the England manager's job. They responded by appointing 33-year-old Dutchmarker superstar Ruud Gullit as player-manager. Gullit wasted no time in preparing Chelsea for another challenge for honours, breaking the club record in a £4.9million move for Italianmarker midfielder Roberto Di Matteo.

Coventry City

Once again, Coventry City defied the odds after a season of struggle. This time they had the determination of manager Ron Atkinson and the regular supply of goals from Dion Dublin to thank for their survival. They hit the headlines in December with a spectacular 5-0 win over defending champions Blackburn, but the defence leaked too many goals for the Sky Blues to progress beyond 16th place in the final table.

Atkinson splashed out more than £15million on new players during the close season, as he looked to build a Coventry side which was capable of matching the high placing of his old club Aston Villa, one of Coventry's deadliest rivals.

Everton

Everton progressed well after last season's FA Cup glory, though their defence of the trophy and their European Cup Winners' Cup campaign were short-lived. They were in the higher reaches of the table for much of the season, but were pipped at the post by Arsenal who claimed the final UEFA Cup place on the final day of the season. Leading goalscorer Andrei Kanchelskis, the club's record signing at £5million, was a key player in this strong showing, while veteran goalkeeper Neville Southall maintained his hard-earned reputation as one of the division's top shot-stoppers.

Leeds United

Leeds began the season in good form, with a Tony Yeboah hat-trick giving them an away win over Monacomarker in their UEFA Cup opener. But their European campaign was short-lived, and with the league title soon looking like an unrealistic target, their best hope of success was in the Coca-Cola Cup. They reached the final to claim their first cup final appearance since the 1975 European Cup final, only to fail miserably and lose 3-0 to Aston Villa.

The Wembley defeat triggered a six-match unbeaten run in the Premiership, and only a 0-0 draw with fellow strugglers Coventry on the final day of the season put their survival beyond all doubt.

Howard Wilkinson then spent a substantial sum on new players in the summer, bringing in goalkeeper Nigel Martyn, striker Ian Rush and winger Lee Sharpe in hope of making Leeds contenders for the league title.

Liverpool

Liverpool suffered a humiliating early exit from the UEFA Cup at the hands of Danishmarker minnows Brondbymarker, but their form on the domestic scene was far more convincing, with Robbie Fowler scoring 28 league goals and with Stan Collymore as strike partner and Steve McManaman as playmaker (leading the league with 25 assists), they seemed the league's most fearsome attacking line up at times. However, the side suffered from defensive weaknesses and this disparity was epitomised in the classic Liverpool and Newcastle game which ended 4-3 in injury time. Liverpool were in with a chance of the title until late April, and reached the FA Cup final where they took on Premiership champions Manchester United. The game was at deadlock for 85 minutes before Liverpool succumbed to a late Eric Cantona goal and ended the season without a trophy.

Consolation for this misery was a place in the Cup Winners' Cup, which was seen as a new and exciting challenge for one of the most promising sides in the Premiership.

Manchester City

When Alan Ball was named as Manchester City manager at the start of the new season, he said that his job was "the envy of millions". But it quickly appeared to be a poisoned chalice, as a City side in the middle of a major transition (with many older players being transferred to make way for the club's promising set of youngsters) failed to win any of their first 12 Premiership games. An improvement in form over the winter suggested that City could beat the drop, and a 2-2 home draw with third-placed Liverpool on the final day of the season looked to have secured their survival. But positive results, and a greater goal difference, for the two sides directly above them - Coventry City and Southampton - condemned the club to relegation after seven years in the top flight.

Manchester United

"You'll never win anything with kids", was TV pundit Alan Hansen's opinion after a predominantly young Manchester United lost 3-1 to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season. United had just sold key players Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis for a combined fee of £14million, and for the first few games of the season were still without the suspended Eric Cantona. But they still had a few experienced players at hand, and by October were second in the table and giving leaders Newcastle a run for their money.

On Christmas Eve, a 3-1 defeat at Leeds left United 10 points behind Newcastle and needing something little short of a miracle to beat the Tynesiders to the title. Three days later, they beat Kevin Keegan's men 2-0 at Old Trafford to cut the gap to 7 points, but a 4-1 drubbing at Tottenham on New Year's Day soon saw Newcastle restoring their 10-point lead.

United went into overdrive during the first few weeks of 1996, and a 1-0 away win over the leaders in early March saw the gap narrowed to 1 point. They were soon top of the table and a 3-0 win at Middlesbrough on the final day of the season confirmed them as champions for the third time in four seasons. A week later, they won the FA Cup and became the first English side to repeat the "double", and did so with no less than seven players from the previous double triumph two years earlier.

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough returned to the top flight as Division One champions under 38-year-old player-manager Bryan Robson. They were also playing in their new stadiummarker - the first new stadium in top division football in 72 years.The £4.75million signing of Brazilianmarker superstar Juninho in October was shortly followed by a fourth place standing in the Premiership, which gave them a real chance of European qualification - though there were few observers who were brave enough to predict a title challenge.

An injury crisis over the winter saw Middlesbrough endure a terrible run of 11 defeats from 12 Premiership games, which ended their UEFA Cup hopes and sparked fears of a possible relegation battle. But a steady run over the final weeks of the season saw Robson's men climb to a secure 12th place. This was their highest finish for nearly 20 years, and they would have finished higher still had it not been for that disastrous mid-season slump and the fact that Boro managed just 8 away league goals all season.

Robson then spent over £11million on Italianmarker striker Fabrizio Ravanelli and Brazilian midfielder Emerson, giving Boro fans hope of a challenge for honours in the approaching new season.

Newcastle United

A brilliant start to the season, mainly down to new signings Les Ferdinand and David Ginola, saw Newcastle establish themselves as favourites for the title. As late on as January, they were still 12 points ahead at the top.

But their nearest rivals Manchester United were getting increasingly better by the time March was in sight, and the gap was narrowed to a single point in early March when an Eric Cantona goal saw the Mancunians grab all the points at St James's Parkmarker. While Alex Ferguson's side won virtually every remaining game, Newcastle dropped a few vital points and any chances they might have had of making a last-gasp recovery were killed on the final day of the season when they failed to beat Tottenham. Even a win would not have been enough, as Manchester United also won their final game of the campaign.

Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest were expected to struggle following the sale of star striker Stan Collymore to Liverpool, but they performed reasonably well throughout the season and there was never any question of them being relegated.

The biggest success of the season was Forest's UEFA Cup exploits. They were the only English side with European action to look forward to after Christmas, and in March their adventure resumed with the first leg of the quarter-final - against Bayern Munich at the Olympiastadionmarker. Forest lost 2-1, and any remaining hopes of a semi-final place were crushed in the second leg when the Bavariansmarker thrashed Frank Clark's men 5-1 at the City Groundmarker.

A ninth place finish in the final table was not quite enough to secure another European campaign, and Clark's big summer signing Dean Saunders was captured in hope that he could be the man to score the goals which would bring more success to the club.

Queens Park Rangers

One player never makes a team, but QPR felt the loss of prolific striker Les Ferdinand following his £6million move to Newcastle.

The last three seasons had seen QPR finish fifth, ninth and eighth in the Premiership thanks largely to Ferdinand's goals, but the new strike partnership of Kevin Gallen and Danny Dichio failed keep up the momentum. Even the support of excellent winger Trevor Sinclair could not translate into a strong supply of goals, and it was soon clear that player-manager Ray Wilkins and his men were in for a hard season.

A 3-0 win over Londonmarker rivals West Ham in late April was not enough to keep QPR up, and their relegation was confirmed after 13 years in the top flight.

Hopes of QPR gaining a quick return to the Premiership were given a major boost by the confirmation that key players Gallen, Dichio and Sinclair were to stay at the club.

Sheffield Wednesday

David Pleat's first season as Sheffield Wednesday manager was the club's worst in the top flight since winning promotion in 1991. The eagerly-anticipated signing of Belgianmarker forward Marc Degryse turned out to be a major disappointment, though David Hirst provided a fair supply of goals on his return to fitness after a two-year injury struggle.

The Owls struggled all season long, and finished 15th in the final table. This was another dismal showing for a club who were chasing honours just two or three seasons earlier, and Pleat knew that something had to change. Marc Degryse, Chris Waddle, Chris Woods and Klas Ingesson all left in the close season, and all the talk at Hillsboroughmarker was the acquisition of young striker Andy Booth from Huddersfield Town for £2.5million. Many fans saw him as the answer to the problems which had plagued the Owls during the last seasons, and gave them hope of a new challenge for honours.

Southampton

The departure of manager Alan Ball to Manchester City saw Southampton give the manager's job to long-serving coach David Merrington, and he managed to hold onto most of the squad which had finished 10th the previous season. But the normally-prolific Matthew Le Tissier lost his edge, scoring just 7 Premiership goals all season. The suddenly goal-shy attack was the key reason for Southampton returning to their struggling ways, and their last hope of success was extinguished in early March when they lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals. But wins over Manchester United and Bolton in late April gave them a lifeline, and they safety was narrowly achieved on goal difference.

This was not enough for the club's board, who sacked Merrington and replaced him with former Liverpool and Rangers boss Graeme Souness.

Tottenham Hotspur

The sale of key players Jürgen Klinsmann, Gheorghe Popescu and Nick Barmby weakened Tottenham's resources for 1995-96, and manager Gerry Francis was faced with taunts of "what a waste of money" from shocked supporters when he paid a club record £4.5million for Crystal Palace striker Chris Armstrong.

But Armstrong quickly formed an effective strikerforce with Teddy Sheringham, and an eighth place finish in the final table was only one place lower than last season's final position - though it was once again not quite enough for a UEFA Cup place.

Early in the season, Tottenham (and local rivals Wimbledon) were informed that they would be banned from European competition for the 1996-97 season for fielding weakened teams in the pre-season Inter-Toto Cup. The ban was lifted on appeal.

West Ham United

West Ham progressed further following the previous season's 14th place finish (and last-minute scramble away from relegation danger) and climbed to 10th place in the final table - their best finish since they came third in 1986. They were never in any danger of going down, but they never looked like challenging for a UEFA Cup spot. Nor did they make much of an impact in the cup competitions, though striker Tony Cottee showed little sign of his advancing years, coming joint top scorer with penalty taking left-back Julian Dicks.

Manager Harry Redknapp spent heavily over the summer, mostly on foreign players, in hope of building a West Ham side capable of chasing European qualification and major trophies.

Wimbledon

With the Premiership's lowest crowds and transfer budget, Wimbledon have begun most of their top division seasons since promotion in 1986 as pre-season relegation favourites. But the "crazy gang" spirit kept Wimbledon going once again, although their 14th place finish was their lowest since joining the top flight 10 seasons earlier.

Dean Holdsworth and Efan Ekoku were once again a formidable strikerforce, while Vinnie Jones was as combative as ever and Oyvind Leonhardsen's performances attracted attention from several bigger clubs. Manager Joe Kinnear managed to hold on to all his key assets, as well as adding a few more, over the close season as he grew ever more determined to defy the odds once again.

Top goal scorers

Scorer Goals Team
Alan Shearer 31 Blackburn Rovers F.C.marker
Robbie Fowler 28 Liverpool F.C.
Les Ferdinand 25 Newcastle United F.C.
Dwight Yorke 17 Aston Villa F.C.
Andrei Kanchelskis 16 Everton F.C.


See also



References and notes

  1. England 1994/95
  2. European Competitions 1995-96
  3. European Competitions 1995-96
  4. European Competitions 1995-96
  5. England - FA Challenge Cup 1995-1996
  6. England Player Honours - Professional Footballers' Association Players' Players of the Year
  7. England Player Honours - Professional Footballers' Association Young Players of the Year


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